As the NCAA Tournament kicks off today across the country, you can bet the NBA scouts are watching intently.
For many of the top prospects in this summer's NBA Draft, the NCAA Tournament is the last chance to impress the scouts in game action, and in the case of some players, the last chance to audition for that top overall pick.
Obviously hindsight is always 20/20 when it comes to the draft, and the players who look dominant now might turn out to be flops down the road. You probably don't remember, but once upon a time Kwame Brown was a No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
That being said, these are the players you can take to the bank. Some of them are college superstars that are expected to be top-round picks, while others might be late first-round and even early second-round steals. Either way, these players are the safest bets to be studs in the NBA down the line.
Thompson's had some personal issues this season that have hurt his draft stock, and some late-season struggles shooting the basketball down the stretch as well.
But as a shooter, Thompson is spot-on. He can hit from anywhere on the floor and he's a nice shooting guard to have, especially considering his range from the perimeter. I've mentioned the lack of shooting guards before in the draft, and considering his shooting ability from long-range, Thompson will be a great find for some team that takes him.
I'm not completely sold on Singler, because we've seen scorers at Duke before that haven't translated well to the NBA, especially considering he's more of a perimeter player who can go inside when he gets a lane to go inside.
That being said, Singler still does have the potential to be a very good shooter from the outside who could become a more complete version of J.J. Redick, and doesn't have to be a catch-and-shoot player. He could develop into a star, but he'll be a nice player and a late-round steal.
International players are always a risk, especially considering they usually don't come over from Europe right away. But in my mock draft, I said Motiejunas has a game very similar to Dirk Nowitzki in that he can be a scorer who can either slash to the basket or possibly step outside and hit a jumper.
Again, international picks are always high-risk, high-reward and we've seen a great deal of flops who have never made it to the big time. But Motiejunas has the profile and the style that can translate well to the North American game.
Singleton's an interesting case because he's been jumping up and down draft boards for most of the season.
He has the ability to be a perimeter shooter and he's shown he can be a shooter. He's also a great athlete who can slash to the basket, and his speed helps him on the defensive end where he's a very good defender. If he can continue to improve from the perimeter, he can be a strong player who can be a very good piece for the right team.
Faried's going to have the chance to show off for the NBA scouts and the nation as a whole against Louisville today, and a lot of people are going to like what they see.
Faried is still very raw on the offensive end, which is why I have him down here at No. 16. But if you're judging him as a rebounder and a defender, he's one of the best in this draft. He can already be a difference maker on the glass, and if whoever takes him can continue to develop him as an offensive player, then he has phenomenal upside.
Thompkins is an absolute freak for his position. He can slash inside and get to the basket with his length, but he can also step outside and shoot the jumper with surprising accuracy. He has great range for someone with his size and his position.
Of course, he'll really have to develop a post game if he wants to be a power forward down the line in the NBA. His game right now might be better suited for a swingman position or a three-four hybrid. But the raw talent is there to be a star.
In terms of an athletic kid, Harper has scouts fawning over him.
If you had a kid who was a six-foot-10 power forward who can absolutely fly down the floor, can be a slasher in the paint and can also shoot better than 46 percent from three, you would be too.
He's thin for an NBA power forward, and he'll have to develop more as a forward. But he can be a lethal weapon with that skill set and the way he can shoot from the outside.
Vesely has an explosive game, especially considering he can play either the three or the four position.
He's dynamic because of the way he plays, and how his style can translate to the NBA. He's explosive off the dribble and can get to the basket very well for someone his size. But he can also play off the ball and beat you with his perimeter game. Again, it's buyer beware when it comes to these international players (which is why I'm skeptical about Enes Kanter), but Vesely has the tools to make it in the NBA.
I mentioned this in my mock draft, but Jones reminds me a lot of Josh Smith.
He's not the shot blocker and the defensive force that Smith is, but in terms of athleticism and his offensive skillset, he's similar. He's extremely raw and he's going to have to develop a more consistent post game, but the upside is there.
He's a project with a lot of potential, and some team will use a lottery pick on him.
Perhaps the best shooter in the draft outside of Jimmer Fredette.
