Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Sweet 16. Players to watch from an NBA scouting perspective

Blue chip players can be found. 
There is a certain credibility that goes with being one of the outstanding basketball players in action in the Sweet 16. Now that the 2015 NCAA Tournament is down to 16 teams, the spotlight begins to shine brighter and focus harder on the individual stars. Annually, we write an article that lists the 16 players that we feel are the most worthy of having NBA scouting eyes on them. We started this exercise in 2005, and we can report that any player making this list has an 82% chance of earning an NBA pay-check, at minimum. Some will become All-Stars. Sweet 16 "alumni" that have reached NBA All-Star status include these "blue chip" players: Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, and Jimmy Butler. 

Who are the Sweet 16 players we will zero in on? 

1. Karl Anthony Towns - Kentucky 7'0" 250 lbs. Center. freshman. ...Towns has the best defensive rating in college basketball. When he is on the floor, Kentucky gives up just 76.6 points per 100 possessions. That stat may not mean much to you if you are not "in-tune" with the impact defensive rating (DEFRTG) can have on a team's success. Trust us. A DEFRTG of 76.6 is a BIG DEAL. ...Towns is a tremendous shot-blocker and rim protector, yet he has the finesse to shoot 82% from the free-throw line. He is still learning to play in the low post but by all accounts, he is a smart kid that should improve. ...I also like that at age 19, the seven-foot Towns shows humility in being able to handle playing on a loaded Kentucky team where he plays just 21 minutes per game. He averages 10 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocked shots per game. 

2. Justise Winslow - Duke 6'7" 229 lbs. Small Forward. freshman. ...Winslow has game changing ability in the open-court. He is ridiculously talented in transition, with the ability to finish with power, speed, and skill. Winslow averages 12 points, and six rebounds per game. He shoots an impressive 40% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers. Winslow shoots just 61% from the free throw line, which is concerning. ...Justise's Dad, Rickie Winslow played professionally in Turkey. Justise will be a safe pick in the NBA Draft. 

They call him "Jah"
3. Jahlil Okafor - Duke 6'11" 270 lbs. Center. freshman. ...Okafor is a skilled BIG that has remarkable ability to score in the low-post. He has a BIG wide body and good ball handling skills that allow him carve space in the paint. Okafor is shooting 67% FG! He averages 18.1 points, and 8.7 rebounds per game. Okafor is especially good on the offensive glass. ...As good as Okafor is, he has three major weaknesses in our opinion. He is a poor foul shooter (51% FT), he has nearly two turnovers for every one assist, and his post defense is below-average. Okafor could also be in better shape. 

4. Delon Wright - Utah 6'5" 180 lbs. Point Guard. Senior. ...Wright is a multi-faceted point guard that has really improved as a three point shooter during the 2014-15 season. The younger brother of Dorell Wright (Portland TrailBlazers forward), Delon is excellent running the pick-and-roll, showing an ability to create a shot for himself as well as set up his teammates. Wright led the Pac-12 in true shooting percentage in 2014-15. ...Wright reacts very quickly, allowing him to get a high number of steals and deflections. But he's not just out there gambling to get steals. His defensive rating is excellent, at 88.9. ...Potential top-tier NBA guards are difficult to come by and should be coveted. Wright has a chance, in our opinion, to, in-time, become a top-tier NBA player. 

5. Willie Cauley-Stein - Kentucky 7'0" 244 lbs. Center. junior. ...Cauley Stein is a rim protecting BIG that is remarkably quick off his feet. He blocks shots and holds down the paint with a presence of cat-quickness and length. Cauley-Stein has a standing reach of 9'2" (same as Tyson Chandler), and a max-vert. of 37". ...Cauley-Stein knows his limitations reasonably well and he seldom takes a bad shot. He shoots 59% FG. ...Far from complete, Cauley Stein is a horrid free throw shooter (50% FT), and he has more turnovers than assists. But his upside is ridiculously high. You just don't find seven footers that can move the way Cauley-Stein does. 

Brice is nice. 
6. Brice Johnson - North Carolina 6'9" 228 lbs. Power Forward. junior. ...Johnson is a scoring forward with NBA athleticism. He averages 12.9 points, and 7.9 rebounds per game. He has a reputation for not being a great defender. However, his Defensive Rating of 93.3 is far from poor. ...Among all 2015 NCAA Tournament PF's in our database, Johnson ranks as the best in efficiency per-minute. He is elite in his ability to finish in transition.  ...Johnson has a thin frame that is beginning to fill out. The three-ball is not a part of Johnson's game at all (zero attempts from beyond the arc in three seasons). 

7. Stanley Johnson - Arizona 6'7" 245 lbs. Small Forward. freshman. ...Johnson is a rugged wing player that can lock-down the opposing team's best wing. That is valuable. He has the best defensive rating of any wing player left in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson helped lead the U.S. to gold medals at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship and the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. He was the MVP of the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. ...He averages 14 points, six rebounds, and one and a half steals per game. Johnson is solid from the three point line, hitting 37%. …Johnson can be better by improving his decision making. He presently has more turnovers than assists.  

8. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - Arizona 6'7" 215 lbs. Shooting Guard. sophomore. ...Arizona is loaded, and sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson stands out among great athletes, as the most hyper-athletic guy on the Cats' roster. Hollis-Jefferson is an elite defender. His defensive rating of 87.9 ranks him second among 2015 NCAA Tournament small forwards. …Hollis-Jefferson has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (career) but he struggles as a perimeter shooter (21% 3-pt career). He shoots 69% from the line. ...I view him as an top-notch athlete with a huge upside. If the shooting gets better, look out. 

9. Kevon Looney - UCLA 6'9" 220 lbs. Small Forward. freshman. ...Looney is an NBA athlete that can legitimately play the small forward position well at 6'9". He is terrific on the offensive glass, and he finishes well in transition. Looney has a positive assist to turnover ratio and he shoots 43% from beyond the college 3-pt. line. I really wish he would stay in school because I don't think he is ready to play meaningful minutes in an NBA game. That said, in three or fours years, he might be a top-tier small forward. 

Sabonis is intense. 
10. Domantas Sabonis - Gonzaga 6'10" 230 lbs. Power Forward. freshman. ..."Domas" Sabonis is the most talented freshman that is still somewhat "under the radar" of the average college hoops fan. He is a fiery competitor with skill, size, and solid athleticism. He is shooting a remarkable 67% FG as a freshman! Sabonis also brings it on the defensive end. He led the West Coast Conference in defensive rating (90.8). ...Domas is the son of international basketball superstar Arvydas Sabonis. Domas is just 18 years old. He was born in Portland, OR. but has citizenship in both the USA and in Lithuania. 

11. Frank Kaminsky - Wisconsin 7'0" 254 lbs. Center. Senior. ...Frank Kaminsky is a seven-footer with skill and shooting touch. He has a feel for the game of basketball. He averages 18.4 points, and 8.1 rebounds per game. He can make three point shots (36% career), owns a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and he shoots 75% from the foul line. What makes Kaminsky unique is that he was a 6'7" point guard as recently as his junior year of high school. Now those guard skills allow him, as a seven-foot Center, to do things other BIGs simply cannot do. ...He posted the best defensive rating in the Big Ten in 2014-15 (90.1). Kaminsky is a very good defensive rebounder (he led the Big Ten in 2014-15). He was also the Big Ten leader in field goal percentage (55% FG). 

12. Nigel Hayes - Wisconsin 6'8" 235 lbs. Small Forward. sophomore. ...Hayes is yet another quality, two-way, wing player that should have a solid NBA career. He averages 12.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Hayes did not make a single three point shot as a freshman last season. This season, Hayes is shooting 39% 3-pt with 33 made threes. His career free throw percentage is 66% but he has improved this season to 74%. He is solid with the ball, posting a slightly positive assist-to-turnover ratio. 

13. J.P. Tokoto - North Carolina 6'5" 200 lbs. Shooting Guard. junior. ...Tokoto is a freak athlete that continues to improve as a basketball player. In three straight seasons he has shown progress by improving his three-point and free throw percentages. This season, Tokoto is shooting 37% 3-pt, and 61% FT. His assist-to-turnover ratio stands at a very good (for a shooting guard) 1.62-to-1 (career). In transition he is ridiculously good; making highlight plays routinely. He averages just eight points per game but he adds 5.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. ...The ceiling for Tokoto is extremely high. 

