NCAA Tournament: Washington Bracket NBA Draft Prospects

NCAA Tournament: Washington Bracket NBA Draft Prospects
Mar 12, 2006, 10:51 pm
A breakdown of all the NBA draft prospects scouts will be watching in the Washington bracket of the NCAA tournament.

This particularly loaded bracket in terms of potential NBA draft picks features a potential #1 overall pick in Rudy Gay, numerous future lottery picks and first and second round prospects galore.

The Bracket


#1 Connecticut

Jonathan Givony

Rudy Gay, 6-9, sophomore, small forward, (#1 pick?)


After a season of ups and downs, it's the NCAA tournament that many be pointed to as the place where Rudy Gay will have to step up his game if he wants to ensure himself of being a top draft pick in June. Gay has been wildly inconsistent throughout the year, starting off the season with a bang at Maui against Arkansas, fading immediately afterwards except for some nice statistical outputs against low-major NCAA talent, picking up his game considerably in late January through mid-February, but then again fading into the background down the stretch as UConn won the Big East regular season regardless and reclaimed their spot as the #1 ranked team in the country.

For UConn to live up to their potential and make it to the Final Four, they will need Gay at his best once again, like he was midway through the Big East conference slate. Not everyone is sold on his likelihood to achieve his massive potential and develop into a legit star in the NBA, and a big tournament could go a long ways in disproving that. Gay will have to reestablish himself within 15 feet of the basket and in rather than settling for weak fade-away jumpshots like he has at times this year. It would also be nice to see go back to playing tenacious man to man defense and crashing the glass, as well as be willing to step up and utilize his phenomenal talent in the likely scenario that UConn's offense gets bogged down in a grind it out half-court setting. The cream rises to the top in March, and Gay is capable and then some of showing the entire world that he is more than just a great athlete with tons of untapped potential.

Josh Boone, 6-10, junior, PF/C, (2006/2007 1st rounder)

It's unclear at this point whether Josh Boone will decide to stay at UConn another year or test the waters to see where his draft stock lies at the moment, and the way he plays here in the tournament could very well likely be the deciding factor in that. Boone has been extremely inconsistent this year once again, ranging from being uninvolved and extremely passive on the offensive end to an unstoppable force on the glass that is willing and able to put up double figures on any given night thanks to his excellent size, length and willingness to run the floor and finish in traffic.

Boone's ability to control the boards and intimidate rivals inside the paint with his shot-blocking skills is the type of advantage that few teams in this tournament possess. NBA teams will want to see a bit more than that, though, which is why they would probably like to see him have at least 1 or 2 big games, showing that he is able as well as willing to take advantage of the type of physical attributes that few players in this draft have.

Hilton Armstrong, 6-11, senior, PF/C, (2006 first rounder)

One of the best stories of the year in college basketball (if you're not a fan of a rival Big East conference school) has been the blossoming of Hilton Armstrong from a skinny, passive and uncoordinated underclassman to a game changer on both ends of the floor. Armstrong's height, terrific length and outstanding athleticism have made him a force as a shot-blocker especially, showing not just the physical attributes, but also the natural instincts to average nearly 3 and a half blocks per game and help UConn lead the country in this department for the umpteenth time in a row.

Armstrong has shown flashes of excellence on the offensive end as well at times, helping the Huskies relieve the full-court pressure they often see on their lone ball-handler Marcus Williams, stepping back to 16 feet to knock down a smooth looking jump shot, and scoring efficiently in the paint with the jump-hook. He doesn't get too many touches on a team that is absolutely loaded at every position, but he makes the most of what he does, to the tune of 62% shooting from the field on the year.

Continuing to be aggressive is what scouts will look for the most out of Armstrong. He wasn't expected to be the factor that makes or breaks UConn's season, and that trend will likely continue in the NCAA tournament. His physical attributes and raw skills alone will get him plenty of looks regardless in the first round, but a consistent showing throughout the tournament would certainly not hurt his stock.

Marcus Williams, 6-3, junior, point guard (2006/2007 first rounder)

The most important player in UConn's offense, Williams (like most point guards in this tournament) has a chance to see his stock skyrocket as the steady presence that leads his team to the final four. As UConn's only reliable ball-handler, he will be facing plenty of traps, full-court presses and other gimmicks intended to get the ball out of his hands. Continuing to show his typical tremendous poise by handling most-everything he sees with confidence will be key for UConn's ability to withstand the tricks most teams will try to utilize to make up for the lack of talent every team in America faces compared with UConn’s roster.

