The NBA draft is in three months. But college basketball players who want to be eligible for the draft must notify the NBA by April 22. Here is a list of players who boosted their NBA stock during the NCAA Tournament.
Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
The 6-foot-8 sophomore from Japan had a terrific sophomore season (11.6 ppg), giving 20 to Mo Bamba and Texas; 23 points to Jock Landale and St. Mary’s; and then he had good back-to-back performances in the NCAA Tournament. His 25 points were instrumental in beating Ohio State; he had 16-9 against FSU in defeat. Hachimura could come out and get drafted maybe in the late 1st round. He only made five three-pointers all season. He just turned 20 in February. But the NBA drafts on potential. He could be a Top 10 lottery pick in 2019 if he keeps progressing.
D’Marcus Simonds, G, Georgia State
He was the best player on the floor vs Cincinnati, scoring his team’s first 16 points. But he picked up two fouls, had to go the bench, and the Bearcats pulled away. Simonds finished with 24 points, and forced Cincinnati to go zone to slow him down. Only a sophomore, the 6-foot-3 guard needs to improve on his 3-point shooting (29 percent shooting) next year.
Rob Gray, G, Houston
Was one of the best stories of college basketball this season, averaging 19 ppg for the Cougars and becoming the AAC’s career leading scorer. He shot 34 percent from deep as a sophomore, 38 percent as a junior, then 35 percent this year. His NBA prospects don’t appear rosy for two reasons – he’s only 6-foot-1 and he’s at least 23 years old (by one account, he graduated high school in 2013), or could be 24. In the NCAA Tournament, Gray hung 39 points on San Diego State in 36 minutes; then he scored 23 points against Michigan in a last second loss. There’s another former AAC guard, slightly undersized, who was a good, not great 3-point shooter. Fred Van Vleet wasn’t drafted, rejected the D-League twice, and opted for the Summer League. He impressed, and won a roster spot. He’s playing well in his 2nd year in the NBA.
Jon Elmore, G, Marshall
The junior got on the map by averaging 22.7 ppg this season in a system created by Mike D’Antoni’s brother. Elmore’s 32-12-9 against William & Mary was impressive; so were his two triple doubles this season. But his 27 points in an upset of senior-laden Wichita State really opened some eyes. He’s only 6-foot-3 but plays bigger; it’s clear he tried to do too much against the lethal West Virginia pressure. Elmore will have to prove he can defend at the NBA level to get a serious look.
Mike Daum, F, South Dakota St
The two-time Summit Player of the Year played valiantly in a loss to Ohio State (27 points, 5-of-10 three-pointers). In a two-minute span, he blocked a shot, scored a layup, then splashed an NBA 3-pointer and the Jackrabbits tied the game with two minutes left. Here’s the NBA three:
Daum isn’t going to blow NBA teams away from a physical standpoint, as his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame fits into the tweener category. Can he defend the pick-and-roll against NBA speed? The lazy NBA comp is Ryan Anderson, though Daum is slower; I see a little of the late-career Marreese Speights. Speights comes off the bench in Orlando playing 13-15 minutes a night, and shoots 3’s. Daum shot 46 percent from deep as a freshman, then 41 percent, and took 6.5 a game this year and shot 42 percent. There will be questions about the competition he faced, but Daum scored 21 against Kansas (loss), 34 against Buffalo (win), 31 against Wichita State (loss), and 37 against Colorado (loss).
Trae Young, G, Oklahoma
Contrary to popular belief, I thought he played well against Rhode Island. At times he was aggressive; other times too passive. He carried Oklahoma late to force overtime, and shot well (9-of-18; 3-of-9 on 3-pointers). Here’s the thing: This isn’t a bad shot.
Look at the shot clock. Look where his teammates are. Also, these are the type of shots Young has taken and made throughout the season. Oklahoma is deficient offensively – except for Young. Would this have been a bad shot if he missed it?