March Madness: Top NBA Prospects to Watch During Round of 32
The first round of the 2016 Final Four tournament was quite insane, as some crazy upsets went down and some favorites survived some even crazier shootouts.
Ultimately, just as it seems every year, the teams that were meant to move on to the round of 32 made it, and it’s possible the excitement only increases from here.
One thing is certain, March Madness raises the level of competition and can often bring out the best (or worst) in some of the top talents. It’s especially interesting to keep close watch on the rising stock of some potential draft talent, and it’s even more worth watching when big names rise to the occasion.
To gear up for round two this weekend, let’s take a look at the biggest names that you’ll want to check out when the tourney rages on:
Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
Already being talked about as a potential candidate to go #1 overall, Ingram is arguably Duke’s best player in terms of talent and just might rival LSU’s Ben Simmons for that top spot.
Simmons is the better pure talent with more upside, but there is a lot to love about Ingram, who poured in 20 points and 9 rebounds in a first round win over UNC Wilmington.
The scoring and length are what make Ingram such an interesting prospect, and if he can get stronger and turn into a more well-rounded defender, his potential very well could be through the roof. He’ll take on Yale on Saturday and should fare well in a likely track meet.
Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma
Hield is one of the more interesting prospects, as he made an enormous leap from his Junior season to this year as a Senior. In just one summer, he went from a solid NBA prospect to an elite one, displaying elite scoring ability, both as an iso player and a spot-up shooter. Hield is the reason why Oklahoma earned a #2 seed and could make a run to the Final Four, but he is very likely restricted to just the shooting guard position.
There aren’t many knocks on Hield, however, as his current play has him looking the part of a future NBA star. Only a total crater job in the tournament can keep him from being a top-10 pick.
Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina
Johnson reminds me of another former Tar Heel – John Henson. That could be problematic, as he’s a clearly dominant college star, but may not necessarily have the skill-set to dominate in the NBA. That still should make him a very good role player at the worst, however, as he has the size, length and athleticism to score inside, rebound and protect the rim with his shot-blocking ability.
Getting bigger and stronger will only help Johnson’s case, as will rounding out his offensive skill-set. Perhaps a deep run by the Tar Heels will help boost his stock as the tourney marches on.
Grayson Allen, G, Duke
Ingram’s teammate is far below him in terms of NBA potential, but that doesn’t at all mean he can’t be a quality pro player. Allen already has displayed flashes in terms of running an offense, aggressive scoring and excellent spot-up shooting. It’s the little things he’ll need to work on in order to improve his draft stock.
Allen absolutely has the quickness and athleticism to be a major player at the next level, as he can create and score on his own and can also run the floor extremely well. He could stand to bulk up and do a better job defensively, but has the size and build to be a fairly formidable two-guard. He already showed his versatility in round one with a 23-10-5 line and also displayed his aggressiveness by getting to the free throw line a whopping 17 times.
Allen will have a great chance to put his skills on display again on Saturday against a good Yale squad.
Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah
Utah’s brute force down low, Poeltl powered the Utes through round one with excellent inside offense and rebounding. He can still prove that he can be a go-to guy at the next level, as some scouts feel he may not have the demeanor to elevate to star status. Leading Utah into the Sweet 16 could go a long way in shedding that notion.
Kris Dunn, G, Providence
Dunn is the more talented of the two Providence stars on this list, even though he’s not necessarily as dominant on the college level. Dunn projects well as a point guard or scoring combo guard, as he has the size and athleticism to play either position.
There is still some doubt as to what Dunn’s NBA position would be, but there is no doubt he can create and score with the ball in his hands. He’ll have an excellent state to improve his stock against the Tar Heels, but he’s already shaping up as a lottery selection.
Jamal Murray, G, Kentucky
Kentucky’s best player, Murray is a lot like Dunn when it comes to size, athleticism and NBA position. That being said, Murray is probably leaning more towards being a two guard or a combo guard, as he simply does not have enough experience at the point. The nice thing with his game is he can try to score on his own, or he can stay off the ball and threaten as a deadly shooter (41% as a Freshman).
If Kentucky enjoys a deep run, Murray will very likely be a big reason why. The further the Wildcats go, the better his already sky high stock can get.
Domantas Sabonis, F, Gonzaga
The son of a former NBA and Euro basketball legend, Domantas is making history of his own as a dual threat for the Zags. He’ll certainly need to get bigger and stronger for the next level, but skill-wise, there isn’t much the young Sabonis leaves to the imagination.
Sabonis has the size to play NBA power forward and has already displayed a penchant for scoring and cleaning the glass at an elite level (averaging 17 and 11). While not a defensive ace in any regard, Sabonis has outside-shooting potential as he grows. A deep run by Gonzaga would only boost his first-round stock.
Kellen Dunham, G, Butler
Dunham is known mostly as just a lights out shooter, but he’s displayed a well-rounded scoring prowess in his days at Butler. He’s going to be tested the most he ever has been on Saturday against Virginia’s nasty defense, and how he fares in that matchup could very well dictate his NBA stock.
Ben Bentil, F, Providence
Bentil gets the perfect chance to showcase his skills this weekend, as the Friars will be taking on North Carolina. Bentil is a very interesting prospect, as he can score all over the place, hit the outside shot and even clean the glass on occasion.
Bentil has an extremely well-rounded offensive game, but he could be asked to put his footwork down low on display against Brice Johnson. How he fares could dramatically impact his draft stock, which currently is just outside of the first round.
Ron Baker, G, Wichita State
Baker is probably looking at a second round selection (if drafted), but he’s at least a fringe NBA mention, as he has solid size and athleticism for the NBA wing. Baker can hit shots from outside or attack inside, but the real draw may be the idea of him running an offense. He hasn’t proven he can handle that at a high level yet, but he’ll surely have to up his game against Miami this weekend. Scouts will undoubtedly be paying attention.
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