14. Montrezl Harrell - Louisville 6'8" 235 lbs. Power Forward. junior. ...Harrell is among the most intense competitors we have scouted in 17 years of watching college basketball. He is about hustle, and heart. He can be intimidating and hard on his teammates. ...Harrell is not the most skilled player, but he makes up for that with his determined efforts. He averages 15.4 points, and 9.2 rebounds per game. He is a tremendous offensive rebounder that enjoys power-dunking. He will try to dunk ANYTHING close to the rim. This season, Harrell has shown the ability to occasionally step outside and knock down a face-up jumper. ...On the flip side, Harrell is a terrible free throw shooter at 48%, and he turns it over more than he assists it.  

15. Jakob Poeltl - Utah 70'0" 230 lbs. Center. freshman. ...Poeltl is Utah's not-so secret weapon. He plays just 23 minutes per game but when he is on the floor, the Utes are a better team. Poeltl is converting a staggering 69.1% of his field goal attempts. His defensive rating of 87.6 can anchor, for whatever limited minutes he may play, the Utah defense. Poeltl is a good offensive rebounder but his free throw stroke is sketchy at just 45% FT. ...I really hope that Poeltl returns to school next season. For all the promise he shows, I'm afraid he will get lost in the NBA grind of BIG men. 

16. Kennedy Meeks - North Carolina 6'9" 290 lbs. Power Forward. sophomore. ...Meeks is a load. 6'9" 290 lbs. He is hard to keep out of the paint, and he has a soft touch. As such, he shoots 55.9% FG for his two season career as a Tar Heel. The former McDonald's All-American averages 11.6 points, and 7.4 rebounds per game. Meeks is a poor free throw shooter at just 61% FT (career). …He is questionable to play in the Sweet 16 after suffering a knee injury in North Carolina's most recent game. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Point Guards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

The current landscape at the Point Guard position in the NBA is crowded with excellent players. To become the leader of a professional team, fresh from college, very rarely happens, and if it does happen, it usually ends in losses. 

While we will list 14 point guards to watch, the truth is, more than half of them will probably never sniff meaningful minutes in an NBA contest. That does not mean that the guys we mention are not worth watching, it just illustrates how deep the talent pool is right now at the "ONE" spot. 

Delon Wright - Utah 6'5" 180 lbs. Senior. ...Dorell Wright's younger brother is a good defender, and an efficient player. He averages 15 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game (career). In our opinion he is underrated by most NBA Draft sites (consensus 27th pick). 

D'Angelo Russell - Ohio St. 6'5" 180 lbs. freshman. ...The Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Russell is averaging 19 points, five rebounds, and five assists per contest. He is in love with his three-point shot, hitting 41% of his attempts. Russell was a 2014 McDonald's All-American. 

Kris Dunn - Providence 6'3" 205 lbs. junior. ...Dunn led the Big East in assists and steals in 2014-15. He averages 15.8 points, 7.6 assists, and 5.8 rebounds per game this season. He will need to improve his three point shooting (just 30% career). 

Terry Rozier - Louisville 6'1" 190 lbs. sophomore. ...Rozier is a speedy guard that can be disruptive defensively (he led the ACC in total steals). He is somewhat in-between a Point Guard and a Shooting Guard. Rozier idolizes Dwyane Wade. 

Thomas Walkup - Stephen F. Austin 6'4" 195 lbs. junior. ...If Stephen F Austin wins a game (or games) in the Tourney, it will likely be due to Walkup. He was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year. Walkup, a versatile, defensive minded guard, averages 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. 

Jones is a basketball whisperer
Tyus Jones - Duke 6'1" 184 lbs. freshman. ...Jones is fun to watch play because he sees plays develop before they actually happen. Jones led the ACC in free throw percentage at 88.4%. 

T.J. McConnell - Arizona 6'1" 195 lbs. Senior. ...As good a leader as I've seen this season. McConnell gives an honest effort on defense while quarterbacking with confidence. 

Fred VanVleet - Wichita St. 6'0" 194 lbs. junior. ...VanVleet is the kind of guard that understands how to keep his team "in a game". He was the Missouri valley Conference assists leader. 

