Final Four Prospect Preview

Kevin C. Cox

There are several NBA prospects still playing on the NCAA Tournament's final weekend. Here is a quick view of them from a Hawks perspective.

A quick look at the prospects involved in Final Four weekend, how they are projected, and how they might fit with the Hawks:

Florida Gators versus Connecticut Huskies, 6:00 p.m. Eastern

FLORIDA

Scottie Wilbekin (6'2, 175), PG, SR Wilbekin celebrates his 21st birthday as the Gators take the court in the Final Four. Unlikely to be drafted in most projections, the point guard is one of several seniors who will have as good a chance to make an NBA roster as some players who will be drafted. Wilbekin is an outstanding defensive player with great handles and no fear of taking over in big moments. Off-court issues throughout his career have harmed his draft outlook along with an inconsistent perimeter jumper and no elite skill. Wilbekin does most things well that is needed from a point guard and may benefit from being a free agent more than being drafted late. If the Hawks did not have a glut at the point guard position, he is a player I would want to see on the summer league roster. I expect to see Wilbekin on an NBA roster at some point in the next 2 years.

Patric Young (6'9, 249), C, SR Young is a smart, hard-working leader in a chiseled frame. He is a coach's dream who does everything asked of him. I have done everything I can to try and justify moving him up the board, but the deeper you look at his production the more his weaknesses appear. He is an overrated rim protector statistically and average rebounder. He cannot score outside 8 feet from the basket--including the free throw line where he is awful. He commits bad fouls and statistically declined in nearly every category this season. He has lottery character and a first-round frame mixed with second-round athleticism and a free-agent skill set. The scout in me struggles to see how his game will translate successfully to the next level, but the fan would certainly be okay with acquiring a player who does this:

Florida Basketball: Patric Young Amazing Effort (via FLGatorsAthletics)

Casey Prather (6'5, 189), SF, SR Prather is not much of an NBA prospect beyond the fact that playing for Donovan makes any good athlete intriguing. He has the athletic ability for the NBA, but is limited in ways similar to Young. He almost exclusively scores at the basket and would have to greatly expand his shooting range to offer anything to an NBA team. He is a good college defender, but has mostly flashed skills of being average at the next level. Prather would be best served to go to Europe and see if he can find a place to expand his game to become more attractive to the NBA.

Chris Walker (6'9, 205), PF, FR Walker was not eligible to play until the middle of the conference season. A potential lottery pick when the season began, Chris has only been able to show what he can do in flashes. However, he could probably move up the board as quickly as anyone this weekend if able to produce in the event he is given such an opportunity. Walker will likely return to Florida next season and be featured on a young team along with fellow freshman Kasey Hill and sophomores Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier. If he is the center-piece of the Gators next season, he will likely be a lottery choice in the 2015 NBA Draft.

UCONN

Deandre Daniels (6'8, 193), SF, JR Daniels is unlikely to declare early for the draft unless he has an explosive weekend. He has helped his stock during March Madness and is viewed as a potential first-round choice in 2015. A tremendous athlete with a long frame, his skills and production are beginning to meet his potential. He has dramatically reduced his negative offensive plays and his numbers defensively are now a result of a team player more than someone seeking to get his own numbers. With the Hawks likely selecting between 39-42 no matter what happens with the playoff situation, Daniels would certainly be a player for the Hawks to consider if he should declare early for the draft.

Shabazz Napier (6'1, 182), PG, SR I was never a big fan of Napier until watching him in conference play this season. For all the comparison to Kemba Walker, he never showed an ability to play off the ball as Kemba did--until this season. Napier is the clear player of the tournament so far and has dramatically improved his abilities as a facilitator. His assists have improved slightly, but his "hockey assists" are way up as he more willingly gives up the ball. UConn has continued the winning culture manufactured by Calhoun, but Kevin Ollie has added a lot of NBA sets to what they do in the half court. This has helped Napier a great deal as a prospect. Napier is currently projected in the middle of the second round, but a team in need of a point guard would be wise to snag him sooner. The Hawks do not have a need for Napier's position, but Atlanta fans do not want to see the Magic get him early in the second round. We do not need need Orlando to get a good point guard and we have already seen enough of this against us this year:

Shabazz Napier Buzzer-Beater Against Villanova (via turboeidsonas)

Kentucky Wildcats versus Wisconsin Badgers, 8:30 p.m. Eastern

KENTUCKY

Julius Randle (6'9, 248), PF, FR A Webber-like comparison preceded the expectations for Randle in college. Big Julius as Calipari has often called him struggled against double and even triple teams through much of the season, but still found his way to stacking up 24 double-doubles. In the last month, he has shown some of the same passing skills that made Webber such a special player. He is ready for the NBA offensively, but has a lot of work to do on the defensive end. A poor rim protector who reacts slowly (not lazily) in the defensive post, Randle's NBA success will be tied to how well he applies his physical gifts on the defensive end. The Hawks have little chance of being in position to draft Randle, but he is a unique talent that Atlanta would want to take irregardless of position and fit.

