March Madness is always a crazy time for everyone who pays attention to the sport of basketball, or even just the casual sports fan. This article will highlight which players have showcased their skill set on a more national stage, and played raised their stock for the 2016 NBA Draft.
Buddy Hield- Buddy Hield was sensational in Oklahoma’s path to the Elite Eight, and his show did not stop there. He made eight three’s to tie the record, set by Bo Kimble in 1990, had 37 points in an Elite Eight matchup, which is the most since 1990, and he becomes the first player in 25 years to average 25 points per game, and led his team to the final four. Hield is not your normal March Madness star, this moment has been boiling ever since Hield was a freshman at Oklahoma. The month of March is dominated by the potency of your three ball. Hield has worked himself from a 23.8% three shooter his freshmen year, to an astounding 46.5% for this season. Not only has he become more efficient form three, Hield has increased his scoring averages, rebounds per game average, and field goal efficiency in all four years. Hield may not blow you away with crazy athleticism, like some of the other top prospects in the draft, but Hield brings in a tough work ethic, leadership, and a proven potent offensive attack. Hield started this season as a fringe first round pick, but has since played himself into top ten consideration. If Hield can continue this torrid pace, he might just sneak into the top five come draft day, as every NBA team could use another scorer, and none as desperately as the current bottom five.
Marquese Chriss- Marquese Chriss has flown from many boards thinking he would stay for at least another year at Washington, to top ten, late lottery at the worst. Chriss’s rise has become largely dependent on his athleticism and potential, as many prospects are. For the month of March, Chriss averaged, 18.4 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, 1.4 blocks per game game, while shooting 49.0% from the field, and 33.3% from three. At 6’9, and 225 pounds, Chriss has the NBA body to bang down low, as well as being fluid in running the court. His athleticism would be a day one mismatch for many opposing power forwards, and this is only amplified by his ability to consistently knock down the three ball. Chriss still has a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. He is averaged 4.1 fouls per game this season, in only 24.9 minutes per game. He has shown good shot blocking instincts, by lacks control of his body, causing him to get in foul trouble early. Although you saw in uptick in his rebounding average for March, Chriss has not been as dominant as his body would suggest, with only 5.4 rebounds per game on his season average. Chriss is a dominate prospect going forward if he can learn to control his body, and this has him in lottery consideration, but for whatever team selects him, they will need to understand he is a work in progress.
Domantas Sabonis- Domantas Sabonis has been terrific all season for Gonzaga, but there is just not a lot of media coverage of the Zags, so his talent was missed by a lot of casual fans. For the season, Sabonis averaged, 17.6 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game, 1.8 assists per game, while shooting 61.1% from the field, and 35.7% from three. Although his three point percentage indicates Sabonis is a capable stretch-four, Sabonis is rarely seen at the three point line, and you are more likely to see put-backs, or jumpers from the Bulldog star. In his likely last performance for Gonzaga, Sabonis dropped 19 points to pair with 17 rebounds in a heartbreaking loss to Syracuse. Sabonis has great offensive and rebounding abilities, but is still a work in progress with his defensive ability. Due to his perceived low ceiling, Sabonis has spent much of the season in the mid-twenties for his draft stock, but has since played himself into a late lottery contention. The teams in the current 10-14 lottery standings would love to get their hands on Sabonis to instantly give them a offensive bench piece, until his game becomes more well-rounded.
Jamal Murray- Jamal was considered a top ten pick coming into the season as a freshman, but over the course of the season, Murray started to fall all over the place. Besides his shooting slump against Indiana, one where he still netted 16 points, Murray has been shooting lights out all season for a combo guard. For the season, Murray averaged, 20.0 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 2.2 assists per game, while shooting 45.5% from the field, and 40.8% from three. As his stats show, Murray has not shown a great ability to be a player maker at the college level, this could be from sharing the backcourt with Tyler Ulis, but teams need to keep this in mind if they are looking for a point guard for their future. Although he might not create a lot for his teammates, Murray has shown the confidence, and ability to knock down any shot from anywhere on the court. Murray’s dominant freshman season, has now all but sealed his fate as a top six pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, instead of the 8-12 range he was looked upon for the past few months.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17