Monte Morris - Iowa St. 6'2" 170 lbs. sophomore. ...The Big 12 leader in assists and steals. Morris shoots 40% from 3-pt. range. 

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera - Georgetown 6'3" 214 lbs. junior. ...He can really shoot the ball with accuracy. Smith-Rivera led the Big East in free throw percentage (87.6 FT% in league play). 

Jack Gibbs - Davidson 5'11" 195 lbs. sophomore. ...Gibbs shoots 44% from beyond the college arc!

Marcus Paige - North Carolina 6'0" 157 lbs. junior. ...Paige has excellent court vision with a career 2.04-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Frank Mason Jr. - Kansas 5'11" 185 lbs. sophomore. ...Made dramatic improvement in all areas this season. 

Quinn Cook - Duke 6'0" 175 lbs. Senior. ...Cook can beat you from deep and he is careful with the ball.

Shooting guards to watch in the Tourney

Centers to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

One in, four out. 
One fascinating aspect of NBA roster building in 2015 is the continued demise of teams playing two BIG players (power forward and center) at the same time. As the game trends toward more three point shooting, and teams playing with "one in" and "four out", we cannot help but wonder what will become of the inventory of basketball players 6'11" 250 lbs. and over. 

Of all the NBA Drafts we have made rankings for (this 2015 NBA Draft will be our 17th year), it is difficult to recall one with as many potential NBA Centers as the draft we will see this June. Maybe a second league of seven footers only will spring up. : ))

With the NCAA Tournament tip-off less than 24 hours away, we list the Center prospects that intrigue us the most...

Karl Anthony Towns - Kentucky 7'0" 250 lbs. freshman. ...Towns is the real deal. His defensive rating of 77.0 is the best among ALL NCAA players. He is a tremendous offensive rebounder, and he shoots 81% from the foul line. 

Myles Turner - Texas 6'11" 243 lbs. freshman. ...Turner led the Big 12 in blocked shots as a freshman. It is not common to see rugged shot blockers that shoot 83% from the free throw line but that is exactly what Myles Turner does. He runs a bit flat footed but he still gets the job done. 

Jahlil Okafor - Duke 6'11" 270 lbs. freshman. ...Okafor is the ACC Player of the Year, and consensus number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He has ability to score in the low post and his focus helps him shoot an incredible 66.9% FG. Okafor was one of five named to the USBWA All-America Team. 

Frank Kaminsky - Wisconsin 7'0" 234 lbs. Senior. ... He can make three point shots, owns a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and he shoots 75% from the foul line. Kaminsky is a seven-footer with skill and shooting touch. He has a feel for the game of basketball.

Jakob Poeltl - Utah 7'0" 230 lbs. freshman. ...Hopefully Poeltl will return to school next year. He is still very raw but he does have potential especially on the defensive end. He also has a knack for offensive rebounding. 

Joshua Smith - Georgetown 6'10" 350 (listed weight) Senior. ...Smith is horribly out of shape but he has great hands. Smith scores near the rim and converts on 59% of his field goals. 

A.J. Hammons - Purdue 7'0" 251 lbs. junior. ...Hammons has blocked 258 shots in three seasons. He is still passive (in our opinion) on offense. 

Willie Cauley-Stein - Kentucky 7'0" 244 lbs. junior. ...Cauley Stein is a rim protecting BIG that is remarkably quick off his feet. He shoots only 50% from the line (career). 

Mamadou N'Diaye - UC Irvine 7'6" 290 lbs. sophomore. ...Seven feet, six inches tall! He shoots 67.9% from the field. 

Matt Stainbrook - Xavier 6'10" 270 lbs. Senior. ...Stainbrook is a great passer out of the post. He is fun to watch due to his high basketball IQ. 

Abodunrin Gabriel Olaseni - Iowa 6'10" 237 lbs. Senior. ...Olaseni has improved his scoring and shot blocking in each season. 

Daniel Ochefu - Villanova 6'11" 245 lbs. junior. ...Making big strides with improvement in both field goal and free throw percentage each season. 

Dakari Johnson - Kentucky 7'0" 255 lbs. sophomore. ...Excellent defender that also hits the offensive glass. 

Cameron Ridley - Texas 6'10" 285 lbs. junior. ...Big time rebounder!

See the list of Point Guards to watch.

Shooting Guards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

Harden is the TWO guard to emulate.
The best shooting guards in the NBA come with various subtle differences in their game. Ideally, the best "Two Guards" are guys that can score. The scoring can come in a variety of ways. Dwyane Wade, for example, does not shoot a bunch of three-point shots but he can draw fouls with dribble penetration. Manu Ginobili uses a mixture of the deep shot and driving ability. Klay Thompson has seen a huge upgrade in his efficiency now that he has added more "rim-attacking" to his game, and the current standard for Shooting Guards, James Harden, is a blueprint to emulate. 

The perfect shooting guard should be able to make at least a third of his three-point attempts, (Harden is better than that at 37%), have the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, and get to the foul line. While at the line, a good shooting guard will convert at least 80% of his free throws (Harden hits 86% this season). While being a scorer, a good shooting guard is also a good decision maker. A positive assist-to-turnover ratio is a sign of good decision making. Harden, this season, has 465 assists, with only 265 turnovers. Finally, a good shooting guard HAS to be able to play defense well enough to slow down or at least hold to average, the opposing SG. This season, Harden is running at a career best defensive rating of 102 (which is solid, not great.)

The attributes listed above are just some of the ingredients we are seeking when evaluating the potential NBA shooting guards that are playing in the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Who are we watching closely?

Justise Winslow - Duke 6'6" 229 lbs. - freshman. ...Winslow is a problem for opponents with his size, and ability to finish in transition. He shoots the deep-ball at 39%, and he helps on the glass, getting nearly six rebounds per game. A positive assist-to-turnover ratio from a freshman scoring guard is also nice to see. 

Jae'Sean Tate - Ohio St. 6'4" 190 lbs. - freshman. ...Tate's offensive game today is more like a power forward than a guard. But from an NBA standpoint, he will have to play SG at 6'4". He is a monster in transition and he is very good around the basket. 

Get to know Jordan Barham.
Jordan Barham - Davidson 6'4" 190 lbs. - junior. ...Barham is another athletic player that will need to tighten up his shooting and decision making to thrive in the NBA at 6'4". Barham's 60% FG shooting is a testament to his fantastic finishing ability and strength. He helps as a rebounder as well. 

Josh Hart - Villanova 6'5" 202 lbs. - sophomore. ...Hart is a kid that plays defense, and makes good decisions with the ball. He is shooting 40% from beyond the college arc for his career. He averages 10.4 points, and 4.4 rebounds per game. 

Treveon Graham - VCU 6'6" 220 lbs. - Senior. ...Graham projects as a utility type pro that is not afraid to mix it up. He averages 16 points and seven rebounds per game this season. Graham's basketball hero is Paul Pierce and he tries to do Pierce-like things on the court. 

Dustin Hogue - Iowa St. 6'6" 220 lbs. - Senior. ...Hogue has career averages of 10.6 points, and 6.7 rebounds per game. He shoots 39% 3-pt. 

Melo Trimble - Maryland 6'2" 175 lbs. - freshman. ...Trimble shows signs of excellence with 40% 3-pt. shooting and a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. As a freshman, he led the Big Ten in free throws made and in free throw percentage (86%). 

Elgin Cook - Oregon 6'6" 206 lbs. - sophomore. ...Cook is the son of NBA great Alvin Robertson. Cook is tremendous in the open-court, and he has an advanced mid-post game. 

James Blackmon Jr. - Indiana 6'3" 190 lbs. freshman. ...He can shoot it and he has (slightly) more assists than turnovers. Blackmon is small for a TWO guard but he has a scorer's mentality and skill to manufacture points. 

Royce O'Neale - Baylor 6'6" 220 lbs. Senior. ...You don't hear much hype about Royce O'Neale but he is a player that has compiled impressive numbers in his NCAA career (he played his first two seasons at Denver). He is shooting 47% FG, and he owns a 1.57-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Buddy Hield - Oklahoma 6'4" 208 lbs. junior. ...The Big 12's leading scorer at 17.5 points per game. 