Willie Cauley-Stein (7'0, 244), C, SO I wrote a full profile on Willie earlier in the season. In a prolonged slump at the time of the review, Cauley-Stein has been much more productive since January. He is a game-time decision against Wisconsin after missing last weekend's games due to an ankle injury. Beyond an occasional flash of a post move, Cauley-Stein is a mostly terrible scorer who relies on offensive rebounding to chase points. Defensively, he shows elite skills for stretches and then has games that he disappears--particularly when smaller, thicker athletes lean on him. His ability to stay in front of smaller players on the perimeter is what makes him an intriguing prospect. Many boards have him as a lottery player, but I think there are 20-25 prospects that should be considered ahead of him. He would be a good fit for the Hawks as a third post player, but it is hard to justify using a top-20 pick in a deep draft on a player who can only help on one end of the court and has to be taken off the floor at winning time due to horrendous free throw shooting. Cauley-Stein is a really good student who could choose to return to school, especially with his inability to play due to the ankle injury.

Andrew Harrison (6'5, 207), PG, FR Andrew was a top-10 pick to start the season and spent most of it being the biggest disappointment of the presumed one-and-done players. Entering March, it was difficult to see any justification for the hype. He has had a good tournament showing dramatic improvement at making decisions in the open floor and finishing in the half court. He is now distributing the ball off of penetration or drawing fouls and knocking down free throws. I am not sold that Andrew has arrived and is worthy of being a late first-round selection, but some now have him graded that high. If he continues his recent play through another weekend, some team may certainly jump at the chance to draft a player viewed to have lottery talent. The Hawks are not likely to be among them.

Aaron Harrison (6'5, 210), SG, FR Aaron was the lesser of the twins when arriving at Kentucky, but has been the more productive player. He is an underrated defender who has shown more toughness than his brother. As the nation discovered against Michigan, he is a handful to defend when his shot is falling. Mostly viewed as a late first or early second round pick, he certainly could fit the Hawks needs and profile for players who can both shoot and defend. Like his brother, he could benefit greatly from another productive weekend. If he does choose to go pro early, I am not sure he has risen to the point of being considered around pick #15 but has earned a more serious look.

Dakari Johnson (6'11, 263), C, FR Like nearly every other Wildcat freshman, Johnson has looked like a different player for the last month. Dakari is a very physical defender who plays well vertically, especially for a freshman. He is good rebounder and shot blocker who does not chase the ball. He gets lost in space on defense and is awful defending pick-and-roll (this is going to be a problem if he is matched up on Kaminsky). Offensively, he has consistently improved and should eventually be productive in the post while not highly skilled in any specific area. He has no shooting ability away from the basket and is painfully bad on the free throw line. Not likely to go in the first round, Johnson will likely return to Kentucky and has a good chance to earn first-round status next season.

Alex Poythress (6'8, 239), SF/PF, SO If the NBA had not put in a rule forcing players to be a year removed from high school before being drafted, Poythress like would have gone in the lottery of the 2012 NBA Draft. Instead, he ended up at Kentucky where he had a mostly disappointing freshman year. He has received less playing time as a sophomore but become an essential player off the bench. He is an outstanding athlete who has embraced the physicality of the game this season and become a better finisher. If he goes pro early, he will be a second round pick. He is likely to return for another season and could play his way into the lottery or out of the draft next year.

James Young (6'7, 202), SG, FR I love him, think he fits Hawks needs well, and is a high-floor wing with STAR potential. I am not even sure why teams consider him a prospect. The basketball weeps when he touches it. I compared him to Duke's Rodney Hood a few weeks ago in this draft profile.

WISCONSIN

Frank Kaminsky (7'0, 234), C, JR I am not a hater. In fact, I have viewed him as a prospect ranked in the 40s-50s for a couple of months now and wondered why so few had him ranked at all. BUT PLEASE BACK UP THE LOVE TRAIN. He was awesome against Arizona and has been really good all month, but the game against Arizona was the second double-double of his career. He is an average rebounder for a 7-footer who gets most his blocks as a secondary defender and relies on his hands as much as his feet on the perimeter. The latter issue gets him in foul trouble if teams attack him. His potential is still mostly as a "stretch 5" who possesses a better post game than others with the description. If you look at Jon Leuer's numbers his junior season at Wisconsin, they are virtually identical. Before raising him up the draft board, I would like to see him play at an elite level for more than a weekend. I do not think he will leave early as there is no guarantee that he will go in first round.

Sam Dekker (6'7, 200), SF, SO Dekker is a really, solid player whose athleticism is undervalued. He is a little trapped into being a player who does everything well, but nothing at an elite level. Most good NBA players who played more than 2 seasons showed significant improvement from there freshman to sophomore seasons. Dekker has looked mostly like the same player he was as a freshman. Barring an explosion of ability displayed this weekend, Dekker will probably be back in Madison next year as a player to keep an eye on.

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