March Madness - NBA Prospect Watch Viewers Guide, Sweet Sixteen

After a fantastic week of hoops, we take a look at how the top NBA prospects performed.

After a fantastic week of college hoops, the NCAA Tournament has been weeded down to 16 teams. Let's take a look at the best NBA prospects still in the hunt for the Championship, as well as the ones who are already going home.

Click on a players name and you'll open their DraftExpress profile, which has all of their basic information.

Still Dancing:

PF Julius Randle, Kentucky
Next Contest: vs. 4 seed Louisville

I wrote last week about Randle's recent struggles; Those quickly vanished.

Randle had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the first round against Kansas State, and followed it up with 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the upset of No. 1 seeded Wichita State. Against the Shockers, Kentucky played better than they had all season and Randle was the best player for the Wildcats. He dominated the paint against capable defenders and showed off his deft passing touch when the double teams came his way.

His size is still a concern in the long term, but he looked like a top five pick on Sunday. He's the best NBA prospect still playing in the tournament.

PF Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Next Contest: vs. 4 seed San Diego State

Gordon had one of the most impressive performances of the top prospects. He had 16 points, eight rebounds and five blocks against Weber State, and then had 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals in the rout of Gonzaga. In the two games, he was a combined 15-22 from the field.

Gordon may never be a top scoring option for an NBA team, and he lacks a true position, but his defense is already exceptional. He has the potential to be a top-notch defender and he does all the little things that don't show up on the scoreboard. His effort alone makes him one of my favorite prospects.

SG Gary Harris, Michigan State
Next Contest: vs. 1 seeded Virginia

The Spartans didn't need big offensive performances out of Harris to win either of their games this week, but he did have a very solid 18 point, five assist outing and played spectacular defense against Harvard. With his balanced offensive game and tough defensive effort, falling out of the lottery would be a surprise for Harris.

SF James Young, Kentucky
Next Contest: vs. 4 seed Louisville

Young had 13 points and eight rebounds against Wichita State on 5-9 shooting and 3-5 from downtown. He was clutch for Kentucky late, scoring back-to-back buckets to give the Wildcats a lead they never relented. The one letdown was his defensive struggles, guarding Wichita State's Cleanthony Early.

C Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Next Contest: vs. 4 seed Louisville

Cauley-Stein played as as expected: unspectacularly solid, with flashes of potential that will likely land him a mid-1st round pick. A 7'0 center with his length and athleticism is rare enough, and if the right team gets him motivated, he's got a high ceiling.

PF Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Next contest: vs. 8 seed Kentucky

The Julius Randle/Montrezl Harrell matchup is the best we're going to see in the Sweet Sixteen. Harrell had 10 points and 11 boards and played sharp defense against Saint Louis. He may not be the Cardinals' best player, but he's the captain of their elite defense.

Gone Fishing:

SF Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Lost to 10 seed Stanford 70-67

Wiggins was a complete non-factor in what should be his last college game. He went 1-6 from the floor and scored just four points with four turnovers against Stanford. To his credit, he had the confidence to call for the ball at the end of the game, but teammate Conner Frankamp got the last look.

In the Jayhawks' first game against Eastern Kentucky, Wiggins was solid, producing 19 points and four boards on 7-13 shooting. He wasn't the best player on the floor (that was forward Perry Ellis, who had 14 points and 13 boards), but Wiggins was far more productive than he was against Stanford

Nothing changes for Wiggins in my opinion. You don't want to see the top prospect in the draft struggle that badly, but he was always going to be a long term project. With Jabari Parker's defensive issues and Joel Embiid's back problems, Wiggins is at the top of my draft board.

SF Jabari Parker, Duke
Lost to 14 seed Mercer, 78-71

It was a rough game for Parker. He had 14 points and seven rebounds, but struggled with his shot and finished just 4-14 from the field. Worse, Coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled him from the floor late in the game on defensive possessions. Parker's defensive awareness has been an issue all season, but against Mercer, it was downright ugly.

That said, Parker is still far-and-away one of the top talents in this class, even with his defensive issues. I don't believe he has the same long-term potential as the Kansas prospects, but he has all the tools to be a top level scorer in the NBA. He ends his season with averages of 19.3 points and 8.8 boards a contest.

