by Will Overton
One of the greatest sporting events of the year is the “March Madness” NCAA Tournament as there’s so much drama and intrigue packed into a single month. There are so a ton of different lenses to watch the tournament through and one of them is scouting for the next NBA stars.
We are going to prepare you for that viewing experience by breaking down each of the four regions and looking at the top prospects. This way you know who you should be watching for this weekend as you sit on the couch and consume endless hours of basketball and snack foods.
Our final bracket to breakdown is the Midwest Region. We have a few guys who already potential lottery picks here, and also some fast risers coming up behind them:
Top 12 NBA Prospects
- Jakob Poeltl, C – Utah: This is a guy who could really benefit from the NCAA Tournament stage and I think a rise to the top five overall is possible. Poeltl has a rare combination of athleticism and height. On offense he has a nice mid-range game, can function at the elbow or in the post and runs the pick and roll almost flawlessly. Like most guys making the leap to the NBA he’ll probably need more muscle at the next level, but he has the potential to be a Top 10 center in the NBA and it may not take long to get there.
- Denzel Valentine, G/F – Michigan St: I don’t know if anyone has seen their stock rise more than Valentine this season, from likely undrafted to a lottery pick by racking up triple-double’s all season long. He is an elite shooter and a strong passer. Position is a question as some wonder if he’s quick enough for shooting guard, but his size and strength could be a huge plus at that position. With his work ethic and all-around game someone will absolutely find a spot for him and he should be a role player for a long time to come.
- Deytona Davis, F – Michigan St: Here is one of the more intriguing upside picks of this draft class. Davis is still pretty raw, but you can watch him play and see the upside plain. His athleticism is off the charts and he’s already a strong defender who will only get better as his basketball IQ rises. He would be well served adding some more muscle and continuing to expand his range, which he has been doing, but this guy could be an all-star given the right amount of time and place to develop his game.
- Domantas Sabonis, F/C – Gonzaga: Sabonis’ size looks more like a power forward, but his game has more of a center look than anything else. The question is if he has the size to play Center in the NBA? He has the skillset with good post moves, excellent rebounding and a surprisingly good touch as a passer finding the open man on the perimeter. For Sabonis I really think it’ll all come down to where an NBA team thinks he can fit for them.
- Monte Morris, G – Iowa St: Probably the best pure point guard in this draft region, Morris has a very high basketball IQ, evidenced by his turnover rate of just 1.7 per game. He also has a great knack for finding his teammates on the floor, 6.9 APG, and quick hands on defense, 1.8 SPG. Morris may get knocked down a spot or two by NBA scouts because of his lean frame, but he should be a first round pick in my opinion.
- Malcolm Bragdon, G – Virginia : Here’s another guy who could be in the running for a first round draft selection, possessing that quality that NBA teams love from wing players, the three and D combination. Bragdon isn’t an elite athlete, but he can hang with anyone on defense and his basketball knowledge makes up for a lot of athletic shortcomings. He came on NBA radars later than he should have, but he is rising up the board now.
- J. Hammons, C – Purdue: At 23 years old Hammons is one of the oldest members of this year’s draft class, but he is one of the few true low post centers. When you watch him play he just looks so smooth operating in the post and has a really soft touch on his shot. He also has strong instincts on defense as a shot blocker. After a year or two of working with an NBA squad I could see him blossom into a starting caliber center.
- Isaiah Whitehead, G – Seton Hall: It is going to be very interesting to see which way Whitehead’s draft stock goes this offseason. He looks the part of an NBA shooting guard, even if an inch or two short. His numbers also jump off the page, both offensively and defensively. That said, sometimes you have got to question his shot selection and he just seems to be playing out of control at times. He could be a terrific bench scorer in the mold of J.R. Smith, but a lot like Smith there are maturity questions that need to be answered.
- Michael Gbinije, G/F – Syracuse: Gbinije really has blown up his game these last two seasons after two very disappointing years to start his career. He has blossomed into a legitimate three-point threat and has excellent passing and court vision for a non-point guard. Gbinije is also older than most in this class, so he has to be ready to contribute right away for a team to take him, but his size at shooting guard could be very intriguing.
- Kyle Wiltjer, F – Gonzaga: When you see Kyle Wiltjer play its hard not to draw comparisons to Ryan Anderson. Wiltjer has really good range on his shot and is making 2.4 3’s per game, hitting 43% of his attempts from beyond the arc. He has good size, but could benefit from working on his rebounding a little. Wiltjer also needs to work on his defense, but there is most definitely a place in the NBA for him.
- Georges Niang, F – Iowa St: Here’s another one of those guys I worry about finding a position for. Niang may not be quick enough to keep up with NBA wing types, but also may not be big enough for power forward. That said, he has a ridiculously high motor and strong instincts which can take him a long way. Niang has really blown up on offense this season with an inside-outside game that is very strong.
- Tyler Lodon, F – Syracuse: I could see Lodon coming back to school for another year and trying to improve his stock, but he has been a bright spot this season. He gets it done on offense, hitting 42% of his threes, and on defense where he has 1.5 BPG and 1.1 SPG. If Lodon can add some more muscle and work on some interior offensive moves he should keep rising up this board.
Best College Players Not On NBA Radars:
- J. English, G – Iona: I honestly can’t understand why English isn’t on more radars other than being from a small school. He is scoring machine (22.6 PPG) who still manages to distribute the ball when needed (6.2 APG).
- Roosevelt Jones, G – Butler: Like I mentioned earlier, this region doesn’t have a lot of elite point guards, but Jones could be one of the best and could make it on some radars with a strong tournament. Jones is big for the position and an excellent rebounder
- Anthony Gill, F – Virginia: He doesn’t get the shine that Malcolm Brogdon does, but Gill is the gritty guy on Virginia who does all the small things and plays physical down in the paint.
- Charles Cooke, G – Dayton: Cooke is another guy who may still get on some radars, even if he has to stay another year to do it. He has a really nice shot on offense, but is also contributing over a block and a steal per game and is strong on the boards.
- Josh Hagins. G – Arkansas-Little Rock: We already got to see the heroics of Josh Hagins on display against Purdue and if he keeps this up he may start getting some attention. Hagins is a strong shooter and good passer, but may be a bit small for NBA point guard.
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Make sure to check out all of our Top 10 Prospect Lists: