NBA Draft Stock Watch: Big Men Need Big NCAA Tournament

    The NBA Draft stock of several big men will depend on them having a big NCAA Tournament.

    September 24, 2016

    The NBA stock of several big men will depend significantly on their performance in the NCAA Tournament.


    Everybody is focused on the now, the wins and losses, the RPI and strength of schedule, and who is going to get to the NCAA Tournament and who is going to stay home. It’s all anybody is talking about, us included.

    While every player working in postseason tournaments will be focused on helping their team win, but the thought of a brighter, richer future is never far from anyone’s mind. The spotlight shines the brightest in the tournaments, and you can bet NBA scouts will be watching closely to see who performs at their best when the pressure is cranked up.

    Here’s a look at five big men who will have a chance to help or hurt their NBA Draft stock over the next couple of weeks.

    Jakob Poeltl, 7-0, 248, Utah

    Poeltl likely could have made the jump last year and been a first rounder, though it would have been a little risky. The Pac-12’s Player of the Year averaged 17.5 points, shot 66.0 percent from the field, and grabbed 9.1 rebounds a game this season. He also blocked 50 shots and was a dominant force on either end of the court. He runs the floor well, and hustles to do the little things that help his team win. 

     

    Poeltl isn’t the most polished player in the post, and will have to answer some questions about those times when he has been controlled this season. His six-point outing at Colorado and his seven-point game vs. Oregon earlier in the year raised questions about his aggressiveness, and he only scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting vs. Arizona State Feb. 25. March will give him a chance to prove to teams he can produce under the brightest spotlight.

     

    Skal Labissiere, 6-11, 255, Kentucky

    Labissiere is a fascinating prospect, mainly because of the fact he hasn’t had the impact most expected from the freshman. Even head coach John Calipari says he may have mishandled Labissiere early in the season, whacking the kid’s confidence in the process.

    Labissiere has averaged 6.8 points and grabbed 3.2 rebounds a game, and is playing just 16.1 minutes off the bench for the Wildcats. Ah, but here’s the key: he has shown flashes of brilliance. Scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the regular-season finale vs. LSU has people wondering if he has turned a corner. The SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament will give him the chance to show scouts his development. The NBA would like to see him succeed. We’ll see if he reaches that goal.

    Thomas Bryant, 6-10, 245, Indiana

    Bryant’s stats have been okay this season. He’s averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, and he’s shooting a whopping 69.8 percent from the floor overall. But here’s where Bryant really can turn some heads: he can handle the ball a little bit, he has an NBA-ready body, and he has shown some range. He is 5-of-11 from 3-point distance this year, and is getting more comfortable from the perimeter with each passing game. 

    Bryant doesn’t have great lateral quickness, but he has made tremendous strides on both ends of the floor as the season has progressed, and he has a high ceiling. He has rarely dominated on offense, due in part to IU’s defensive style, but he has a nice post game that can improve. Bryant isn’t showing up on a lot of mock drafts right now, but a deep run in the NCAA Tournament could put him on everyone’s radar.

    Diamond Stone, 6-11, 255, Maryland

    Stone has the athleticism and size to be a special player at the NBA level, and he has a host of post moves that will make him very attractive to NBA team. He isn’t an explosive athlete, but he’s good enough to make things happen in the paint. Beyond that, he’s a fantastic shot blocker with good timing. Stone has been amazing at times this year – his 39-point, 12-rebound effort vs. Penn State Dec. 30 was a sight to behold – but he has been less than aggressive at other times.

    Stone’s inconsistency isn’t unusual for a freshman, but he has disappeared at times when his team needed him. March could make or break him, and the Terps need him to be aggressive to have a chance at doing anything in the postseason. The pressure is cranked up. It’s time for Stone to perform.

    Domantas Sabonis, 6-11, 240, Gonzaga

    Sabonis impressed during the NCAA Tournament last season, and his game has really expanded since then. He’s a double-double machine, and although his game isn’t quite as developed at as his famous father’s was at this age (look up YouTube footage of Arvydas Sabonis – you’re welcome), he will have the full attention of scouts when he hits the floor.

    He can run, pass, shoot and is as polished in the post as anyone you’ll find. There’s good size to set up on the low block, and although Sabonis is far from impressive as an explosive athlete, he’s a post scorer NBA teams will love. Sabonis has already helped his team get to the NCAA Tournament, and now will have a shot to enhance his stock on the biggest stage.

    MORE: Championship Week Rewind

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