The Best 2016 NBA Draft Prospects Remaining in the March Madness Field
The NCAA tournament field is down to 16 teams, but there are still plenty of quality NBA prospects left to scout with Duke, North Carolina, Indiana and Maryland still in the mix.
Brandon Ingram continues to make a case for himself as the possible No. 1 prospect in 2016. He'll get a chance to win more support when Duke faces the top seed from the West Region in the Sweet 16. But we've also seen a few below-the-radar prospects rise to the occasion. One in particular made the top center prospect in 2016's projected field look inferior.
In some cases, prospects were able to move the needle for themselves with big games in the NCAA tournament. They performed at high levels against quality opponents who weren't on their regular-season schedules. But for the most part, the rankings, which highlight pro potential, are based on each prospects' full body of work—not just a few postseason games.
I ranked the top prospects likely to declare this June, as well as a five other players expected to return and generate NBA buzz down the road.
Future NBA Prospects (Projected to Declare in 2017 or Later)
5. Tyler Dorsey (Oregon, SG, Freshman)
Tyler Dorsey hit some huge shots to sink Saint Joseph's in the second round. He finished with 14 points and nailed a clutch three-pointer to put Oregon up a point in the final two minutes.
A confident freshman who can handle the ball, shoot and put pressure on the basket, Dorsey looks poised to create some NBA buzz as a sophomore in the Pac-12.
4. Malachi Richardson (Syracuse, SG, Freshman)
He struggled against Middle Tennessee (1-of-7, four points), but Malachi Richardson's 21 points against Dayton were impressive. At 6'6", he's shown the shooting range to spot up from deep or pull up into threes. He can also handle the ball and get into the lane.
Richardson is still rough around the edges and should return to Syracuse as a go-to sophomore. But at some point, whether it's in 2017 or 2018, there should eventually be NBA interest.
3. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Kansas, SG, Sophomore)
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk had one of his best games at Kansas in the opening around against Austin Peay. He went for 23 points on 11 shots in 24 minutes. At 6'8", Mykhailiuk's size, athleticism and shot-making ability stand out under the NBA lens. He'll need one more year in school to improve his shooting and confidence.
2. Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Sophomore)
Justin Jackson finished with 15 points against Providence, which he mostly picked up around the rim off cuts and transition opportunities. But he also made a three and some nice passes (three assists) playing within North Carolina's offense.
He didn't shoot well enough from three his sophomore year (27.1 percent) to generate 2016 NBA draft buzz, but Jackson clearly has a jumper. I suspect he'll raise his percentage as a junior and declare for the draft in 2017.
1. Tyler Lydon (Syracuse, PF, Freshman)
Tyler Lydon has played a consistent bench role for the Orange. And he was everywhere against Middle Tennessee, finishing with 14 points, seven boards and six blocks.
A high-IQ, above-the-rim leaper who can stretch the floor and block shots, Lydon's blend of strengths is rare. He'll have the chance to be a first-round riser in 2017.
15. Michael Gbinije (Syracuse, SG, Senior)
Draft range: Second round/undrafted
Notable stats versus Dayton: 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists
Notable stats versus Middle Tennessee: 23 points, three assists, 10-of-14 FG
Michael Gbinije had a poor showing against Dayton in the first round, but he found his rhythm during a blowout win over Middle Tennessee. He was feeling it around the perimeter with a variety of long-range threes and step-back jumpers in the mid-range.
He's been one of the most consistent players in the country all year and has finished with double-figure scoring during every game this season. Gbinije also averages 4.4 assists and, at 6'7", he's established himself as Syracuse's top playmaker.
Between his versatility and production, Gbinije has positioned himself to get drafted, despite the fact he'll turn 24 years old in June.
14. Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin, SF/PF, Junior)
Draft range: Second round
Notable stats versus Pittsburgh: 12 points, 3-of-17 FG
Notable stats versus Xavier: Six points, eight rebounds, three assists, 2-of-10 FG
Wisconsin has managed to reach the Sweet 16 without any offensive help from Nigel Hayes, who's a combined 5-of-27 through two games. It's a bad look given the timing, but scouts aren't likely to view it as anything more than a slump.
For what it's worth, he played strong defense on Xavier's top scorer, Trevon Bluiett (3-of-11, seven points).
Hayes' game is ultimately better suited for a supporting role—not the go-to gig he inherited following the departures of two first-rounders. He was much more effective and efficient playing alongside Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker.
