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How The NCAA Tournament Impacts NBA Draft Stock

How does March Madness affect draft stock? Jabari Davis explains, and highlights players who could climb with strong play.

Jabari Davis

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We’ll spare you the hyperbole about how this could be the most monumental NCAA Tournament ever or how someone could propel themselves from being a virtual unknown to being at the forefront of the lottery discussion in this June’s upcoming draft that can accompany a lot of articles at this time of year. With that said, it is important to take a look at the realities of the tournament and how it can impact a draft class.

Remember the disastrous final game Andrew Wiggins – this year’s likely and deserving Rookie of the Year – had for Kansas during last year’s tournament? In 34 minutes, he was 1-6 from the field and had four turnovers, which was followed by people actually questioning whether the young man could succeed at the next level. Some people made similar assessments about Jabari Parker’s unsuccessful tournament performance at Duke. The fact is, guys like Parker and Wiggins rarely have to worry about tournament results, regardless of what the social media narrative tends to be because their talents and potential should have been obvious, regardless.

Most executives will tell you that the tournament can’t really hurt a prospect’s draft stock, but it can absolutely help those players that need to raise their draft stock. Stephen Curry was seen as a good player while playing for a mid-major in Davidson, but his run to the Elite Eight with the Wildcats literally put him on the map in terms of being considered a player with “star potential” and leadership qualities that might translate well in the NBA. Clearly, the folks in Golden State did their homework, because a guy that was actually criticized as a “tweener” by many critics prior to the draft is leading them to the league’s best record and an opportunity to compete for the West’s crown.

The same could be said for a player like Utah’s Gordon Hayward. Hayward watched his draft stock rise throughout two consecutive impressive runs with the Butler Bulldogs, and now finds himself with a well-deserved max contract and in a leadership role with a strong, young core in Utah that could surprise some folks over the next couple years.

One doesn’t even need to venture back long ago to find examples of players who helped their draft stock in March Madness. Last year’s 2014 NBA Draft also showed just how much a positive run and showing in the tourney can impact draft stocks, with examples like Aaron Gordon (4th), Nik Stauskas (8th), Elfrid Payton (10th) and even senior Doug McDermott (11th).

Put simply, a player can play relatively poorly and still have plenty of time to redeem themselves, but if they happen to insert themselves into the national discussion, it appears that even NBA experts and executives are not immune to at least a slight influence by the general consensus on a player, especially when said narrative is overwhelmingly positive. And due to the limited number of players that can impact the game at a given time, a single NBA player can influence the outcome of a game more than any other major professional team sport.

Among the players who could stand to benefit from a positive tournament showing are Arizona’s swingman Stanley Johnson, Kentucky’s other lottery-bound big man Willie Cauley-Stein and Wisconsin’s senior forward Frank Kaminsky. Johnson is a 6’8 small forward with the ball-handling, passing and shooting skills of a guard, a body that resembles a young Ron Artest (circa his ‘Hennessy’ days in Chicago) and athleticism similar to a young LeBron James. The Southern California product (Mater Dei High School), whom we’ve actually been following for years at the annual adidas Nations tournament, has seen his stock rise from being considered a fringe lottery pick somewhere most likely in the teens as recently as a few months ago to now projecting to land somewhere just outside the top-five. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic (projected to pick somewhere around four or five) could be interested in Johnson.

The Lakers legitimately need help or depth at just about every single position, and the Magic find themselves fully within a youth movement and with a decision about whether to offer starting small forward Tobias Harris the type of max or near-max deal he will likely command this summer. Johnson has star potential and the type of all-around game that should absolutely translate well to the next level.

Cauley-Stein finds himself in the unique situation of having the skills and athleticism to be even more of an impact player, but he’s limited by the team-oriented, platoon approach that the loaded Kentucky team uses since they have so many McDonald’s All American players. This willingness to subjugate his game for the betterment of the team may not always translate well throughout the mock draft process, but you can absolutely count on more than one lottery-bound executive eyeing Cauley-Stein as the answer for their rim-protection issues.

