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Top Prospects Remaining in March Madness

Top Prospects Remaining in March Madness

We have finished the first weekend of March Madness and now only 16 teams are competing for the national title. Not all of the best players remaining are necessarily NBA draft prospects but there is still plenty of NBA draft prospects left in this tournament.

Top-level prospects like Alex Sarr or Zaccharie Risacher did not attend college this year and others that did like Rob Dillingham or Cody Williams are already eliminated.

I could make this list as long as can be but chose to rank the 13 players that I think have a legitimate chance or deserving of a guaranteed contract. A reminder this is NOT a ranking of these players currently but instead a ranking of these players as NBA prospects.

Just Missed the Cut: Tyrese Proctor, Keshad Johnson, Trey Alexander, RJ Davis, Oso Ighodaro

13. Jamal Shead, Guard, Houston

A 40% assist rate will always get you noticed but that in combination with his other tools is what gives him a chance to get drafted. A finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, Shead projects to be a great point-of-attack defender at the next level. Shooting leaves much to be desired at only 30.9% on just under 8 attempts per game.

The volume and 78% from the free throw line indicate that he can be a better shooter in a more condensed role. Shead should have a good chance to be a backup point guard at the next level similar to former teammate Marcus Sasser. I would consider Shead after the 40s but workouts and the pre-draft process could give him a chance at a guarenteed contract.

12. PJ Hall, Big, Clemson

Players in the country shooting over 55% from 2, assist rate over 10%, block rate over 5%, and over 9 three-point attempts per 100 possessions:

PJ Hall

That may sound specific but illustrated Hall’s ability to pass, shoot, defend, and finish as a big man. Just under 70% at the rim, Hall is a terrific combination of size and versatility. Is Hall a true center will probably be the question a lot of GMs will have. He has size but can he guard Jonas Valanciunas or Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner? The 5.9% block rate is enticing but can he do that on the ball?

11. Alex Karaban, Wing, UConn

Shoooooter. 38% from 3 on nearly 6 attempts per game, and 88% from the free throw line are all great indicators the shot is real. Karaban is nearly a full time off ball player but he is capable of attacking closeouts for pullups or finishing at the rim when they they run him off the line. The ball doesn’t stick in Karaban’s hands and he is capable of playing in any system.

Over 70% at the rim is a sneaky impressive feat for the 6’8 shooter. He won’t win any awards for his defense but at 6’8 it is servicable and won’t get him run off the floor. If UConn is going to go back to back Karaban and his shooting will be a big part of that.

10. Ryan Kalkbrenner, Big, Creighton

This may be higher than others have Kalkbrenner but I am a big fan of his defense. He is an absolute rim deterrant and I am not sure why that would change at the next level. His foot speed is not the quickest but it is perfectly fine for him to play drop coverage and be a big-time shot blocker. The defense I am certain of but the offense intrigues me.

7% assist rate, 30% from 3 on nearly three attempts, and 15 dunks per 100 individual possessions. Each of those stats don’t mean much on their own but paired with a 7 footer who wasn’t doing those things until this year it is enticing. Kalkbrenner is getting better offensively and is great defensively, I would bet on him to be a rotational big in the NBA.

9. Zach Edey, Big, Purdue

It seems very likely Zach Edey is going to win Player of the Year this year giving him the honor back-to-back years. Most of Edey’s value stems from him being 7’4. Defensively he has moved his feet a lot better this season and projects to be someone who can be a rim deterrant and play in drop coverage. Offensively Edey carries a lot of weight on a defense.

The gravity he holds in college won’t be the same in the NBA but it will take large centers to stop him from getting easy buckets and dominating the glass. I have a hard time seeing Edey being played out of the league and therefore think there is still value. Edey should be able to eat up 12-20 minutes a night and help contribute to winning.

8. Terrence Shannon Jr., Wing, Illinois

Shannon has been great the past month of the season…but his NBA future will be decided in May because he is on trial for rape. I will not speculate or anything like that but he could be a top 20 pick or completely undrafted based on what happens in May. Shannon has been a much improved shooter and still is a dynamic athlete in the open court.

Outside of the court case, the worries stem from his creation. He is a great self creator but there are some concerns with his use of his right hand. As a guard, Shannon only has a 12.5% assist rate which is slightly worrisome for someone who projects to be a guard. Fine defensively, nothing special, Shannon currently has too many question marks for me to put him any higher, including a very big one.

7. Baylor Scheierman, Wing, Creighton

I am all in on Baylor Scheierman. To oversimplify it, he is going to be a great shooter even by NBA standards. 38% on 8 attempts a game and 87% from the free throw line are marks of a truly special shooter. Not an overly active defender but a thicker frame that should give him a nice floor in the NBA. 3 and D is an overused role but I am going to use it here.

