Best 2019 NBA Draft Prospects Remaining in Elite Eight

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 30, 2019

Best 2019 NBA Draft Prospects Remaining in Elite Eight

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Fewer upsets in the NCAA tournament have led to a substantial amount of NBA talent in the Elite Eight.

    Duke, Kentucky, Virginia, Auburn, Gonzaga and Texas Tech each have at least one prospect who scouts will be watching closely Saturday and Sunday.

    We counted 14 players left who are likely to be drafted this June, including three of the potential top-four picks.

    Overall draft rankings are being updated after each round on Bleacher Report's big board.

Carsen Edwards (Purdue, SG, Junior)

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    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 57

    Averaging 32.3 points through three rounds, Carsen Edwards has activated takeover mode for Purdue. It's what hopeful NBA teams will covet: Edwards' ability to catch fire and score in bunches.

    He'll have a potentially telling test against Virginia's elite defense. Edwards should see possessions guarded by 6'5" Ty Jerome and possibly a switchy De'Andre Hunter, one of the nation's most NBA-ready defenders.

    There has always been a level of skepticism regarding Edwards' NBA outlook, given his lack of size (6'1"), athleticism and playmaking. He has 109 turnovers to 104 assists, ranks in the 29th percentile as a finisher around the basket, and his shot selection consists of frequent tough jumpers.

    Lighting up Virginia's defense could help reshape the narrative that says Edwards isn't suited to efficiently produce against NBA-level defenders.

Ty Jerome (Virginia, SG, Junior)

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Overall big board ranking: No. 34

    A stable, do-it-all presence throughout the season, Ty Jerome (6'5") knocked down big shots to sink Oregon and keep Virginia's run alive.

    He finished with 13 points (three three-pointers), six assists and six rebounds in just another convincing display of role-player potential. 

    Converting 39.9 percent from three on the season with 181 dimes to just 58 turnovers, Jerome will draw NBA interest for his shooting, passing IQ and defensive toughness. 

    The more clutch plays he continues to deliver, the more attractive he could look to playoff teams drafting in the 20s hoping to land an NBA-ready shot-maker, decision-maker and competitor. 

Tre Jones (Duke, PG, Freshman)

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 30

    Tre Jones needed a big game to help Duke advance and scouts remember why they shouldn't have jumped off the wagon. 

    He finished with 22 points and eight assists against Virginia Tech, performing as the usual high-IQ decision-maker for Duke's offense. He also buried five three-pointers, reviving some hope in his shooting potential.

    Jones (6'2") lacks upside without notable scoring ability or athleticism, but his passing and defensive toughness spell out backup point guard. His jump shot will continue to be studied closely under the NBA scouts' watch.

Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga, PF, Junior)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 23

    Rui Hachimura's scoring has been down, even dating back before the NCAA tournament, when he finished with nine points in a loss to Saint Mary's. 

    His full body of work still shows 19.6 points per game on 59.9 percent shooting. And he did go for 17 points in the Sweet 16 against a Florida State team loaded with athleticism and length.

    Hachimura (6'8") has developed into a tough cover because of his footwork and touch around the key, and he can drive, post and shoot from mid-range.

    The areas of concern stem from his lack of three-point shooting (0.6 3PTM per 40), passing (2.1 assists per 40) and rebounding (8.6 per 40), which puts extra pressure on his scoring ability.

Chuma Okeke (Auburn, PF, Sophomore)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 22

    Chuma Okeke was one of March Madness' biggest risers. Whether he's rewarded for his improved play will come down to the severity of the ugly knee injury he suffered against North Carolina, after he'd already gone for 20 points on three triples with 11 rebounds, two steals and a block.

    Even before that, he'd taken a notable step forward that earned him a top-30 spot on our overall big board.

    A 6'8", 230-pound big man, Okeke jumps off the screen as an obvious NBA fit for his shooting range, defensive switchability and the potential he's flashed attacking closeouts and scoring in the post. 

    He's suddenly become one of the most interesting evaluations in college basketball following the late-season breakout play and injury.

Keldon Johnson (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 20

    Keldon Johnson was quiet for Kentucky over its past two wins, combining for just 16 points against Houston and Wofford. 

    His shooting has fallen off, an issue for a non-playmaker or isolation scorer. 

    Still, Johnson sports an NBA body (6'6", 211 lbs) with effective downhill driving ability and capable shooting when he's open.

    He'll remain locked into the No. 11-25 draft range, regardless of what happens in the Elite Eight against Auburn.

Tyler Herro (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Overall big board ranking: No. 18

    Tyler Herro scored 19 points against Houston, burying the No. 3 seed with a clutch triple in the final minute.

    It's not worth looking too hard at his shooting percentages on the season (36 percent from three). Herro has picturesque shooting form and enough makes for a 19-year-old working out of spot-ups or off screens.

    He's also underrated operating on the ball as a passer and pull-up shooter (45.4 percent dribble jumpers).

    Herro (6'5") is bound to impress during workouts and only continue to rise, even if he has an off game against Auburn on Sunday.

