The NCAA tournament puts all basketball fans into draft mode, and that mode is in overdrive now that the Sweet 16 is set to kick off tonight. Players that have gotten this far in the tourney are definitely getting some more attention, and NBA teams will surely take them accordingly in June's draft, should they choose to declare.
These players are special, and it's only a matter of time before they get to take that quality to the next level.
Just where they end up, however, remains to be seen. Each NBA squad has different needs, some more than one, and picking the perfect player to help the franchise take the next step forward is a task that could make or break a GM's career.
At this point, however, it seems fairly clear where each prospect will end up. This mock draft will offer analysis of those picks.
Draft is based on NBA standings as of Wednesday, March 27, 12:45 p.m. ET.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
McLemore may be having a bad tournament, but that still doesn't take away from the fact that he's just what Charlotte needs: a reliable go-to scorer for point guard Kemba Walker. The redshirt freshman is averaging 15.8 points and 5.3 boards per game and is shooting 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from long range. For a guard, that's unbelievable.
He'll need some time to adjust and improve his isolation game, but his 6'5", 185-pound frame is great size for the 2 and it'll only be a matter of time before he starts making an impact for the 'Cats.
2. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
In terms of athleticism, Smart has plenty of it. He has great size for a guard at 6'4", 225 pounds, and he posted 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and three steals for the Cowboys this season.
Whether he plays the point or at the 2, Smart's future is bright. However, he needs to prove that he can do more than just drive the lane and make mid-range jumpers. Unless he learns how to shoot threes effectively (he shot just 29 percent from long range this season), he's destined to peak early.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, F/C, Kentucky
Thanks to a torn ACL, Noel is probably going to miss a good chunk of his rookie season. That still does not take away from the fact that he has great size at 6'10", 228 pounds and is a machine when it comes to interior defense.
In his sole season at Kentucky, Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. The Cavs already have depth at center in Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao, but the latter is injury prone and on the wrong side of 30. Noel could prove to be a reliable two-way big man in time and could also be a go-to guy in the middle for Kyrie Irving.
Yes, assuming the risk of his injury would be a lot to ask, but his skills speak for themselves. The Cavs need him and should be sure to bring him aboard if he's available.
4. Phoenix Suns: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Assuming the Suns choose to keep with the fast-paced, high-scoring culture, Zeller is the perfect fit for them. He has the size at 7'0", 240 pounds and is averaging 16.7 points and eight rebounds per game for the Hoosiers this season.
However, Zeller needs to hit the weight room before he can become an impact center in the NBA. As good as he is, his athleticism is not what it should be. If he's matched up against someone stronger and faster, he constantly struggles.
He can be great for Phoenix, but only if he can take steps to ensure that he doesn't become another Marcin Gortat.
5. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, UCLA
The Pistons have a great frontcourt in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, but now they need a pure scorer to help complement them. Enter Muhammad, who averaged 17.9 points per game and shot 44 percent from the field, plus 38 percent of his threes in his freshman season.
He has the size to play either shooting guard or small forward at 6'6", 225 pounds, and he's all about scoring points. The only mark against him is his superstar attitude, which could turn him into a liability instead of an asset. Fortunately, that can be fixed so long as Muhammad allows himself to be coached.
The fact is that Detroit needs him and would be wise to take him at this slot if available.
6. New Orleans Hornets: Otto Porter, F, Georgetown
As New Orleans gets ready to become the Pelicans next season, the team will need an athletic forward who can be a force in the paint as well as on the wing. Thus, if he's available at this point, Porter would be an ideal selection for GM Dell Demps.
Porter averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in his sophomore season and also did a great job of improving his jump shot as well as becoming a reputable finisher. He'll need to add some muscle to his 6'8", 205-pound frame, but he still should become a great wing forward who helps complement Anthony Davis.
7. Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
One thing about Victor Oladipo is that he is electrifying and incredibly fun to watch. He has solid size at 6'5", 214 pounds and is averaging 13.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals for the Hoosiers this season.
