Top 2013 NBA Draft Prospects to Watch in NCAA Tournament
There are certain NBA prospects participating in the NCAA tournament who should be considered must-watch players for one reason or another.
For some, it's the last opportunity for them to showcase their skills in live-game action before the NBA draft.
How these guys perform in March Madness could be the difference between the right side of the lottery or the wrong side. For others, it could be the difference between a guaranteed contract and one that's disposable.
Otto Porter, Georgetown, 6'8'', SF
Easily the most versatile prospect in the field, Otto Porter leaves his fingerprints on every Georgetown possession as either a scorer, ball-mover, rebounder or defender.
One of the most appealing aspects of Porter's game is that he can take over without ever dominating the basketball. Rarely does he require more than a dribble-or-two to create separation as a shooter or attack the rim as a slasher, keeping the offense in rhythm and his teammates involved.
Scouts love the fact that his multidimensional skill set can be used in any five-man lineup without clashing with what's already there.
A strong NCAA tournament could put his name in the hat with other potential first-overall picks, after a strong sophomore year allowed him to participate in the top-five conversation.
Porter is a high-percentage bet, which could go a long way in a draft that's filled with uncertainty.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, 6'6'', SG/SF
Get a good look at Shabazz Muhammad now, because it's going to be the last stretch you get to see him perform in live college game action.
Muhammad has been one of the most coveted prospects over the past few years, but hasn't established an identity for himself as a freshman at UCLA.
This will be an important tournament for Muhammad, who will be looking to show off a more refined offensive repertoire to carry his team.
A bad showing could turn off some general managers who want to know exactly what they're getting with a valuable high draft pick.
A good showing could leave a pleasant taste in scouts' mouths before pre-draft workouts get under way.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6'6'', PG
Michael Carter-Williams will have a lot riding on his March Madness performance.
He turned some off with his play against Louisville in the Big East final after the pressure got to him as a ball-handler and playmaker.
Syracuse has the talent to make a deep run in the tournament, but won't go anywhere without Carter-Williams leading the way.
He'll have a ton of important eyes on him as March Madness develops. A disappointing stretch could lead to many calling for his return, while a strong performance could catapult him up many draft boards.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga, 7'0'', C
The ultimate breakout star of 2013, Kelly Olynyk has led Gonzaga to a No. 1 overall ranking after averaging 17.5 points on 65 percent shooting.
But most of his damage was done in the West Coast Conference. NBA evaluators will be salivating at the opportunity to see Olynyk go head-to-head with a more athletic, talented and sizable front line.
With Nerlens Noel on the shelf, Alex Len missing the tournament and Willie Cauley-Stein overly raw, this is a great chance for Olynyk to fly up the center rankings.
As long as he doesn't get exposed, expect him to be a trendy name in June and potentially a late riser into the lottery.
Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'7'', SF
Arguably college basketball's top overall player, Doug McDermott has scouts torn over his pro potential.
It's rare that he gets the opportunity to play against a power-conference defense, and this will likely be the last time scouts get to see it.
He averaged over 23 points per game on an incomprehensible 49.7 percent from downtown his junior year. McDermott has already earned himself a potential three-point specialist label for the next level, but if he shows he can score inside the arc against top-flight competition, it could maximize his draft stock just at the right time.
Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6'5'', SG
Our top prospect for the 2013 NBA draft, Ben McLemore would solidify that status with a strong March Madness that results in a string of Kansas wins.
He's shown the ability to take over games without using the dribble, not an easy feat for a perimeter scorer.
Down the stretch of the season, McLemore has been more aggressive with the ball in his hands, looking to create more half-court scoring opportunities for himself.
If he's able to lead Kansas to a successful run, you can expect him to be taken at the top of the draft.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG
This is the opportunity for Marcus Smart to show NBA scouts why so many have praised his floor leadership qualities.
You couldn't pick a better environment to showcase Smart's strengths.
He won two high school state championships and a gold at the FIBA Americas, so this type of stage isn't new to him.
With the point guard's ability to take over offensively, Oklahoma State games should be highlighted on everyone's bracket for the sole reason that Smart will be at work.
Trey Burke, Michigan, 6'0'', PG
Though Trey Burke's stock is up from a year ago, there are still some out there who question whether his physical limitations might hold him back at the next level.
A strong March Madness would help diminish those concerns. This is an opportunity for Burke's leadership qualities to shine as the engine that drives the Michigan attack.
He's got all the makings of being a hero this time around, and with the Wolverines playing in Auburn Hills for the second and third rounds, they should be in position to make a run deep into March.
Mike Muscala, Bucknell, 6'11'', PF/C
Averaging 19 points and over 11 rebounds per game, Mike Muscala is one of the most productive players in the country.
But he's doing it in the Patriot League, which dims the light a bit on his numbers.
This will be his last chance to showcase his mature offensive skill set, which consists of a reliable mid-range jumper and a strong back-to-the-basket game inside.
If Bucknell were to make a run, it would reflect favorably on Muscala's draft stock.
Throw away the fact that he's a mid-major prospect, and Muscala has the talent and rebounding instincts to justify first-round value.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana, 6'5'', SG
Victor Oladipo is the type of guy who NBA executives can fall in love with, and March Madness is a time when love is in the air.
Oladipo has already generated substantial buzz for himself with a breakout junior year in which his offensive game reached new levels.
He's always a must-watch because of his elite athletic abilities and powerful motor, but this type of stage only adds to the entertainment value surrounding Oladipo's game.
If he dominates the tournament as an electric presence, he'll only increase the odds of enticing a general manager to reach on him in the draft.
Cody Zeller, Indiana, 6'11'', PF/C
Cody Zeller's March Madness could end up determining the value of his rookie contract. If he plays up to his potential and puts Indiana on his back, he could reclaim his status as a premier NBA prospect.
If he falters and gets exposed by a more physical front line, Zeller might turn off some decision-makers who feel hesitant using a top pick on a vulnerable, finesse big man.
There's no doubting his talent, and Indiana wouldn't be anywhere without him in the lineup, but this is an opportunity for Zeller to leave on the highest of notes and enter the draft with his stock on the rise.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State, 6'4'', PG
Not many people get to see Nate Wolters at South Dakota State, so it's a good thing the Jackrabbits made the Big Dance.
Wolters averaged 22.7 points and 5.8 assists per game, torching defenses off the dribble with an uncanny ability to make shots on the move.
Despite his monster production, many project him as a second-round flier without the typical athleticism required to run the point at the next level. Wolters will be looking to prove that he's one of the rare breeds whose physical limitations can be overlooked.
Though his team might not be a threat to make a realistic run in the tournament, a big individual first-round game could boost his draft stock.
Ryan Kelly, Duke, 6'11'', PF
After missing most of the season with a foot injury, Ryan Kelly went bonkers in his return, dropping 36 points on Miami and raising his draft stock in the process.
At 6'11", his ability to stretch the floor and bring opposing bigs away from the rim creates offensive spacing and added room for his teammates to score.
When NBA scouts look at Kelly, there isn't much to analyze. He'll be targeted as a stretch-4 who can knock down shots and defend the post.
If Duke makes a run with Kelly leading the way offensively, it would be hard to imagine 30 teams passing on him twice.