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March Madness 2019: NBA Prospect Watch, Week 1

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The greatest month of the year is here, but armchair scouting for the Sacramento Kings is a little different this season.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Tennessee vs Mississippi State Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

As the best month of the year inflames the madness of the basketball world, things are a little different in Sacramento than they have been for the last decade. There’s a decade-record annount of rain, Kings victories, and 2nd round draft picks—Sacramento is set to own three, from (1) the Milwaukee Bucks, (2) the better pick between the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, and (3) likely the Orlando Magic (check out RealGM for further details).

Sacramento could certainly make a draft day move to acquire a 1st round pick, but as it stands, the Kings don’t own their selections and won’t be in the NBA lottery for the first time in 13 seasons (remember that forever-ago Philadelphia 76ers salary dump?) The Kings will be missing out on a powder-keg first round, as beyond the mighty titan Thanos, manifested into human flesh wearing Duke blues, this class is volatile as all hell. Plenty of these youngsters will go on to become strong NBA players, but this ain’t the incredibly stable lottery class of 2018. Lottery/mid-teens teams are going to have to be confident AND competent with their scouting this year if they’re gonna pluck the future stars from the landmine. But for once, Kings fans won’t be eyeing/overreacting to lottery talents like R.J. Barrett, Ja Morant, Jarret Culver, or Cam Reddish during the tournament. Assuming they stand pat on their collection of picks, this draft class will be a big test for the Sacramento scouting department that has added and kept only one 2nd rounder in Vlade Divac’s tenure (Frank Mason).

While the last decade of lottery-level armchair scouting was relatively straight forward (still included multiple surprises), prognosticating the 2nd round is an exercise in futility. Instead, I present a handful of players currently considered as 2nd round possibilities. I’d bed at least one of these players ends up selected before Sacramento’s first pick, so consider this more an opportunity to enjoy watching young players trying to prove they belong in the NBA and less an exercise in trying to nostradumbass our way into predicting what the Kings will do/will be able to do with 2nd round pick.

If I haven’t covered your favorite 2nd round prospect in-depth yet, leave a comment! It likely means I expect them and their teams to survive this first week, and I’ll get to them over the next few weeks (Cameron Johnson, Charles Matthews, and Eric Paschall will all pop up next week). Viva la Madness!

Admiral Schofield, Forward, Tennessee

vs. 15 Colgate, Friday, 11:45 a.m., CBS

Highlighting Adrmial Schofield and giving any false hope to the Kings fanbase is a personal failing of mine; I don’t think he lasts until the Kings pick range, but he’s a foolishly fun player to root for, fellow STR staff members have joined me on his bandwagon, and that picture above was too good to ignore.

If names equaled star power, Admiral would be a top 5 pick—somewhere around Zion Williams, De’Andre Hunter, Bol Bol, and a gentlemen further down the list. But as a player, Schofield’s combination of strength, verticality (check out the dunk pictured above!), and undeniable motor make him a versatile prospect for a league that is always looking for versatile wings. He’s a leader on the 2nd seeded Tennessee team, and while he’s a senior who will be 22 by draft day, he’s got a well-rounded skill set and can provide solid, immediate two-way value and toughness.

While teammate Grant Williams (a likely 1st round pick) is more of an offensive hub prospect with his ability to distribute the ball from the high post and attack the rim, Schofield’s primarily used as a spot-up shooter. He’s a 38% career shooter from deep—41.7% on 156 attempts this season—and he dropped 30 points with six threes against Gonzaga, one of the better defenses in the country. And while his shot is his most alluring basketball skill, he’s also determined when he gets a lane to the hoop.

The main concern about Admiral is on the defensive end; he’s a tough player, but he’s more prone to lapses on defense than offense. This was particularly noticeable in Tennessee’s loss at Kentucky, when he got burned off screens by Keldon Johnson, and toasted in single-coverage in the post by P.J. Washington. He was better in the two rematches against the Wildcats (both Vols wins, including the SEC Semifinal game on Saturday), but he’s still prone to bad gambles and defensive lapses when guarding perimeter players.

Still, he’s an enforcer who is good at skills every NBA team needs, and I bet some squad at the end of the first/early second falls in love with his toughness/leadership qualities during workouts. Tennessee is a fun offensive team with three NBA-level players (I stan Jordan Bone), and they’ve got a cool matchup with Colgate, a team I totally have watched play before that has a fun two man game with sports-reference.com/cbb/schools/colgate/ Rapolas Ivanauskas and Jordan Burns!

