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2014 NBA Draft Prospects with the Most to Lose During March Madness

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2014

2014 NBA Draft Prospects with the Most to Lose During March Madness

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    A brilliant run through March Madness can make an NBA draft prospect's dreams come true, but the college hoops postseason can also be harsh for pro hopefuls.

    Some prospects have more to lose this month than others. A subpar display on the biggest stage could wind up hurting their draft positioning or force them to return to school for another season.

    A handful of talented prodigies on high-profile teams are in jeopardy of hurting their professional resumes if they don't bring their best stuff to the conference and NCAA tourneys.

    Who's got the most to lose entering this critical stretch?

Gary Harris, Michigan State SG

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Michigan State star Gary Harris has had a roller-coaster season, and while he's considered one of the best two-way prospects in the draft, scouts are waiting to see what he does in March.

    Right now, several mock drafts and draft boards have him in the top 10, and for good reason. He's notched 10 20-point outings and has upgraded his shot-creating skills in half-court scenarios.

    On the other hand, we remember his handful of inefficient outings, including nine where he shot worse than 35 percent from the field. He's not a big or elite athlete, and he could work on his deep range because his only NBA position is shooting guard.

    NBA eyes will be watching to see which Harris shows up this postseason. Will we see the guy who shot 9-of-16 for 27 points against Michigan, or the one who went 3-of-20 for six points against Wisconsin?

    He's definitely not the riskiest pick out there, but he could go anywhere from No. 7 overall to the high teens (Basketball Insiders draft analyst Steve Kyler indicated that Harris could land anywhere from No. 7 to No. 20). That's a big difference in status and rookie contract dollars.

Zach LaVine, UCLA G

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    With next-level athleticism and a pretty jump shot, UCLA freshman Zach LaVine burst onto the draft radar early in 2013-14. He remained there by fueling a respectable Bruin squad off the bench, as his upside looks high and his tools look lethal.

    But UCLA has only played three ranked teams all season, and LaVine hasn't received extensive minutes on a night-by-night basis.

    In other words, his status as a possible lottery pick isn't secure because he hasn't comprehensively proved himself this season. With a slight frame and an incomplete point guard resume, he could lose NBA favor while battling the unpredictable and dangerous foes March brings.

    Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix acknowledged LaVine's upside, but noted that the jury is still out on him: "His half-court game is unpolished and execs are eager to see how he performs with more eyeballs on him."

    An inability to consistently create against stiff competition could put a dent in his 2014 value.

James Young, Kentucky F

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    As March began, one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria that Kentucky swingman James Young is a "lottery guy" in his mind. And throughout the year, Young has floated in the lottery range, even cracking the top 10 in a few mocks.

    His SEC playoffs and NCAA tourney endeavors can't increase his 2014 value much, but they certainly could damage it.

    Young has served as a smooth, productive role player for the Wildcats, and his long-term outlook is positive due to his size and scoring potential. However, he's not the most polished ball-handler and he's not the most multidimensional weapon.

    He's too left-hand dominant and primarily scores on open jumpers or one-dribble slashes to the tin. There were some games sprinkled throughout the season where NBA decision-makers would have liked to see more.

    If Young can display some moves and moxie offensively this month, then he'll likely hold his lottery status for 2014. If he's mediocre or worse, then his momentum might sink all the way to the 2015 draft.

Glenn Robinson III, Michigan F

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Throughout his second year at Ann Arbor, Michigan's Glenn Robinson III has drawn widely varying reviews from NBA scouts and draft experts.

    Some see his athleticism and upside and view him as a potentially versatile weapon. Others wonder if he'll fit in as a truly effective swingman.

    His sophomore production has been up and down, and it included a stretch of five single-digit scoring outings in a six-game span. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix noticed that even without Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Robinson has sometimes "looked tentative, almost unwilling to assert himself" in 2013-14.

    As he helps fuel the Blue and Maize this spring, NBA minds will try to see whether he can be a dynamic offensive weapon worthy of a first-round pick.

    A poor showing could lead to shaky stock entering his junior year. Robinson's situation may be somewhat similar to James Michael McAdoo, who went from a lottery prospect as a freshman to a second-rounder as a junior.

Joel Embiid, Kansas C

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    After showing off his impressive instincts and promising low-post skills for a few weeks, Kansas center Joel Embiid quickly skyrocketed up mock drafts. By mid-January he was widely projected to go No. 1 overall.

    He's one of the most intriguing big-man prospects we've seen in recent years, so the interest and optimism is well-deserved.

    Unfortunately, his draft stock could plummet if his back issues turn into a bigger problem than we thought.

    As of right now, Embiid's stress fracture has sidelined him until at least midway through the NCAA tournament. His draft value hasn't slipped too much, though, as his back issues may be minor and temporary.

    However, if his back becomes more worrisome than it already is, and he ends up missing more tournament time, he'll tumble down the draft boards. General managers will be more than a little hesitant to pull the trigger on him with a top-three pick.

    We've seen what injuries can do to big men (think Greg Oden). Embiid is nowhere near that territory yet, but further complications would make executives reluctant to take an injury-prone 7-footer.

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