NCAA Bracket 2013 Predictions: 10 Studs Who Will Raise NBA Draft Stock
There's nothing like the biggest tournament and brightest stage in the world to propel kids to the best league on the planet.
That's not to say NBA scouts are unintelligent. They aren't going to completely alter their knowledgeable opinions of college basketball players based on one, two or even six games.
But if already-talented youngsters can prove to excel against the country's best in the most crucial, most-scrutinized games of their lives, there's no reason for their NBA stock not to rise.
It has happened in recent years, and it will happen again in 2013.
Let's take a look at this tournament's likely culprits.
Lorenzo Brown, NC State
Current Projection: No. 30 Overall, 2013 NBA Draft
Athletic big man C.J. Leslie gets most of the attention on this team, but the Wolfpack will go as far as point guard Lorenzo Brown takes them.
The crucial junior still needs work on his outside shot (42.9 percent from the field, 28.8 percent from long range, both down from last year), but there are very few collegiate players with the same combination of playmaking ability, vision and size.
On the season, Brown is averaging seven assists per game, one of the best marks in America. While that comes along with too many turnovers (3.5 per game), he will always find the open man on the court and his ability to thrive in NC State's open-court style is a good indicator for NBA success.
Moreover, at 6'5", he has unique size for a point guard. Not only does that length make him an effective secondary rebounder (4.3 per game) and annoying defender (two thefts per game), but it doesn't come at the expense of quickness.
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
Current Projection: Undrafted
Markel Brown is a galvanizing talent. If you haven't seen him play, I suggest going over to YouTube and spending an hour or seven watching his highlight reels.
Most notably, he's a leaper. Like, where-is-his-hidden-trampoline leaper. His explosiveness, athleticism and instincts on the offensive glass make for some highly entertaining moments.
But for the most part of his first two years on campus, that's all he was known for. This year, Brown has added another impressive element to his arsenal.
If Brown catches fire, watch out. Against Kansas, he hit seven threes—five in the first half. Against Texas Tech, he again hit seven threes—all in the first half. He isn't the most consistent shooter in the country (38.3 percent from deep), but the ability to knock down four, five or six in a row makes him truly dangerous every night.
The 21-year-old junior won't be a first-round pick. At 6'3", 190 pounds, he lacks size for an NBA shooting guard.
But not many players in America have his combination of pure athleticism and ability to score in bunches, both traits that scream NBA bench player. After he showcases himself to the world in March, don't be surprised if he earns a second-round pick.
Trey Burke, Michigan
Current Projection: No. 17 Overall, 2013 NBA Draft
The world already knows all about Trey Burke, the player of the year in the best conference, but No. 17 overall still feels a little low, despite his undersized frame (6'0", 180 pounds).
Burke can pretty much do whatever he wants on the offensive side of the ball.
He is quick enough to beat anyone off the dribble, strong and crafty enough to finish around the hoop and has improved his shot to deadly levels from the outside. On the year, he is averaging 19.2 points per contest on 48.5 percent shooting and 40.3 percent from long range.
More importantly, though, the sophomore leader is the best facilitator in the country, averaging 6.7 assists and just two turnovers.
There have been times this season that he has piggybacked a mostly young Michigan team to crucial, hard-fought wins.
Again, many will worry about his size, but Burke is an elite ballhandler, innate playmaker and clutch, late-game performer. He'll showcase those rare talents on the nation's biggest stage, pushing his stock into the lottery in the process.
Allen Crabbe, California
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Current Projection: No. 31 Overall, 2013 NBA Draft
I wasn't exactly sure it was possible, but Crabbe is averaging a quiet 18.6 points per game this season. He has been one of the best scorers in America yet has still flown slightly under the radar.
That should change in the coming weeks.
At 6'6", 210 pounds with a mechanically-smooth outside shot, Crabbe simply "looks" like a future NBA wing.
While his biggest strength—his jump shot—has come and gone this season (shooting a career-low 35.3 percent from long range), the junior has importantly added another aspect to his offensive arsenal.
The ability to get to the hoop.
In his first two seasons with Cal, Crabbe was mostly a jump shooter. This year, he has done a better job of creating off the dribble. On the year, he has achieved career-highs with 126 free-throw attempts and a field-goal percentage of 46.7, signs his game is more inside-oriented.
Crabbe's NBA body and ability to light up the scoreboard will make him a valuable role player at the next level.
Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
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Current Projection: No. 27 Overall, 2013 NBA Draft
Guys like Gorgui Dieng don't grow on trees. If they did, that tree would be more frightening than the StubHub Tree.
Dieng is 6'11", 245 pounds. He protects the rim, is an elite rebounder and has the agility to guard quicker, NBA-style big men.
Simply put, the Louisville junior is one of the best defenders in this draft.
