Strides of March

Postseason play allowed a trio of stars to climb up NBA draft lists—but three others took steps back
April 08, 2013

BIG BOARD

A periodic look at some of the most intriguing draft prospects in sports

The NCAA tournament is college basketball's biggest stage—and how a prospect performs on it can have a major impact on his draft position. Here are three players who took advantage of their time in the spotlight and improved their stock, and three who needed big March performances but didn't get them.

JEFF WITHEY

C Sr., Kansas

The NCAA's second-best shot blocker (3.95 per game), the 7-foot, 235-pound Withey is considered an NBA-ready defender. "He's a legitimate rim protector," says an Eastern Conference executive. "He's got good timing, strength, agility—it's all there." Offensively, the exec says, Withey showed "no feel" during the season. But with All-America guard Ben McLemore struggling in the first two tournament games, Withey delivered a total of 33 points in back-to-back wins.

Prospects:Late first round

KHALIF WYATT

SG Sr., Temple

There's a lot not to like about Wyatt: He's a bit undersized (6'4") for an NBA two-guard, isn't especially athletic and saw his three-point percentage dip from 37.9 as a junior to 31.6. But Wyatt is a big-time scorer; witness the 62 points he dropped on N.C. State and Indiana in the first two rounds. "He has an old-school offensive game," says a Western Conference exec. "He plays the angles and has solid footwork. If he gets better defensively, he can stick."

Prospects:Mid second round

MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS

PG Soph., Syracuse

The lanky, 6'6" Carter-Williams ranked third in the NCAA in assists (7.4 per game) and he has drawn favorable comparisons to Shaun Livingston, a 2004 lottery pick whose career was derailed by knee injuries. Though Carter-Williams has defended largely in the Orange's 2--3 zone, teams love his man-to-man potential—he averaged 2.7 steals—and were impressed by his offense in the Sweet 16, when he dropped 24 on Indiana's top defender, Victor Oladipo.

Prospects:Late lottery

NATE WOLTERS

PG Sr., South Dakota State

Dozens of NBA teams were on hand in Auburn Hills, Mich., to gauge how Wolters, a 6'4" playmaker who averaged 20-plus points in each of the last two seasons, would perform against Michigan. They left disappointed: Wolters mustered only 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting, including 0 for 5 from three-point range. "I wanted to see how he handled quickness and long defenders," says the Western exec. "And he got destroyed. In the NBA that is all he is going to see."

Prospects:Early second round

CODY ZELLER

C Soph., Indiana

He was projected as a top five pick before the season. Now pro scouts worry about the 7-footer's short wingspan (6'8") and ability to score against defenders his size. Against Syracuse, Zeller scored 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting and was repeatedly thwarted at the rim. "Length really bothers him," says the West exec. "And he's not a trail big, who can pick-and-pop and make threes. He could be this year's Perry Jones. He could really fall."

Prospects:Late lottery

MIKE MUSCALA

C Sr., Bucknell

The 6'11", 239-pound Muscala capped a stellar four-year career by leading the nation in double doubles (22). Muscala had a significant size and strength advantage against Patriot League defenders; his matchup with Butler's 6'11", 243-pound Andrew Smith would be telling. Muscala scored nine points on 4-of-17 shooting. "You can see his skills," says the East exec. "But he needs to develop. If I were taking him, I'd try to get him to play in Europe for a couple of years."

Prospects:Mid second round

Who'll Hit the Lottery

How the first 14 picks of the June 27 NBA draft would shake down if the season ended today*

16'5"BEN MCLEMORE SG Fr., Kansas

The sweet-shooting McLemore has superstar potential and will instantly upgrade the NBA's fourth-worst offense.

26'10"NERLENS NOEL C Fr., Kentucky

An active, defensive-minded big man, Noel will likely miss most of next season recovering from left-knee surgery. That he'll go this high speaks volumes to his potential.

36'8"ANTHONY BENNETT SF Fr., UNLV

He fills a major need for a wing scorer to complement Kyrie Irving; one G.M. says he "has a little Bernard King in him."

46'4"MARCUS SMART PG Fr., Oklahoma State

Even though Phoenix gave Goran Dragic a four-year, $34 million deal last summer, it will be hard to pass on a physical playmaker who thrives in the pick-and-roll.

56'8"OTTO PORTER SF Soph., Georgetown

Detroit needs wings, and the versatile Porter, who reminds scouts of ex-Piston Tayshaun Prince, should fit right in.

66'6"SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD SF Fr., UCLA

The dynamic scorer (17.9 ppg) would give a young, talented roster another offensive option.

77'1"ALEX LEN C Soph., Maryland

With a promising backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington will try to shore up the frontcourt.

86'5"VICTOR OLADIPO SG Jr., Indiana

Minnesota bolsters a weak perimeter defense with an athletic menace who reminds one G.M. of Mickael Pietrus.

96'0"TREY BURKE PG Soph., Michigan

Burke's scoring (18.9 ppg) overshadows his playmaker skills: He is fourth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.12).

107'0"CODY ZELLER C Soph., Indiana

Zeller's stock is falling, but stacked Oklahoma City can afford to take a chance and let him develop.

117'1"ISAIAH AUSTIN PF Fr., Baylor

With or without free-agent-to-be Andrew Bynum, Philly needs frontcourt help. Enter Austin, who has a fluid stroke.

126'6"MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS PG Soph., Syracuse

Portland will pair high-scoring rookie Damian Lillard with a pass-first playmaker in Carter-Williams (7.4 apg).

136'3"C.J. MCCOLLUM PG Sr., Lehigh

A broken left foot ended his season in January, but the flashy, prolific (23.9 ppg) guard could make an instant impact in Dallas.

146'10"DARIO SARIC SFCroatia

A brilliant passer, the 19-year-old Saric can play either forward spot and possesses a polished midrange game.

*Assuming three worst teams getting first picks

SI.COM

Chris Mannix profiles injured Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel—still a lottery hopeful—this week at SI.com/NBA

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDCARTER-WILLIAMS PHOTOSKIP PETERSON/APWYATT PHOTOGREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDWITHEY PHOTOPORTER BINKS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDZELLER PHOTOJONATHAN PALMER/MCT/ABACAUSA.COMMUSCALA PHOTOJOHN BIEVER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDWOLTERS FOURTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)