He'll have another chance to rebound in the Sweet 16 against Notre Dame. Either way, at 6'8", 235 pounds with a 7'3 ½" wingspan, Hayes' physical tools and versatility should get him drafted.
13. Wayne Selden Jr. (Kansas, SG, Junior)
Draft range: Late first to second round
Notable stats versus Austin Peay: 14 points, 5-of-10 FG
Notable stats versus Connecticut: 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, 8-of-15 FG
Wayne Selden re-entered the draft conversation as a junior by turning the corner after two relatively disappointing seasons. And he's looked sharp through two NCAA tournament games: He's scored a total of 36 points in 54 minutes.
Against Connecticut, Selden picked his spots as a scorer and ball-mover. He capitalized and got into the paint when he had space, converting runners and short- to mid-range jumpers. Selden also hit a pair of threes, which is something he's done all year (averages two makes per game).
His improved three-point stroke has garnered most of the focus, as he's up to 40.4 percent from 36.5 percent last season, but his finishing ability inside the arc has improved more. Selden is converting 54.5 percent on two-pointers—a big difference from his 39.5 percent two-point mark a season ago.
At 6'5", 230 pounds, Selden passes the NBA eye test for a 2-guard, given his strong frame and athleticism. The rest of his game now appears to be catching up.
12. Cheick Diallo (Kansas, PF, Freshman)
Draft range: Mid-first to second round
Notable stats versus Austin Peay: Seven minutes, nine points, four rebounds, one block, 4-of-5 FG
Cheick Diallo has fallen out of head coach Bill Self's rotation and didn't even see the floor during Kansas' second-round win over Connecticut.
In the Jayhawks' first game against Austin Peay, he entered for seven minutes of garbage time, but at least he competed. Diallo ran the floor, picked up easy buckets and came up with a huge block at the rim. He even knocked down a mid-range jumper.
Teams may see that combination and envision an energetic defensive weapon down the road. But at 7.5 minutes per game and minimal offensive juice, Diallo looks more like a late first-rounder or second-round option, as opposed to the lottery pick he looked like out of high school.
11. Jake Layman (Maryland, SF, Senior)
Draft range: Second round
Notable stats versus South Dakota State: 27 points, 5-of-8 3PT
Notable stats versus Hawaii: 10 points, 4-of-8 FG
Rarely asked to create, Jake Layman picks up his buckets off spot-ups, cuts and line drives through open lanes. He played arguably his best game of the season in Maryland's opening-round win over South Dakota State, dropping 27 points on five three-point makes and 8-of-8 shooting from the line.
He cooled off in the second round against Hawaii by scoring 10 points and missing all four of his three-point attempts. But given his role in Maryland's offense as a secondary, complementary role player, you should expect the on-and-off scoring.
Layman could ultimately be one of the bigger sleepers in this year's field. His numbers aren't crazy in a loaded starting lineup, but he's raised his two-point percentage to 60.6 percent (up from 53 percent) and his three-point percentage to 40.7.
At 6'9" with above-the-rim athleticism, a smooth shooting stroke and four years of experience in a supporting role, Layman could be a sneaky NBA fit as a stretch forward.
10. Melo Trimble (Maryland, PG, Sophomore)
Draft range: Mid-first to second round
Notable stats versus South Dakota State: 19 points, two assists, 5-of-10 FG
Notable stats versus Hawaii: 24 points, 5-of-14 FG, eight rebounds, three assists
Melo Trimble had a rough month heading into this year's NCAA tournament, although you wouldn't know it from his first two games.
He went for 19 points on 10 shots in the first round before putting up 24 against Hawaii. Trimble was at his best attacking the rim, as per usual—he's already made 22 free throws after two rounds. Quick and crafty off the bounce, he's tough to contain around the perimeter and surprisingly strong at the rim.
Unfortunately, the jumper isn't working for him nearly as well as last year. Trimble is shooting just 32.2 percent from three and has missed nine of his 10 attempts during the NCAA tournament.
But it's the lack of above-the-rim burst and length that work against him from an NBA standpoint.
Teams will view Trimble as a scoring and playmaking spark. The question is whether they feel the potential reward is worth the price of a first-round pick.
9. Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia, SG, Senior)
Draft range: Mid-first to second round
Notable stats versus Hampton: 11 points, four assists, 2-of-5 3PT
Notable stats versus Butler: 22 points, five rebounds, five assists, 8-of-14 FG
Virginia didn't need much of Malcolm Brogdon during a first-round blowout against Hampton. Versus Butler, he whipped out every trick in his book, from step-back jumpers to runners, hesitation drives and cuts for layups. Brogdon's five assists highlighted his well-documented basketball IQ and passing ability.