LaDontae Henton - Providence 6'6" 215 lbs. Senior. ...Henton plays forward but we project him as a TWO if he cracks the next level. 

Sir Dominic Pointer - St John's 6'6" 205 lbs. Senior. ...Pointer is all over the court, playing with boundless energy!

Bryce De-Jean Jones - Iowa St. 6'5" 200 lbs. Senior. ...Played at three schools in five years (USC, UNLV, and Iowa St.). 

Small forwards to watch in the Tourney. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Power forwards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

The power forward position in the NBA is presently LOADED with good players. Cracking the rotation of an NBA team as a BIG is tough. You start with Anthony Davis as the premier power forward in the game. He is followed by skilled and athletic players such as Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, and Paul Millsap. The further down you look at the most recent NBA power forward efficiency rankings you see names outside of the top 30 like David West, Markieff Morris, and Nene. The point is, the current NBA power forward landscape has little room for growth. Any college power forward will have to be pretty special to deserve minutes in an NBA game next fall. ...Let's examine the players we will watch the closest during the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Johnson is an NBA athlete! 
Brice Johnson - North Carolina 6'9" 210 lbs. - junior. ...Johnson is the most efficient (per-minute) power forward in the Tournament. He will need to add weight to bang in the NBA but his athleticism and ability to finish in transition are ELITE! Johnson does not shoot the three-ball at all which is why I view him more as a PF.

Kennedy Meeks - North Carolina 6'9" 279 lbs. - sophomore. ...Meeks is a traditional power forward with a big butt that can score in the low post. He shoots 55% FG (career), and he rebounds the ball at a high level. Meeks needs to improve his free throw shooting (just 64% FT).

Domantas Sabonis - Gonzaga 6'10" 230 lbs. - freshman. ...The son of international hoops legend Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas is gaining playing time as an effective BIG for the Zags. He is a terrific defender that had the best defensive rating in the West Coast Conference.

Bonzie Colson - Notre Dame 6'5" 226 lbs. - freshman. ...Colson has added a tremendous deal of efficiency to Notre Dame's attack. The freshman is shooting 62.9% FG as an under-sized post. He might remind you of P.J. Tucker when Tucker was a freshman at Texas.

Bobby Portis - Arkansas 6'10" 242 lbs. - sophomore. ...Portis can bang inside but he also has the finesse to hit face up jumpers. Portis converts on 36% of his three point attempts (career). Portis averages 17 points and eight boards per game.

Jalen Reynolds - Xavier 6'9" 222 lbs. - sophomore. ...Reynolds is a sophomore but he is already 22 years-old. He rebounds the ball and shoots a high percentage (60% FG - career).

TaShawn Thomas - Oklahoma 6'8" 240 lbs. Senior. ...Thomas, a transfer from Houston, has added scoring punch to the Sooners. He averages 11.3 points, and six rebounds per game.

Jameel McKay - Iowa St. 6'9" 215 lbs. junior. ...McKay adds a shot blocking presence to Iowa St. He also shoots a high percentage (58% FG).

Montrezl Harrell - Louisville 6'8" 235 lbs. junior. ...In our opinion, no front-line player "brings it" more than Harrell. He is a determined, physical player.

Perry Ellis - Kansas 6'8" 225 lbs. junior. ...Dependable, and capable, Ellis will likely have to score more in the absence of Cliff Alexander. Ellis has raised his scoring and rebounding averages with each season.

Jordan Bell - Oregon 6'7" 190 lbs. freshman. ...Bell has an uncanny ability to block shots.

Rico Gathers - Baylor 6'8" 280 lbs. junior. ...Gathers is a rebounding machine!

Ryan Spangler - Oklahoma 6'8" 232 lbs. junior. ...Spangler is a 58% field goal shooter (career).

Justin Moss - Buffalo 6'7" 240 lbs. junior. ...Led the MAC in scoring (17.2 ppg), and rebounding (9.2 rpg.). 

Centers to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. 

Small forwards to watch in the 2015 NCAA Tournament

Annually, we dive into the players to watch in the NCAA Tournament from an NBA scouting perspective. We start with the batch of small forwards...

