NBA Draft Prospects To Watch in The East Region of the NCAA Tournament

Breaking down the NBA draft prospects in the east region of the NCAA tournament

#1 Duke vs. Winner of #16 North Dakota State and #16 N.C. Central

Zion Williamson (Duke)

Tre Jones (Duke)

Cam Reddish (Duke)

RJ Barrett (Duke)

Zion Williamson comes into the tournament after returning from injury in the ACC Tournament playing well in all 3 games. At this point, any casual sports fan has heard of the Duke freshman as he has dominated from the start of the season and he did not let up through conference play. He is a virtual lock to go number one, and will just be looking for the cherry on top in a national championship to add to a possible Player of the Year award. RJ Barrett is no doubt thrilled to have his teammate back on the floor after having to bear much of the offensive burden in Williamson’s absence. Barrett played well as he helped lead Duke to the ACC tournament championship, and he will be looking to show that he should be the number two pick behind Williamson in June. Williamson and Barrett just need to do what they have been doing all season long and they could go 1, 2 but the x factors for Duke are there other two star freshman Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. Reddish has been up and down all season, but is expected to go in the top ten of the draft due to his potential that he has shown glimpses of. A legit 6’8″ with guard skills, he will be hoping to shoot the ball well and give scouts a little more confidence in his ability to shoot the basketball efficiently. Tre Jones played one of his best games of the season in the final of the ACC tournament and his play will be big for Duke as they make their tourney run. If Jones can be his usual lock down defender self, and limit turnovers for the offense, any scoring that he contributes will be a bonus. 

#8 VCU vs. #9 Central Florida

Tacko Fall (Central Florida)

Standing at 7’6″, Fall is definitely someone that you can’t miss when he walks in the gym. His size limits his mobility and endurance, which is why he only has averaged less than 25 minutes per game in his senior season. Despite the limited minutes, the center has been effective when he is on the floor averaging 10.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. His free can only be described as awful, which could play a role in a late game situation, but as long as he can stay on the floor and out of trouble he will be a nightmare for VCU to try and defend in the post. As far as his potential NBA future, it is not clear how that will play out. Conventional wisdom would tell you that Fall has been effective enough on the court to go with his size, and that will lead him to be drafted in the second round, but there are concerns with drafting a player that you know going in will not give you major minutes.  

#5 Mississippi State vs. #12 Liberty

Aric Holman (Mississippi State)

Holman came into the season projected as a first round pick on many draft sites due to his 6’10” size and length, to go with his ability to step out and hit outside shots. While analytically Holman has shown that he can most definitely knock down outside jumpers, after starting the season off strong and living up to the preseason hype, he saw his minutes significantly decline along with his production in the second half of the season. None of the negatives of his senior season should suggest that he cannot be effective on the offensive end and as a rim protector (1.5 blocks per game) but it may have put him out of first round consideration. Holman is not in danger of going undrafted at this point, however he could use a big game or two in the tournament to remind scouts that he has value as a big man who can stretch a defense. 

#4 Virginia Tech vs. #13 Saint Louis

Nickeil Alexander Walker (Virginia Tech)

Javon Bess (Saint Louis)

Javon Bess is a name that not a lot of casual fans will know, but he is a player that very well could end up helping bust some brackets should Saint Louis pull of an upset of fourth seeded Virginia Tech. After starting his college career in East Lansing on Michigan State he transferred to Saint Louis and has been solid this season averaging 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. At 6’5″ 220, Bess has good size and strength for the shooting guard position, and he can create his own shot although his efficiency needs to improve as a pro. Unlikely to get drafted, the senior could use a big game against an ACC member to show scouts he can compete on that level. Alexander-Walker is not only a lock to leave school after this year, he is projected to go in the lottery or at least top 20 on most draft sites. As of now, the sophomore would be considered a combo guard, but many teams are intrigued with his potential as a 6’5″ point guard after playing the position following an injury to teammate Justin Robinson. After shooting the 3 at almost 40% in both his sophomore and freshman season, he has proven he can be an effective shooter on the next level to go with his athleticism and playmaking ability.