Williams has shown the ability time after time to run his team's offense to perfection and get everyone equally involved beautifully. He will have to continue to execute similarly as well as show better leadership skills when things inevitably get tough in late-game situations. Williams also has a chance to help his stock by showing better defensive ability by staying in front of his man, as this has been a problem for UConn ever since he returned from his suspension in January. More than anything, he just needs to keep doing what he's been doing all season long. If he does, the draft picture will certainly sort itself out considering the lack of point guards in 2006.

Rashad Anderson, 6-5, senior, shooting guard (2nd round pick?)

"The Dagger" as he's called by UConn coach Jim Calhoun, Rashad Anderson is the Huskies' primary offensive weapon off the bench; a player that would start for almost any team in the country besides UConn. Anderson excels in this role, leading the country in points per game for a non-starter with 13 per game in just 24 minutes and scoring in double figures in all but 5 of Connecticut's 30 games this season.

Anderson is the perfect player to bring off the bench since he has great confidence in his ability as a player and is able to heat up quickly and change the game with his perimeter shot. His ability to space the floor with his deep range and lightning quick release means that defenses have to respect him, which opens up plenty of opportunities for UConn's numerous other offensive options. His clutch shooting has been a huge factor in many of his team's wins this year, and he is decent enough in the other parts of his game to not be a liability on the floor at the college level.

At 6-5 and with just average athleticism for an NCAA swingman, Anderson projects mostly as a hired gun for the NBA, something that historically is not always as appreciated as you might think as far as the NBA draft goes. Anderson will have the chance to continue to show NBA GMs and scouts what a great weapon he can potentially be for them off the bench with his play in the tournament. Helping his team make a deep run with his clutch play could very well stick in their minds as we get further into the 2nd round on draft night.

Denham Brown, 6-6, senior, SG/SF (2nd round pick?)

A player with solid all-around ability in many facets of the game, Denham Brown has recovered from injury problems and poor outings from December through mid-February to become possibly UConn's best player down the stretch. If that excellent momentum continues into the NCAA tournament and pre-draft camps, Brown could certainly translate that into a selection in the NBA draft come June.

As an NBA draft prospect, Brown is very good in many different aspects, but does not stand out in any specific one. He is a good, but not great athlete; a decent, but not very consistent outside shooter, a solid, but unspectacular ball-handler and shot-creator, and an acceptable defender at the college level who might be a bit stuck between the 2 and the 3 spots for the NBA. All in all his numbers have been fairly disappointing this year (39% FG, 31% 3P), but he has a chance to make scouts forget all of that if he can find a way to be UConn's jack of all trades in the NCAA tournament.

#8 Kentucky

J.L. Weill

Rajon Rondo, 6-1, sophomore, point guard, (lottery pick?)


Kentucky's enigmatic lead guard has been criticized and praised in equal measure this year, but is undoubtedly among the most athletic backcourt players in the country. A defensive menace, Rondo has struggled to find his niche in Tubby Smith's half-court, grind-it-out offense, leaving scouts and fans alike wondering whether Rondo is a case of overhype or underused. A little of both, probably.

After his Wildcats flirted with disaster for a good month, a revitalized UK now heads to a probable seed in the NCAAs where even one of two wins would be a great accomplishment. Rondo will be at the center of any success or failure the Wildcats encounter, as he is their most dynamic performer and quite possibly their worst shooter. NBA teams aren't sure what to expect from this long-armed athletic freak -- will he look confused or unstoppable? He's been both at times, this season.

Scouts have seen a lot of Rondo already, and it's unlikely that they'll be persuaded either way should he shoot well or poorly. Rather, everyone will be watching to see if Rondo controls the tempo, continues his all-world defensive pressure and distributes the ball effectively. If he does, a solid first-round slot awaits; maybe even a mid-lottery spot in a weak draft for game-changing point men. If not, Kentucky will bow out meekly, and Rondo will show that another year in Lexington might be his best career option.

Randolph Morris, 6-10, sophomore, center (Cannot be drafted, but eligible for free agency)

Morris' situation is unique in college basketball. In utilizing a loophole in NCAA regulations, Morris has simultaneously crushed his draft hopes and opened a new -- and potentially much more lucrative -- avenue as an NBA free agent. Kentucky's emerging center foolishly listened to the wrong elements last summer and declared for the draft. After going undrafted, Morris petitioned for and eventually received a reprieve from the NCAA. After an initial penalty of a lost season of eligibility, Morris was given leniency and returned after sitting out the Wildcats' non-conference slate (13 games). The caveat is that because of the loophole, Morris is effectively eligible for NBA free agency at any point, meaning he can sign with the highest bidder.

