The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not only a time for Cinderella stories to shine, but also for NBA prospects to showcase their talents.
Even though the 2014 NBA Draft is more than three months away, and pro scouts will have an opportunity to work out prospects several times before then, the NCAA Tournament is the final opportunity for players to play in games that matter.
This year’s class is one of the strongest pools in recent memory, as the class has been hyped as the deepest since 2003. The debate over who will be the No. 1 overall pick will likely continue until draft day, as a few players have shown they are worthy of the honor.
Below are five players who will likely go near the top of the draft, and were the most prominent players entering March Madness.
Andrew Wiggins, SF (Kansas) – Had a solid game in a win against Eastern Kentucky, leading all scorers with 19 points. The outburst was not surprising given his recent play. Entering the tournament, Wiggins went on a three-game scoring spree, averaging 31 points per game. With his quick first step and long stride, Wiggins is often a nightmare for opposing defenders. Though he needs to work on his consistency, and hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he received out of high school, Wiggins appears to be a legitimate scoring talent with tremendous potential.
Jabari Parker, SF (Duke) – With Duke’s early elimination, fans won’t get a chance to see much of player who often looks like a mix between Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant. Parker already has a well-developed inside and outside game, and plays with a great deal of competitive spirit. At just 18 years old, the 6-foot-8 inch forward has been the ACC’s top rebounder, its No. 2 scorer, and the highest-scoring freshman in Duke history with averages of 18.8 points and nine rebounds. His shot from the perimeter and his ability to battle in the paint has NBA teams excited and will likely make him the top pick in the draft.
Marcus Smart, SG (Oklahoma State) – If the Gonzaga loss was Smart’s last college game, he left a strong impression. Though he didn’t shoot particularly well, Smart scored 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, and six steals. He could have been one of the top selections in the 2013 NBA Draft, but elected to stay and play another season in college because he felt he wasn’t quite ready for the professional ranks. With another year under his belt, he has drawn even more comparisons to Dwyane Wade. Smart averaged an impressive 17.8 points per game this season and has even bolstered his basketball IQ in recent weeks.
Julius Randle, PF (Kentucky) – A strong upper body and tough attitude has elevated Randle to one of the best finishers in college basketball. While he still needs to polish his interior moves, Randle is extremely consistent, nearly scoring in double-digit figures every game this season. Though he entered the tournament on a string of cold shooting, Randle often makes up for his scoring shortcomings with his great rebounding ability. Scouts love his work ethic and tenacity in the paint. In his tournament debut, Randle posted a dominant 19 points and 15 rebounds in the Wildcats victory over Kansas State.
Doug McDermott, F (Creighton) – It didn’t take McDermott long to showcase his talent during the tournament. He went on a scoring barrage against Louisiana Lafayette, dropping 30 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. While most of the draft prospects are either freshmen or sophomores, McDermott will be one of the few senior prospects that will likely be a lottery pick. He led the NCAA with a 26.9 scoring average this season, and has shown a great deal of versatility. McDermott can easily post up the average small forward, and can also can drag a power forward outside with his shooting ability, which should translate well at the next level.
An IB Times Staff Reporter contributed to this report.