The NCAA Tournament has always been a proving ground for potential NBA Draft prospects. Strong performances in March can lead to a draft board rise in June. 2018 Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four Donte DiVincenzo is a prime example of that as he skyrocketed up to the 17th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after helping Villanova win its second title in three years.
The same can be said in this year’s tournament as multiple players have already increased their draft stock in the 2019 tournament. The lack of upsets in this year’s NCAA Tournament has created an environment for the top prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft to face off against each other. Below is a list of the top 10 prospects playing in the Sweet 16. Note: Bol Bol and PJ Washington are excluded from the list due to injury.
10. Mfiondu Kabengele PF, Florida State
Stats: 13.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg
The nephew of Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutumbo, Kabengele has been a spark plug for the Seminoles this season. The ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year is Florida State’s leading scorer, despite not starting a single game this season. Kabengele is a versatile big man that is capable of stretching the defense with his perimeter shooting and has a soft touch around the basket.
In the NCAA Tournament, Kabengele is averaging 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks per game. The sophomore is shooting 64 percent from the field, including 2-3 from the three-point line. Vermont and Murray State did not have a dominant frontcourt, so Kabengele needs a solid performance against Gonzaga to cement his spot on the list.
9. Brandon Clarke PF, Gonzaga
Stats: 17 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.1 bpg
The San Jose State transfer has been one of the most impressive players in the NCAA Tournament. Clarke broke Adam Morrison’s record for points in an NCAA Tournament game after scoring 36 points against Baylor in the Round of 32. He also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked five shots and had two steals in the game.
Clarke’s ability to finish around the rim combined with his shot blocking make him one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. Oregon’s Kenny Wooten, UCF’s Tacko Fall and Clarke are the only three players in the tournament to have blocked at least eight shots. He faces a tough task against Florida State’s imposing frontcourt, creating an incredible Sweet 16 matchup.
8. Keldon Johnson SG/SF, Kentucky
Stats: 13.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.5 apg
Johnson has been erratic for the Wildcats this season, but he is a tremendous wing prospect. His 6-foot-6 frame combined with his smooth playmaking ability makes him a future NBA starter. His 47.1 field goal percentage is solid, but he has raised his game in the NCAA Tournament.
Through two games, Johnson is averaging 17 points per game on 58.3 percent shooting. He has not recorded an assist yet, but the Virginia native is a capable shot-maker. Johnson will need to make plenty of shots against Houston or else the Wildcats will be leaving the tournament early.
7. Rui Hachimura SF/PF, Gonzaga
Stats: 19.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.5 apg
Hachimura has been the go-to scorer for the Bulldogs all season. The West Coast Conference Player of the Year is a natural scorer with the ability to get easy buckets around the basket at will. Hachimura struggled against Baylor in the Round of 32, but do not look too deep into that game.
His teammate Clarke was unstoppable down low, which made it difficult for Hachimura to do much offensively. The Japanese native has all the tools to be an effective starter in the NBA and is a potential lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Hachimura can solidify his status as a lottery pick with a strong showing against Florida State, the team that knocked off Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 last season.
6. Cam Reddish SG/SF, Duke
Stats: 13.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 spg
In terms of physical talent, Reddish would be in contention for the top spot. The Pennsylvania native has one of the smoothest shooting strokes in the draft in addition to his 6-foot-8 frame. Reddish’s main issue is consistency and effort as the freshman does not always seem to be fully engaged during the course of the game.
His play in the NCAA Tournament has been encouraging for NBA scouts, shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. Reddish struggled defensively against UCF, as he picked up four fouls and did not record a steal. The Sweet 16 matchup against Virginia Tech is an opportunity for Reddish to prove himself as a top 10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
5. De’Andre Hunter SG/SF, Virginia
Stats: 15.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.0 apg
Hunter would have been a first-round pick if he declared for the 2018 NBA Draft. The Philadelphia native is one of the best defenders in the class with his combination of size, speed an athleticism. Additionally, Hunter’s three-point shooting makes him a desirable prospect as he shoots 44.6 percent from behind the arc.
His shooting in the NCAA Tournament has been a little below average for him, going 4-11 on three-pointers so far. Hunter fouled out in his last game against Oklahoma and will need to stay on the floor in the Sweet 16. Oregon’s Louis King has been on a tear of late and Hunter will be given the responsibility of keeping him in check.
4. Coby White PG, UNC
Stats: 16.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg
White did not start the season as a potential lottery pick but has entered the discussion to be a top-10 pick. The freshman point guard is one of the fastest players in the game, using his elite speed to get to the basket in transition. He can shoot the ball from behind the arc as well with 82 three-pointers this season.
White struggled in the opening round against Iona but carried the Tar Heels in the first half in the next game. He had 12 of his 17 points in the first half, all on three-pointers. White will need to control the pace against an Auburn team that forces a lot of turnovers and plays at a fast pace.
3. Jarrett Culver SG/PG, Texas Tech
Stats: 18.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.7 apg
Culver emerged as a first-round pick throughout the course of the season for the Red Raiders. The sophomore guard excels at attacking the basket as he gets the majority of his points around the basket. Culver’s scoring has increased over the past four games, averaging 25.5 points per game.
He was a defensive menace against Buffalo, blocking three shots and recording a pair of steals. Culver’s ability to contain the ball off the bounce makes him the top guard prospect left in the NCAA Tournament. He will need to contain Michigan’s duo of Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole for Texas Tech to return to the Elite Eight.
2. RJ Barrett SF, Duke
Stats: 22.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 4.1 apg
Barrett has been a scoring machine for Mike Krzyzewski as he broke Marvin Bagley III’s freshman scoring record. The Canadian freshman is at his best attacking the basket, using his combination of athleticism and touch to score effortlessly. His efficiency is not always there, but he is a pure scorer with the ability to average over 20 points per game in the NBA before he turns 21.
Barrett has been clutch for the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament, making the go-ahead layup against UCF in the Round of 32. He has been a good distributor for Duke as he has seven assists to only three turnovers through two games. Barrett will need to maintain his high level of play against Virginia Tech, a team that already beat Duke this season.
1. Zion Williamson SF/PF, Duke
Stats: 22.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 spg, 1.7 bpg
Williamson has been the most exciting player in college basketball this season. The South Carolina native’s combination of size, explosiveness and soft touch around the basket make him the most coveted draft prospect since Anthony Davis. Williamson has been special for coach Krzyzewski this season and the Blue Devils would not be in the Sweet 16 without him.
He has upped his play in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 28.5 points per game on 60 percent shooting. Williamson got the crucial and-one to potentially tie the game against UCF, but he was way short on his free throw attempt. Williamson’s late game free throw shooting could be problematic against a Virginia Tech team that has already beaten Duke this season.