By Tyler on March 25, 2014
Three rounds have now been played in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and the best 16 teams in college basketball now remain. Thankfully for NBA fans out there, top teams such as Arizona, Baylor, Kentucky and Michigan State remain, meaning that some of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft are still displaying their skills. Keeping this in mind, I have identified the top 16 prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft who will be playing in the Sweet 16.
Baylor center Isaiah Austin has been impressive over the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, justifying season averages of 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 1.4 assists. Despite these impressive totals, people have questions about the sophomore because he isn't bulky, has an underwhelming field goal percentage of 44.8 and is only a center. With a great performance in the Sweet 16 and beyond, he will become a late 1st round choice.
UCLA freshman guard Zach LaVine has the athletic ability to jump out of the gym or beat any defender, drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook. Still a bit raw with the nuances of the game, LaVine has averaged decent totals of 9.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 38. percent from three-point range. Despite these totals, LaVine has struggled during the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament but still maintains the skill to be a top 25 pick.
Baylor power forward Cory Jefferson is looking to make a last impression on scouts during the NCAA Tournament, as he is a senior this year. Jefferson has great athleticism, is good rebounding the ball and has even developed a nice mid-range shooting game over the last two years. During the 2013-14 season he has averaged 13.6 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 assists. He could become a top-20 pick with a good Sweet 16.
Glen Robinson III has great name recognition, and he has also developed into a great NBA prospect over his two-year career with Michigan. The sophomore small forward is above average across the board, as he has pure athleticism, is aggressive at the rim, is smart with the ball and has a 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame that will translate to the NBA. With a good game against Tennessee in the Sweet 16, Robinson could become a NBA Draft lottery pick.
Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison isn't as talented as his twin brother, but he won't be waiting long to get selected if he enters the 2014 NBA Draft. Harrison has great size at 6-foot-5, 215-pounds, a mid-range shooting ability uncanny in freshman and also has the ability to draw attention while driving the lane that opens shots for perimeter players. The point guard had a huge game against Wichita State and now looks like a lottery pick.
Kentucky center Dakari Johnson has seen his minutes limited by the presence of Willie Cauley-Stein, but he is still a top notch NBA prospect. Johnson is huge at 7-foot, 265-pounds, he is good distributing the ball and has the potential to become a pure force in the post both offensively and defensively. Johnson likely won't play more than 15 minutes during the Sweet 16 but maintains top ten potential because of his huge size.
The Tennessee Volunteers have gone on a surprising run to the Sweet 16, and power forward Jarnell Stokes is a huge reason why. During the three postseason games they have played, Stokes has averaged 20.3 points, 15 rebounds, 2.3 assists and has generally been a force to be reckoned with. Stokes has a 6-foot-8, 260-pound frame that isn't necessarily ideal for the NBA, but his will to win in the post makes him an intriguing prospect nevertheless.
Wisconsin small forward Sam Dekker has been consistent during the current season, as he has averaged 12.7 points per game, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Dekker has been aided by an impressive 32.2 percent mark from three-point range, the ability to create open shots and a 6-foot-7, 220-pound frame that makes it easy to get shots off against lengthy defenders. At this point he is a sure bet in the first round and could rise with a good Sweet 16.
Louisville center Montrezl Harrell has the physical tools to dominate against nearly any player down low, as he has great strength, battles hard for rebounds and attacks the rim. During the current season he's averaged 14.0 points per game, 8.4 rebounds and has a very impressive 60.5 field goal percentage. At only 6-foot-8 he will have to move to power forward to succeed at the NBA level, but Harrell should be drafted between 15-20.
Aaron Harrison has been a starlet of a Kentucky freshman class for the ages, averaging 14.1 points per game, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals and only 1.7 turnovers. Harrison has a great shot from distance, the ability to create shots off the dribble and an acumen for the game of basketball that makes him an ever intriguing pro prospect. Heading into the Sweet 16 he is a borderline lottery pick but maintains top 10 potential.
Michigan State shooting guard Gary Harris is a pure scorer, as he has a great mid-range and three-point shot, above average physical skills and an impressive average of 16.9 points per game. Furthermore, Green has had a very impressive last month, and after playing under the tutelage of Tom Izzo knows how to play on both ends of the floor. At this point Young is a borderline top ten pick, but that could go up or down with a good Sweet 16.
Kentucky SG James Young has had a great freshman season, averaging 14.3 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a 34.2 percent mark from three-point range. Young is a bit slight at 6-foot-6, 215-pounds, but he has a shooting ability that translates to the NBA level and continues to establish ways to create his own jumper. NBA teams love guys who can score the ball, which makes Young a sure lottery pick and potential top 10 selection.
Willie Cauley-Stein is the type of franchise center that NBA teams everywhere clamor for, as he has an enormous 7-foot-1, 244-pounds frame and is dominant defensively. Cauley-Stein has averaged 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game this year, and he continued to develop his low post game with time. It would be extremely surprising to see the sophomore center stay in college another year, and he is a surefire top ten pick.
Michigan State forward Adreian Payne has had a great NCAA Tournament, and his NBA Draft stock is rising quickly because of it. The senior forward has top notch athleticism, knows how to get separation from defenders, and after averaging 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 43.8 percent from three-point range, he has the results to back it up. With another great game or two he could end up as a top-8 pick in the NBA Draft.
Arizona forward Aaron Gordon has lived up to the hype placed upon him this year, averaging 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks per game this year. Despite only being a freshman, Gordon is a lock the NBA Draft because of his Blake Griffin esque athleticism, willingness to fight for rebounds on both ends of the floor and quickly developing jump shot. Gordon is a lock to be a top-10 pick and has a shot at being a top-5 selection.
Kentucky forward Julius Randle is the only player remaining in the NCAA Tournament who can have any aspirations of being the top pick in the NBA Draft. Randle has averaged 15.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists this year, and he seems to continuously improve as the year moves on. At 6-foot-9, 250-pounds he has great size, and the only thing really missing from his game is a three-point shot. Look for Randle to challenge for the top pick.
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