Five exciting NBA prospects in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
March Madness is upon us, so for those who enjoy filling out brackets and going full-fledge Rodney Ruxin from FX’s fantasy football comedy The League as you begin tinkering like elves before Christmas to construct a March Madness masterpiece, or for those of you that have no clue whether Kentucky’s mascot is a Fox or a Monk and your family or coworkers insist you can fill one out for their bracket challenge so why the hell not?
I wish you the best of luck, but as high as the stakes are for some of these tournament teams, some players with futures in professional basketball have expectations that can make them millionaires come June 22 or they could find themselves dancing again next season looking for redemption.
In no particular order, these are the top five players with the most draft stock to gain and most to lose in the NCAA Tournament:
1. Edrice (Bam) Adebayo
- Kentucky – Freshman
- 6’10 – Center – 260 lbs
- Averages: 13.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG
- 19 GP, 29.6 MPG, .614% FG%
Bam Adebayo had a stellar showing in Kentucky’s win over Arkansas for the SEC Championship, putting up 17 points, 9 boards and a block and showed a dominant nature, creating and finishing in the post and creating distractions for Malik Monk and company to shoot some open jumpers, but that also meant they stopped feeding Adebayo in the paint even Calipari noticed and began yelling at the players when they stopped feeding Adebayo…
Though Adebayo started the season with an injury, but came back to play 19 games and have five games with more than 17 points, have seven double digit rebounding games and six double doubles (including five games with nine rebounds), not to mention he is fighting two other lottery picks for shots and possession.
But Adebayo showed that maybe he is worth a top 15 pick if his tournament resume can contain similar performances. Because if he can repeat the .625 (5-8) FG% and .875 (7-8) FT% performance against Arkansas in the SEC tournament and with his potential as a dominant rebounder and shot blocker, there are numerous teams such as the New York Knicks or the Charlotte Hornets that may be looking to add a high motor, post player with their lottery picks.
2. De’Aaron Fox
- Kentucky – Freshman
- 6’3 – Guard – 187 lbs
- Averages: 16.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.4 SPG
- 32 GP, 29.2 MPG, .475 FG%/.242 3P%
Fox has been the center of the viral journalism after some believed that he would have a chance to be the number one overall pick if he had a consistent three point jump-shot, and his father’s statement about how playing NBA 2k on Playstation helped him hone many of the skills needed to be a NBA prospect.
He has had eight games with 20 or more points, has had three double-doubles and a triple-double so far this season. He also has shown improved three point shooting hitting at least one three in his last six games played, so the tournament would provide him with the opportunity to extend that streak and add a could more double digit assist and rebounding games.
While the three-point concern has made GMs and scouts a little wary of Fox, the jury is still out on whether the six hours a day of NBA 2K is something that teams are looking for in lottery prospects, the stats show he is a legit lottery pick but he could solidify his place as the best guard among a strong guard class in Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, Malik Monk and Dennis Smith.
3. Lauri Markkanen
- Arizona – Freshman
- 7’0 – Power Forward – 230 lbs
- Averaging: 15.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2 three-point shots per game
- 34 GP, 30.5 MPG, 53.6 2PFG%, 43.2 3PFG%
Lauri Markkanen began the year with little hype but after notching two 20+ point games in two of the first three games of the season, he was beginning to get looked at like a legitimate first round pick and given his play style and comparison to Kristaps Porzingis, he has worked his way into the lottery, but if he can continue his sharp shooting into the NCAA tournament, he could secure himself a top seven overall spot in the draft this year.
Markkanen is shooting 43.2% from three point range this season which ranks second among all D1 forwards this season. He has also had 15 games with eight or more rebounds in addition to his 12 games with 18 or more points. In the tournament, if he can notch some double doubles or rack up some 30 point games, he can show scouts he is a high quality scorer.
The Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers are all poised for lottery picks and have voids at their power forward spot and could look for Markkanen to fill the spot after the Knicks have found success with their tall European sharpshooter who can run the floor and has potential as a rebounder.
4. John Collins
- Wake Forest – Sophomore
- 6’10 – Forward – 235 lbs
- Averaging: 18.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG
- 32 GP, 26.3 MPG, 62% FG
Collins isn’t guaranteed a spot in the dance yet as Wake Forest is set to play Kansas State in their First Four play in game. But that game will make or break whether he’ll have the opportunity to showcase his game to millions and compete in the tournament as a 11 seed playing against 6 seed Cincinnati.
Accumulating 17 double doubles throughout the season with 30 double digit scoring games is impressive enough to get him onto many mock drafts, but a strong tournament performance can showcase his ability to score in the post and off the pick and roll as well as his ability to be a strong post presence.
If Collins can will his team to a strong tournament performance while racking up some stellar numbers, he can edge himself over other PF/C prospects such as Robert Williams, Harry Giles, Isaiah Hartenstein and Ivan Rabb who have all found themselves anywhere from 10-20 in most mock drafts. Portland, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Denver at 11, 12, 13 and 15 could all look a PF/C at that point in the draft and with weak or unproven players at those positions.
5. Harry Giles
- Duke – Freshman
- 6’10 – Forward – 240 lbs
- Averaging: 4.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.6 BPG
- 24 GP, 11.9 MPG, 58.4 FG%
Harry Giles arguably has the most to gain as opposed to lose as his draft stock is already pretty low after missing multiple games to begin the season and then playing very poorly in the 19 games he has played so far this year. A dominant but unlikely tournament showing is exactly what Giles needs to put himself back in lottery consideration.
Giles had as many double digit scoring games as he did scoreless games this season (two games) and only had eight or more rebounds in three games. That leaves a lot to be desired from scouts who expect quite a lot more from somebody who was expected to be in contention for the first overall pick in many scout’s preseason mock drafts.
But with the blessing of Coach K, perhaps Giles could find himself and help lead Duke to another NCAA Championship, or Coach K might decide it is too risky to play Giles while he is underperforming in survive and advance games. This may the different between getting selected in the lottery or maybe spending another year with Duke in an attempt to improve his draft stock for the 2018 Draft.