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What NBA Front Offices Will Take from This Season's March Madness

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMarch 15, 2013

What NBA Front Offices Will Take from This Season's March Madness

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    March Madness is an opportunity for every scout and NBA office to evaluate their prospects on the brightest possible stage.

    The microscope intensifies, and every move is documented. Established beliefs can be confirmed or rejected based on the performance of certain players during the upcoming stretch.

    It will also be a time for some prospects to rise above their mid-major labels and prove they can produce against top competition.

    Scouts will sit down before March Madness and make a list of who they want to see and what they want to see from them.

    March is the last opportunity for NBA offices to see some of the players perform in live action. It's always a good look to leave a lasting final impression.

Marcus Smart's Leadership Qualities

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    Marcus Smart earned the reputation as a winner before his first college game. Leading his high school to two state championships and the Under-18 United States team to a gold at the FIBA Americas, Smart's resume as a lead guard reflects favorably on his draft stock.

    The NCAA tournament is a time when one's leadership qualities stand out. If there was ever a time to confirm his reputation, March Madness would be it.

    As a freshman, Smart has quarterbacked Oklahoma State to a No. 3 seed in the Big 12 conference tournament, averaging 15.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists on the year.

    If Smart is able to take this team for a run deep into March, it should solidify his status as an elite prospect who knows how to grind out and manage ballgames.

How Will Kelly Olynyk Fare Against NBA-Caliber Competition?

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    Kelly Olynyk has slapped around the West Coast all year long, coming out of nowhere to average an effortless 17.5 points on 65 percent shooting.

    He's led Gonzaga to a No. 1 ranking in the country, pumping a thunderous pulse into his draft stock.

    With a number of centers like Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, Alex Len and Mason Plumlee all projected to declare in 2013, it will be interesting to see how Olynyk stacks up after March Madness.

    If everything goes as planned for the Bulldogs, chances are they'll face a program with some NBA talent. Olynyk will have the opportunity to prove that he belongs in the top echelon of prospects despite his athletic limitations.

Can Shabbazz Muhammad Take over for UCLA?

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    All eyes will be on Shabazz Muhammad, who has scouts puzzled as to just what type of scorer he is.

    Are we looking at a perimeter-oriented shooter like C.J. Miles, or a strong, vicious attacker like Latrell Sprewell?

    Nobody questions his ability to put the ball in the hole, just the route he takes do it. Muhammad would look a lot better to a potential franchise if he shows he can carry a team as a go-to scoring option.

    Right now, scouts see a catch-and-shooter who struggles to create balanced shots off two feet in the half court.

    He certainly has the mindset of a go-to scorer. He'd be willing to run through traffic just to get the ball on every possession.

    If he can show scouts he's got the scoring repertoire to take over a tournament, it should put him right back up there with some of the premier prospects in the country.

Whether James Michael McAdoo Is Capable of Stepping Up Under the the Microscope

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    James Michael McAdoo hasn't met the lofty expectations that were given to him as a sophomore when Roy Williams dropped a load of responsibility on his shoulders.

    McAdoo was considered a potential top-five overall pick and has seen his stock fallen to the point where some believe he should return.

    He's only shooting 44 percent, as scouts have been unimpressed with his shot selection and overall decision-making.

    But in small doses, McAdoo has shown the ability to create his shot in the half court as a post-scorer and face-up threat. Unfortunately, he's not converting his scoring opportunities at a high-enough rate right now. But if his shots start dropping and his motor stays active, he can reclaim his reputation as a versatile offensive mismatch.

    In-game efficiency and game-to-game consistency would help give McAdoo's stock a boost during March Madness.

What the North Carolina State Prospects Are Made of

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    This talented roster has underachieved but has a chance to right the ship with a strong March Madness run.

    It all starts at the top with Lorenzo Brown, who's struggled to convert his own offense, particularly on the perimeter, with much efficiency as a junior. His field-goal percentage dipped from 45 percent to 42 percent, and his three-point stroke fell from 35 percent to 28 percent.

    Brown is also turning the ball over 3.5 times per game, which puts a slight damper on the fact that he leads the ACC in assists.

    He's controlling this vehicle from here on out, and it would reflect positively on his stock if he's able to steer it back in the right direction.

    C.J. Leslie is another name that's been on NBA radars but has failed to stick, thanks to maturity issues and a lack of progression. A couple of big games in March could put him back on the map.

    Richard Howell is a guy likely fighting for a second-round draft position. He averaged a double-double as a senior and could appeal to a team looking for front-court toughness and depth. The longer he lasts in this tournament, the better his chances are of catching an eye.

    Another name to watch is freshman T.J. Warren, who might actually be the most promising prospect in the lineup. Warren can score from anywhere on the floor but has been third in the offensive pecking order, limiting his scoring opportunities.

    One more year at NC State should do the trick, but if he breaks out in March, he could be a trendy name this June.

    Freshman Rodney Purvis will be looking to add his name to the 2014 NBA draft picks to watch for. He's a quick, scoring guard capable of taking over offensively.

    NC State has a slew of NBA prospects who would all benefit individually from experiencing team success in the NCAA tournament.

Cody Zeller's Killer Instinct

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    Every scout in America knows just how talented Cody Zeller is.

    But how tough is he, both mentally and physically?

    We've seen Zeller, at times, get pushed around inside or disappear throughout stretches when the defense gets physical.

    He's more of a finesse scorer than a power one, using his touch to get baskets instead of his size. But Zeller is going to have to learn how to do both at the next level if he wants to maximize his talents.

    During March Madness, Zeller would be doing himself a favor by turning on the bully switch and getting physical down low.

    He's got top-three overall talent, but scouts want to know it will translate.

Mike Muscala's Talent Against Power Conference Competition

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    March Madness could be the difference between a guaranteed contract and a non-guaranteed contract for Bucknell star Mike Muscala.

    Muscala has been one of the most productive players in the country, yet he will have to shake the label that lists him as a mid-major prospect.

    And he'll have the opportunity to do so after leading Bucknell to Patriot League Championship.

    Muscala is averaging 19 points and 11.4 rebounds, and with 6'11'' size and a refined offensive repertoire, the package he offers is appealing.

    It should be interesting to see how he fares against athletic, more aggressive front lines. One of the safety nets for Muscala is that he's money in the mid-range, with the ability to knock down elbow jumpers and 18-footers.

    Scouts have taken notice of his production and advanced skill set and will be looking to see how he does as the focus of a power-conference defense.

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