Still, the most important development regarding his ascension—at least from an NBA perspective—is his improved three-point stroke. With below-average burst for a guard, becoming a better shooter was a priority. And he's raised his long-range percentage to 40.2 percent from 34.4 percent.
Already 23 years old without much athleticism, Brogdon's ceiling doesn't appear high. But an improved jumper, defensive tools (215 lbs, foot speed, 6'10" wingspan) and an obvious feel for the game could make him an appealing option for a late-first-round general manager in need of a role player.
8. Grayson Allen (Duke, SG, Sophomore)
Draft range: Mid-first to late first round
Notable stats versus UNC Wilmington: 23 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, 15-of-17 FT
Notable stats versus Yale: 29 points, 5-of-7 3PT
Through two NCAA tournament games, scouts are seeing Grayson Allen's bread and butter up close and personal. He got to the line 17 times against UNC Wilmington before knocking down five threes against Yale.
Allen's game revolves around hard line drives and long-range shooting. He's quick off the bounce, which results in blow-bys, and an explosive last step around the basket leads to free throws and easy buckets. Plus, he's shooting 41.9 percent from downtown on 2.5 threes made per game.
It's also worth noting Allen leads Duke with 3.5 assists per game. He dished out five during Duke's opening game and showed the ability to break down the defense and find the open man.
He could stand to improve defensively, and Allen doesn't project as a mid-range scorer. Still, teams are bound to value his showtime athleticism, jumper and competitiveness. He'll have the chance to make a statement against No. 1 seed Oregon in the Sweet 16.
7. Diamond Stone (Maryland, C, Freshman)
Draft Range: Late lottery to late first round
Notable stats versus South Dakota State: Four points, five rebounds, two blocks
Notable stats versus Hawaii: 14 points, two rebounds, one block, 6-of-8 FG
Not exactly the focal point of Maryland's offense, Diamond Stone gives his team a punch of low-post scoring. Maryland's opening-round game against South Dakota State was a negative exception, though. Stone played just 22 minutes with four fouls and scored four points all game.
He looked better in Maryland's win over Hawaii, as he scored four first-half buckets, establishing his position on the block to showcase his strong back-to-the-basket game.
Physically, he's built like an NBA player with 6'11", 255-pound size. He has soft hands to match the mobility, too.
Stone isn't a great rebounder (14 percent rebounding percentage) or natural defender. He's flashed touch around the elbows, but he doesn't stretch the floor. He may be more of a mid-to-late first-round option than a lottery pick, but monster physical tools and promising interior scoring ability suggest Stone's basement floor is high.
6. Brice Johnson (North Carolina, PF, Senior)
Draft range: Mid-to-late first round
Notable stats versus Florida Gulf Coast: 18 points, seven rebounds, eight blocks
Notable stats versus Providence: 21 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, 7-of-9 FG
Brice Johnson's motor continues to pump and create easy scoring chances at the rim. That he's also one of the bounciest bigs in the country helps. He is a phenomenal finisher around the basket for dump-offs, offensive rebounds, cuts and transition opportunities.
Against Providence, we saw his quickness on a sweet baseline spin into a highlight dunk. A fallaway jumper in the paint and a few one-handers around the key showed what he's capable of creating, and he knocked down all seven of his free throws.
Throughout the year, his athleticism and energy have also led to shot-blocking (he had eight blocks against Florida Gulf Coast) and volume rebounding (20.6 percent rebounding rate, per Sports-Reference.com).
Regardless of whether Johnson develops his post moves or jumper, his ability to put pressure on the glass and finish off plays seems likely to translate.
He projects as an interior specialist and frontcourt energizer.
5. Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame, PG, Junior)
Draft range: Late lottery to late first round
Notable stats versus Michigan: 11 points, two assists, 4-of-8 FG
Notable stats versus Stephen F. Austin: 18 points, two assists, 6-of-8 FG
Demetrius Jackson was quiet against Michigan, but he bounced back for 18 points on just two misses in a one-point win over Stephen F. Austin.
The highlight of Jackson's Sunday afternoon came on a monster slam off a drive through the lane. At 6'1", 198 pounds, he blends strength with eye-opening explosiveness that may remind some of the Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe.
Unfortunately, Jackson didn't show much playmaking ability. He totaled four assists between Notre Dame's first two games, and he only averaged 4.7 assists during the year after Jerian Grant averaged 6.7 in the same offense a season ago.