Upon his return, the Georgia native indicated he was going to stick around; having felt his second chance was too kind an opportunity to burn his coach and teammates for. As recently as Friday, Morris indicated that he was enjoying the college experience, despite Kentucky's struggles this season.

After a slow start, a leaner, more focused Morris has shown NBA-caliber offensive ability against the SEC. He still finds himself on the blunt end of many foul calls, limiting his minutes and exposure. When he's in the game, Morris is smooth and strong on the offensive end. He is, unfortunately, at the mercy of getting passes from his sometimes flaky teammates, but when he gets the ball in the post, he can be lethal. Morris is the centerpiece of any Kentucky success, as he is the Wildcats' only low-post threat. Staying out of foul trouble will be absolutely imperative if Kentucky wants to advance in the NCAA tournament.

If Morris has a big tournament (20-10 type numbers), he could hear his name bandied about again since NBA teams are eternally looking for offensively gifted big men. But he has expressed -- and most observers would agree -- that he has much to work on. Defensively, Morris is not yet strong enough or consistent enough to stay on the floor, much less dominate. And his rebounding for a big man is spotty at best. Morris' gifts are a deft shooting touch from mid-range, good footwork and fluid athleticism for a player his size. If he can address his weaknesses, he can be an NBA starter in the frontcourt. A blowout tournament could change the timing of his going pro, and mean everything to a Kentucky team looking for an identity.

Joe Crawford, 6-4, sophomore, shooting guard (Undrafted?)

A sleeper to watch is emerging shooting guard Joe Crawford. Crawford was among the nation's top recruits in 2004, and was a high school teammate of Oregon's Malik Hairston. A slow start keeps the Detroit native under the radar, but he has improved his shooting as the season has come to a close. In the SEC tournament, Crawford proved valuable as a deep threat, though he is prone to disappear for stretches. He's no threat to go pro yet, but with several senior guards departing, the starting shooting guard spot is Crawford's next year. In the meantime, Crawford's improvement from deep could be key to Kentucky's tournament hopes, and could get him some more exposure in the bright spotlight of the NCAAs.

#5 Washington

Jonathan Watters

Brandon Roy, 6-6, senior, shooting guard, (top 10 pick?)


While Brandon Roy has received his rightful due with plenty of First Team All-America honors, it appears that he is still operating under the radar a bit. Make no mistake about it, Brandon Roy is one the most complete players in the nation. He breaks down defenses off the dribble, handles the ball, hits the outside jumper, and defends four positions. What NBA scouts will be looking for in this tournament from Roy is that ability to take over, something that he has shown from time to time in Pac-10 play. He still appears content to blend in with his teammates in most situations, so a couple of big time scoring performances on the biggest of stages would probably cement his status as a legitimate lottery caliber prospect for this June's draft. With a 2nd round matchup against Illinois looming, Roy certainly has his work cut out for him.

Bobby Jones, 6-6, senior, small forward, (2nd round pick?)

It hasn't been a great season for Bobby Jones. Always known as more of a defensive specialist, many expected to see more from him on the offensive end this season. Where Brandon Roy stepped into the go-to scoring role with all sorts of success, Jones has actually regressed. His scoring average has dropped, and he has gone cold from the perimeter. One has to wonder if he has the skill to become a full time perimeter player in the NBA, particularly in terms of his ball-handling skills. Jones has plenty of time to turn things around, and a solid offensive showing in the NCAA Tournament would be a good start.

#4 Illinois

Jonathan Givony

Dee Brown, 6-0, senior, point guard, (2006 first round pick?)


Another one of the players who stand more to gain or lose than almost anyone else in this tournament, this will be Dee Brown's last shot to show NBA scouts, GMs and executives that he has fully mastered the point guard position and is able to lead a team on a deep run with him at the helm.

Brown has struggled at times this year mixing up his scoring with his passing; all too often it appeared that he is only capable of doing one or another. He has gotten better and better at this as the year has gone on, though, and was the main reason why Illinois did not lose much of a beat and will go into the tournament with a good seed and the high expectations of a potential return to the final four.

Brown's shooting percentages have taken the biggest dip this year, as his inability to create high percentage shots for himself and his teammates off the dribble with the shot clock running down has seen him force many tough, contested shots from well beyond the NCAA 3-point arc. In the NBA he most likely won't have to handle the ball as much as he has for an Illinois team that plays terrific defense and likes to grind it out at times on the offensive end, and Brown has shown the ability to effectively control the tempo of the game to Bruce Weber's liking and still play his trademark pesky pressure defense.

