NBA Draft: Played Their Way Into The First
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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Depending on who you talk to in NBA circles, you will get a different answer as to how much NCAA Tournament play impacts a player’s draft stock. Some put more importance on it than others, but it is one of the most highly-scouted events there is. That gives prospects the opportunity to make a strong final impression in a 5-on-5 setting, which they won’t play in again until summer league unless they’re a senior participating in the Portsmouth Invitational.
In this year’s tournament there were five guys who made the most of their time in the tournament and saw their stocks rise into first round territory as a result.
Royce White (Iowa State, So.) – 6’8, 270 lbs. Forward
One of the main things that makes the tournament a must-watch for NBA scouts and general managers is the top-flight individual match ups that are created in it. In Iowa State’s two tournament games they went up against UConn and Kentucky, both of which were loaded with pro-level talent.
White wasn’t viewed in the same light as UConn and Kentucky’s top prospects prior to the tourney, but he was the best player on the floor against the Huskies and second only to Anthony Davis against Kentucky.
White’s versatility makes him a nightmare to match up with. He’s too big to put a small forward on, but too skilled and creative off the dribble for most power forwards to defend. Defensively he’s best suited to guard four men.
He would be a lock to go in the lottery if it weren’t for concerns about him off of the court. White got into some legal trouble before transferring to Iowa State and deals with serious anxiety issues that make him fearful of flying. The pre-draft process will be about selling himself off the court more than on, because he proved this year that he’s one of the best players in the country.
Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure, Sr.) – 6’9, 240 lbs. Power Forward
For seniors like Nicholson there’s a very fine line between being viewed as pro-ready, or peaked without upside. It’s the difference between going in the first round and the second. Thanks to the way that Nicholson closed out the year and played in the tournament, he’s on the right side of that line.
Fans of Atlantic 10 basketball, which is as good as any non-BCS conference, have watched Nicholson wreck havoc since he was a freshman. Leading St. Bonaventure to their first tournament appearance in 12 years was the only fitting way to cap his illustrious career.
While they fell by three in the second round to Florida State, Nicholson took it to the Seminoles’ top-ranked defense. He showed off the newly-extended range on his jump shot, making 4-of-5 from distance and finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Nicholson’s ability to space the floor with his jump shot is going to get him on the floor right away. His bread and butter will always be his low post game, though. The ideal situation for Nicholson would be playing alongside a strong center who garners a lot of attention so that Nicholson will be free to spot up and aggressively crash the glass. Nicholson is in a good enough place to pass on the PIT.
Marquis Teague (Kentucky, Fr.) – 6’2, 189 lbs. Point Guard
While Teague may not have met the ridiculously-high standards set for him by his predecessors John Wall and Brandon Knight, he has something they don’t: a national championship. Unlike Wall and Knight, Teague was asked to manage the offense rather than be a focal point of it. With guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and Anthony Davis on the floor with him, he simply needed to take care of the basketball and make sure everyone else got their touches. Teague did just that, and the results speak for themselves.
Teague’s biggest games came in the third and fourth rounds, where he put 24 points and seven assists up against Iowa State and 14 points and seven assists against Indiana. He also made a clutch three and two free throws during the final stretch against Kansas in the final game.
In a draft class like this that is lacking at point guard, Teague will not fall out of the first round. There’s an argument to be made for him staying because his stock could improve with another year, but N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow will push him for minutes next year and it’s hard to top a championship run.
Either way, Teague is in a pretty nice position, far better than the one he was in earlier in the year.
Draymond Green (Michigan State, Sr.) – 6’7, 230 lbs. Forward
All tweeners could stand to learn a thing or two from Green. There’s no better way to shut people up about what position you are going to play and defend at the next level than going out and getting a triple-double in the tournament. Green scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 12 assists (with no turnovers) in the second round against LIU-Brooklyn. It was his second triple-double in the tournament in his career, putting him in elite company.
He followed that up with two big double-doubles against Saint Louis and Louisville. Call him a small forward, power forward or whatever you like, fact of the matter is that when Green is out on the floor he produces. Coaches are always going to find time for a guy like that, especially if he plays as hard as Green does.
It’s going to be interesting to see which team ends up selecting Green because they will ultimately be who determines what position he plays full time. At 6’7 with an improving three-point shot, chances are Green will be molded into a big three instead of an undersized four. Look for him to get selected late in the first by a veteran team, possibly one that trades in to get him.
Like Nicholson, Green can justify passing on the PIT.
C.J. Leslie (N.C. State, So.) – 6’8, 209 lbs. Power Forward
There are not many power forwards in the country who could have the success that Leslie did against North Carolina, San Diego State, Georgetown and Kansas. Those teams all have future pros on the frontline and they all struggled to contain Leslie.
Leslie’s such a handful to defend at the four spot because his face up game is lethal. He does a lot of damage with his quick first step and explosiveness. He’s said to be really torn right now between foregoing his remaining two years of eligibility or using at least one more of them.
Considering the amount of depth at power forward, Leslie may be better off sticking around for another year in spite of his strong close to the season. He has to make some changes in his game in order to be an effective pro. He has to decide whether he wants to make those changes while starring at N.C. State or being a role player in the NBA.
On the bubble: Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas, Sr.) – 6’3, 185 lbs. Point Guard
The roller coaster ride that Taylor’s stock has gone through over the last four years is quite possibly on par with any we’ve ever seen. He’s gone from being a surefire first round pick to potentially undrafted. Right now, he’s somewhere in between. His 19 point, four rebound and three assist performance against Kentucky was very impressive. He was solid throughout the tournament, although a bit turnover prone and ice cold from beyond the arc.
Taylor’s stellar play as a senior helps alleviate some of the concerns over his past struggles, but they will still come up during his evaluations. As far as talent is concerned, Taylor is good enough to play in the league. While there’s a slight chance that he could go late in the first if a team drafts by need, it’s more likely that he goes high in the second round.
Senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat this Friday April 6 at 11 am EST. You can get your questions into him here.