One of the biggest mistakes that NBA Draft scouts and talent evaluators can make when it comes to prospects is overreacting to the NCAA Tournament. After all, you’re looking at a six-game sample size at maximum in relation to the entire regular season and conference tournament. That’s simply not wise.
At the same time, there is something that can be gleaned in March Madness with regards to the NBA Draft — especially in such an unprecedented season. There hasn’t been much normalcy in college basketball and tournament-style games against the best teams in the country with the pressure at an all-time high can offer some insight. Moreover, there are never more eyes on college hoops than in the NCAA Tournament.
Thus, for better or worse, the NCAA Tournament is an opportunity for players to improve their NBA Draft stock. And these eight players have the opportunity to accomplish exactly that as March Madness prepares to tip-off.
8 NBA Draft prospects who can use the NCAA Tournament to boost their stock
8. Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina – Current Projected Range: Late-First/Early-Second Round
On the simplest level, human beings built like Day’Ron Sharpe at 6-foot-11, 265 pounds don’t typically have the explosiveness and ability to move the way the Tar Heels big man does. He runs the floor exceptionally well, operates with violent grace in the post and could be a devastating pick-and-roll player in the NBA.
Sharpe is part of a deep frontcourt rotation for North Carolina, which is why his stock is somewhat depressed. But if he puts his big, athletic frame to good use to help the Tar Heels put together a run, people will start to take more notice of the freshman.
7. Luka Garza, C, Iowa – Current Projected Range: Mid-Second Round
Luka Garza is going to win National Player of the Year and rightfully so. The Iowa big man has performed as a historically effective offensive player, even expanding his repertoire this season to include a heavily reliable outside shot.
Looking to the next level, though, there is viable concern about Garza’s footspeed and interior offensive presence. Essentially, scouts will want to see if he’s a liability on defense and if he can expand his offensive game to not be left without a leg to stand on when he can’t out-physical opponents on the block. Playing deep into March Madness could give him a chance to put some of that on film.
6. Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor – Current Projected Range: Late-First/Early-Second Round
If nothing else, Davion Mitchell is going to have a future in the NBA because of his defense. You’d be hard-pressed to find any player in college basketball who is as strong on the ball as the Baylor guard. But what has boosted his NBA Draft stock already is a drastic improvement as an outside shooter.
The NCAA Tournament will give the Bears star the opportunity to put his strength and his proverbial rocket pushing him up draft boards on display. He’ll match up with elite players deep in the tournament while also getting the chance to knock down big shots from deep.
5. Greg Brown, PF, Texas – Current Projected Range: Late-First Round
Anyone who has seen Greg Brown flying above the rim isn’t going to take much convincing as to why he’s a viable NBA prospect. His ability to rise up and make plays highlights the Longhorns forward’s elite athletic profile.
What Brown will need to do as part of a talented Texas team to further boost his stock, though, is twofold. First, he’ll need to show that his late-season improvement as an outside shooter is not an aberration by being a consistent threat on the perimeter. Second, he’ll need to show more refined decision-making against the best competition as turnovers and passing have been a decided weakness for the forward.
4. Bones Hyland, PG, VCU – Current Projected Range: Early-to-Mid-Second Round
Perhaps the biggest reason that Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland could see his draft stock rise is the simple fact that VCU will be playing against elevated competition once March Madness begins. No slight on the Atlantic 10 but playing against Oregon is a step up for the Rams.
That being said, the lengthy sophomore combo guard can also simply put his skills on display against elevated competition. Hyland is among the best shooters in the NCAA Tournament field from 3-point range and, if he can get hot in the Big Dance, it’s not hard to think he could start getting easy first-round consideration from teams looking for a deadeye shooter.
3. Jared Butler, CG, Baylor – Current Projected Range: Late-First/Early-Second Round
Jared Butler flirted with the NBA Draft last offseason but ultimately elected to return for another year at Baylor. Now the 6-foot-3 guard is the unquestioned leader for one of the best teams in the country and can fully put on display why he should be a first-round lock in 2021.
There are few natural ball-handlers and leaders in the draft class on-par with Butler and that’s not changing. But his 42.9 percent 3-point shooting this season continuing and some advanced playmaking as a passer being put on film in March Madness would go a long way in affirming that the Bears star can deliver the goods at the pro level.
2. Tre Mann, SG, Florida – Current Projected Range: Mid-to-Late First Round
If one thing was made clear about Tre Mann, it’s that he’s got a long way to go before even a college team could believe in him as the lead playmaker at guard. His turnover problems early in the year proved that. But a late-season switch to being a primary scorer has shown what the Gators’ 6-foot-6 guard truly has to offer.
What Mann can do in the NCAA Tournament is, in essence, go off from all over the floor. He’s proven he can score in every facet of the game at various points but piecing together a completely dominant scoring performance will undoubtedly have late-lottery teams considering adding Mann as a high-end scoring option.
1. Ayo Dosunmu, SG, Illinois – Current Projected Range: Mid-First Round
Frankly, I’m not entirely sure why lottery teams aren’t already thinking heavily about Ayo Dosunmu as their possible selection unless being 21 years old weighs that heavily. However, the Illinois product has returned for two-straight seasons despite NBA potential to keep improving and has done so.
What scouts likely need to see from Dosunmu in the NCAA Tournament is likely more of the same, only at a slightly higher level. His two-way effectiveness and athleticism need to be dominant forces for the Fighting Illini and his over-40 percent shooting from 3-point range must continue. If that happens, lottery teams will start looking foolish if they aren’t considering the Illinois guard.
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