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March Madness 2014: Prospects Who Have Raised Their NBA Draft Stock

San Diego State's Xavier Thames drives against North Dakota State in the first half during the third round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 24, 2014

The Sweet 16 will not include any of the three players who have been most often mentioned as potential No. 1 picks in the 2014 NBA draft.

Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are out of the tournament thanks to Stanford. Duke's Jabari Parker didn't even make it out of the second round, as he and his team were upset by Mercer.

It's hard to imagine that this trio will slip out of the top five picks in the draft, but none of them helped their stock in the tournament. 

However, the following are a few players who have opened the eyes of NBA scouts with their performance in the tournament so far. 

 

Click here to see an updated bracket.

 

Xavier Thames, G, San Diego State

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22:  Xavier Thames #2 of the San Diego State Aztecs reacts in the first half against the North Dakota State Bison during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spo
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Chances are, if you're not in California or on the West Coast, you don't know a lot about Thames. If he keeps scoring the way he has through the first two games of the NCAA tournament, though, his name will become well known soon.

The 6'3" guard from San Diego State has averaged 23.5 points and five assists through two tournament games. He lit up North Dakota State for 30 points, helping to drive his team to the Sweet 16.

Just how dominant was he? Check out this statistic from ESPN Stats and Info:

Ever the humble star, Thames gave credit to his teammates, per this quote captured by Marty Caswell of the Darren Smith Show:

Though Thames is lighting up the scoreboard, he is a legit point guard prospect with excellent size. He's averaging 10.5 free-throw attempts per game in the tournament, and that's no fluke. Over the course of the season, Thames has gone to the line regularly.

He is attempting 6.5 free throws per contest, and most importantly, he has made 83 percent of them. While he isn't a freakish athlete, he's smart and possesses a polished mid-range game.

Damon Bruce of 95.7 The Game thinks Thames' play isn't going to go unnoticed:

If he can keep his strong play going, he might make himself a first-round selection.

 

Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State

Young Kwak/Associated Press

It's perplexing that Michigan State's Payne isn't more highly thought of. At 6'10", Payne can score on the block and make shots consistently from the perimeter, and he's also decent at putting the ball on the floor 15 feet away from the basket.

Still, you almost never hear his name mentioned as one of the top-five forward prospects in the draft.

He is 23 years old, which isn't ideal, but he's averaging 26.5 points per game in the tournament through two games.

How well is Payne shooting the ball? He's made 20-of-21 free-throw attempts and 5-of-8 attempts from beyond the arc.

He exploded for 41 points in the Spartans' second-round win over Delaware, helping him to grab the attention of everyone around the nation.

If he continues to play the way he has in the first two games, he may earn a spot in the NBA draft lottery.

 

Shabazz Napier, G, Connecticut

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 22: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies calls a play against the Villanova Wildcats during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 22, 2014 in Buffalo, New York.  (Pho
Elsa/Getty Images

UConn's star does just about everything for his team. He isn't the picture perfect point guard prospect, but he has a special knack for taking and making big shots.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports made an accurate comparison after Napier went for 25 points against Villanova in the third round:

Napier had struggled mightily against Nova in the past, but he showed up big time against them on Saturday when his team needed him. As an instant-offense guy off the bench, Napier could really help a team in the NBA.

He may not be a potential star at the next level, but his talents could help him find a niche role.

 

Stats courtesy of Statsheet.com, unless otherwise noted.

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