PJ Washington (Kentucky, PF/C, Sophomore)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Overall big board ranking: No. 17

    After missing Kentucky's opening two NCAA tournament games with a foot injury, PJ Washington returned against Houston and made an impact.

    Washington (6'8") scored 16 points on eight shots, proving to be a handful around the basket with his improved bounce and length.

    NBA teams should see a surefire pro for his mix of tools and scoring polish inside the arc, both as a back-to-the-basket player and face-up threat.

    Regardless of how he performs against Auburn, his shooting performance during workouts could move the needle for some teams.

De'Andre Hunter (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: 10

    Scouts haven't seen De'Andre Hunter's A-game through three rounds, after he combined to shoot 8-of-22 against Oregon and Oklahoma with just seven rebounds in total 69 minutes.

    He's also a prospect who can afford off days in March given his consistency throughout the regular season. He has the physical tools and a simplistic skill set that's easy to picture carrying over to a supporting role. 

    Scouts are drawn to Hunter's defense first. His 6'7", 225-pound frame, foot speed and IQ fuel valued versatility and lockdown ability on bigger scoring wings.

    Hunter isn't explosive around the basket or an advanced shot-creator, weaknesses that popped over his last pair of disappointing efforts. He'll look to get back on track offensively against Purdue while chasing around Ryan Cline, who buried Tennessee with seven threes Thursday night.

Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga, PF/C, Junior)

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Overall big board ranking: No. 8

    Brandon Clarke is on pace to finish with the highest player efficiency rating (37.5) of any college player in a decade—except for Zion Williamson

    Gonzaga's energizer was at his best against Baylor in the Round of 32, when he racked up 36 points and five blocks, flashing both athleticism around the rim and touch in the paint from various angles. 

    Though known mostly for his bounce, motor and defense, Clarke ranks in the 97th percentile on post-ups this season. Despite offering little as a shooter, he's become a legitimate threat to attack closeouts and score off drives from the arc (10-of-14 on drives from spot-up). 

    NBA teams will still value the 6'8" Clarke for the likelihood of easy baskets, hustle plays and defensive playmaking carrying over. 

    It should be a pogo-stick fest Saturday between him and Texas Tech's Tariq Owens, a big capable of matching Clarke's bounce.

Cam Reddish (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 7

    Cam Reddish became a surprise storyline when he missed Duke's Sweet 16 matchup against Virginia Tech with a knee injury.

    Scouts will be hoping for his return against Michigan State, but realistically, one game won't determine how he's evaluated.

    Reddish has been inconsistent all season with his shooting and finishing, while at the same time, he's instilled enough hope in evaluators by making 2.5 threes per game.

    He'll go higher in the draft than his numbers suggest he should, given his youth (19 years old), positional size (6'8"), shot-making and ball-skill potential (94th percentile pick-and-roll ball-handler).

RJ Barrett (Duke, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 4

    It seems like RJ Barrett was listening to the early-season criticism that pointed to his tunnel vision. Against Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16, he dished out 11 assists, using his ball-handling and passing skill to show scouts he's more than just a scorer. 

    He also missed each of his seven threes, and his shooting remains a question mark moving forward. 

    Barrett's scoring consistency still highlights special instincts. And with plenty of size (6'7"), athleticism and shot-making capability, teams should see the 18-year-old wing as an option at No. 2 overall. 

Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)

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    Overall big board ranking: No. 3

    Jarrett Culver leapfrogged RJ Barrett on our board before the NCAA tournament, and he's only helped justify that decision through three rounds, averaging 22.3 points and 5.3 assists.

    Culver (6'5") hasn't even needed the three ball to score, though ranking him this high insinuates we expect his shooting to eventually become more consistent. 

    Otherwise, he continues to shake defenders with changes of speed, and he can finish at difficult angles on both sides of the rim. Against Michigan in the Sweet 16, he got to his spots, flashing off-the-dribble scoring ability as a driver and pull-up threat.

    He's dramatically improved his shot creation (84th percentile isolation), but also his playmaking, as he's generating 1.11 points per possession on passes out of pick-and-rolls (79th percentile). 

    Saturday against Gonzaga represents another big scouting opportunity for teams, as well as a chance for Culver to make a case as the next-best prospect behind Zion Williamson. He'll see a heavy dose of Zach Norvell Jr. and Brandon Clarke, the draft's top shot-blocker, lurking around the paint.

Zion Williamson (Duke, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Overall big board ranking: No. 1

    Zion Williamson isn't playing for anything except a Duke national title. He's going No. 1 regardless of how the tournament plays out. 

    He dominated the paint against Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16, tapping into his quickness and power in space and off offensive rebounds. Williamson (6'7", 285 lbs) continues to crush defenses despite each one knowing his strengths as an inside scorer and weaknesses around the perimeter. 

    Duke will move on to play Michigan State, a team without frontcourt players on the NBA radar. Expect another productive effort from Williamson, the 2019 No. 1 overall lock.

             

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports.