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NBA AM: Who Has To Show Big In The Tournament?

Several NBA Draft Prospects have a lot riding on the NCAA tournament… The Knicks got Phil Jackson, so whats next?… The beauty of the Ten-Day Deal.

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Something To Play For:  The 2014 March Madness Tournament will get underway tomorrow with the play-in “first round” games and with the full “second round” getting underway on Thursday.

While the tournament rarely impacts a player’s NBA draft stock significantly, the March Tournament is a chance to put an exclamation point on a player’s college career or it can open more doors for questions. At this point in the process most NBA teams have done their homework on players, but the tournament is a big stage for teams to either validate what they believe about a player or to illustrate what they don’t like about a player.

There are a few players that need to show up big in the tournament, if only to silence some of their critics, here are a few of them:

Andrew Wiggins – Kansas – SF – 6’8″:  There is almost no scenario in which Andrew Wiggins does not go in the top three in June’s NBA Draft. He is the proverbial lock. The question is can he use the the tournament to close the door on his detractors? Wiggins needs to show that he can take over games and be a dominator on the big stage. Throughout his run at Kansas he has had flashes of brilliance and moments of greatness, but not that sustained greatness that locks him in as the top pick. With Kansas big man Joel Embiid sidelined for at least the opening weekend, Kansas will need Wiggins to lead the way. If he can do that, and show that he can handle all the pressure, he could lock himself in as the consensus number one overall pick. As things stand today, there are still very vocal detractors of Wiggins overall game, so a strong and dominating performance could shut a lot of people up.

»In Related: (2) Kansas vs. (15) Eastern Kentucky

Jabari Parker – Duke – SF/PF – 6’8″:  Much like Wiggins, Parker is a virtual lock in the top three of the 2014 NBA Draft, but to get himself squarely in the top pick race, Parker will need to show that he can shot the ball from the outside consistently as well as be a game changer on both ends of the floor. His 9-for-24 showing in the ACC Title game is the red flag scouts point to on Parker. He puts up numbers, but his shooting has to improve and a strong tournament run filled with efficient basketball could help quell some of the questions about his perimeter game. Parker is one of the players to watch. If he shows well, and Wiggins does not, the debate over number one get serious for a number of NBA teams that could be sitting at the top of the draft.

»In Related:(3) Duke vs. (14) Mercer

Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State – PG – 6’4″:  Very much like Parker, Smart needs to shoot the ball well in the tournament. The biggest knock on Smart is his shooting and the fact that he really has not improved much as a shooter in two years in college. NBA teams love his tenacity and his ability to run a team, so showcasing that along with a better shooting game could help lock Smart into the top 10. His ho-hum season and the fact that Smart has been over-scouted has made his weaknesses more of the discussion. The tournament will give him a chance to change the conversation back to all the things he can do as a player and a point guard. A deep run in the tournament could remind teams why they liked him so much when this process started.

»In Related:(8) Gonzaga vs. (9) Oklahoma State

Aaron Gordon – Arizona – PF – 6’9″:  At the start of the season there was talk that Gordon could be a top four guy, however, after a full season of college play Aaron has devolved into the “just a guy” category. There are several teams that like Gordon, but he has dropped significantly from a top five prospect into a next ten prospect. A strong tournament could help his draft stock, especially if he can show big and lead his team deep into the tourney. If he struggles on the big stage or is simply average, he could find himself validating the criticisms NBA scouts have about him and find himself needing to work out for more teams just to stay in the top ten discussion.

»In Related:(1) Arizona vs. (16) Weber State

Tyler Ennis – Syracuse – PG – 6’2″:  Ennis was the darling of the draft just five weeks ago, but as Syracuse has come unglued so has Ennis’ draft stock. The tournament could be a good stage for Ennis to lock in some of his better attributes as a player and a point guard. If Syracuse implodes, Ennis could take some of the blame, because their early season success was tied to how well he was playing. It seems the hype and expectations have derailed him a little and the tournament is a chance for him to re-set the clock a little and showcase what teams like about him. If Ennis struggles in the tournament as he has over the past few weeks, his bid to get into the top ten could take a hit. There are a number of NBA teams that are very high on Ennis so a strong tournament could help make his case in the room as teams debate the merits of one player over another.

»In Related:(3) Syracuse vs. (14) Western Michigan

Gary Harris – Michigan State – SG – 6’5″:  To say NBA scouts are mixed on Harris’ potential as a NBA player is something of an understatement. Most scouts either love Harris or hate him, so he’ll have a chance in the tournament to gain a few more fans or validate the critics that question his game at the next level. Michigan State could be one of those teams that goes deep in the tournament and Harris playing well on a big stage would be huge for his draft stock if only to cement him into the top 20 discussion.

»In Related:(4) Michigan State vs. (13) Delaware

James Young – Kentucky – SG/SF – 6’7″:  NBA scouts have gushed about Young’s potential all season. With Kentucky’s season having gone as bad as you could have imagined, there is a chance in the tournament for Young to showcase his athletic game a little and remind scouts and executives who may not have seen much of him that he could be a sleeper in the bottom of the first round. UK is so crowded with guys who need the ball; it will be interesting to see what kind of role Young plays in the tournament. Every year there is a guy who gets hot and lands himself on the big stage. Young needs that kind of moment. He has some fans in NBA circles; they just need some stellar game film to make their case in the room.

»In Related:(8) Kentucky vs. (9) Kansas St.

Patric Young – Florida – PF/C – 6’9″:  The story on Young is always about what he can’t do. Scouts point to his small hands or his bruising frame as negatives of his ability – his hand are too small to be a great rebounder. He’s too big to run the floor. The fact that Young and his Florida team landed the number one overall seed and should have a chance at a National Title is only going to help Young’s stock if he plays well. He’ll get a chance to put something on film that could counter the idea that he’s not a game changer. As things stand today Young is considered a second round guy. A strong tournament filled with rebounds and blocked shots could go a long way towards teams taking a closer look at him in the draft process and maybe considering his flaws a little less than his strengths.

»In Related: (1) Florida vs. (16) Albany/Mt. St. Mary’s

A strong tournament can help a scouting department make their case for a particular player. A bad tournament can give detractors in the room more ammunition to weigh one guy a little more than the other. Players rarely get drafted based on what they do in the tournament, but the tournament is a series of big games that scouts and executive can use to help them decide between one player and the next.

Also keep in mind that a large number of General Managers and coaches don’t spend a lot of time watching regular season college basketball, so for some of the second tier guys this may be the first time a GM or a team president really pays serious attention to their game, so while the tournament won’t get them drafted it might get thema work out or a longer look in the evaluation process.

»In Related: Basketball Insiders’ Debate – Who Should Be The Top Pick?

The March Madness Tournament is a place to get noticed, and for a number of guys they need to show big.

» It’s time to fill out your bracket and Basketball Insiders has you covered with detailed game-by-game capsules featuring all the details on every game. Before you lock in your picks, make sure to do your homework and we have the cliff notes ready for you.

So They Got Phil, What’s Next?:  The New York Knicks have already started to see the fruits of their signing of coaching legend Phil Jackson as their next team president. Since talk of Jackson joining the team, the Knicks have run off six straight wins and have a favorable schedule down the stretch. The Knicks find themselves roughly three games out of the eighth seed in the East with 15 games remaining including matchups against the 76ers, the Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers, the Lakers, the Kings, the Jazz and two matchups against Brooklyn and the Raptors in April. Conservatively there are maybe eight wins on the table for the Knicks in their remaining 15 games, so the postseason is not lost yet.

The Knicks will be making Jackson’s hire official on Tuesday and it’s believed Jackson will officially start working the Knicks situation in the coming weeks.

Sources close to the process say they are not expecting in real changes during the season, but that Jackson has already started talking with former associates and could make some changes fairly quickly after the season ends for the Knicks.

There continues to be talk that former Suns executive Steve Kerr is the front runner to be Jackson’s head coaching hire, especially if Jackson can pry some of his former assistant coaches out of their existing situations. Long-time assistant Frank Hamblen is currently not coaching, while former assistant Brian Shaw is the head coach for the Denver Nuggets and not expected to be part of anything Jackson is doing in New York. Long-time assistant Jim Cleamons is currently on Larry Drew’s staff in Milwaukee and could be on the list of hires for Jackson in New York. Longtime assistant Kurt Rambis is currently on the staff with the Lakers; however, there is talk that current head coach Mike D’Antoni could be on his way out at seasons end, making Rambis a possibility too.

There are many around the process that believe Jackson would like to see the Triangle offense dusted off for the Knicks, and that means hiring a staff that understands how to teach it to players as well as signing players that know how it is supposed to be run. Others have tried to make the triangle work with other teams and have failed, mainly because they could not assemble the supporting staff to properly teach or execute it.

Jackson will inherit a roster with very little financial flexibility, so substantial change in the roster make up might not happen during the summer.

Current Knicks team president Steve Mills is expected to remain with the team and handle some of the day to day needs of running the business side of the Knicks and there is a belief that Jackson will put an Assistant GM-type in place to oversee the day to day of the basketball side of things.

Jackson’s deal is said to pay him $12 million per season and is a five year deal.

The Beauty of The 10-Day Contract:  Fans often wonder why a player would agree to a 10-day contract, however when you look at the economics, it’s the easiest money you can imagine. Ten day deals are usually done at the NBA minimum and pro-rated out for ten days, however teams with cap money or even exception money can use part of that money to negotiate a better deal.

For guys in the D-League it’s a no-brainer to take a ten-day deal. The D-League pays its highest paid players $29,000 a season. A single 10-day in the NBA could be worth more than that. Players who sign two 10-day deals usually end up pocketing $40,000 to $50,000 plus per diem and lodging.

Players who land on NBA rosters also get prorated service days that count towards the NBA’s retirement program and a prorated share of the group license payments.

So in the end those 10-days could end up being worth a lot more to them financially than just the cash that’s obvious.

Teams are permitted to sign players to two consecutive 10-day deals before they have to decide to carry the player for the balance of the season. That’s obviously the goal for every player and why they’d sign a short term deal.

Most of the players that get picked up for the balance of the season usually sign what’s called a multi-year deal, which usually means it pays the balance of this season and has non-guaranteed years for next season and beyond. This serves two purposes: It locks a player into a team’s summer program and also gives the team a non-guaranteed contract that can be tossed into trades around the draft or free agency. Players are not obligated to accept a 10-day deal from a team or a team’s offer for the balance of the season. It is completely their choice, however most players being looked at on ten-day deals usually take the offer.

Teams can sign players to 10-day deals right up to the tenth day remaining on the season.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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