Two rounds of the NCAA tournament are in the books, and how did NBA draft prospects look over the weekend? Some good, some less good. I’ve left out Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker for an obvious reason – nothing happened to their stock. At all. No matter what Charles Barkley said.
UP: Harrison Twins (Kentucky): Going against one of the top backcourts in the tournament Sunday, Aaron and Andrew Harrison played like the elite point guards they were in high school, combining for 39 points. The Harrison twins will both admit their regular seasons were disappointing, whether you want to use the eye test or any statistical metric. Sunday, they looked like future pros, going to work on Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker by attacking the basket or making 3-pointers (5-of-10). Can they do it again against Russ Smith, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier in the Sweet 16? A month ago, Andrew and Aaron Harrison looked like they had played their way out of the 1st round, and into a sophomore season in Lexington. That’s definitely no longer a given heading into the Sweet 16.
UP: Wesley Saunders, G, Harvard: He’s a pro. Whether he comes out this year or stays for his senior year, it doesn’t matter. He’s too talented not to get drafted. Great size, length, very skilled at getting to the foul line, and while he shot the ball better as a sophomore than a junior, one wonders how much better he’d look coming off the bench surrounded by NBA players. I thought he outplayed Sean Kilpatrick of Cincinnati and more than held his own against Michigan State (22 points).
UP: Dwight Powell, F, Stanford: He’s 6-foot-10, 240, and a terrific athlete for his size. Had an inconsistent first two games – 0-for-8, 3 points in 29 minutes against New Mexico; 15 points and seven rebounds against Kansas – but NBA teams will give him a look because fluid 6-foot-10 guys are hard to find. A role-playing power forward who will play defense and rebound? Sure, I can see him getting a look in the late 2nd round.
DOWN: Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse: Emerged this season as a real nice pro prospect, but then hurt his back. The question I can’t get past is what position does he play? Undersized 4. Not quick enough to be a 3. He was terrible in 34 foul-plagued minutes against Dayton. Does he return for his junior year? He should. But if he’s told the lottery is an option, is he turning down millions? Grant could return – like CJ Fair did – and improve his all-around game and NBA stock. But Fair graduates, and if Tyler Ennis goes to the pros, Grant definitely becomes a marked man on a less formidable team.
UP: Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona: The mouth-watering stats – 15-of-21 shooting, 34 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, five blocks, four steals – in two games are only a part of why he’s so good, and could begin to creep into the Top 5 of the June draft. He has the ability to play a point-forward position, sort of like Scottie Pippen used to. Gordon’s shooting isn’t quite there yet – he’s a dunking machine – but he’s also a tremendous defender. I assume Nick Johnson will defend SDSU’s Xavier Thames Thursday, but if Thames goes nuts (30 points vs. North Dakota State), it wouldn’t shock me if Gordon went out to shut him down.
UP: Langston Hall, G, Mercer: The senior was pivotal in the upset of Duke in the first round. Was recruited by Georgia, for those who wonder about the level of competition he faced in the Atlantic Sun. He’s probably got the size and enough game to get invited to the pre-NBA draft camp. OK offensive game (39/39/85 as a senior) but I’m not sure he gets drafted. Is he more likely to end up in the NBDL initially, or go overseas?
UP: Scottie Wilbekin, G, Florida: Seems to get better every time I see him. Is he “6-foot-2” or 5-foot-11? Probably closer to the latter. He’s only 20 and has a frail build, but man, what a player. Maybe he ends up just being a “great college point guard” like Khalid El-Amin or Mateen Cleaves. Clutch offensively, a terror defensively, and he falls into that category of being a “gamer.” Very curious to see how he does in the NBA summer league.
DOWN: Zach LaVine, G, UCLA: Teeming with athletic ability, 6-foot-5 freshman struggled coming off the bench over the weekend: 1-of-8, six fouls, three points. He didn’t get the minutes with Jordan Adams (sophomore) and Norman Powell (junior) playing so well. LaVine glides, but here’s the problem – what if Kyle Anderson, Adams and Powell all return next year? It’s tough to imagine LaVine getting 30+ minutes a game regularly. Maybe Anderson leaps to the pros, freeing up some PT … but I don’t think it’d be a smart move for LaVine to leave early.
UP: Shabazz Napier, G, UConn: One of the best guards in the nation, Napier struggled initially against St. Joseph’s, but finished strong. And he was brilliant against Villanova, hurling daggers in the second half to help the Huskies pull the upset. The only issue to me with Napier is whether he goes in the 1st round or 2nd. I think he can sneak into the 1st round. I can see him having a solid 10-year NBA career.
UP: Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State: No need to recap his tremendous performance against Kentucky – 31 points – but he’s a 1st round pick. [Jerami Grant should watch tape of Early and do whatever he did in the offseason.] The only question is where. Like a moron, I omitted Early from my pre-March Madness Mock Draft. How embarrassing. I can see him going in the late-lottery, depending who comes out. What a fantastic all-around player.
UP: Nik Stauskas (Michigan) and Jordan McRae (Tennessee): Yes, this is partially here because you keep clicking on the girlfriend of Stauskas, but also because he’s such a damn good player. What a shooter. Can he be a better offensive player than JJ Redick in the NBA? I think he can. There are obvious concerns at the defensive end. Very curious to see him against McRae Thursday. McRae will certainly be drafted – terrific athlete, potential to be a volume scorer, and great size/length for the pros – and might someday be a nice 7th or 8th guy off the bench providing an offensive spark.
DOWN: Russ Smith, G, Louisville: Let’s start with the good – Ken Pom loves him. He’s the current leader to be the Ken Pom player of the year (a stats-only award), and he won it last year. And he’s fast. And he had an unselfish regular season, his best as a college player. Now, the bad: Boy was he pressing (in a bad way) against Manhattan and Saint Louis. He’s 6-for-19 shooting, has 13 turnovers, 10 assists, and is only 1-of-6 shooting three-pointers. When Smith struggles, Louisville struggles. Smith faces the Harrison twins Friday, and though he was inefficient in their last meeting (7-of-20 shooting, 0-for-5 on three-pointers) he did do this to Julius Randle.