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2017 NBA Draft: 25 Players to Watch in March Madness

Matt McEwan

by Matt McEwan in NBA Basketball

Mar 18, 2017 · 5:55 AM PDT

Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Frank Jackson
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Though the players are strictly focused on winning a National Championship, like always, NBA scouts will be watching and grading a number of guys participating in March Madness.

We have seen players such as Kemba Walker and Buddy Hield put together incredible runs in March to boost their draft stock. Does anyone from this potential class have the same magic in them?

Here are 25 players hoping to use the big dance to rise in the draft standings.

Lonzo Ball, PG (UCLA, FR)

The UCLA star is going to be a very good pro, but I’m not ready to say he’ll be better than Steph Curry. Ball has tremendous court vision, range, and excels when playing fast. This is the star point guard any team would want.

In order to jump Markelle Fultz on draft boards, Ball might have to lead his Bruins to a National Championship. That, and get his father to stop talking. The former is more likely.

O/U draft position: 1.5

Jayson Tatum, SF (Duke, FR)

Tatum is Duke’s most dynamic scorer, displaying the ability to score from just about anywhere on the court. His impressive run in the ACC Tournament already has his stock rising. If he continues to prove he can shoulder an offense, Tatum will be the first non-point guard off the board, ahead of Josh Jackson (Kansas).

O/U draft position: 3.5

Josh Jackson, SF (Kansas, FR)

The freshman is arguably the best two-way player in this year’s draft. Jackson has drawn comparisons to Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler for his athleticism and effort on the defensive end.

It’s currently between him and Jayson Tatum for the third-overall pick. Jackson has shown improvement from behind the arc, but will need to prove he can make teams pay for sending him to the charity stripe (56-percent FT%).

O/U draft position: 3.5

Malik Monk, SG (Kentucky, FR)

The SEC Player of the Year is one of the best shooters in the draft. His stock will rise in the tournament if he shows he can defend bigger guards. He has the potential to be the darling of the dance, and if that’s the case, expect to see him in the top-five come June.

O/U draft position: 6.5

Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF (Florida State, FR)

Thanks to his length (6’11” height, 7’1″ wingspan), the lanky Seminole is receiving comparisons to Kevin Durant. As a bit of a tweener, Isaac will have to prove he can guard more physical forwards throughout the tournament to get himself in the top-five.

O/U draft position: 6.5

De’Aaron Fox, PG (Kentucky, FR)

Like his last name suggests, Fox is lightning quick and loves to push the tempo; but he has no semblance of a jump shot and is awful from three for a guard (24.2-percent 3P%). If he can sprout a jumper in the tournament, the 19-year-old could easily catapult into the top-four.

O/U draft position: 6.5

Lauri Markkanen, PF (Arizona, FR)

We’re all aware of what Markkanen can do on the offensive end; if he can continue to be tough on the defensive glass, the 7-footer has a shot to go early.

O/U draft position: 6.5

TJ Leaf, PF (UCLA, FR)

Leaf is much more than Lonzo Ball’s sidekick; he has consistently been one of UCLA’s best players, and has a tremendous basketball IQ. One thing the 6’10” forward needs to show in the tournament is that he can protect the rim.

O/U draft position: 10.5

Miles Bridges, PF (Michigan State, FR)

Under Tom Izzo, Bridges’ game has evolved very nicely. He needs to keep driving instead of settling for jumpers and show the ability to defend any forward/center to boost his stock.

O/U draft position: 13.5

Harry Giles, PF (Duke, FR)

Giles is the biggest wildcard in this year’s draft. He has the potential to be a top-three pick, but injuries have prevented him from reaching that potential. If he can get healthy and show off some of his supreme athleticism, he’ll keep moving up draft boards.

O/U draft position: 15.5

Justin Jackson, SF (North Carolina, JR)

The ACC Player of the Year has taken a huge leap in his junior year, but his field-goal percentage has dropped in each of his three seasons. Jackson needs to play within himself and take efficient shots to tempt NBA general managers.

O/U draft position: 15.5

Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, PF/C (Kentucky, FR)

“Bam” is very similar to Bismack Biyombo: a versatile defender, but severely limited offensively. Scouts will be watching to see if he can put together a little bit of a low-post game.

O/U draft position: 16.5

Luke Kennard, SG (Duke, SO)

Kennard has made progress in his sophomore year, becoming arguably the best shooter on the board. He can’t fix his athleticism over night, but he can improve his stock by showing he can cover more athletic guards.

O/U draft position: 18.5

Justin Patton, C (Creighton, FR)

Patton has the size and athleticism that scouts drool over. If he can knock down some free throws in big situations, it may make some forget his lowly 51.2-percent rate from the charity stripe.

O/U draft position: 20.5

Donovan Mitchell, SG (Louisville, SO)

Though he is often relied upon to create offense, Mitchell easily falls in love with contested shots. The Cardinal needs to play smart throughout the tournament, but it might be a challenge, as this is his first dance.

O/U draft position: 25.5

Johnathan Motley, PF (Baylor, JR)

Motley is a bit undersized and it shows on the defensive end. If he can use his athleticism to his advantage on that end of the floor more often, and stretch the floor a little more offensively, the Bear will shoot up boards.

O/U draft position: 26.5

Grayson Allen, SG (Duke, JR)

What does Grayson Allen need to do in the tournament to improve his stock? Stop kicking/tripping opponents would be a good start. But seriously, Allen needs to remain composed during emotional swings.

O/U draft position: 28.5

Caleb Swanigan, PF/C (Purdue, SO)

While he’s the Big Ten Player of the Year, Swanigan still needs to show the intelligence and ability to pass out of double-teams and unfavorable positioning. Better defense, generally, would also help.

O/U draft position: 30.5

Dwayne Bacon, SG (Florida State, SO)

Bacon [editor’s note: yum] has really improved his range this season. Scouts will be looking for the talented scorer to distribute a little more in the big dance.

O/U draft position: 30.5

Josh Hart, SG/SF (Villanova, SR)

There is nothing Hart can do about being 22 years old, but he can prove his athleticism isn’t anything to worry about.

O/U draft position: 40.5

Wesley Iwundu, SF (Kansas State, SR)

His stats – over 1,000 points in his college career – prove he’s good. He still needs to show he can consistently stretch the floor.

O/U draft position: 40.5

Nigel Williams-Goss, PG (Gonzaga, JR)

The WCC Player of the Year lacks the explosive first step required to thrive at point guard in the NBA. He can help his case by showcasing his jumper, though.

O/U draft position: 45.5

Dillon Brooks, SF/PF (Oregon, JR)

Listed as a forward, the Canadian is just 6’6″ (or 6’7″ depending on who you ask). Brooks will need to prove he can defend quicker players to be given a legitimate look by the NBA.

O/U draft position: 50.5

Frank Mason III, PG (Kansas, SR)

There is nothing Mason can do about his 5’11” stature. All he can do is continue shouldering the offensive load for one of the best teams in the country. Winning national Player of the Year never hurts, either.

O/U draft position: 52.5

Ethan Happ, F (Wisconsin)

Happ needs to prove to scouts he can score outside of the paint. At 6’8″, the Badger won’t be getting the ball with his back to the basket too often in the pros.

O/U draft position: 60.5

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