Jackson doesn't come off as a big setup man at the point, but between his athleticism, shot-making and passing IQ, he sure has the look of an NBA guard.
4. Thomas Bryant (Indiana, PF, Freshman)
Draft range: Mid-to-late first round (2016 or 2017)
Notable stats versus Chattanooga: 13 points, two rebounds, 5-of-7 FG
Notable stats versus Kentucky: 19 points, five rebounds, one block, 6-of-8 FG
Thomas Bryant was the best big man on the floor during Indiana's matchup with Kentucky. He did an excellent job of timing his cuts and dives off Indiana's ball movement and guard penetration. And it resulted in four second-half easy buckets and nine total shots from the line.
He made three clutch free throws late in the game, as well as a mid-range jumper during the first half. Throughout the season, Bryant has flashed an occasional-yet-intriguing shooting touch that highlights enticing stretch-4 potential.
You'd like to think he'll return as a sophomore and work on his jumper and post moves because his physical tools (6'10", 245 lbs, 7'5 ½" wingspan) and athleticism remain ahead of his fundamentals. He's still raw, and though he's flashed inside-out skills, the fluidity isn't quite there.
Having said that, Bryant will have the chance to create even more buzz with a strong showing against North Carolina's monster front line. Another big performance in the Sweet 16 could motivate him to strike while the iron is hot and test the NBA waters.
3. Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga, PF, Sophomore)
Draft range: Late lottery to late first round
Notable stats versus Seton Hall: 21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists
Notable stats versus Utah: 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, 8-of-12 FG
After putting up 21 points and 16 boards against Seton Hall, Domantas Sabonis made a convincing pitch to NBA scouts during his matchup with Jakob Poeltl.
Behind Sabonis' 19 points and 10 rebounds, Gonzaga waxed Utah off the floor. He flashed his improved footwork and touch in the paint by making shots off face-up maneuvers and back-to-the-basket counters. He even knocked down a three from the top of the arc and looked comfortable and confident in the process.
Sabonis' appeal is still ultimately his toughness, rebounding instincts (20.6 percent rebounding rate, per Sports-Reference.com) and motor. And at the very least, teams will view him as an energy specialist around the basket.
But he's made significant strides in his offensive game. And if Sabonis can get teams to buy into the thought of him adding a spot-up jumper, it should help diminish concerns over his lack of length and explosiveness.
2. Buddy Hield (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)
Draft range: Top 10
Notable stats versus CSU Bakersfield: 27 points, 8-of-14 FG, 3-of-6 3PT
Notable stats versus VCU: 36 points, 11-of-20 FG, 6-of-14 3PT
Buddy Hield quickly shook off his 1-of-8 shooting night against West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament final. He went for 27 points against CSU Bakersfield without breaking a sweat, and that was before erupting against VCU.
Hield found an absurd rhythm around the perimeter and went for 29 points in the second half alone. He finished the game with six threes and a big fallaway mid-range jumper down the stretch.
Using screens and pump fakes to free himself, Hield constantly found position to knock down jumpers, despite being the focus of VCU's defense. Late in the game, the Rams even threw a triple-team at him 20 feet from the hoop.
At this point, he doesn't have much else to prove. Hield should go in the draft's top 10 for his incredible shot-making ability.
1. Brandon Ingram (Duke, SF, Freshman)
Draft range: Top two
Notable stats versus UNC Wilmington: 20 points, nine rebounds, 7-of-12 FG
Notable stats versus Yale: 25 points, 7-of-19 FG, 3-of-7 3PT
With Ben Simmons' season over, Brandon Ingram will use the NCAA tournament platform to finalize his No. 1 overall pitch.
He hasn't been perfect through two games, but he has been productive with 45 points. Scouts have seen Ingram flash the whole scoring repertoire of three-point shooting, mid-range scoring and line-driving. And with every move and shot he makes, his 7'3" wingspan naturally stands out.
You just don't see players with that type of length operating in the 15-25-foot range, where he's effortlessly separating over his defender. And it highlights Ingram's potential to evolve into a mismatch at both wing positions.
Listed at 190 pounds, he can struggle to finish in traffic or create high-percentage shots with the game slowed down. Despite pouring 25 points on Yale, he did miss 12 of his 19 field-goal attempts.
But at this stage, the gap between Ingram and the third-best NCAA prospect appears wider than ever. He seems locked in as a top-two pick, regardless of what he does against Oregon in the Sweet 16.