Oladipo has also made 59 percent of his shots, but that can be attributed to the fact that he does not have much of a jump shot, despite spending most of his time at the 2. He is definitely the player that the Kings need to take the next step forward, but he isn't going to be an effective player until he learns how to create his own shot off the dribble, especially in mid-range territory.
Whether or not the Kings remain in Sacramento or move to Seattle is irrelevant. The fact is that Oladipo would be a great fit in the system and definitely take the team toward a brighter future.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
Minnesota needs help at the 2, and McCollum can provide plenty of it. Even though he's only 6'3", 200 pounds, he did a great job for the Mountain Hawks this season before breaking his foot in January.
McCollum posted 23.9 points and five rebounds per game, shooting 49.5 percent from the field and an eye-popping 52 percent from three-point range.
This young man would simply be great in Minnesota. He is a great scorer from anywhere on the floor and would already have a great point guard in Ricky Rubio getting him the ball. He'd need some time to adjust, but the stage would be set for him to have a long and effective career.
9. Washington Wizards: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Washington now needs a center to help the backcourt tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal take the team forward, and GM Ernie Grunfeld should look no further than a local college talent in Len.
A native of Ukraine, the sophomore has great size at 7'1", 255 pounds and posted 11.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game this season. His overall athleticism needs some work, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he is strong on the inside and a force above the rim. Once his footwork improves, he'll be set to make an impact in D.C.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto Raptors): Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Gonzaga
Olynyk's on-ball defense is not what it should be, but he still has great size at 7'0", 238 pounds and mans the post with authority. In his junior season with the Bulldogs, he averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and also shot 63 percent from the field.
OKC is going to need a reliable big man who isn't named Kendrick Perkins, and Olynyk could definitely be a great fit for the team. He is a good fit for the Thunder's fast-paced offense and has a high enough ceiling that he can make a gradual impact over the course of a season.
He has a lot to learn but has a good head on his shoulders and will prove to be a positive addition for the Thunder, or any team that snags him in the draft.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Now that the Andrew Bynum experiment has failed, the Sixers would be wise to bring in a reliable center. Cauley-Stein has the size to be exactly that at 7'0", 244 pounds. He posted 8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest in his freshman season.
He'll need to work on using his size to dominate the paint effectively as well as creating opportunities for himself, but that can be done with coaching. Cauley-Stein is a big body with tons of potential to become a beast of a center, so the Sixers would be wise to at least give him a look in the days leading up to the draft.
12. Portland Trail Blazers: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
After an NCAA tournament game that saw him come away with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but on just 4-of-11 shooting, Bennet's stock has dropped. Fortunately, there is still room for him as an explosive bench presence in Portland.
The freshman is only 6'8", 240 pounds, but he managed 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for UNLV this season. He mans the post with authority, can be explosive above the rim and can even do solid work with his jump shot, both in the mid-range and from beyond the arc.
Just what type of player he'll be in the NBA remains to be seen, but Bennett's talent is undeniable. In Portland, he'll definitely become a valuable member of the team.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
Dallas needs a solid center to help take the team out of the post-championship rebuilding phase, and Plumlee is a perfect candidate for that role. He has the size at 6'10", 235 pounds and is averaging 17.2 points and 10 boards per game.
Granted, Plumlee is not overly athletic nor as explosive as former Mavs center Tyson Chandler (now of the New York Knicks), but his talent is still undeniable. He did a great job of improving his overall game his senior season, and his skills are surely going to translate well to the NBA, so long as he ends up on the right team.
In this case, that would be Dallas.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
At 6'6", 185 pounds, this young man's size is incredibly unique for a floor general. He isn't a strong scorer, despite averaging 11.8 points per game this season, but his passing and defense speak for themselves. In his sophomore season, he averaged 7.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
It's become clear that Mo Williams is not Utah's long-term option at the point, so GM Ted Lindsey has two options: He can either get another scoring point guard, or take a pass-first player who is going to make his team better on top of improving his own skills.
