- Chad Ford, Senior Writer, NBA Insider
This weekend had a number of terrific NBA scouting games as some of the top prospects and programs in the country went head-to-head. While we continue to emphasize that NBA scouts and GMs don't put huge weight on NCAA tournament games, there's no question that what happened this weekend leaves an important, lasting impression on NBA teams.
NBA scouts and GMs were all over the country this week watching the NCAA tournament. I spoke to a number of them to see whom they were buzzing about. The list below doesn't reflect who played the best game or games. But it does give you a good feel for who is on the minds of scouts and GMs.
Here's a look at who helped and who hurt themselves this weekend.
Also, be sure to check out our
Updated Top 100 and our
Updated Lottery Mock Draft.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Kentucky
After struggling with a 1-for-4 performance against Iowa State last weekend, and after reacting angrily to my report that he would declare for the draft after Kentucky's season ended -- MKG delivered two of his best games of the season for Kentucky versus Indiana and Baylor.
Kidd-Gilchrist was relentless taking the ball to the rim and doing what he does best -- finishing on the break and in traffic. If there was ever any question about who the second best talent is in the draft, after this weekend I think Kidd-Gilchrist put it to rest. Yes, he needs to continue to work on that jumper and creating his own offense. But his non-stop motor, toughness and ability to get the basket make him the clear cut No. 2 player in the draft. He's a warrior.
Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
Beal came into the season ranked No. 5 on our Big Board and after a rocky start to the season, he came on as Florida's best player in the tournament. He had one of his best games of the year against Marquette, scoring 21 points, shooting 8-for-10 from the field, grabbing six boards, handing out four assists and getting two blocks and two steals. He showed off that all-around game that has some scouts comparing him to Eric Gordon with a higher ceiling. Florida lost a heartbreaker versus Louisville in the Elite Eight, but Beal played well there, too. If he declares, he remains a virtual lock for the Top 5. We've moved him up to No. 3 overall on our Big Board.
Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
KU's big man was never supposed to be in this situation. A two-year rotation player at Kansas, Robinson wasn't the sort of blue-chip recruit that a coach rides to the Final Four as a junior. Robinson has continued to adjust to that role all year. This weekend he showed his shoulders are wide enough to carry this team. Facing length and constant double-teams, Robinson fought through everything to put up two very big games for the Jayhawks to lead them to the Final Four. Teams understand his weaknesses -- he's a bit undersized and can fall in love with his perimeter game -- but the toughness and heart he's shown all year, combined with an NBA body and elite athleticism, will translate at the next level.
Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
All year we've had Zeller ranked 10 to 15 spots higher than just about everywhere else. On Friday versus Kentucky, Zeller showed why. Some have questioned his ability to do his thing against players with NBA length. But on Saturday, against Anthony Davis (whom many scouts predict will win many Defensive Player of the Year awards in the NBA) and Terrence Jones, he showed that he can score over length -- ending the game with 20 points and 7 rebounds. It's doubtful that Zeller will declare this year for the draft. However, if he does, he'll go very high. He's been in our Top 10 since late December, but as of mid-March he now sits at No. 6 on our Big Board.
James Michael McAdoo, F, North Carolina
As we told you last week, NBA scouts and GMs are willing to draft McAdoo in the lottery based purely on upside. What he's been missing is a signature breakout game. He got close to that in North Carolina's loss to Kansas on Sunday. McAdoo led all Tar Heels scorers with 15 points in just 19 minutes of play. He had two terrific midcourt steals that led to fast-break dunks and was active around the rim all night. A small handful of games isn't much to base a scouting report on, but given how much some of the other top prospects have struggled, it's not implausible that McAdoo ends up sneaking ahead of players like Perry Jones III and even teammate Harrison Barnes.
Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
Sullinger isn't for everyone. He's a bit undersized for his position and lacks Thomas Robinson's motor or athleticism. But he's more skilled than Robinson and had a much better weekend for the Buckeyes. Sullinger had 23 and 11 against Cincinnati and followed it up with 19 and 7 versus Syracuse to lead the Buckeyes to the Final Four. Sullinger's below-the-rim game won't impress everyone, but he's productive and is a load in the paint. Remember, some scouts felt a player like Anthony Randolph, because of his athletic profile, would have a better career than Kevin Love for many of the same reasons that scouts are down on Sullinger. We all know how that's turning out.
Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky
Jones has the talent of a Top 5 pick. The problem is he doesn't always play like it. Over the past few weeks, however, Jones seems as dialed in as everyone else on the Wildcats and when you stand back and look at the talent -- wow. Jones is so versatile, can do so many things on the floor and has a terrific athletic profile. He did just about everything for Kentucky in its big win over Baylor, rebounding, dishing out assists, blocking shots and scoring when he needed to. Two more games like this and an NCAA championship and Jones may have worked himself back into the Top 10. With players like Perry Jones and Barnes struggling, he's another player, along with McAdoo, that NBA GMs may be more willing to go ahead and take a risk on now.
Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Marshall didn't play one minute this weekend and his draft stock still took another major jump. Why? Because without him orchestrating things from the point, North Carolina's other six high school All-Americans struggled to get any semblance of an offense going. Marshall's unselfishness can sometimes get lost when he's on the court. But when you saw players like Barnes and John Henson try to create without him, they looked very ordinary. It's not inconceivable that if Marshall declares and his broken wrist is healed, he could be the first or second point guard off the board and go somewhere in the 9-to-14 range.
Honorable mention: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina; Deshaun Thomas, F, Ohio State; Chane Behanan, F, Louisville; C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse; Quincy Acy, F, Baylor; Aaron Craft, PG, Ohio State; Reggie Bullock, G/F, North Carolina; Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville; Christian Watford, F, Indiana
Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
At this stage in the game, it's pretty hard for a top prospect to really do much damage to his stock. These are high-pressure games and no NBA scout is going to base an overall performance evaluation on one or two contests. With that said, Barnes' struggles this weekend without Marshall on the floor were alarming. He struggled to create any offense for himself, was often left taking off-balance jump shots and, with the exception of a hot streak toward the end of the first half versus Kansas, didn't look anything like the special player we all believed he could become. Barnes ended up going 8-for-30 from the field and, for the most part, it looked worse than the box score suggests. We've known for a while that Barnes struggles as a ball handler and can be one-dimensional, but without Marshall setting him up in the spots he wants to get to, he just isn't able to do too much.
With all of that said, a number of GMs still believe he can be a very effective weapon at the NBA level. His size and shooting ability for his position are good. Put him on the right team, with the right point guard, and don't ask him to be a superstar, and Barnes could still have a very effective NBA career. I don't think he's a franchise-changer, but if he continues to develop, Danny Granger or Luol Deng might be his upside. If he doesn't live up to his potential? Maybe he is the second coming of Martell Webster.
As news about his future decision emerged over the weekend, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continued his dominance in the NCAA tournament. And he wasn't the only UK Wildcat on the rise.