However, unlike with most young defensive stalwarts, he isn't a complete liability on the offensive end. Dieng won't be mistaken for Hakeem anytime soon, but he has improved his scoring ability this year and is an underrated interior passer.
True big men are a commodity in the NBA, and if Dieng continues his recent hot play on both sides of the court, he'll prove capable of filling a small role right away at the next level.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
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Current Projection: No. 45 Overall, 2014 NBA Draft
Spencer Dinwiddie is 6'5", 200 pounds and impossible to keep out of the lane.
That's not normal.
Dinwiddie projects as a future NBA shooting guard, but he often runs the point for Colorado because of his playmaking ability. On the season, he has gotten to the foul line an unbelievable 225 times (16th-best rate in the country) and shoots the ball at nearly 50 percent from inside the arc.
He is far less consistent from long range (35.4 percent), but much like a microwave, he can heat up from out there in a hurry.
All-in-all, Dinwiddie is a 15-point-per-game scorer who has the talent and gaudy athleticism to easily be pouring in 20 per game if he wasn't so hesitant and inconsistent at times.
That being said, he has dropped 17 or more in seven of his last nine games and seems to be gaining momentum at the perfect time.
If Dinwiddie, a first-round talent, continues his elite play during the Big Dance, his stock is going to soar.
Elias Harris, Gonzaga
Current Projection: Undrafted
Remember when there was talk about Elias Harris being a first-round pick after his freshman year?
It seems like that was light-years ago, and it hindsight, it's now clear that he wasn't ready for the next level.
Here we are three years later, and Harris' NBA talk has considerably cooled, as evidenced by his projection.
But this is a guy who is 6'7", 220 pounds and is a strong, athletic, effective player in the low post. He's averaging 14.9 points on 51.7 percent shooting to go with 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals.
There are still some obvious concerns.
Harris' jump shot has seemingly completely abandoned him this year after three solid seasons, and it's a little unclear if he's a 3 or 4 at the next level.
Nevertheless, he's a versatile athlete who can affect the game in several different ways on both sides of the court. Kelly Olynyk will deservedly get most of the attention, but if his frontcourt mate has a good tournament against elite, out-of-the-WCC competition, it's difficult to see him going undrafted.
Doug McDermott, Creighton
Current Projection: No. 48 Overall, 2013 NBA Draft
You won't find a scorer in the country who is more versatile and more efficient than Doug McDermott.
The coach's son is shooting 56.1 percent from the field, 49.7 percent from long range, 86 percent from the free-throw line and is scoring 1.36 points per possession. All of those numbers rank him in the top 100 in the country, which is even more incredible when you consider the defensive focus on him at all times.
McDermott can score with his back to the basket, off a catch-and-shoot, off the dribble and pretty much out of any situation you can think of.
There are problems, of course. He doesn't add much of a defensive presence, and at 6'8", 225, many worry if he has the strength to play down low or the quickness to play the 3.
Nevertheless, there's a role off the bench in the NBA for an intuitive scorer like McDermott. Should he continue to put up ridiculous numbers against the nation's elite, it wouldn't be surprising to see an analytical team go after him in the late-first or early-second round.
Mike Muscala, Bucknell
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Current Projection: No. 32 Overall, 2013 NBA Draft
Mike Muscala is quite possibly the best inside-outside threat in college basketball.
At 6'11", 232 pounds and blessed with tremendous footwork, he is an absolute nuisance for opposing defenses in the post. He isn't overly advanced with his back to the basket, but he has enough moves to score down there with efficiency.
Moreover, he can step out and hit the mid-range shot with consistency. According to Hoop-Math, he is knocking down 54 percent of his two-point jumpers and 78.8 percent of his free throws, tremendous numbers for a player his size.
Throw in the fact that he is one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the nation, and you have yourself a big man with mid-first round potential.
The only thing left for Muscala to do is dominate some big men with more skill and size, and he'll get that chance in the Big Dance.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Current Projection: No. 53 Overall, 2013 NBA Draft
The first time I saw Nate Wolters live was last season against the Washington Huskies. The game was at UW, but Wolters went for 34 points (10-of-20 shooting, 13-of-16 from the line), five rebounds, seven assists and zero (!!) turnovers.
He absolutely dominated Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross (both now in the NBA), and South Dakota State crushed the Dawgs, 92-73.
Ever since then, I've been enthralled with the 6'4" point guard from St. Cloud, Minn.
And he hasn't disappointed.
This season, Wolters is averaging 22.7 points on an efficient 49.3 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.8 steals.
Before you go shaking your fist at the Summit League, know that Wolters has the "look" of a future NBA player. He has sneaky quickness for a point guard his size, is a terrific decision-maker off the pick-and-roll, does a good job of keeping defenders on his hip and has an unbelievably crafty array of effective shots from mid-range.
Wolters will get another shot at the NCAA tournament, and against elite competition, he'll again prove he is deserving of at least a late second-round pick.