Who we're watching in the Big Dance
The most intriguing NBA draft prospects in each region of the NCAA tournament
It's tourney time. Which, for the NBA, means a chance to key in on some of the top prospects in the 2013 NBA draft. Chad Ford has given his take on every potential NBA player in the NCAAs. Now, our panel chimes in on which ones pique its interest the most.
1. Which draft prospect in the Midwest Region are you most intrigued by?
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Alex Arnon, Gothic Ginobili: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State. He's one of the most exciting players in college today -- he has LeBron's diverse skill set and Kobe's competitive fire. Smart can score, pass, rebound and play defense with the best of them, and he just turned 19.
Jim Cavan, KnickerBlogger: Doug McDermott. Marcus Smart may have Harden-esque upside, and the freshman year stat line to back up such projections, but I'm wondering how much we might be sleeping on Creighton's sweet-shooting forward. Those looking for an Adam Morrison-type bust may need to look elsewhere -- beyond pure volume shooting, McDermott's stats are a notch above near across the board.
Jared Dubin, Hardwood Paroxysm: Creighton's Doug McDermott. Stretch 4s are all the rage in today's NBA, and I think McDermott can fill that role capably. He's 6-foot-8 and has shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range in each of his three college seasons, including 49.7 percent this season. As long as he can hold his own on the glass, he can make a place for himself in the NBA.
Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: Doug McDermott, Creighton. He's listed at 6-8 and does all of his work under the rim (a nice way of saying his athleticism is suspect), which makes it difficult to list him as a stretch 4 in the NBA because he'll struggle mightily defending true power forwards. But he's so skilled and efficient offensively, including with the 3-ball, that he's hard to ignore.
Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: McDermott. Others in the Midwest have higher ceilings, and whether McDermott can defend either the 3 or 4 in the NBA remains to be seen, but he's too productive to ignore, much like [Michigan State's] Draymond Green last season.
2. Which draft prospect in the West Region are you most intrigued by?
Arnon: Tony Snell, New Mexico. Once a high school teammate of Kawhi Leonard's, Snell plays with the same exact amount of seemingly infinite energy and is capable of taking over a game offensively when he needs to. He'll be a steal for whichever team picks him up in the second round of the draft.
Cavan: Kelly Olynyk. The West may be the weakest region in terms of draft prospects, so Olynyk -- currently projected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round -- is the logical choice here. Talk about coming out of nowhere: Two middling seasons, followed by a voluntary year sitting out to work on his game, and then ... this? Intrigued, indeed.
Dubin: Kelly Olynyk from Gonzaga. He dominated the West Coast Conference this season and shot up draft boards as a result, but he didn't exactly square off with great competition. He's a really creative scorer and excels at getting to the free throw line, but it will be interesting to see how he deals with increased physicality and better rebounding in the tournament.
Gutierrez: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga. Oh, the hair. You can see the wig sales in an NBA team store going through the roof already. This Canadian big is listed at 7 feet, and he's not only skilled offensively but likes to bang in the paint as well. It's hard to ignore attributes like that in the NBA -- especially when it comes with flowing hair like his.
Hayes: Kelly Olynyk. As it is, Olynyk is right on the fringe of the lottery in most mock drafts. With his mix of size and offensive versatility, it's not hard to imagine him climbing into the top 10.
3. Which draft prospect in the South Region are you most intrigued by?
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Arnon: Glenn Robinson III, Michigan. Robinson has the athletic ability and prerequisite talent to be a star in the NBA, but is often too willing to defer to his teammates. It'll be interesting to see how he performs in the tournament and to see if he finally takes a leadership role when the game depends on it.
Cavan: Otto Porter, Georgetown. Boasting a game at once well-rounded and raw, Porter could be poised to put the nation on notice this tournament. The jump shot has a ways to go, but the instincts, athleticism and steadfast unselfishness -- they're all there. Even in a region stacked silly with talent, Porter's unique ceiling is as high as it is sturdy.
