5 Players Who Could Improve Their NBA Draft Stock in the Sweet 16
The month of March means a lot to college basketball teams and NBA franchises alike -- for very different reasons.
While the two have separate interests, they happen to run parallel to one another. Where are both lines headed? To the coming NBA Draft.
That might not be true for a lot of college basketball players, but as a result of the NCAA's new rule on "testing the waters," more players than ever can -- at the very least -- show their stuff in front of NBA brass.
For some -- including this year's projected top picks -- their evaluations have already begun. For others, their value hinges on their teams' NCAA Tournament success.
In past seasons, these types of players, whose teams have gone deep in the Big Dance, have had a tendency of vaulting their way up draft boards with some outstanding play.
Which players could do just that, and improve their NBA Draft stock with a great performance in this year's Sweet 16?
Michael Gbinije, SG/SF, Syracuse Orange
According to DraftExpress, the 6'7" combo guard is the 60th overall prospect in this year's (possible) NBA Draft class -- meaning Gbinije is likely to go in the second round, if at all, in this year's draft. But, until now, the senior hasn't had much of a chance to show off his skills against good competition.
He's improved upon his averages from a year ago with 17.8 points and 4.4 assists per game on the season. However, his biggest improvement has been in his shooting touch. His Effective Field Goal Percentage of 58.3% and True Shooting Percentage of 59.9% are improvements from where Gbinije finished last season (54.2% and 55%, respectively).
Now, against a pro-style team like Gonzaga, Gbinije has the chance to prove that he's capable of carrying a heavy load in the national spotlight. A good performance in a Syracuse win might just catapult him into the top 50, where he's less likely to go undrafted.
Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Virginia Cavaliers
Brogdon is a little further up the board, at number 40, and is more likely to be drafted by some NBA team before all is said and done. His overall game and the improvements that he has made over the course of his four-year career at Virginia have given NBA teams a great reason to add Brogdon to their roster.
In his last three seasons, Brogdon has produced at least 12.7 points per game, 5.6 Win Shares and a Player Efficiency Rating of 20.1 -- all while averaging a Usage Rate of 26%. And with a career Defensive Rating of 93.7 points per 100 possessions, Brogdon has been a leader on both ends of the floor for the Hoos.
What most people question, though, is Brogdon's ability to play outside head coach Tony Bennett's system, which has become known for its super slow, yet efficient, offense and its stymying pack-line defense. This round will say a lot about Brogdon because he might just have to play up to the speed of the Iowa State Cyclones, whose Adjusted Tempo (according to KenPom.com) is more than 10 possessions per 40 minutes faster than the Cavaliers'. He will be forced to show NBA scouts that he can keep up defensively and make quicker decisions offensively.
Melo Trimble, PG, Maryland Terrapins
After showing us what he was capable of his first season in College Park, Melo Trimble, by no means, started out the season how we expected him to. He was good -- just not great. And due to a a nagging hamstring injury, Trimble didn't enjoy much success in the middle stages of his sophomore season.
I'm sure his inconsistent play and hamstring issues have had a lot to do with Trimble's fall down NBA Draft boards. The thing teams seem to have kept in mind is that Trimble has special talent -- with the abilities to score inside and out and to get his teammates involved with his unique ability to drive and dish.
On the season, his scoring average is down 1.4 points per game from where it was a year ago, but over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Trimble has 43 points with a ridiculous 22 of 23 from the free throw line. His struggles from three have continued (1 of 10 in tournament), so if he could manage to have a good game -- preferably with a couple of threes -- against the tough Kansas guards, that could prove a ton to teams waiting to see a little more from the up-and-down point guard.
Grayson Allen, SG, Duke Blue Devils
Of the four guards here, at number 34 on DraftExpress's top 100, Allen is the most likely of them to be drafted -- after all, he is a Duke guard. Seriously though, Allen has built upon a solid freshman season with an outstanding sophomore season for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
On the season, he's averaged 21.8 points per game on 47% from the field, 41.9% from three and 84.1% from the charity stripe. His elite perimeter shooting was on display once again in Duke's Round of 32 matchup with Yale, as Allen amassed 29 points on 10 of 15 from the floor, 5 of 7 from deep and 4 of 4 from the line. He's a great shooter and has even shown an ability to dish out 3.5 assists per game.
The skill and the production isn't a concern. The big concern is whether or not Allen can play with the same effectiveness against tougher, bigger competition. Well, Allen will get the opportunity in his next matchup with Oregon in the Sweet 16. At 6'4", 185, Allen will be up against a lengthy Ducks team that boasts shot blockers at multiple positions. If he can show teams that he can finish with authority, that could give the Blue Devil a bump to the first round.
Thomas Bryant, PF/C, Indiana Hoosiers
At number 23, Thomas Bryant is the highest-ranked player among these five players. In fact, he's the fifth-rated prospect among those remaining in the Sweet 16. So, to be honest, Bryant doesn't have much of a chance to fall out of the draft entirely, but he also doesn't have as much room to rise up in the first round. On the other hand, any improvement in the first round can be a major difference in money.
The freshman big man has already shown out once in the tournament against Kentucky in the Round of 32 -- a game in which Bryant scored 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the floor. He's also been fairly productive over the course of the entire season with 21.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per 40 minutes of action. And with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 70% the 18-year-old sure can score with efficiency.
This round, the youngster will face his toughest test yet against Brice Johnson and the North Carolina Tar Heels. Bryant will not only have to guard the likes of Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, but he'll also have to do the majority of the Hoosiers' scoring down low. As alluded to before, if he can show NBA general managers that he can compete with guys of Johnson's skill and size, it could mean a lot more money in Bryant's pocket. In fact, according to RealGM.com, the difference between the 10th and 20th overall picks would be roughly $1 million a year.