C Joel Embiid, Kansas
Lost to 10 seed Stanford 70-67

The biggest loss of the tournament for draft fans was that we didn't get to see the draft's most promising big man play a single minute.

Embiid says he hasn't made an NBA decision yet, and while I expect he'll head to the pros (and avoid risking his draft stock with further back issues), he's the top prospect I'd be least surprised to see stay.

PG Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Loss to 8 seed Gonzaga, 85-77

Marcus Smart was a lock for a top three pick last year, but he stayed at Oklahoma State hoping to contend for a title this year and lock up a top draft slot. By those standards, the season was a failure; They got bounced in the first round, and Smart is in the 5-10 range instead of in contention for the top three.

The loss wasn't Smart's fault; It wasn't his best collegiate game, but he filled up the stat sheet. He finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and six steals on 5-14 shooting. Oklahoma State lost because no one else, aside from senior guard Markel Brown, looked comfortable on the floor.

Aside from his outside shooting woes, a major concern going forward, Smart has everything you want in a combo guard. His defensive awareness and intensity are excellent, he's a force going to the basket, and his basketball IQ is high. He doesn't have the ceiling of this draft's top prospects, but I expect he'll be a solid NBA player.

PF Doug McDermott, Creighton
Lost to 6 seed Baylor, 85-55

McDermott's legendary collegiate career came to an end against Baylor, where the big man had a below-average game that coupled with the rest of his team playing terrible. His 14 points on 7-14 shooting included no three pointers and just two rebound, far below his seasonal averages of 27 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Akis mentioned a likeness to New Orleans' Ryan Anderson, and I think that's an apt comparison for McDermott. McDermott should become a better post-up player given time, but the long-range shooting and rebounding should be a big help to a team with a great post defender to match him up with.

PG Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Lost to 11 seed Dayton, 55-53

Ennis didn't have a great game on paper (19 points on 7-21 shooting, three assists and four boards), but he was the best player in the Syracuse/Dayton matchup. He was aggressive, ran the offense well, had some crazy nifty passes and even scored 11 straight points for the Orange late. He missed two crucial shots in the final minute, but he looked like an NBA level point guard.

He continued to prove his early season success wasn't a mirage. He should be a lottery pick come June.

SG Rodney Hood, Duke
Lost to 14 seed Mercer, 78-71

Much like Parker, the loss to Mercer exposed flaws in Hood's game. He shot 2-10 from the floor, and while he added five assists and six rebounds, his defense was disappointing. Neither his defensive awareness nor effort were NBA level.

Athletic, 6'8 shooters of Hood's level aren't common, and Hood could be an excellent project for a mid-teens draft pick. He's got excellent range, and that'll keep him for falling too hard. Still, the Mercer game exposed he's got a long way to go.

SF Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Lost to 11 seed Dayton, 55-53

Grant was exceptionally quiet in Syracuse's loss, with just four points and six rebounds. His defense was, per usual, above average, but his offensive woes were concerning. Psychically, he looks like a lottery pick, but he's very raw. He's one of the top players who'd benefit from another year in college.

Other Highlights:

  • Michigan State senior forward Adreian Payne reminds me of former Spartan Draymond Green. He's got the range and post skills to be an excellent stretch four, and should be a lock for a mid-first round pick. Payne had a crazy 41 point, eight rebound effort against Delaware.
  • Cleanthony Early, the 6'8 senior small forward from Wichita State, looks like an excellent late-first round pick to me. He had 35 points and seven rebounds on 12-17 from the field in the loss to Kentucky on Sunday. He was the best player on a 35-1 team, and is a diverse offensive player and a tough defender. If you missed his amazing dunk against the WIldcats, check it out.
  • Syracuse senior forward C.J. Fair was completely polarizing in the loss to Dayton. He had 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks with exceptionally great defense, but on offense, he was inept (4-14 from the field). His 42.6% clip on the season is concerning for his long-term NBA prospects.
  • The Kentucky twins of Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison were both great for Kentucky on Sunday-Andrew had 20 points and three assists on 7-9 shooting, and Aaron had 19 points on 6-13 shooting. Both are projected as fringe 1st round picks this year.
  • If UConn senior Shabazz Napier isn't an early 2nd round pick, something is wrong with the basketball world. He's shorter than you like and is more of a shooting guard than a point guard, but you can't teach his level of effort or guts.
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