#3 LSU vs. #14 Yale

Naz Reid (LSU)

Miye Oni (Yale)

The two stars of each team could not be more different. Naz Reid is almost certainly leaving after his freshman season concludes, and came onto campus as a 5 star recruit while Miye Oni was not ranked on any many recruiting sites, and has largely flown under the radar at Yale. Reid is 6’10” and 240 pounds, with the ability to play inside and step out to hit the three. Given the current trend in the NBA of valuing solid shooting big men in the mold of Demarcus Cousins or Kevin Love, Reid will have plenty of suitors should he stay in the draft after the season. Assuming he does leave after his freshman season concludes, he will most likely fall in the mid to late first round. Oni has good size as a guard at 6’6″ and is very efficient as a scorer shooting 36.1% from 3 over his career. He is one of many players whose draft stock could improve with a solid first round game, showing he can hold his own against the SEC regular season champion.

#6 Maryland vs. Winner of #11 Belmont and #11 Temple

Jalen Smith (Maryland)

Bruno Fernando (Maryland)

Aaron Wiggins (Maryland)

Dylan Windler (Belmont)

Quinton Rose (Temple)

Quinton Rose and Dylan Windler go head to head for the right to play Maryland. Both Rose and Windler at 6’8″ with guard skills and have the ability to shoot from deep although Rose has shown glimpses and has not been consistent enough. The Belmont senior will be looking to solidify that he will be drafted in June, despite the questions that come with any player out of the OVC due to the lack of competition. Rose should return to Temple next year with the idea being he can show improvement in his outside shot and play his well into first round consideration. As for the team waiting on the winner of Belmont and Temple, they have 3 legitimate NBA prospects, although only Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando are considered to be realistic options for this draft. Smith should return to school and look to be a lottery pick this season, but many believe he will come out this year and could still be a first round pick. Anytime you are 6’10” 215, can shoot the 3, possess elite athleticism and agility you are going to be getting strong looks from NBA teams whenever you declare for the draft. No one expects Fernando to be back next season, and some draft sites have him going top ten. He is 6’10” and 240 pounds, has a solid interior game, can run the floor and while the stats have not been great with his outside shot, he passes the look test and it appears that will improve as he masters his craft on the professional level. Wiggins is a player that is on most every draft sites 2020 mock draft, so he is worth mentioning in the conversation of draft prospects, although not necessarily for this year. The 6’6″ 200 pound freshman with a sweet shooting stroke has only gotten a little under 24 minutes per game, which has a lot to do with the fact he only is averaging 8.3 points per game. All of the signs are there with Wiggins shooting over 40% from deep on over 4 attempts per game this season, and showing off some solid athleticism. He will be in first round consideration this year, but as we have seen in years past you never know for sure who will be leaving and who will be staying in college basketball. 

#7 Louisville vs. #10 Minnesota

Jordan Nwora (Louisville)

Amir Coffey (Minnesota)

The Louisville sophomore has seen his draft stock improve greatly this season after showing off an impressive all around game. Nwora is 6’8″ and 225 pounds which is great size for a small forward, and his athleticism is underrated although his quickness could be improved. As his usage has increased, his numbers have declined some which is the norm with most players, and he is averaging 17.2 points and and 7.5 rebounds per game heading into the tournament. We do not expect Nwora to declare this year, and he could greatly improve his draft stock if he comes back next year with even more to show scouts in his game. If he goes to the draft this year, he would be drafted, it would just be how high although it would most likely not be in the first round. Coffey is in a similar situation as Nwora. He has put up solid stats this season, and has potential at the next level due to his 6’8″ 210 pound frame, and impressive agility for his size but he should come back to school after averaging 16.3 points this season. The head to head match-up of two players with good size and skill will be interesting to see who gets the upper hand. 

#2 Michigan State vs. #15 Bradley

Cassius Winston (Michigan State)

Winston had an impressive junior year, and if he were bigger than 6’0″ 185 pounds, he would no doubt be much higher in the minds of scouts and executives. The point guard is averaging almost 19 points per game to go with 7.6 assists, and led Michigan State to the Big Ten tournament championship. He is shooting over 40% from deep this season, on a 5.4 attempts per game, which are solid numbers. Given the questions regarding his size, and ability to defend NBA level point guards, Winston is more than likely not thinking about the NBA at this point, but he is the typical type of player that could slip through the cracks when it comes to draft evaluation and a few years down the road he is seen as a solid point guard in the league. A good start to helping his cause would be leading Michigan State on a run in this years tournament. 

 

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