The present landscape of NBA small forwards is top heavy with talent. There are at least a half-dozen really good to GREAT wing players. We are talking about future Hall of Fame players in Kevin Durant, and LeBron James when we use the word "GREAT". Kawhi Leonard heads the list of "really good" small forwards, joined by the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, and Gordon Hayward, You could say Kyle Korver is in there too, although he often plays more at the TWO spot. Likewise, Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic is making big strides toward being a top-tier NBA wing.

However, after those mentioned above, the landscape becomes pretty average to below average looking. Think of an aging Paul Pierce, an inconsistent yet talented Gerald Green, an overpaid Chandler Parsons. Digging deeper we find players like Alonzo Gee, Jared Dudley, and Rasual Butler cracking the top-30 in the most recent, NBA stat audit, small forward rankings.

Armed with this knowledge it is easy to see why there are opportunities for many of the NCAA Tournament small forwards to be considered as NBA prospects.

Kelly Oubre - Kansas 6'7" 200 lbs. - freshman. ...Oubre has the length and athleticism required to be an NBA wing (his wingspan is 7'2"). He is already a disruptive defender and his 36% 3-pt shooting as a Kansas freshman should translate to being solid in the NBA. As a bonus, he hits the glass too, averaging five rebounds per game in just 21 minutes of playing time per contest.

James Webb - Boise St. 6'9" 202 lbs. - sophomore. ...Not too many scouts are talking about James Webb III. He is an outstanding defender (defensive rating is 88.7), and terrific rebounding wing player. Webb is a superior athlete that lettered in high school tennis, track & field (cross-country), soccer, and baseball.

Stanley Johnson - Arizona 6'7" 245 lbs. - freshman. ...Johnson has the best defensive rating of any small forward in the NCAA Tournament (85.4). Offensively, he overpowers other small forwards with his tremendous frame but he is also skilled enough to knock down 36% of his three-point attempts. Most importantly, Johnson is a winner. His high school teams won four consecutive CIF state basketball championships.

Seth Tuttle - Northern Iowa 6'8" 240 lbs. - Senior. ...The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year is an efficient forward that actually plays more at the FOUR in college. While his defensive rating is nothing to brag about, Tuttle has shown that his offensive game is too strong to leave off the floor. Tuttle is averaging 15 points (61% FG, 42% 3-pt.), 6.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game.

Kevon Looney - UCLA 6'9" 220 lbs. - freshman. ...Looney is an NBA athlete that also has shown he has the finesse to make NBA money. He shoots 45% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers. NBA scouts love a player with a "high ceiling". Looney certainly fits that bill.

Jarrod Uthoff - Iowa 6'9" 210 lbs. - junior. ...Uthoff is largely ignored by scouts but he may be able to crack an NBA roster someday due to his strong skill set. The former Iowa high school "Mr. Basketball" can really shoot it.

Prince is a super sixth-man!
Taurean Prince - Baylor 6'7" 215 lbs. - junior. ...Prince comes off the Baylor bench but plays starters minutes (26 mins. per game). He leads Baylor in scoring at 14 points per game.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - Arizona 6'7" 215 lbs. sophomore. ...Hollis-Jefferson rates second among all Tourney small forwards in defensive rating. He is a freakish athlete that does not shoot the three-ball well but he does have more assists than turnovers.

Troy Williams - Indiana 6'7" 206 lbs. - sophomore. ...Williams has a ways to go with his shooting and decision making but his NBA athleticism and quickness are undeniable. He is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds per game.

Georges Niang - Iowa St. 6'8" 230 lbs. - junior. ...Niang can play either forward position. He shoots 39% from beyond the college arc, and he has more assists than turnovers.

Nigel Hayes - Wisconsin 6'7" 250 lbs. - sophomore. ...Hayes is a two-way player that has helped Wisconsin to the heights they have achieved this season.

Dwayne Benjamin - Oregon 6'7" 200 lbs. - junior. ...Benjamin comes off the Ducks' bench and provides instant energy and offense.

Sam Dekker - Wisconsin 6'7" 220 lbs. - junior. ...Dekker has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio and shoots 39% from deep.

William Lee - Alabama-Birmingham 6'9" 210 sophomore. ...Lee is a sleeper to keep an eye on.

Power forwards to watch.