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Sport March Madness gives these top prospects last chance to rise up NBA Draft boards

18:00  13 march  2018
18:00  13 march  2018 Source:   sportingnews.com

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With an increased number of NBA eyes focused on the NCAA Tournament, here’s a look at a handful of players who could overcome March Madness to rise up draft boards .

by Roman Stubbs March 20 Email the author. Marvin Bagley III’s candidacy as the potential top pick in June’s NBA draft remains up for debate, but one thing is The next most coveted draft prospect left in the field might be Bagley’s freshman teammate, Wendell Carter, but Bagley remains the headliner.

The NCAA Tournament in finally here... and good news! Unlike the past two seasons, all of the top prospects made it into the field. Well, except for that Slovenian kid playing in Spain.

From one-and-done lotto picks to senior sleepers, March has historically been a proving ground for some of the best NBA prospects in college basketball. This season should be no different.

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With an increased number of NBA front office eyes focused in on the sport, here’s a look at a handful of players who could overcome the Madness to rise up draft boards this month.

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The potential top-three pick

March Madness 2018: Top NBA prospects to watch in East Region

  March Madness 2018: Top NBA prospects to watch in East Region The 2018 NCAA Tournament’s East Region features a trio of potential lottery picks as well as a number of under-the-radar prospects. Here's a look at the top players to watch.Here’s a look at the top players to watch, an unheralded name and which matchups to keep an eye out for.

Scouts will be put to work this year during the NCAA tournament, which will host dozens of must-track NBA prospects . NBA scouts are salivating at the chance to see him match up with Michigan State's Jaren Pulling away as the No. 1 long-term prospect for the draft , Deandre Ayton could also be the

Top Events NBA NFL MLB NHL NCAAF NCAAB Soccer. 2018 NBA Draft Big Board 5.0: Top 80 Rankings as NCAA Tournament Marches On. Which prospects have the most to gain during March Madness ?

Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. made his re-debut for the Tigers in their opening game of the SEC Tournament last week after undergoing back surgery in the fall. Porter, once the top-ranked recruit in the high school class of 2017 and the current No. 6 prospect on our 2018 NBA Draft Big Board, scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 23 minutes of a disappointing 62-60 loss to Georgia.

As expected, Porter looked rusty in his return. He finished just 5-of-17 from the field and struggled to find his place defensively. The Tigers as a whole also appeared to still be figuring out how to integrate a high-volume isolation scorer into their offense. Porter likes to catch the ball in different spots than most of Missouri’s other wings, and he isn’t a smooth ball mover yet, so things can get sticky.

March Madness 2018: Top NBA prospects to watch in West Region

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Porter, though, has an opportunity to redeem himself in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are in the field as a No. 8 seed where they’ll square off with a long and athletic Florida State squad in the opening round. Given Missouri will be without starting wing Jordan Barnett due to a suspension, Porter could be called on to play significant minutes (assuming his conditioning allows for it).

NBA teams already understand Porter’s skill set well from his high school film, but seeing him healthy and against quality competition could do wonders for his so-called draft stock. The 19-year-old may have a tough time forcing his way back into the top three, as several players have already established themselves over the full season, but if the Tigers go on a run, it’s a possibility. Given they would likely face Xavier, the field's worst No. 1 seed, in the second round, don’t rule it out.

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But let's dig deeper. The NCAA Tournament can serve as a proving ground for plenty of underrated prospects , giving them chances to gain national notoriety and start moving up the draft boards . These 10, for example, should do exactly that

We evaluate players who saw their draft stock rise and fall over the weekend. Which prospects have the most to gain during March Madness ? More NBA . Sign Up for our Newsletter. Don't get stuck on the sidelines!

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The lottery talents at point guard

It’s been a rough couple of months for the top point guard prospects on the board, as both Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Oklahoma’s Trae Young have struggled to handle the end of the college season. The NCAA Tournament — an event that historically favors quality point guard play — could provide both players an opportunity to hit the reset button and re-establish themselves with NBA front offices.

Sexton has a bit of a head start. Through four games in March, including the final game of the SEC regular season and three games in the conference tournament, he’s been terrific. The 19-year-old is averaging 29.8 points and 4.7 assists per 40 minutes while posting a highly efficient 68.3 true shooting percentage.

Sexton is converting better than 50 percent of his 2s, but more importantly, he has found his range from deep, connecting on 10 of his 20 3-point attempts. His ability to improve as a shooter is critical, as he’s already arguably the top slasher in the class. Positing the threat of a pull-up jumper would open up his offensive game even more.

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Alabama’s opening round matchup against Virginia Tech should present Sexton with an interesting one-on-one battle. Justin Robinson, the Hokies’ junior point guard, represents a challenge. Should the Crimson Tide advance, Sexton will meet crafty veteran Jalen Brunson and a well-coached Villanova defense in the round of 32.