There are some issues about him jacking up too many shots when he's cold and then becoming lax on defense, but you also can't ignore the pure scoring capability. He can slash inside and get to the basket, or he can step outside and knock down a jumper from anywhere on the floor. He has great range from the paint outwards and to the perimeter.
He's a great fit in the right situation.
If there weren't questions about his perimeter ability, Burks might've been a first-round lock. Instead he's bounced up and down in a couple of early mock drafts.
Burks is improving as a shooter and he's starting to improve his range. But it's still spotty at best and it's one thing the teams will have to take a long look at before making a decision on him. Still, it'll be hard to turn away from a guy who can get to the basket, put up 20 points a night and has a pure scorer mentality to him.
Jones has scoring ability, he can slash to the basket and he has the size and ability to play down low as a small forward.
But then there's that jumper.
It's unlike anything I've ever seen. It's more like a flat-footed heave towards the basket that uses almost all arms. It works for him, but it has to be something that can be corrected. But as he continues to develop, if he can fix the jumper and continue to improve his range, he can really start to reach his potential.
Smith has had a breakout season at Duke with Kyrie Irving missing a large chunk of the season.
He's a complete player in that he can score and distribute the ball. He can slash to the inside and get to the hoop by creating his own shot, but he can also beat you with his perimeter game and his jumper.
There are some who are projecting him as a point guard/shooting guard hybrid, but with his size and profile, he's probably more suited for a point guard position as a Jrue Holiday-type of player. Also it remains to be seen how he will play off the ball, but he has the tools to be a very good player.
I really like Walker's game this season because of how many ways he can beat you.
Obviously all the clutch shots and the acrobatic game-winners make it look better, but Walker is so dangerous off the dribble and therefore so hard to guard. His speed combined with his crossovers can fake defenders out of their shoes, and then the combination of being able to finish at the basket combined with the ability to step back and hit the outside shot.
He has the potential to be extremely dangerous.
What can you say about Jimmer that hasn't already been said?
A pure scorer, perhaps not a true point guard in the sense that he's more of a scorer than a distributor, although he does have the ability to be an assist man when need be. But any team that drafts him won't be doing it for his assist ability.
It'll be for the 28 points per game and the ability to knock down a shot from anywhere on the floor when he's on. He can be streaky and he does take a large amount of shots, but he's an absolute cold-blooded shooter when he's on.
Perhaps the No. 1 pick in the draft, Irving was showing the potential to be a star player before his injury.
It's still up in the air whether or not he will play for Duke in the tournament (according to the Los Angeles Times he will play), but he was showing all the signs of being a pure point guard. He can get to the basket, he's a finisher when he has to be and he can also knock down an outside shot. But he's also a distributor who can get his teammates the ball.
He's going to be a star point guard in this league.
Sullinger's an interesting case because of his size.
He's dominating the low post in college right now, in part because of his skillset but also because of matching up up well against leaner forwards and centers. Once he gets to the NBA, there will be a transition period because he won't be able to power through his defenders like he has in college. But as soon as he adjusts, he has the potential to be very good.
Brandon Knight might be one of the best players around that's not getting a lot of lottery love.
He's still raw for a guard, but there are so many ways he can beat you. He can beat you off the dribble, he can get to the basket, he's athletic and isn't afraid to go hard to the tin and he can also step outside and knock down perimeter shots.
He still needs refining and I'd like to see him improve his range. I'd also wonder if he's more of a combo guard than a true point. But he's still a solid prospect.
It's taken a while for Barnes to fit in at North Carolina, but he's finally showing some of the scoring prowess that made him a top recruit and a No. 1 draft pick to some early in the season.
He's finally able to penetrate and score using his height and physical ability, but he's also rapidly improving from the perimeter and hitting more of his outside shots. If he can continue to develop that part of his game, he's going to be a star scorer in the league.
Williams is a guy who really came out of nowhere to become one of the hottest names surrounding this draft, especially considering how he came out of his shell earlier in the season. He still has some holes in this game and like a lot of the shooters in this draft, he can get trigger happy and put up bad shots at times.
But he's also a phenomenal shooter from the outside, and he can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor when he's feeling it. He's streaky, but he has the potential to be a great scorer in the NBA. And there's not a lot of teams who will scoff at his offensive ability.