The 7’0 junior can also run the floor and finish in transition, but hasn’t shown great awareness or much consistency on the offensive end. He’s projected to go around the seven-to-nine range, depending upon eventual draft order and needs, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see that number creep or dip a pick or two in either direction based upon his impact throughout this tournament.

Kaminsky also finds himself in a somewhat unique position of being this year’s most well-known or distinguishable senior player, but also as a guy that has been projected as high as the top-10. However, others expect the versatile 7’0 power forward to get selected somewhere in the teens this June. Although Kaminsky has improved and developed his game throughout his four years at Wisconsin and is currently leading the Badgers as a top seed entering the tournament, apparently the jury may still be somewhat out on just how well his skill set will translate. For the record, not only can Kaminsky space the floor (shooting 39.5 percent from deep) as so many teams in today’s NBA seem to covet, but he also still manages to rebound fairly well (8.0 RPG) for a guy that can tend to hover around the arc on offense at times and can be a shot blocker (1.6 BPG) as a weakside defender.

A deep run and impressive showing from Kaminsky could go a long way in either making believers out of those that may still doubt his readiness for the rigors of the league or simply cement what those of us that have monitored his progress already hold as fact.

Whether you are an NBA executive or the self-proclaimed “draft expert” around your office, the NCAA tournament is easily one of the more exciting times of the year. Outside of the wild buzzer-beaters and bracket-busting upsets, it really does provide the best opportunity for guys like Johnson, Cauley-Stein and Kaminsky among others to propel themselves onto the national spotlight in a way that perhaps no other amateur sporting event offers. Play well and advance far enough, and you can have center-stage on what is actually developing into a global audience for the better part of two weeks.

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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Mock Drafts

2019 NBA Consensus Mock Draft – Ver 3.0

Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts take a look at the draft class and weigh in on what they are seeing and hearing in the march up to the 2019 NBA Draft.

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The 2019 NBA Draft lottery produced some unexpected results. Here are the results:

Version: 1.0 | 2.0

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @TommyBeer, @jblancartenba, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @MattJohnNBA, @DrewMaresca, @JordanHicksNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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Mock Drafts

2019 NBA Consensus Mock Draft – Ver 2.0

Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts take a look at the draft class and weigh in on what they are seeing and hearing in the march up to the 2019 NBA Draft.

Basketball Insiders

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Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2019 NBA Draft. Each week you’ll see an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts, and information from the pre-draft process as well as a notebook, outlining each writers’ thoughts, observations and reporting on the draft.

Keep in mind; we are trying to find commonalities, which is why it is called the Consensus. The writers involved do not see each other’s selections until these are posted. It is done deliberately to make sure each writer is not influencing the others.

As this process plays out, the mocks will evolve, so look for a new Consensus each Wednesday, all the way up to draft day on June 20th.

Here is this week’s Consensus Mock:



Version: 1.0

Jesse’s Notebook: The NBA Combine is set to take place next week with 66 players expected to attend. Many of these players are going to scrimmage, take measurements, go through a variety of drills, and interview with teams. The Combine should provide a good amount of intel on these prospects that either isn’t available yet or has thus far been overlooked. This is also the time when teams will start giving more clues about their thoughts on certain prospects, what their respective teams are looking for and who is catching the attention of several teams. Oftentimes prospects start setting themselves apart and climbing team draft boards based on their performance at the Combine. On the flip side, some prospects are likely to start falling down team boards as new information is discovered. However, this is also a time where some players may get too much hype based on their measurements and other data points (let’s not forget the hype surrounding Luke Babbit after the 2010 Combine).

Mock draft boards are already all over the place and are sure to start shuffling even more as we move towards the Combine. However, the overall picture should start to become a bit clearer as prospects interview with teams, receive feedback, and as front office executives start making soft commitments to players and leaking out information about the players they have an eye on.

Spencer’s Notebook: In version two of our consensus mock draft, my top nine draft picks stayed the same as they were last week, but there was some slight tweaking otherwise.

