The NBA Draft lasting just two rounds means 60 players are taken by NBA teams. 60, that’s it.
There are 350 college basketball teams, and 15 players on each team. In division one alone, there are 5,250 athletes competing for those 60 spots. That means if the NBA were limited to only division one athletes (which it is not), 1% of players would be drafted.
Everyone else would have to work their way into finding contracts with teams, working up through the G-league, playing overseas, or beginning a new career outside of playing basketball. Many of the top players in the upcoming draft will be playing in March, which could either hurt or help their NBA draft stock. Here are the players who have the most to lose from performances in March Madness.
AJ Griffin (SF, Duke)
Griffin had a very rough start to the year. He was one of the top-ranked prospects coming out of high school but lost his starting spot to impact freshman Trevor Keels. After Keels got hurt for a bit, Griffin moved into the starting lineup and blossomed.
His confidence rose, and as did his shooting percentages. Griffin went from a possible top-five pick to a bust, back to top-five consideration. If Griffin plays well in March, he could go as high as number four. If he plays poorly, his stock might drop so far, forcing him to stay another year in Durham.
Paolo Banchero (PF, Duke)
Similarly to Griffin, Banchero was one of the most intriguing players in his high school class, earning him a scholarship to the esteemed Duke University. Banchero’s season has had its up and downs, but he’s one of the top scorers in the ACC and Duke’s go-to guy down the stretch.
He needs to really want the ball more, which has caused some draft scouts to drop him in their mock drafts. He has elite skill and elite athleticism at 6’10”; he’s an NBA-ready player right now with his size and skill.
If he stays aggressive and takes smart shots, he will carry Duke far into the tournament. If Duke goes far, it means Banchero has taken them there, and he could go as high as the first overall pick. If his struggles manifest though, Banchero could fall a couple of spots, and possibly out of the top-five, a fall that just a month ago no one would’ve expected.
Jaden Ivey (PG/SG, Purdue)
The Boilermakers have been inconsistent, but Ivey always gets his buckets. Whether or not he’s efficient though is a different story. Ivey may be the best player in the country, and if he shows that throughout March and possibly into April, he can be a top-three pick.
He has a ton of size and length for his position. He has a great vertical, and a great package of tricks to perform at the rim.
What needs to improve is his three-point shot. It’s a good shot, but he’s very streaky.
If NBA scouts are convinced after his March performances that he can hit the long-ball at a high rate in the NBA, then he’s golden. If not, he’ll be a lottery pick, but might just slip into the back half of the top 10.
Johnny Juzang (SF, UCLA)
Juzang could’ve entered the draft after last year’s epic tournament run, and it was likely the highest his stock will ever be. But instead, Johnny made the mature decision to come back to school, to compete for a national title, and improve his game so he is more NBA-ready.
UCLA hasn’t really been able to muster a bunch of consistent games together, the result of injuries and COVID cancellations early in the season. But, Juzang can catch fire quickly.
If he finds his shot and torches team in the tournament again this year, he can find a way into the top 20, and maybe even higher with his NBA size. But if he is easily stopped by a defense focused on him, and he can’t find a way to score for his team, UCLA won’t go very far, and Juzang could slip into the second round.
EJ Liddell (PF, Ohio State)
Liddell has always been imposing, one of the best big-man scorers in the Big 10 the last couple of years, following what was a promising freshman year as well. What has worried scouts is his lack of improvement from last season to this season.
His shot is the same, as is most of his post offense. His defense remains the same when many expected him to take a step up to be one of the best defenders in the country. He’s a full player with an NBA game, but his stagnant improvement has left scouts wondering if there is any room left for improvement.
If he can show the world that he has a lot more potential in him to open up once reaching the league, Liddell can jump into the later first-round. Otherwise, he may just end up a mid-second-round pick.
Jahvon Quinerly (PG, Alabama)
The shifty point guard has had possibly the most inconsistent career of any one player in recent college basketball history. The once Villanova Wildcat shot the ball at an insane clip last year, which everyone recognized was going to be unsustainable going into this season.
But at times he has been truly terrible behind the arc and as a decision-maker. Quinerly lost his confidence so much, that he was ultimately moved to the bench.
As a bench scorer, his confidence rose a bit, but he seems to get in his head way too often for such an elite talent. Quinerly could have a Juzang-like tournament run which lifts him into the first round. But if he can’t help Alabama score, there’s not much else he can do, and he’ll fall deep in the second round.