Top Five NBA Draft Prospects in the National Championship Game
Top Five NBA Draft Prospects in the NCAA Title Game
The National Championship is finally upon us. In less than a month, a field of 68 has been whittled down to two, with the Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines the only teams left standing.
While the focus has been on the implications of every weekend’s results, the underlying story that can’t be ignored is the draft stock that continues to rise for some of college basketball’s top NBA prospects. With Louisville and Michigan at the final stage of the competition, some of each team’s top talents have the opportunity to solidify their status as draft-worthy players.
It’s been a process since the start of the tournament. Many players entered March Madness as nothing more than a faint blip on the NBA’s radar, while others were clearly in the crosshairs of several clubs looking to improve via the draft.
Some of Michigan and Louisville’s top players have seen their stock rise significantly since the start of the tournament. While the majority of them already had the interest of NBA scouts, a successful run at the National Championship can skyrocket fringe first-rounders into the lottery.
Even though the talent level isn’t as high as it was in 2012, there are several prospects worth keeping an eye on when Monday’s big game rolls around. Here are the five top NBA Draft targets playing in the National Championship.
Side note: Michigan’s Mitch McGary is a legitimate NBA prospect, but has said publicly that he has no plans of entering the draft. If he explodes during the National Championship, though, that could change.
5. Russ Smith, Shooting Guard, Louisville
Yes, Smith has made a name for himself throughout the tournament as an electric scorer who has been the sparkplug for Louisville’s offense. Still, it’s a little hard to see his talents translating at the next level considering his 6’0’’ frame and lack of elite shooting abilities. Smith makes his mark by penetrating and creating opportunities around the rim, not spotting up and sinking shots from the field. If he’s going to be a contributor in the NBA, he’s going to have to learn to take better shots and be more effective outside of the paint. If he can do that, some team will land a productive shooting guard in Smith.
4. Tim Hardaway Jr., Shooting Guard, Michigan
Hardaway is an intriguing prospect, and not just because of the bloodlines. While there’s no particular aspect of his game that demands the immediate attention of NBA scouts, Hardaway makes his presence felt with a well-rounded attack, especially on the offensive side of the court. When Hardaway is on, he’s on. He’s become a reliable option from long range and does a tremendous job of creating opportunities for himself as well as teammates. Assuming he enters the draft, there’s a good chance that he could elevate himself into the late-first round with a strong showing in the title game.
3. Gorgui Dieng, Center, Louisville
When you talk about consistent, reliable center prospects, Dieng has to be in the conversation. Throughout the tournament, he has been one of the Cardinals’ most dependable pieces, connecting on a large chuck of his field goals and dominating the boards. On top of that, he’s shown a knack for getting into position to make timely blocks. Over his three years at Louisville, he has evolved into an exciting prospect. While he may never be anything more than a role player in the NBA, Dieng will surely make some sort of impact for whatever team scoops him up.
2. Glenn Robinson III, Small Forward, Michigan
While far from a finished product, Robinson has the type of upside that NBA teams can’t help but take notice of. With tremendous athleticism, a never-ceasing motor and outstanding stroke from the perimeter, Robinson has gotten the attention of numerous teams, especially those slated for the late lottery picks. If he can continue to fill out his frame and hone the impressive set of skills that he's put on display throughout the Tournament, there’s no reason that Robinson can’t be an instant contributor at the next level.
1. Trey Burke, Point Guard, Michigan
The 2013 Wooden Award Winner, Burke has used the NCAA Tournament as a springboard for his NBA Draft stock. On top of displaying the leadership necessary to carry Michigan to the title game, Burke has shown the athleticism, toughness and consistency needed to make the jump to the next level. While he has yet to leapfrog Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Burke has solidified himself as the No. 2 point guard in the 2013 draft class with an outstanding run throughout the Tournament. After his epic showing against Kansas, there’s no denying that he has the potential to be an elite point guard in the NBA.