Just how important is a successful NCAA Tournament run to a player’s draft stock? Answer; not that much. NBA teams aren’t going to base an entire draft projection on a single good or bad game from the tournament as they will have compiled hours and hours worth of tape on prospects.
The tournament does provide an opportunity for players to add to their collegiate career by adding to their resume; however, no one is going to drastically alter their standing heading into draft day. What the tournament does do is allow for player’s profiles to be increased through media exposure into markets that might not have otherwise been privy to watching Wichita State games. This added exposure will fuel draft pundits theories about a players eventual landing spot, but will do little to sway an NBA team that already has the player thoroughly scouted.
With this in mind, we take a look at a handful of players not named Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker who have played their way into the forefront of peoples minds and who just might see a little more of the spotlight come draft day.
Julius Randle - Kentucky
Randle’s draft stock is already pretty high as he has been and likely will remain a consensus top-ten pick in this years NBA Entry Draft. For his part he has done everything possible to earn that by playing his heart out for Kentucky in this year’s tournament. In three tournament games so far, Randle has put up double-doubles in each contest and has been clutch at the free-throw line with the game hanging in the balance. In reality there isn’t much Randle could do here to help his draft cause as he is such a coveted prospect to begin with, but he hasn’t disappointed and for many a casual fan they now know Julius Randle and what his game is all about.
Marcus Smart - Oklahoma
Smart and his Oklahoma brethren took yet another first round tourney exit this season and that was an unfortunate way for Smart to finish up his college career. One can hardly put the loss on his shoulders though as he went off for 23 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals. The knock on Smart coming into the NBA is going to be his woeful shooting. Teams will give him the open jumper and force him to make them much the same way teams used to deal with Rajon Rondo before he developed a consistent jumper. Smart will likely be the second point guard off the board come draft day behind Dante Exum of Australia.
Cleanthony Early - Wichita State
A bit of an unheralded player coming from one of the Nation’s top teams is Wichita State’s Early. Cleanthony is a senior who averaged 16.4 ppg and 5.9 rpg over his two years at Wichita. What will help his cause for an NBA contract is the fact that in two tourney games he went off 23 and 7 followed by a 31 and 7 performance against Kentucky. Early isn’t going to project as a lottery pick due to the depth in the draft class but he could very well hear his name get called towards the end of the first round.
Adreian Payne - Michigan State
Michigan’s run to the Elite Eight has certainly helped raise the profile of Adreian Payne as he has been a beast down low for the Spartans. Payne got the party started against Delaware as he poured in 41 points on 10-15 shooting, 4-5 from downtown and a perfect 17 for 17 from the line. He can shoot the ball well for a big guy but knocking down the college three ball doesn’t compare to the NBA three and I don’t see Payne’s range extending that far just yet. Nonetheless he is a big bodied senior who is making a name for himself in the tournament and an NBA drafting out of the lottery might take notice.
Nik Stauskas - Michigan
If someone were to say that Stauskas would be the leading Canadian in this year’s tourney no one would believe you. Folks are still struggling to understand how this guy is the leader and single best draft prospect off the Michigan squad. It remains to be seen if Stauskas’ game will translate well at the next level, but he is doing everything he can to convince those that it will. He shoots the ball well enough; however, he isn’t a great creator off the dribble and questions are a plenty when it comes to discussing his defensive abilities. If the Wolverines can make a Final Four push then watch for Stauskas to get some serious media run.
Shabazz Napier - Connecticut
The run continues for the Huskies and Napier as he carried the squad past Michigan State into an unlikely berth in the final four. Napier will draw comparisons to a former diminutive point guard from the University, Kemba Walker, but be warned those are way off base. Napier is not the creator that Walker was and he lacks the dead-eye jump shot that Walker possessed. Napier is a solid player in his own right and he is making the most of the exposure he is getting right now.