With the Sweet 16 upon us and the end of the NBA season rapidly approaching (didn’t it seem like this season last like a month?), this will be your (and NBA scouts for that matter) last few chances to see some of the top prospects play real competition. I have never been a “workout” guy. I go by what I see on the court.
With 16 teams left, I thought it would be a good time to take a look into who is left in terms of NBA prospects the Cavaliers could be interested in with four draft picks this June (two first rounders and two second rounders). If the season ended today, the Cavs would have the eighth worst record in the NBA. So unless they essentially end up losing out the rest of the way, they will be picking somewhere between sixth and ninth with their first selection.
The first part of this series, we looked at the #1 Kentucky Wildcats. Up next is the only other team with the NBA prospects to match the Cats, The North Carolina Tar Heels.
Gotta give ole’ Roy Williams credit. He has assembled quite the litter of talent in Chapel Hill. Best of all for him, he has seen most of these players stick around for more than a year, which isn’t the norm in this day and age. Everyone thought he had a one-and-done guy in SF Harrison Barnes (Draft Express #6), but the kid from Ames, Iowa bucked the trend, and stayed in school despite knowing he could possibly go #1 overall. Had Barnes been available, GM Chris Grant and Head Coach Byron Scott would have had a very interesting choice on their hands between Barnes and Kyrie Irving.
It turned out great for the Cavs and not so great for Barnes. While he is one of the best scorers in the country and has the size and body to be a natural NBA three, question marks surround his game that you weren’t hearing at this time last year. Does he settle too often for long jumpers? Why doesn’t he take the ball to the hole more? Can he handle the defensive rigors of the NBA (Roy’s team is not exactly know for its D)? However, Roy Williams, like his mentor Dean Smith, has been a noted star-killer. Ask Paul Pierce.
With all of that said, if the Cavs could somehow get their hands on him, they could plug him into the small forward spot from day one and he’d be the perfect offensive compliment to Kyrie.
The Heels have two injured players that we will most likely not see the best of. Super-Skinny PF John Henson (Draft Express #8) didn’t play in UNC’s first game because of his sprained wrist, but came back to score 13 points and grab 10 boards in the round of 32 win over Creighton. He is a guy that I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of. Henson’s offensive game has improved since his Freshman season, but it is still very limited. He is not going to hit a face-up jumper and his back to the basket moves need work. That will come with body development, but he needs to put on some serious weight. Defensively, Henson is a shot-blocking monster and a solid rebounder. The Cavs could consider him as the Center next to Tristan Thompson, but he will need a few years to develop. He is not ready for big minutes right away. To me he is just too skinny and raw offensively.
The real shame of the rest of the tournament is that UNC could be without their most indispensable player, PG Kendall Marshall (Draft Express #14). The left-hander is the most gifted passer in the country. In fact, I haven’t seen a pass-first point guard run an offense better in the college game in the past decade. He is so smooth and under control with the ball. My best comparison for him is Jason Kidd, a guy who could run the floor for days and seemed to have eyes in the back of his head. Neither are great scorers, but both can put the ball in the hole if needed. Marshall’s long range shooting will never wow anyone, but he hits just enough to keep defenses from sagging off of him. He’s not a fit for the Cavs with Irving in the fold, but nevertheless he is fun to watch. We just may not see him again this tournament thanks to the broken right-hand he suffered on Sunday.
The guy who has really helped his stock with a big Senior year is C Tyler Zeller (Draft Express #10). A true seven-footer, Zeller has a bevy of back to the basket post moves that NBA scouts love. He runs the floor as well as any big in the country and is the perfect big man for the Roy Williams secondary break offense. Like so many college centers, he needs to bulk up a bit and could get bodied up pretty hard at the next level, but there is no doubt the kid can score. I can see the Cavs having interest in him in the middle.
Williams has another under the radar NBA prospect in bench player PF James Michael McAdoo. The Freshman and former McDonald’s All-American plays just 15 minutes per game, but when he comes on the floor, you can see flashes of brilliance. Its tough to play behind Henson and Zeller and get noticed, but banging with these two in practice will only help him long term. In Henson’s absence in their first NCAA Tournament game, McAdoo scored 17 points in 23 minutes and looked like an NBA prospect. Best advice for him would be to stay in school and thrive as the Heels #1 scoring option next year, with Henson, Zeller, and Barnes all gone.
Between UNC and Kentucky, you are looking at 10 potential NBA draft picks. Pretty incredible.