Carter-Williams is just that, and he should definitely prove to be a good fit in Utah if the team does pick him.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Seeing as how Utah will choose to go in a different direction at the point, Milwaukee would be wise to take on another solid point guard, assuming that Brandon Jennings proves to be too expensive in restricted free agency. In such a case, there is really no better man than Burke.
Though not the biggest at 6'0", 190 pounds, the man is still averaging 18.8 points and 6.7 assists for the Wolverines this season. He does a great job of both driving the lane and pulling up for a three, not to mention finding an open teammate.
The fact is that unlike Jennings, Burke is never in score-first mode and actually picks his shots wisely. If he were to come to the Bucks at this position and get extended playing time, he would definitely take the team in the right direction.
16. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Miami Heat): Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Now that the frontcourt is set, Cleveland needs an athletic wing. Robinson III has plenty of athleticism and is averaging 11.1 points and 5.5 boards in his freshman season at Michigan.
However, Robinson would be anything but an impact 3 his rookie year. His jump shot needs a lot of work, and he needs to show that he can do more than just dunk the ball. At 6'6", 210 pounds, he's not going to make any noise in the league unless he can improve his mid-range scoring.
17. Boston Celtics: Rudy Gobert, C, France
Boston is getting old, and a young center would be ideal to help it in the future. Gobert certainly has the size for the position at 7'1", 230 pounds, but he's still a raw talent on both ends of the floor.
He won't make an impact in his rookie season, assuming Kevin Garnett can stay healthy long enough, but having a solid coach in Doc Rivers would do wonders for his game. Celtics fans will have to be patient, but Gobert will eventually become a strong defensive stalwart of Beantown.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Daro Saric, F, Croatia
Saric has the size to play forward at 6'10", 225 pounds, but it will likely be a year or so before he enters the NBA. Moreover, it's unclear just what type of forward he'll be. Will he be a solid 3, a la Andrei Kirilenko, or more of a pure defensive 4?
Fortunately, he and whichever team picks him will have time to decide just that.
19. Chicago Bulls: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Bulls definitely need some help on offense, particularly a go-to shooting guard for star point man Derrick Rose. Caldwell-Pope certainly has the size for the 2 at 6'5", 205 pounds and isn't bad at scoring points, either.
In his sophomore season, he posted 18.5 points per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 37 percent from long range. At age 20, he's definitely an upgrade over the old and injury-prone Rip Hamilton.
However, Caldwell-Pope is not without flaws. He relies way too much on his three-point shot and in the NBA, he'll need to do a better job of mixing up his game, be it driving the lane or creating in the mid-range areas. He would already have one of the best point men in the league getting him the ball, so this shouldn't be too much of a concern.
20. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
With Josh Smith likely gone in free agency, Atlanta will need a hustle forward to help compensate for the loss. McDermott is nowhere near as athletic as Smith, but his motor speaks for itself.
The junior posted 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Blue Jays this season, shooting 55 percent from the field and a deadly 49 percent from long range. The best part is that he was not overly reliant on his long-range game, constantly mixing up his offense.
In Atlanta, that's going to make McDermott even more of a fit. If he can establish himself as a solid go-to scorer, he's going to shine bright in head coach Larry Drew's isolation offense.
21. Utah Jazz (from Golden State Warriors): Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Utah could also use some help at shooting guard, and Hardaway Jr. would be an excellent fit for them at that position. Nothing against Gordon Hayward, but the sad truth is that there is not much room for him left to grow despite this only being his third NBA season.
Hardaway Jr. brings great size to the position at 6'6", 205 pounds and is averaging 14.9 points per game for the Wolverines this season. He has shot 45.5 percent from the field and 39 percent from long range but has been incredibly streaky all season. Despite a knack for hitting threes and showing great work above the rim, the man cannot create his own shot.
If he can work on that as well as be more willing to incorporate some defense into his game, then his NBA future in Utah, or wherever he ends up, will be extremely bright.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Giannis Adetokoubo, F, Greece
Adetokoubo is only 19, but he has decent size at 6'9", 205 pounds. However, he still has a lot of growing to do as a player, and chances are it will be at least a couple of years before he joins the NBA.