The underrated part of Scheierman’s game is his 20% assist rate and over 4 assists per 40 minutes. Scheierman is a good passer which is such a deadly tool for a shooter to have at the next level. It is easy to see him play at the next level and similar to Karaban he can play in any system. It may be his NBA readiness but if I felt the fit was right I would consider Scheierman in the first round.

6. Tyler Kolek, Guard, Marquette

It is hard to watch Tyler Kolek and not be impressed with how he runs an offense. A great shooter and an elite table setting playmaker. I am in on Tyler Kolek being able to run NBA offenses. Kolek makes everything in an offense easier and creates easy looks for everyone around him. A 42.7% assist rate is just absurd, especially on top of his 9.6 assists per 40 minutes.

What seems to be flying around is that Kolek will be a good backup guard but I am not so sure he isn’t capable of being more. Kolek will never be an all-star but can he be Mike Conley? Goran Dragic? Jeff Teague? Those are higher-end outcomes for sure but Tyler Kolek is incredibly talented so don’t be quick to put a ceiling on him.

5. Jared McCain, Guard, Duke

Currently one of the hottest players in the country, Jared McCain is a sharpshooter. Undersized for his play style McCain is an interesting eval. If nothing else clicks there is no reason McCain can’t be a specialist like Seth Curry but that hardly excites top 20 value. He is a capable passer but nothing special and not sure if he has the skills to be a true point guard.

At his stature, he is a fine defender but he won’t be able to guard multiple positions but can guard point guards or smaller 2 guards. How far can elite shooting take you when missing other skills? McCain ranks in the 94% in the PnR and 80% in spot ups and impressively McCain also grabs 6 rebounds per 40 minutes. McCain isn’t a shoo-in to enter this draft, the alternative of being Cooper Flagg’s point guard next year may be enticing.

4. Stephon Castle, Guard, UConn

Stephon Castle is arguably the best point-of-attack defender in this class but it is the offensive end of the floor that will determine who he becomes. Castle is a good playmaker boasting an 18% assist rate but he doesn’t exactly seem to be a lead guard. Good positional size at 6’6, Castle is more than capable of being a wing but does he have the off-ball capabilities to play off the ball?

My 3-point projection model predicts Castle to be a 32% (2% margin of error) free throw shooter in the NBA which is much better than his current 28% but still not great. Ranking only in the 27th percentile as a spot up it is hard to figure out his role on offense. With that being said Castle has an intriguing combination of defense, athleticism, size, and playmaking that makes me confident that he can be a lottery pick and a median outcome can result in an Alex Caruso-like player.

3. Kyle Filipowski, Big, Duke

I can’t wait to see Filipowski against Houston. At seven feet, Filipowski gives you a blend of everything you want from a modern big man. Filipowski is certainly a big man but I am not so sure he can’t play next to a more traditional center. His foot speed is good for a center and he has had plays of keeping quicker wings in front of him. Flip is a good help-side shot blocker and won’t be a liability on defense.

On offense, Filipowski can score, dribble, pass, and long term I believe in his jump shot. I would consider Filipowski from about the 6th pick and wouldn’t see him falling out of the lottery. People call me crazy but if the Spurs address their point guard needs I wouldn’t mind them taking Filipowski with their second lottery pick.

2. Donovan Clingan, Big, UConn

Donovan Clingan has been just spectacular as of late and is now a top-10 talent in my mind. Over the last 3 games, Clingan is averaging 18-12-2-3-1 on 70% shooting from the field including an 8-block performance against Northwestern. Clingan is massive at 7’2, 265 lbs, and with his touch, he is very hard to guard especially once you consider his 14% assist rate that prevents effective double teams.

An elite rebounder, sneaky playmaker, and good play-finisher, Clingan should have a long career as a starting-level center as long as he stays healthy. I mention this because so far in his career he has battled nagging foot injuries which is never a good thing from a big man. This is a weak draft class so as long as his medicals aren’t completely horrible I would take him in the top 10.

1. Dalton Knecht, Wing, Tennessee

Clingan and Knecht is an interesting conversation but Clingan’s injury concerns and Knecht’s wing scoring makes me lean his way. Not a great playmaker and just a fine rebounder, Knecht wouldn’t seem to be a top-10 pick but he is an elite scorer. He is more than capable of scoring the ball at all 3 levels on and off the ball. 39% from 3 and a solid 59% at the rim, Knecht has been a one-man show at Tennessee this year.

Knecht has lived with an incredibly difficult shot diet one that most certainly will be simplified at the next level. I can’t imagine a world where Dalton Knecht is not a Bogdan Bogdanovic type of player and that may be on the lower end. The defense isn’t great but with his length, it will never be “bad” and the scoring instincts are too good to pass up.


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