Markelle Fultz did not need March Madness. Nor do Luka Doncic, Ben Simmons and many other basketball stars who have turned back for decades.
By the time Fultz and Simmons were drafted into the NBA, they had enchanted scouts, enchanted drivers, and probably appeared in dreams of marketing wizards – even though they played in college without spending a minute in the NCAA Men’s Division I for men. to sign up for a basketball tournament.
Fultz, the Orlando Magic guard who became the top pick of the 2017 draft after one season at the University of Washington, said in an interview last year: ‘It could be counted against me, but it did not. I did not really hear much about it. ”
The NBA will soon be welcoming several star-hopefuls who are just as missing from the tournament in their resumes. Some, of course, did not play college basketball at all. Others will have spent some time on campuses, but no one in Indiana for this tournament. According to some predictions, at least one third of the players selected in the first round of the draft later this year will not appear in matches played in the last few days.
Jonathan Kuminga, who is expected to be among the first draft picks, skipped university and played in the NBA’s Development League, as well as Jalen Green, another player who could go early on draft night. Another elite prospect, Ziaire Williams, played at Stanford, which did not make the 68-team tournament. For the first time since the Ford government, Duke and Kentucky, who appear so often for the NBA farm programs, both missed the tournament. Other top candidates play abroad.
But despite all the attention the NCAA Tournament will receive over the next two weeks, analysts will not let anyone’s draft inventory decrease.
The best basketball players in the world often come to the attention of NBA officials as middle schoolers, and franchises show their progress through high school, college, and international teams. While the NCAA Tournament can be a big stage – from bracketology, major television broadcasts and usually packed arenas coast to coast – in terms of exploration, March Madness is missing just under a few games.
“You don’t think about the NCAA Tournament,” former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of how teams rate players. ‘You think:’ We have the opportunity to get this kid with amazing gifts and talents and get him on our roster. ”
However, he admitted that “the more eyeballs, the more film, the more ease you have as a scout, as an executive at the player, it obviously helps the ease of the decision.”
In the five drafts before the coronavirus pandemic, an average of 9.6 of the first 30 rounds did not play in the NCAA tournaments that were immediately before their selection. (In 2020, the NBA still kept its concept, but the NCAA canceled its men’s tournament.) An outlier was 2016, when 15 players did not participate in the college tournament, in part because seven of the men selected in the first round is, came from. international teams. Philadelphia caught Simmons at No. 1 that year after his college team, Louisiana State, failed to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Fultz’s choice as the best choice was a year later, and Doncic, at number 3 after playing for Real Madrid in 2018.
“Talent is talent,” Del Negro said. “If you see a man who can do certain things, who has an NBA skill set that can fit what you’re looking for and can make your team’s talent so much better, you’ll obviously determine the opportunities that are available. ”
A few rough games, Del Negro and others have said, will hardly thwart a player’s NBA ambitions, which is good news for Cade Cunningham, the Oklahoma State star, which some analysts consider the best draft prospect this year in considered the tournament. He scored a weak first half in Oklahoma State’s first win over Liberty on Friday, though he finished with 15 points.
Of course, players and coaches said, an excellent tournament performance with millions of fans watching also never hurts. In addition to enhancing their professional prospects, memorable collegiate performances in front of large audiences can help players cultivate wider profiles and notoriety that can later invite lucrative sponsorships.
Executives and players said they felt some people had disappeared concepts in the past due to the excellent NCAA tournament.
Some pretournament-ridiculous concepts – reliable or not – have De’Andre Hunter somewhere in choosing no. 11 to no. 15 in 2019, when Zion Williamson was the consensus to be the best choice. Then came Hunter’s star turn during Virginia’s national championship. His biggest game was his last game as a Cavalier: a 27-point career outburst in the title showdown, including the shot that led to overtime, and the one that put Virginia ahead forever.
“If I could play well on that stage, it would definitely show scouts or whatever you are the best,” Hunter said. “I feel like the tournament has definitely helped me improve some concepts and change the narrative of my game.”
He was the fourth choice.
Carmelo Anthony, the third choice of draft in 2003 after being named the tournament’s outstanding player during his one season in Syracuse, also suggested that he still sees the multi-week collegiate competition as an opportunity to make a final impression on to make teams.
“All eyes are on March Madness,” said Anthony, an investor in a new venture that plans to pay promising high school players salaries of at least $ 100,000 to skip college. ‘This is the time when NBA teams and scouts really get a chance to evaluate talent. During the season, it’s very difficult to do – the NBA season continues, the NCAA season continues, new provisions with scouts and coaches. March Madness is where everyone watches, so you’re exposed. ”
Other athletes say the tournament could help players compete against a geographic variety of opponents.
“It was the first time I had to play against kids from different parts of the country that I normally would not be able to play,” said Terrence Ross, who was ranked No. 8 by Toronto in 2012, a year after playing has. in the tournament as a first-year student in Washington. “Especially if other kids are classified as a high draw, it can make you compare and match something.”
A few years after being so confident that a player could be that he did not need an NCAA tournament to be high on the draft, Fultz said he was disappointed he could not play in the event. .
“I definitely wished I was there myself and would be a competitor myself, and there is the best of the best,” he said. “This is where everyone gives you the best chance of being drafted.”
Kevin Draper contribution made.