As Steve said in the inaugural mock, predicting selections outside of the top slots is difficult. A good amount of teams could be picking for their need first and foremost rather than having a simple “best player available” approach. The picture will be a little clearer next week when we learn the results of the NBA Draft Lottery on May 14.

My most notable observation—there is an abundance of talented wings, raw and polished, in this 2019 NBA Draft class. Younger players such as RJ Barrett, Jarrett Culver, Cameron Reddish and De’Andre Hunter have the tools to succeed. However, finding the right organization to put those respective skill sets to use in the correct manner will be imperative to every one of them to reach their full potential.

Playoff teams are going to be able to add the more pro-ready prospects at that position, with multiple upperclassmen forwards who may be able to help right away – regardless of what team they end up with. Rui Hachimura, Cameron Johnson, Brandon Clarke, Matisse Thybulle and Grant Williams all fit the bill in that sense. While collegiate experience hardly compares to that of the NBA, the maturation of playing the game longer puts these guys ahead of the curve if you were to ask me.

Drew’s Notebook:Not much has changed since last week. The most noise we’ve heard in the last seven days is around accepted invitations to the NBA Draft Combine, as well as workouts. But fear not NBA fans, the Draft Lottery takes place this Tuesday with the Combine beginning the very next day. Things will definitely heat up soon!

With that being said, I spent a lot of time looking at the top teams in terms of draft order and thought a lot about their needs: the Bulls, Suns and Wizards could all be interested in adding a lead guard. This is, of course, an exercise in futility because we have not yet landed on a final draft order. Never the less, this led me bump Darius Garland up a few spots. I think he is extremely NBA-ready. And while a little undersized, he has an IT factor that most prospects at his level do not possess (excluding Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett). Garland could develop into Kyrie Irving-type of player, or he could end up closer to D.J. Augustin. But I really like his confidence and how he moves with the ball. And until the Draft Lottery dictates the final order on 5/14, I’ve got to arrange prospects by my feelings on overall talent.

Another guy I plan to plan to study more closely is Sekou Doumbouya. I was compelled to drop him a few spots after watching more film of him over the weekend, but his youth (18 years old) and perceived versatility indicate that he’ll grow into an effective NBA player, assuming he’s given the proper time and resources to develop. And potential is just as important (if not more) as refined skill. I’m excited to see what, if anything, we can learn about Doumbouya at the Combine.

Tuesday, May 14 can’t get here soon enough.

Steve’s Notebook: The invite list of the 2019 NBA Draft Combine is out, and 66 players accepted the NBA’s invite to take part in the NBA’s annual draft showcase event. It’s important to note that there are three types of invitations; the first is extended to those players expected to go in the top 20, which does not require participation in the on-court portion of the Combine. Those players will undergo medical testing and face to face interviews with teams. The next group will do the same medical and interviews but are also expected to participate in the on-court portion as well. The third tier are those players willing to be last minute alternates in the event players pull out.

This year the NBA is holding a G-League event for draft-eligible players, just prior to next week’s Combine, the NBA has pledged the possibility of a full Combine invite to players that stand out among those additional 40 plus players that were invited to participate.

Why is a Combine invite important? In a typical year, more than 70 percent of players invited to the Combine end up being drafted, making the Combine list a pretty solid barometer on who is legitimately in the draft discussion.

There are two notable players that declined the NBA’s invitations, the first being Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Washington’s Matisse Thybulle.

While it is not uncommon for players to bypass the Combine, especially if the players is all but assured to be drafted, it also usually signifies a player may have a draft commitment they are comfortable with making the dog and pony show of the Combine less desirable.

The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14th, with the Combine itself getting underway on Wednesday with face to face team interviews.

Who are these guys anyway? Steve Kyler is the Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 21 years. Jesse Blancarte is a Senior NBA Writer and Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last five years. Spencer Davies is also a Senior NBA Writer and Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last three years. Drew Maresca is an NBA Writer for Basketball Insiders and is finishing his first season covering the NBA.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @TommyBeer, @jblancartenba, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @MattJohnNBA, @DrewMaresca, @JordanHicksNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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Mock Drafts

2019 NBA Consensus Mock Draft – Ver 1.0

Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts take a look at the draft class and weigh in on what they are seeing and hearing in the march up to the 2019 NBA Draft.