NCAA BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West

Unlike Sexton, Young doesn’t have early March success to fall back on. His February struggles have bled over into the sport’s biggest month. Young’s still averaging 23.0 points and 7.7 assists per 40 minutes since the beginning of February, but his true shooting percentage is a paltry 50.4, and he’s made just 25.5 percent of his 98 3-point attempts during that 10-game stretch.

The 19-year-old’s 22 points on 7-of-21 shooting, five assists and four turnovers in a 71-60 loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament was an exemplar of his recent struggles.

There’s only so long Young can ride the wave of his early-season successes. Sure, he’s one of the few potential primary initiators in the class, but at some point, the questions about his ability to survive an 82-game season, defensive effort and shooting consistency are going to become overwhelming.

Young’s opening round matchup with No. 7 seed Rhode Island looms large as an opportunity to remind everyone why he skyrocketed from unexpected one-and-done to top-10 pick.

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But March is also a way for a prospect to rocket up NBA Draft boards . Over the course of the past five months, NBA scouts have gotten ample opportunity to measure the skills and ceilings of all of these players.

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The potential Shabazz Napier

Speaking of point guards, March is a great time for borderline first-rounders and second-round sleepers to thrust themselves into the conversation. We’ll call it the Shabazz Napier effect. The former UConn point guard led his team to an unexpected national title in 2014 and vaulted himself into the first round. You might even earn yourself a tweet from LeBron James in the process.

Two upperclassmen, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday and Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham, fit the bill. Holiday might be a bit of low-hanging fruit here, as he’s already in the first-round discussion, but he bears mentioning given his 2018 performance.

The 21-year-old averaged 22.8 points and 6.2 assists per 40 minutes during conference play while shooting 51.4 percent from behind the arc on over 100 attempts before hanging 34 points on Stanford in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Holiday’s an elite slashing guard who also ranks in the 99th percentile as a catch-and-shoot scorer, per Synergy, and he's comfortable defending aggressively at the point of attack.

He’ll open the NCAA Tournament in the play-in game on Tuesday night against St. Bonaventure. The Bruins will need him at his best against fellow point guard Jaylen Adams if they want to advance to the round of 64.

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Graham’s also put together an impressive 2018. He averaged 19.1 points, 7.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per 40 minutes during Big 12 play and helped lead the Jayhawks to a 14th straight conference championship, earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors.

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NBA scouts will be paying close attention to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16, despite many big names having already been knocked out of March Madness . Each of our top 10 prospects remaining could still generate first-round interest.

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His Napier credentials center heavily around his clutch shot making. Graham knocked down a pair of unassisted jumpers with under five minutes left to help Kansas separate from West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament title game on Saturday, for example. The 23-year-old is averaging 0.962 points per possession (80th percentile) on pull-ups this season, per Synergy. Graham has deep range on his 3-pointer, and his ability to create separation against college defenders is good enough to put on a show in March.

The Jayhawks don’t have an easy path to the Elite Eight, but if they get there, a matchup against either Michigan State or Duke could give Graham the chance to stake his first-round claim.

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The skilled big man from Gonzaga

Last March, Gonzaga freshman big man Zach Collins stole the show. Despite coming off the bench for the eventual runner-up, Collins showed enough as a rim protector and potential ball screen threat to become a top-10 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Now, his fellow former freshman has the potential to use the NCAA Tournament as a launching pad in a similar way.

Although 6-10 Killian Tillie probably won’t be playing his way into the lottery this March, he can make a case to be a first-round pick with a good performance on the national stage. The Frenchman is one of the more offensively skilled bigs eligible for the 2018 draft.

As a sophomore, he’s averaged 20.7 points per 40 minutes on a 68.2 true shooting percentage. Most notably, Tillie’s connected on 50.0 percent his 90 3-point attempts this season, and he knocked down 13 of his 14 shots from behind the arc en route to a WCC Tournament title. The 20-year-old is comfortable shooting off movement as well, as he ranks in the 94th percentile when pulling up out of a pick-and-pop, per Synergy. He’s even capable of attacking closeouts when opposing big men come in too hot.

Tillie still faces positional questions, and he doesn’t have an NBA-ready frame like Collins, but his skill set is tailor-made for the modern NBA big man. With a good outing in March, Tillie could leap into the back end of the first round come June.

Collin Sexton, Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young © (Getty Images) Collin Sexton, Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young

NBA Draft 2018: Duke’s Marvin Bagley III ‘not even thinking about it right now’ .
He could go No. 1 overall if he declares for June's draft, which he likely will though he wasn't ready to after Duke's loss to Kansas."I'm not even thinking about it right now," Bagley told reporters after his team's Elite Eight loss to Kansas on Sunday. "This loss is tough, especially playing in a big tournament like this. This is all that's on my mind right now. ... Whatever happens after this, we'll see. We'll sit down, talk about it and take it day by day.

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