Kotoch: Top 20 NBA Draft Prospects, Pre-March Madness

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March Madness is right around the corner, so it’s time to circle the wagons and look ahead to the NBA draft after breaking down each position the past five Saturdays.

Since the last Big Board, draft stocks have soared or tanked based on performances, injuries, and inconsistencies. As the NCAA Tournament approaches, the lives of NBA scouts will be consumed by the names on this list as they dissect every wrinkle or wart of each prospect.

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Zagoria: NCAA Tournament: Whose Stock is Rising?

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NEW ORLEANS — Here in The Big Easy for the NCAA Final Four, there are a slew of future NBA lottery picks set to take the floor Saturday night at the SuperDome.

Four of the projected top six picks on DraftExpress.com’s Mock Draft and five of the top 12 play for Kentucky, Kansas and Ohio State. (Louisville is the lone Final Four representative without a projected lottery pick.)

Numerous other players no longer in the NCAA Tournament have also helped their stock since the Madness began.

Here’s a look at some top prospects who are here, and some who aren’t.

Top 5 NBA Prospects in the Final Four:

1. Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky

The presumptive No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Davis was named the U.S. Basketball Writers National Player of the Year. He impacts the game on both ends of the floor and his offensive game is coming along nicely. Davis has had three double-digit scoring games in the NCAA Tournament, including an 18-point, 11-rebound outing in the rout of Baylor.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Kentucky

Though Kidd-Gilchrist previously said he would return to school for his sophomore season, reports recently surfaced that he would come out. And why not? He’s projected as a Top 3 pick. A tremendous transition and inside player, the former St. Patrick star needs to develop his perimeter game.

3. Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas

The latest Kansas big man to follow in the footsteps of recent college successes Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins, Robinson projects to be a better NBA player. He’s more physical, rebounds well on both ends and has been the heart and soul of this undermanned Kansas team all year.

4. Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State

After choosing to remain in school following a freshman season in which he could’ve been a lottery pick, Sullinger has the Buckeyes back in the Final Four for the first time since 2007, when they lost in the championship game to Florida. A big, strong, skilled post player, he and fellow forward Deshaun Thomas form a deadly 1-2 punch that will be on display against Robinson and Kansas center Jeff Withey.

5. Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky

The knock on Jones is that he doesn’t always play hard and his stock has dropped somewhat over the course of the season. But there’s no denying his talent level, and when he decides to play hard he’s one of the best forwards in the college game. He has all the tools necessary to play in the NBA, but questions linger over his commitment level.

Five Players Whose Stock Has Risen in the Tournament:

1. Bradley Beal, G, Florida

A potential lottery pick, Beal has great upside and can rebound well for a guard. NBA scouts love his handle and his ability to play-make in the halfcourt. He has 3-point range but can also get to the basket.

2. Royce White, F, Iowa State

A skilled point/power forward, White went for 23 points and 9 rebounds in third-round loss to Kentucky. NBA scouts like his skill set but feel he has to develop a more consistent jump shot and free throw.

3. C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh

The 6-3 combo guard has declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. He is projected as a mid- to late-second round pick but NBA scouts see him as a scorer who can attack off the dribble. ”When his career is done at Lehigh, he will go to the NBA and help some team win,” Lehigh coach Jeff Jones said.

4. C.J. Leslie, F, N.C. State

Projected as a second-round pick, Leslie is an athlete who rebounds and will be effective in an uptempo style where he can use his athleticism. Leslie is also effective from 15 feet and in attacking the basket off the dribble.

5. Jae Crowder, F, Marquette

The Big East Player of the Year is a tough, physical forward who plays with energy on both ends of the floor. He is projected as a late second-round pick. Marquette finished second in the Big East to Syracuse this year.

Adam Zagoria of Zags Blog covers the future stars of the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamZagoria.

Scouting Take: C.J. McCollum of Lehigh

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While the nation learned of the name C.J. McCollum last night thanks to a 30-point performance in leading the 15th-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks in a major upset over Duke, those in the Patriot League are familiar with the silky smooth lead guard.

Living in the Northeast, I’ve had the opportunity to see McCollum several times this year, and his ability to combine his supreme athleticism within a very structured and disciplined system is a major plus in his ledger.

McCollum possesses a rare combination of scoring ability and length at the guard position that allows him to get his shot whenever he needs to, but what I love most about him is his poise and confidence to be a leader in a very physical conference. He has a physical nature to his game, but also has the athleticism and moxie to get into space and create scoring options for himself.

It’s easy to question a player who plays in a small conference, but McCollum can play at a very high pace while playing within his team’s slower style of system. That’s a discipline that displays the ability to take the game over offensively, while keeping his teammates active and involved. Against Duke he was the best guard on the floor in a game that featured a supreme talent, namely Austin Rivers, but it was his ability to raise the level of his teammates’ play that allowed each to believe they could win. They were absolutely the better team yesterday and that type of effort comes from on floor leadership.

Just a junior, McCollum can benefit from another year of development, proving he can get a little stronger, but also that they can take their program a bigger step forward seeing that they have a handful of juniors returning. McCollum would be wise to keep the obvious bond together and wreak havoc on the Patriot League once again.

Defensively, it’s hard not to appreciate his ability to rebound and get in the passing lanes. In my estimation he defend the ball at both the one and two spots and is long enough to cover most NBA shooting guards.

He really is a very complete player at this stage, the only knock I can see is that he has episodes when he settles for his jump shot when he should be taking the ball to the basket and drawing contact like he did yesterday, and against Bucknell in the Patriot championship game. That said, it’s hard to pick on his offensive game considering he’s 4th in the nation in scoring, shooting 45% from the field and 80% from the stripe.

Strengths:

- Complete scorer at the guard position with scorer’s mentality.

- Can score from multitude of spots on the floor.

- Solid two-way player.

- Consummate teammate.

Weaknesses:

- Defined position. Is he a lead guard or bench scorer?

- Not a supreme athlete.

- Three point shot selection.

Tommy Dee is the founder of TheKnicksBlog, editor of CHARGED Magazine and is a regional scout for Marty Blake and Associates. Follow him on Twitter.