Dubin: Georgetown's Otto Porter. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim recently said Porter is the best small forward he has seen in his time in the Big East, and while that praise might be a bit hyperbolic, it's tough to find a more complete two-way player in this year's draft.
Gutierrez: Ben McLemore, Kansas. The NBA isn't exactly littered with superstar shooting guards, but McLemore has the potential to be one very soon. He's athletic, with an ideal 6-5 frame. He has a pure 3-point stroke and seems to have a good combination of enthusiasm and humility. He might be a freshman, but he's 20 and ready for the league right now.
Hayes: Michigan's Trey Burke. The South is loaded with promising NBA prospects, but as a productive point guard who occasionally looks like he has some Chris Paul in his game, Burke's skill set could improve any number of NBA teams looking for a playmaker at the PG position.
4. Which draft prospect in the East Region are you most intrigued by?
Arnon: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse. MCW plays like a 6-5 Rajon Rondo -- while he's a gifted passer and rebounder, his shooting ability is sorely lacking. Like Robinson III, he needs to work on his leadership abilities and perhaps needs another year of college to fully realize his potential.
Cavan: Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado. The name, the 'stache -- what's not to love? Dinwiddie will no doubt benefit from his team's narrow dance entry and subsequent exposure. Having honed his game in a weak Pac-12, it will be interesting to see whether his steady, heady brand of ball can help the Buffs eke out a win or two, and get him back into the first-round discussion.
Dubin: This region has my two favorite prospects. I've been screaming into the Twitterverse about Indiana's Victor Oladipo all season, and Miami's Shane Larkin has won a place in my heart by taking my alma mater to heights I never previously imagined possible. Both players are almost impossibly quick off the dribble, and they're each fantastic defenders as well.
Gutierrez: Shane Larkin, Miami. His draft prospects aren't exactly great (projected by most as a late first-rounder, at best), but Larkin has intriguing qualities. He can shoot, is ultra quick and can get past bigger defenders in a heartbeat. He's undersized (listed at 5-11 but probably smaller), but to me he's a player with Ty Lawson-type of potential.
Hayes: Carter-Williams. With apologies to Oladipo -- a player impossible not to be intrigued by -- Carter-Williams is a 6-5 point guard who plays unselfishly. His shooting numbers aren't pretty, but his size and passing might be enough to overlook those percentages.
5. Which draft prospect not in the tourney are you most intrigued by?
Arnon: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh. McCollum, a senior, averaged 23.9 points on 49.5 percent shooting from the field and 51.5 percent from 3-point land in 12 games before breaking his foot. It'll be interesting to see how his NBA career pans out, given the potential he flashed throughout his college career.
Cavan: Myck Kabongo. Another fun name! The Canadian-born Kabongo's Texas experience has been a tumultuous one off the court. On it? Kabongo has asserted himself as perhaps the most naturally gifted playmaker in his draft class. He also rebounds tremendously well for his size (6-1), which is never a bad thing. The shooting and turnovers need to improve, but with the right guidance, watch out.
Dubin: Nerlens Noel of Kentucky. His stock took a hit after he tore his ACL earlier this season, but he was quickly becoming a near-consensus No. 1 overall pick. He's hyperathletic, a great defender and an excellent rebounder. Even with the injury, I think he's still worth a top-five pick.
Gutierrez: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia. And it's not just because of the name (though it helps). Caldwell-Pope would seem to have the skills to be a solid starting 2-guard in the league. But his lack of ballhandling or midrange game leaves me thinking he'll be more like a Keith Bogans, Jodie Meeks or Marcus Thornton -- all Southeastern Conference shooting guards who've made a living out of mostly spotting up and working hard defensively.
Hayes: Noel. It's not often that a college player not in the NCAA tournament, let alone one who tore his ACL during the season, is a consensus No. 1 pick, but that might be the case with Noel. He's a defensive force and elite rim protector, and in today's NBA, that skill set is not passed up very often.
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