The NCAA Tournament is always a coming-out party for certain players as well as a negative expose for others.
Of course, we have our marquee names, but Wichita State's Malcolm Armstead has steadily risen up draft boards with his unique scoring ability and overall offensive punch. Meanwhile, Syracuse sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams has quelled concerns that he can't score in the half-court and assured himself a top-10 draft position, should he decide to turn pro.
Here is a look at four of the best NBA prospects for Atlanta's Final Four.
1) Malcolm Armstead, G, Wichita State
Shockers junior forward Cleanthony Early is an interesting talent and perhaps I'm biased because I love Malcolm Armstead's game, but his shifty ability in the paint and crafty finishing touch is special. At a nudge over 6 feet, he's more athletic than he looks and sneaky quick. The lefty has a rare knack for splitting screens and extending the ball to either draw a foul or elude shot blockers. Armstead is your classic undersized combo guard; he's not a true point, but he can facilitate and he's absolutely lethal in the open floor. Remember, this is a kid who transferred from Oregon to Wichita State, and paid his own way, which is pretty indicative of his playing style.
2) Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Senior guard Brandon Triche is awfully good, but MCW is a lottery pick. The 6-foot-6 point 'Cuse guard is a dynamic talent who thrives in the transition game and uses his incredible size to see over the longest of defenses in the half-court. Carter-Williams is still not a great shooter (29 percent 3s), but has a wondrous feel for the game and the potential to be a super pro given his rare versatility. Toughness is a concern, but talent certainly is not.
3) Russ Smith, G, Louisville
There simply isn't a quicker or better two-way player in America than Louisville's Russ Smith. He's still prone to make mistakes, but he compensates with his scoring ability (19-point average per game) and a relentless perimeter defense. The complaints about Smith are that he's only 6-foot-1 (at best), that he isn't a true point and that he's not a good enough shooter (32 percent 3s). However, he's a dynamic playmaker and fearless finisher at the rim who always finds a way to score.
4) Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan
I've talked about Michigan's Trey Burke at length but Tim Hardaway Jr. is another prospect worth looking at. At 6-foot-6 and still growing, he possesses excellent size for the shooting guard position and is a fluid athlete as well. Hardaway is a dead-eye shooter (39 percent 3s) and improving overall scorer. He still needs to refine his overall handling and likely won't ever be a true plus starter, but he's been huge for Michigan all year and will need to provide big minutes if the Wolverines are to win their first national championship since 1989.
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