Basketball Insiders

Published

on

Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2019 NBA Draft. Each week you’ll see an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts, and information from the pre-draft process as well as a notebook, outlining each writers thoughts, observations and reporting on the draft.

Keep in mind; we are trying to find commonalities, which is why it is called the Consensus. The writers involved do not see each other’s selections until these are posted. It is done deliberately to make sure each writer is not influencing the others.

As this process plays out, the mocks will evolve, so look for a new Consensus each Wednesday, all the way up to draft day on June 20th.

Here is this week’s Consensus Mock:



Jesse’s Notebook: The Draft Lottery is still two weeks away, so it’s somewhat difficult to put together a mock draft that feels completely well-grounded. This is especially the case with this year’s draft class, which features a consensus No. 1 pick in Zion Williamson but little else in terms of clarity. There are notable individual talents in this class, but a large range of opinions on what order these prospects should be drafted.

Considering this, I predict that team-fit will have a bigger influence on this draft class than previous classes, which have often featured more than a handful of top-tier prospects. For example, many scouts, talent evaluators and members of the media rank R.J. Barrett as the second best player in the draft and list him as likely to be drafted second overall. However, the Suns have a glaring hole at point guard, which means Phoenix might favor Ja Morant over Barrett in a scenario in which they have the second pick in the draft. The point here is that teams will likely be giving considerable weight to how players fit on their respective rosters starting as early as the second pick in the draft.

It’s always fun to dissect every bit of new information and adjust mock drafts in the weeks leading up to the draft. And for many NBA fans, it’s fun to engage in that process and pick apart the mock drafts of writers and journalists who cover the league. This summer should be an especially good year for fans to do so considering how different each writer’s mock draft boards will look compared to others. So be sure to stop by Basketball Insiders frequently to keep up with our mock drafts and give us your feedback on Twitter.

Spencer’s Notebook: The best time of the league year is here! While the remaining teams in the postseason continue to battle it out for a chance at a championship opportunity, those who aren’t in the dance are gearing up for a chance to add new talent to their respective franchises via the NBA Draft.

We might not be sure who lands where in the lottery as of yet—we’ll know on May 14 officially—but whatever ball club draws the first overall selection is a shoo-in to take Duke superstar Zion Williamson.

Williamson is not just a highlight reel, he’s the real deal. Though the freakish combination of power and athleticism captures everyone’s attention, it’s the intelligence and natural playmaking ability that will guide him at the next level. With the association trending towards higher possessions and more scoring in transition opportunities, the 6-foot-9 phenom will thrive with whatever team brings him in.

On to the remaining notables in this lottery—I went with Coby White to the Chicago Bulls at four because of their inconsistency at point guard. He’s a facilitator that can open up the floor due to his threat to score inside and make shots on the outside.

My favorite part of putting this together was adding two top-five worthy picks to the growing core of the Atlanta Hawks. After a sizable leap in his sophomore season at Texas A&M, Jarrett Culver proved to be one of the most sought-after wings in this entire draft class. His length is a matchup nightmare for any team, as is his ability to put it on the floor and get to the line.

Along with Culver, I have Travis Schlenk taking a flier on Oregon’s Bol Bol. The luxury of having two lottery picks is being able to take risks. The 7-foot-2 big man displayed flashes of greatness with his versatility on both ends. He’s able to move and handle the ball exceptionally well for a player his size, can knock down jump shots and, obviously, protect the rim. He’ll need to bulk up more and, unfortunately, he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and only played nine games. But if the success of Joel Embiid—who had the same exact injury in the other foot in 2014—has taught us anything, it’s to be patient and trust the process.

Drew’s Notebook: With the NBA Draft Lottery only two weeks away, front offices around the league are in serious exploration mode, familiarizing themselves with all of the prospects eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft.

