- Chad Ford, Senior Writer, NBA Insider
The Final Four is an exciting time for college basketball fans ... and this year produced another classic as two teams stacked with NBA prospects battled it out for 40 minutes.
The Kentucky Wildcats are NCAA champs, and it's likely that much of the team will go pro in the coming days and weeks.
Kansas and Ohio State also had their fair share of NBA prospects, and even Louisville offered up a few tantalizing options.
We spoke with a number of NBA scouts and GMs, and while they continued to maintain that, for the most part, the tournament doesn't affect the draft stock of a player, they were excited about a few prospects they saw. Here's a look at who helped and hurt themselves in the Final Four, along with a few other draft notes:
Anthony Davis, F/C, Kentucky
The Final Four's Most Outstanding Player did his thing. Against Louisville he was dominant on both ends of the floor, finishing with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. He shot 7-for-8 from the field and did it against an elite shot-blocker in Gorgui Dieng. Against Kansas, Davis struggled offensively, going just 1-for-10 from the floor. However, he added 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists, three steals and dominated the game on the defensive end. He did show some of his weaknesses as an offensive player. Paired up against the second-best shot-blocker in the NCAA, Jeff Withey, Davis got a taste of his own medicine on one occasion and had to alter several other shots.
Scouts debate a bit on what position Davis plays at the next level. While his elite shot-blocking and rebounding abilities scream center, most NBA scouts and GMs see him as a 4. If he is, he'll struggle less with players who are stronger and just as long as he is.
Now that the Final Four is over, Davis is a lock for the No. 1 pick. The only thing that can derail him now is some sort of freak injury in a workout prepping for the draft. While he's still a work in progress, he's given every indication that he has the tools to be a superstar someday in the NBA.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Kentucky
MKG didn't have the dominant offensive games he enjoyed in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. Foul trouble hampered him against Louisville, and after getting off to a quick start versus Kansas, he cooled in the second half. But his toughness, his versatile defensive abilities (he guarded point guards Tyshawn Taylor and Peyton Siva at times) and his energy are infectious. Having a great motor and toughness are skills that translate at the next level. Kidd-Gilchrist will have to continue to polish his offensive game, but most scouts are sold that he'll be an impact player at both ends of the floor in the NBA. While Kidd-Gilchrist initially said he'd be returning to Kentucky next season, as we reported two weeks ago, he's expected to declare for the NBA draft now that Kentucky's season is over. Kidd-Gilchrist is the player most likely to be taken No. 2 overall and it's doubtful he slides out of the top 5.
Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Robinson struggled a bit in the first half against both Ohio State and Kentucky. But in the second half he just ground his way through defenses and found a way. It often wasn't pretty, but Robinson showed that he too had the heart, strength and athletic ability to get things done. Scouts will worry a bit about how he struggles against length. He's probably a bit undersized for his position at the next level. But few doubt that Robinson has what it takes to succeed. I expect he'll be gone in the first five picks.
Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky
I'm not sure Jones wowed anyone, but he did enough to remind scouts how talented he is. His length, versatility, defensive ability (especially as a shot-blocker) and scoring prowess were all on display -- albeit in spurts. While it might behoove Jones to return for one more year and become the dominant player on the Wildcats, I really think there's a good chance you'll see Jones bolt for the NBA and land somewhere in the mid-to-late lottery. He's a risk, but there's so much talent there, someone will gamble.
Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky
Lamb isn't nearly as sexy as some of the other players on Kentucky's roster. But he's a lethal shooter and, in the biggest game of the season, he led the Wildcats in scoring. Lamb is a bit undersized as a 2, but his shooting ability and heady play should get him some serious looks late in the first round.
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
For the NBA scouts who have been wringing their hands over Sullinger's inability to score over length, they got more ammunition in Ohio State's loss to Kansas. Sullinger got off to a hot start and then went ice cold. He struggled to score against Withey and Robinson and got completely out of rhythm. Of course, after seeing what Withey did against Davis in the title game, maybe scouts won't be so hard on Sullinger. Sullinger wasn't the only one Kansas intimidated.
Still, you can clearly see why a number of NBA teams worry that Sullinger's weaknesses (size, lack of explosive athletic ability, inconsistent motor) may be more potent than his strengths (great rebounder, skilled, long arms). I know a few teams that still have him ranked as a top-10 pick. However, most have him somewhere just below that. Will that be enough to entice him to enter the draft?
A Mixed Bag
Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
He clearly got better as the season progressed. At times against Louisville and Kansas, Teague played like a potential first-round pick. But there were other times when it was clear that he still has a pretty steep learning curve ahead of him. For Teague to succeed at the next level, another year in school would help. If he can continue to improve as a shooter and in his decision-making, he could be a lottery pick next year. If he declares this year (and it appears that is what Teague wants to do, if he's confident he'll be a first-round pick), someone could very well take him in the first round (there just aren't a lot of great point guard prospects). However, he'd probably be forced to play in the D-League or to sit on the bench for his rookie season. If John Calipari stays, I think Teague should, too.
Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
We started writing about Withey as an NBA draft prospect at the Maui Invitational -- but we thought it would be in the 2013 draft. His shot-blocking in the tournament has clearly put him on the NBA's radar screen. He's very limited offensively, but when you block an Anthony Davis shot at the rim you've got a chance. Withey would be better served returning to Kansas for his senior year and working on his post game. But if he did declare (he said after the title game he was returning to Kansas), I think someone would grab him in the second round and hope he can get enough minutes to impact the game on the defensive end.
Wayne Blackshear, SG, Louisville
The best NBA prospect on the floor for Louisville was Wayne Blackshear, a freshman guard. Blackshear missed most of the season with an injury, which clearly hurt his draft stock. But against Kentucky he reminded scouts that he was a blue-chip recruit out of high school and has NBA size and athleticism at his position. Look for him to appear in some top-30 lists for the draft class of 2013. He made an impression.
Chad Ford examines the NBA draft stock impact on the prospects of Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville following the Final Four.