A natural born leader, Brown will be followed closely by NBA personnel, basketball fans, and the national media alike. He has a tough task ahead of him, but a solid showing here will likely solidify his spot in the first round of the 2006 draft.

James Augustine, 6-10, senior, PF/C- (2006 late 1st round pick?)

A player whose exit from last year's tournament likely left a very sour taste in his mouth considering the manner in which it happened, Augustine will be looking to capitalize on a solid, but unspectacular senior year that saw him raise his draft stock to the point that he appears to be knocking on the door of the 1st round.

Showing good size, a nice frame and very solid athleticism, intriguing the scouts was never going to be a difficult task for the 4 year senior and all-time leading rebounder in Illinois history.

Being assertive asking for the ball on the offensive end, using his skills to score with his excellent left-handed jump-hook, continuing to rebound and pass the ball steadily and being the anchor of Illinois' outstanding defense are the tasks that Augustine has at hand in this tournament. Helping his team to a deep tournament run will help make scouts forget about last year's 5 foul, 9 minute debacle against Sean May in the tournament, as well as give him some great momentum to kick off the NBA draft process.

#6 Michigan State

Jonathan Watters

Shannon Brown, 6-4, junior, shooting guard, (Future 1st round pick)


While it has largely been a disappointing season for Michigan State, Shannon Brown is one player that has stepped up his game and perhaps exceeded individual expectations. Where Brown was very much a one dimensional athlete a season ago, he became Tom Izzo's most consistent scoring option as a junior. Instead of deferring to his teammates, Brown improved his off the dribble scoring game, became a much more consistent outside shooter, and displayed much more of an attacking mentality.

Brown might be the only Spartan that can consistently create his own offense in the halfcourt setting. Michigan State does have manageable road to the Elite Eight, and it will be Brown that gets them there. With a nice Tourney run and a few highlight reel dunks thrown in for good measure, Shannon Brown could easily be one of March’s highest risers in terms of NBA stock.

Maurice Ager, 6-5, senior, SG/SF, (2006 first round pick?)

After a scintillating start to the season, Maurice Ager didn't have the type of Big Ten season that many were expecting. Ager relied far too much on his outside shot, and rarely attacked the basket in the half-court. He possesses a decent midrange game, but rarely utilizes it the way he should. Ager struggles when he can't get up and down the court, and played poorly in games where teams were successful in slowing down the tempo. He picked up his production down the stretch, but some serious flaws had already been exposed.

Ager looked great against North Carolina in the Tournament a season ago, and could manage a repeat performance if the two teams do in fact meet in the second round. However, unless he can muster another "Gonzaga-esque" outing or two, Maurice Ager's stock is likely limited to the latter portion of the first round.

Paul Davis, 6-11, senior, PF/C, (2006 first round pick)

It seems like Davis has been on mock drafts for forever, and that we have been waiting for him to break out just as long. Statistically at least, this finally happened in 2006.

Davis has a formidable combination of size and skill, with range out to the college 3-point line and a deadly midrange jumper. Unfortunately, the Spartans have been lacking in the paint this season. Davis is definitely more of a finesse big man, and another post producer hasn't emerged in the frontcourt. At times he can dominate physically, but we have yet to see it on a consistent basis. A deep tourney run would do wonders for Paul Davis' draft stock.

#3 North Carolina

Jonathan Watters

Reyshawn Terry, 6-8, junior, small forward, (2007 late first round pick?)


Instead of starting off the Tar Heel section with a player that has already broken out, let's begin with a player who is certainly flying under the radar at the moment. Reyshawn Terry was nothing more than a cheerleader on last year's national championship squad, but has really come into his own over the second half of the 2006 season. Despite playing just 24 minutes per game, Terry is averaging nearly 15 points and 6 rebounds on the season.

Terry has prototypical small forward size, coming in at a chiseled 6'8. His athleticism is definitely NBA caliber, and while he still needs to work on polishing off his perimeter skill-set a bit more, his shooting percentages (50% FG's, 79% FT's, 40% 3-pt) are superb. He knows how to slash to the basket, has the potential to be an excellent defender, and really only needs major work as a ball-handler. On the whole, we have a player that is on the verge of emerging as a Caron Butler-style power wing.

We all know that Tyler Hansbrough is the top dog on this North Carolina squad, but don't be surprised to see Reyshawn Terry make a few waves of his own in this tournament. With another year of development, particularly to help reduce the metal lapses he suffers from at times, Terry could end up being a first round caliber prospect.

Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9, freshman, power forward, (Future first round pick)

I've gushed enough about Hansbrough this season. His position as one of the top big men in the country is secure, and he is going to be a first round pick someday. As a freshman, all he has left to do is lead his team to NCAA Tournament success. Very few freshmen do, but Hansbrough has defied conventional wisdom all season. If you think you know Hansbrough's game already, watch for signs of a perimeter game. There have been flashes lately. If you haven't seen Hansbrough yet, make sure you check him out this March. He's a big-time player in every sense of the word, and I can promise that you won't be disappointed.

David Noel, 6-6, senior, small forward, (Undrafted)

The one contributing holdover from last year's tourney team, David Noel isn't quite the prospect that Terry and Hansbrough are, but he is certain to get some NBA interest this spring nonetheless. Noel is as strong a wing as you will find in this tournament, and combined with his leaping ability and body control it is easy to see why many had him pegged for a professional football career coming out of high school. He's a bit of a tweener on the basketball court, more comfortable using his explosiveness around the basket than playing the traditional wing role. Nonetheless, he does have range out to the college 3-point line and could end up as a defense-oriented role-player at the next level.

#7 Wichita State

Jonathan Watters

Paul Miller, 6-10, senior, center, (Undrafted)

While the Missouri Valley conference Player of the Year probably isn't going to be setting the world on fire this spring, he is somebody to keep an eye on. As Wichita State's top scoring option, Miller can do a lot of things well in the paint. He is more than willing to bang in the paint with his 6'10, 250 pound frame, but also has nice touch facing the basket. Miller isn't an outstanding athlete and there isn't one standout aspect of his game, but he could definitely make enough noise in this tournament to earn an invite to Portsmouth.

#2 Tennessee

Jonathan Givony

CJ Watson, 6-2, senior, point guard, (Undrafted)


One of the most steady and more under-appreciated floor generals in this tournament, CJ Watson is exactly the type of player most coaches would love to have running their team. Nothing he does really jumps out at you, but at the end of the day he just gets the job done, to the tune of 15 points a game with a near 2/1 assist to turnover ratio and superb percentages from the field (47% FG, 43% 3P, 87% FT). He's smart, opportunistic, unselfish, and plays both ends of the floor. Watson doesn't really stand out as a great draft prospect from what we've seen (he's a clear cut 1 1/2, with good, but not great athleticism) but he will surely get his chances to show what he can do at either or both of the NBA pre-draft camps, as well as private workouts.

Chris Lofton, 6-2, sophomore, shooting guard, (Undrafted)

Despite the fact that few outside of the SEC know his name, Lofton has made a great case for himself all year long to be considered the best perimeter shooter in the country. At over 45% from behind the arc on over 8 attempts per game, not to mention shooting 48% from the field and 92% from the free throw line, Lofton's numbers compare favorably with anyone in the country. When you consider his 17 points per game and the fact that his team earned a shocking #2 overall seed, it's shocking that he isn't garnering more national attention than he has this year. The scary part is, Lofton is only a sophomore, and is considered a likely 4-year player at Tennessee.

Lofton is exactly the type of player who can take over an NCAA tournament game and win it by himself with his deadly stroke, so look for Tennessee to be in any game they play in until the very last minute. Next year Lofton will probably have to learn how to play the point, at least in spurts, as the Vols will have no true playmaker on their roster, so it's possible that he might develop into a better NBA prospect if he can show that he is more of a combo guard than a shooting guard.

#15 Winthrop

Jonathan Givony

Torrell Martin, 6-5, junior, shooting guard (2007 2nd round pick?)


A largely unknown player to most college basketball fans around the country, Martin has a great chance to both show NCAA coaches that they erred in underrecruiting him as well as gain some significant momentum to his personal NBA aspirations with a big-time showdown against top-seeded Tennessee. Showing good athletic ability, nice defensive skills and a terrific stroke from the perimeter, Martin will likely again be the focal point of the Volunteer perimeter defense that should be on upset alert if they expect to make it to the next round. A classic streak shooter, if Martin heats up Winthrop will be a very tough team for any opponent to take down despite the low seed they will garner.

Craig Bradshaw, 6-10, power forward, junior (2007 2nd round pick?)

Showing a solid frame, a sweet perimeter stroke and solid athletic ability, this New Zealand native is not the typical big man you'd expect to be playing for a low seeded team like Winthrop. Bradshaw is not the toughest or most consistent player in the world, but is still not one to be taken lightly considering his mismatch potential.

Still flying under the radar for the most part as far as NBA scouts are concerned, this is a great opportunity for Bradshaw to show what he can do outside of the Big South. A good showing here will place him firmly on the itineraries for NBA teams to visit and watch closely in 06-07.

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