Who helped their stock in the tourney?
Here's the good and bad from Final Four weekend of the NCAA tournament
The NCAA tournament is over and the North Carolina Tar Heels are the champs. Here are some final thoughts from a number of NBA executives regarding who helped and hurt their draft stocks in the Final Four.
Ed Davis, F, North Carolina
Davis played just 14 minutes in the championship game, and his 11 points and 8 rebounds weren't spectacular, but he was the best draft prospect on the floor in the Final Four. Long, athletic and very active around the basket on both ends of the floor, he's a game-changer.
Roy Williams has been trying to hide Davis all season, but the secret is out. Most NBA executives talk about him as a potential top-five pick this year and a potential No. 1 pick in 2010. In a draft that lacks big men with lots of upside, most GMs would be willing to gamble on Davis now. Yes, he needs a lot of work. He needs to get much stronger. He needs to polish his offense. And he absolutely needs to return to the Tar Heels for his sophomore season. But if he declares, GMs will go crazy over him. Remember the frenzy over Marvin Williams in 2005, another UNC freshman who played a sixth-man role? It could happen again.
Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
I'm not sure what else Lawson can do to prove his detractors wrong. His assist-to-turnover ratio in the tournament was awesome (34 assists, 7 TOs) and he shot the lights out, too (9-for-18 from 3). In the title game, he also recorded a record eight steals (seven in the first half) to go along with his eight assists. He was the best player in the tournament.
Scouts still worry about his long-term future in the NBA. The Raymond Felton comparisons hurt. So does his lack of size. And his struggles in the half-court game. However, he has done enough this season to answer most of those criticisms. More and more executives I've spoken with seem to be sold on the idea that Lawson can be a really good NBA player.
I know every GM says the tournament doesn't matter in terms of the draft, but in this case, I think it will help Lawson's stock. Before the tournament, I would've said Lawson lands somewhere in the 20s if he declares. Now? I wouldn't be shocked if he cracks the lottery.
Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
Ellington is another guy who really changed some minds with his tournament play. Last year, he turned off NBA scouts and executives with a terrible performance at the Orlando pre-draft camp. But he took those criticisms to heart, changed his game and really delivered for the Tar Heels in the tournament. He was the team's most consistent scorer.
We know he can shoot the basketball, but his ability to get into the lane suddenly makes him look like a much more viable NBA prospect. If Ellington declares, I think he worked his way into the first round.
Stanley Robinson, F, UConn
Robinson has the size, length and athleticism to be a terrific NBA player, but he has been disappointing in his first three seasons at UConn. However, he had a huge tournament and showed off his motor, defense and offensive repertoire. His putback dunk versus Michigan State was one of the best I've ever seen.
It would be a mistake for Robinson to declare for the draft now -- most GMs are still skeptical when they look at the entire evidence and would likely shy away from taking him in the first round. But if he returns to UConn for his senior year and plays like he did in the tournament, he'll be a first-round pick, maybe even lottery, in 2010.
Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn
I've been very skeptical of Thabeet, and his performance in the Michigan State game only confirmed my fears. He looked soft, shaky on offense and, with the exception of a great fast-break finish, not nearly as quick as advertised. Thabeet, to me, looks like a really tall guy still trying to learn the game. If he's like Dikembe Mutombo ... great. If he's like Mark Eaton ... OK. But if he's like Mohammed Saer Sene ... ugh.
However, a number of NBA executives insist that Thabeet's stock is on the rise. They believe he's going in the top three and might even move into the top two if Ricky Rubio doesn't declare for the draft. They see a mobile shot-blocker who can affect the game with his length and defense. In a draft that lacks size or upside, it sounds like most GMs are willing to take the risk and be patient with his development.
Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina
Hansbrough had a solid Final Four weekend -- 18 and 11 versus Villanova, and 18 and 7 versus Michigan State. But as we mentioned last week, just because he is a winner and a tough-as-nails college player doesn't make him a great NBA prospect.
The more scouts watch tape with Hansbrough against elite prospects like Blake Griffin, the more Hansbrough's stock will slide.
Kalin Lucas, PG, Michigan State
Coming off the game of his life in Michigan State's upset of UConn, Lucas looked like he might be a prospect to be reckoned with. But against North Carolina, he looked small and inexperienced. He shot 4-for-12 from the field, committed six turnovers and was absolutely dominated by Lawson on both ends of the floor.
He still has plenty going for him as a draft prospect, but it will take some time for scouts to lose that bitter taste from his performance in the title game.
A.J. Price, PG, UConn
Price was more than solid in the NCAA tournament, but he almost single-handedly shot UConn out of the game versus Michigan State in the Final Four. He kept forcing the issue even though UConn had a huge size advantage in the paint, and looked selfish and ultimately ineffective. It's not the way he wanted to end his troubled career.
Price has talent, but his chances of getting drafted look pretty slim right now.
Kemba Walker, PG, UConn
Walker was all the buzz after his terrific performance against Missouri in the Elite Eight. But he was awful against Michigan State, hitting just one shot and committing four turnovers in 20 minutes.
Walker will bounce back and be a hot prospect next year. But if there was any doubt that he should come back to UConn for his sophomore season, it was extinguished with his play versus Michigan State.
Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
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