And speaking of prospects, lots will change regarding how they are viewed thanks to the NBA Draft Combine, which is set to run from May 15-19 in Chicago. It’s worth noting that while the combine commences on May 15, teams can begin private workouts before the combine. For example, the Atlanta Hawks began workouts on April 30, kicking things off with a six-player workout headlined by Nevada forward Jordan Caroline.

The next big date to keep an eye on following the combine is May 29, which is the withdrawal deadline for all prospects who would like to maintain NCAA eligibility. By May 30, we will all have a much clearer picture of who will go where. Until then, the only (almost) certain thing about the 2019 NBA Draft is Zion Williamson will be selected first overall by whichever team wins the lottery.

Steve’s Notebook: The 2019 NBA Draft looks to be a little unpredictable; outside the top 3 or 4 players, the next 20 players could go in a wildly unexpected way, mainly because NBA teams do not few this draft class the same way, and a lot of the notable players are viewed as a little interchangeable. For example, how much of a difference is there at the next for UNC’s Coby White and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver? It will come down to the team selecting and not some perceived gap in skill, potential or ability.

The same seems to be true of Texas’ Jaxson Hayes, Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford. Hayes looks like the best of the group and more likely to come off the board first. However, what’s coming from teams – is they view a lot of these guys in the same group and are looking for them to go head-to-head to settle some of the debate on who could be the better long-term pro and ultimately a draft pick.

There are also some guys to watch in terms of stock dropping.

There are real medical concerns on Oregon’s Bol Bol; teams will want a long look at his medical. The belief from scouts and executives is that if he were healthy, he’d be a top 10 prospect, but with the navicular injury and his tremendous size, there is a desire to fully understand where he really in his recovery is before some teams would commit to him.

UNC’s Nassir Little is a mixed bag among NBA scouts, some point to his tremendous high school career as a reason to believe, but his underwhelming season at Carolina has impacted how teams view him. He will need to answer a lot of questions for teams in the workout process. The current read is that Little could go anywhere from 15 to 35. Workouts and personal interviews could go a long way towards cementing what side of that range he really lands.

Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey is another name to watch. The word around NBA teams is that he may pull out of the 2019 NBA Draft if he does not get feedback at the NBA Combine suggesting he’d go in the first round. Word has it that his camp is looking for the ideal situation, and a soft promise might keep him in the draft. If teams are non-committal, he may pull out.

There are also some names projected lower in this draft that could surprise.

Virginia’s Kyle Guy has some fans. He could be one of the guys that could go 8 to 10 picks higher than his currently projected range. International guard Henri Drell could go late in the first round or early in the second round. It seems he has fans among teams holding multiple picks.

Washington State’s Robert Franks has had some teams in to see him recently, and the buzz on his is really positive. Franks is currently projected in the middle of the second round. However, there are some teams late in the first that seems to be very high on him; a solid workout schedule could garner a draft promise.

It is important to note that there are two different types of commitments teams give players – the first is the hard fast guarantee of selection. This usually accompanies a player shutting down workouts with other teams. In a typical draft, there are usually three or four of them made per draft.

The other is the soft commitment, which usually means a team pledged to draft the player, assuming the draft plays out as expected. This is a little riskier for the player in terms of shutting down workouts, because if the right player falls, they could be left without a chair.

Why do teams do these things – control and certainty. The draft is very unpredictable, and if a team is sold on a specific player, locking them in allows them to focus on other things in the transaction window. Because a team commits to a player, does not preclude a team higher up from drafting that player, they may not get the chance to work that player out.

Most smart agents will explain to their player that finding the ideal fit matters way more to a long NBA career than going one or two spots higher and getting that guaranteed floor, allows for the player to focus on being ready for Summer League and ultimately training camp.

Who are these guys anyway? Steve Kyler is the Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 21 years. Jesse Blancarte is a Senior NBA Writer and Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last five years. Spencer Davies is also a Senior NBA Writer and Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last three years. Drew Maresca is an NBA Writer for Basketball Insiders and is finishing his first season covering the NBA.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @TommyBeer, @jblancartenba, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @MattJohnNBA, @DrewMaresca, @JordanHicksNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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