Fortunately, the Nets can afford to wait since Gerald Wallace is already holding down the fort. Once Adetokoubo can hone his skill set and become more than just an inside scorer, he's going to be something special in the NBA.
23. Indiana Pacers: C.J. Leslie, PF, North Carolina State
At 6'9", 200 pounds, Leslie is just a few weight room sessions away from becoming a reliable NBA 4. Indiana could have a hole there if David West leaves in free agency, so bringing Leslie aboard would make perfect sense.
He averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in his junior season, shooting 52 percent from the field, and has the motor to make it as a defensive forward. In head coach Frank Vogel's defensive system, that makes Leslie a perfect fit.
24. New York Knicks: Nate Wolters, PG, South Dakota State
Nothing against Raymond Felton, but he gets way too trigger happy on offense and tries too hard to be a scoring point guard when he's really someone who's better off dishing the ball to a teammate and attempting baskets as necessary.
Enter Wolters, who posted 22.3 points and 5.8 assists, plus 1.7 steals for the Jackrabbits this season. He is taller than Felton at 6'4", 190 pounds and shot 48.5 percent from the field this year, plus 38 percent from long range.
He still has a lot to learn about getting past tough defenses and becoming more of a true pass-first point guard, but his leadership abilities speak for themselves. In New York, by backing up Felton for a year or so, he could easily become a solid member of the team's offense.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis Grizzlies): Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
In the event that Nikola Pekovic proves too expensive in restricted free agency, Minnesota is going to need some help at the 5. Withey can provide plenty of that, standing 7'0", 235 pounds.
The senior has also averaged 13.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game this season, manning the paint with an iron fist. His athleticism needs some work, but he can still become a decent shot-blocker and interior presence once he develops his low-post game.
In doing so, he would help Minnesota become much better.
26. Los Angeles Clippers: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Franklin has great size for his position at 6'5", 205 pounds and is a great athlete who averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds per game for the Aztecs this season. However, his field-goal percentage of 41 and three-point percentage of 28 are a bit discouraging.
However, the man can dunk like no other. In Lob City, that's going to make him an immediate asset.
27. Denver Nuggets: James McAdoo, F, North Carolina
Denver's starting lineup is essentially set, but a solid bench defender would be nice. McAdoo played great D for the Tar Heels his sophomore season, posting 1.5 steals to go with 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
He also has good size at 6'9", 230 pounds and once he learns how to be more of a pure post player as opposed to a forward that can do it all, he's going to become all the more effective.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Erick Green, SG, Virginia Tech
OKC is a team that likes to score points, and it will use its late first-round pick to bring in a man who did just that this year. Green's Virginia Tech Hokies didn't play particularly well in the ACC this year, going just 4-14 in conference play and 13-19 overall, but that didn't stop him from leading the nation with 25 points per game and shooting 47.5 percent from the field, plus 39 percent from downtown.
He has good size at 6'4", 185 pounds and while he may have to fight for his minutes, chances are he'll fit right into the system when given the chance.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Adreian Payne, F/C, Michigan State
The Spurs could use an upgrade in the frontcourt, and Payne is someone who could start contributing immediately and eventually become a key member of the lineup. He has phenomenal size at 6'10", 240 pounds and is averaging 10.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Spartans this year.
He'll have to beef up in the weight room, but his determination in the paint speaks for itself. Under the tutelage of a great veteran in Tim Duncan, look for Payne to continue getting better from his rookie year onward.
30. Phoenix Suns (from Los Angeles Lakers): Allen Crabbe, SG, California
Phoenix will also seek help on offense in this draft, and Crabbe will give them plenty. He posted 18.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game his junior season, shooting 46 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc.
He also has the size for shooting guard at 6'6", 210 pounds, and if the Suns choose to keep with the fast-paced culture, he's going to be a perfect fit.
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