Naz Reid, Big, LSU

vs. 14 Yale, Thursday, 9:40 a.m., Tru TV

Reid is a talented, versitile offensive weapon for an LSU team that’s talented and versitile on the offensive end. His main allure is as a streach big; he’s a 37% shooter from deep (including two huge threes and an almost game-winner against Florida), and shoots 41% on 2-point jumpers per hoops-math.com. He’s not the most fluid or explosive athlete, and he and all his LSU teammates are concerning defenders, but he’s got a promising feel for the game offensively and the basketball world can never have enough scoring bigs. Check out LSU early; they’re a talented squad, but their defense could be exposed at any moment. Plus, their head coach is in a little bit of trouble.

If you watch the LSU/Yale game, keep an eye on Bulldogs wing Miye Oni. I haven’t watched enough tape to pretend to have an educated opinion on Oni’s potential, but he’s averaging fantastic numbers (per 40 stats of 22.9 points, 8.3 boards, 4.6 assists, 53% eFG%, 39% from 3 on 2.6 makes, and 3.4 turnovers) and looks to have the physical tools needed to carry that efficency into the NBA. He’s a player I’m looking forward to scouting this month (hint, hint on my bracket predictions there...)

Louis King, Wing/Forward, Oregon

vs. 5 Wisconsin, Friday, 1:30 p.m., TBS

King and the red-hot Ducks caught fire at the end of February, and won eight straight games (including 4 wins over Washington and Arizona State, the other Pac 12 conference tourney teams) on their way to a surprise Pac 12 Championship. Guard Payton Pritchard was the focal point of the championship run, but Lue King showed up for the Ducks as well, averaging 16.5 points, 6 boards, and 2 threes a game on 40% from deep. He didn’t have a smooth freshman season—he was injured to start the season, and only got to play two games with Bol Bol before the rookie giant was injured and out for the season—but King got better as the year ended. Wisconsin is a dang stout defense, so it’ll be key to see if King and the Ducks asert themselves in a battle of stout defensive teams. King is kinda fun in grind-it-out defensive possessions.

He would benefit from another year of college, but he looks the part of a future three level scorer... just with little certainty about his efficency. But his length (6’9 with 7’0 reach), combined with flashes of shooting and quick driving, make him a player to keep your eye on.

Matisse Thybulle, Wing, Washington

vs. 8 Utah State, Friday, 3:50 p.m. TNT

Thybulle is a defensive wrecking ball and is putting up unheard of defensive numbers; a whopping 4.6 steals and 2.8 blocks per 40 minutes. Read those again and appreciate that in sport-reference.com’s tracking numbers, no one who has played serious college minutes has ever recorded steal/block rates even CLOSE to Thybulle’s...and if you want to correctly point out that sports-reference’s advanced numbers tracking only goes back to 2009-10, well, NO ONE HAS REACHED HIS SPG/BPG NUMBERS EITHER. Certainly, playing safety in Washington’s zone allows him a role optimized to pad those numbers, but his instincts for the ball is off the charts. I cannot wait to see a guy who plays this hard on the defensive end get a chance to play man defense with NBA-level teammates.

He can also (probably) provide the 3 part of the 3-and-D label as well. He’s not the most promising shooter over his career—he’s just 31% from deep this year, and is shooting a middling 34% on catch-and-shoot shots, but he’s a a career 36% shooter from three (on 516 total attempts) and has made 85% of his free throws this year. If Andre Roberson can get serious NBA minutes because of his defensive abilities, a smart team can do plenty with a middling shooter (who might be more than that in a few years) like Thybulle.

The hustling Huskie may be a senior, but he’s still only 22, and is ready to make an immediate impact on the defense end. And with quickness and hops like this, it’s hard to see playoff-ready teams drafting in the 20s all passing on him. All it takes is one team falling in love with him in workouts, and Thybulle’s camp is already running a full-court media press stressing that he’s a 1st round pick.

Other Fun Matchups: Bracket darling 11 Belmont survived a early second-half run against Temple despite star scorer Dylan Windler providing everything (14 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals) but points (5 points on 2-7 shooting)... they won’t survive another game like that against 6 Maryland’s defense. Maryland runs out two young bigs—sophomore Bruno Fernando and freshman Jalen Smith—who get in each others way, but who will both be NBA players someday soon.

If you haven’t yet watched #12 Murray State superstar Ja Morant and mid-major Murray State yet, check them out on Thursday (1:30 p.m., TBS) when they take on supershooter Markus Howard and #5 Marquette in a matchup of high-scoring, quicker-paced teams... and if that ain’t your style, stick with TBS on Thursday at 4:20 p.m. as the 2018 Champion #6 Villanova Wildcats, led by stud seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, face off against my beloved #11 Saint Mary’s Gaels in a battle of “hey can we just slow this down and chill for a second?” superteams.