By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on March 26, 2014
With the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA tournament beginning tomorrow, fans should keep an eye out for the following players on this list, all of whom are the top NBA prospects on their respective teams. In some cases, these players may not be their team's best current player, but rather those who have the best shot of making it at the next level. Click through the slideshow to find out who they are.
San Diego State has been one of the country's best teams all season and that's thanks in large part to leading scorer Xavier Thames. Thames is a bit small for a scoring guard, but he's been able to score in bunches thus far during the NCAA tournament, not unlike the rest of the season. While Thames may not have much of a future in the NBA, he's likely the best prospect on a rather unheralded Aztecs squad.
Although Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather get most of the publicity, Patric Young is probably the best NBA prospect on the No. 1 overall seed Florida Gators. Wilbekin and Prather may catch on as role players, but neither seems to have the skill set necessary to succeed at the next level. Young, on the other hand, already has an NBA ready body and, even if his offensive game never improves, he's still a plus defender/rebounder.
Aaron Gordon has been one of the best freshman in the country this season and, on a team filled with NBA hopefuls, he's likely the best prospect. Gordon does a little bit of everything on the court and, while he'll likely never be a go-to scorer, he's a solid defender, rebounder and an above average passer for a big man. Gordon could hear his name in the top 10 on draft night if he decides to declare after the tourney.
Although Virginia isn't teeming with NBA ready prospects, Joe Harris, the team's leading scorer for the last two seasons, is probably as good a bet as any to make it at the next level. Harris will likely need to add some bulk to his frame to avoid being pushed around by bigger wings in the NBA, but his knack for scoring from both inside and out should at least land him a bench role for some team in need of auxiliary scoring.
While DeAndre Kane's NBA prospects aren't as bright as you'd figure given the terrific season and tournament he's having, there's still a good shot he can play in the league. Kane may never be a full-time starter, but he'd provide great value as a backup PG, with good size and the ability to score, rebound and set his teammates up effectively. Kane could surprise doubters if he can continue his impressive play, but that remains to be seen.
Shabazz Napier is a very interesting case, as it pertains to the draft. Napier has been one of the best players in the country all season and has continued his solid play through the first two rounds of the tournament. While Napier's not a traditional PG and is a bit small for a SG, much like Kane, he's capable of doing just about everything on the court. Napier will likely be a combo guard at the next level, one who can score in bunches.
There are many who believe young PG Zach LaVine is the best NBA prospect on UCLA, but even if he comes out this season, he's still several years away from making an impact. Anderson is a 6-foot-9 hybrid, a PG at the college level, who could transition to SF in the NBA. While Anderson's foot speed and outside shot could be a concern, if he's able to successfully transition to PG in the NBA, he could wreak havoc for smaller guards.
Julius Randle is the top NBA prospect remaining in the tournament now that Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins have been knocked out. Randle is a double-double machine, who reminds people a lot of Zach Randolph with his lefty stroke and nose for the ball. Randle could very well be the No. 1 pick on draft night, but even if he's not, it's highly doubtful that he falls out of the top five.
Chasson Randle is Stanford's leading scorer and also its most efficient one. Randle can score from both inside and out, as his 48.5 FG percentage and 39.7 three-point percentage attest to. Randle's size is likely to hurt him in the eyes of scouts as, much like Napier and Thames, he falls into more of a combo guard classification. Randle's best shot in the NBA may be as a Jerryd Bayless type, who can give a team a spark off the bench.
While some Dayton fans may argue that Devin Oliver is a better prospect, Dyshawn Pierre gets the nod here because, as a sophomore, he's still got a few years of improvement left before he heads for the NBA. Pierre is a very good outside shooter and, although he has his bouts with inconsistency, is a solid rebounder for a perimeter player. With a few more seasons of polish, Pierre could find himself as a nice complimentary piece in the NBA.
Jarnell Stokes has been one of the best players in the tournament and has undoubtedly caught the eye of NBA scouts with his play. Stokes has been putting up double-doubles like it's nothing and has been able to impose his will on the interior against every team Tennessee has faced in the tourney. While Stokes won't be nearly as dominant at the NBA level, his ability to score inside and bring down rebounds should get him a job somewhere.
Although it was tempting to go with Gary Harris, who has been a consensus top 15 pick all year, Adreian Payne's skill set vaulted him ever so slightly ahead of Harris. While Payne still needs to be more consistent, his ability to play inside and out at 6-foot-10 is a tantalizing proposition for scouts who are always looking for players capable of creating mismatches. Payne may not be a top 10 pick on draft night, but he could go in the lottery.
Frank Kaminsky has shown flashes of brilliance this year for Wisconsin, but he's going to need to improve his rebounding numbers to make it at the next level. Seven footers who can score and block shots are always in demand in the NBA, so he figures to find a role on someone's bench, but in order to be anything more, Kaminsky has to use his size more effectively to crash the boards.
Montrezl Harrell could be a lottery pick on draft night, as he's got a nice combination of size and raw talent. Harrell, just a sophomore, is still improving and this season was his first playing significant minutes for the Cardinals. While Harrell certainly has some polishing to do on certain aspects of his game, he's got an NBA ready body and, worst comes to worst, he can definitely carve out a niche for himself as a backup big man.
Nik Stauskas has been the heart and soul of the Wolverines this season, but Glenn Robinson III, the son of former Milwaukee Buck Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson, is likely the team's most promising NBA prospect. Robinson needs to improve his outside shot to keep defenders honest, but he's got a quick first step which allows him to drive by defenders into the lane. Robinson is also a solid defender which will acquit him well at the next level.
There are many who are split on Isaiah Austin's ultimate potential. Austin is a 7-footer with an array of skills, but he's still very raw at this juncture. Austin possesses a tremendous wingspan which could allow him to be a plus shot blocker at the next level, but he needs to improve his post game in order to be a true difference maker in the NBA. His offensive game is one thing, but he also needs to be a more assertive rebounder at his size.
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