The New York Knicks will search for another young prospect in the next NBA Draft. One of these five March Madness stars could be the guy.
College basketball’s top talents were on display as March Madness was in full swing during the wild opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The New York Knicks, like the rest of the NBA, were searching for their next young star among the many skilled prospects.
During the frantic action, some promising young players made a good case to be the next Knicks first round pick. It’s easy to fall in love with one of these kids during March Madness, but it’s also important not to get carried away.
New York will have a valuable top-10 pick to spend in a deep 2017 draft class to be populated by many of the players you’ve seen so far. March Madness is the perfect time for pro prospects to prove they can shine in the big moment.
With the Sweet 16 on the horizon, the stage is only getting brighter for the future stars of the NBA to prove themselves to watchers of the game everywhere.
These are the five players who stood out more than any of the others during opening weekend. Hopefully, the Knicks took notice.
5. Miles Bridges, Michigan State Spartans
The more I watched Miles Bridges during this tournament, the more I got the feeling that if he returned for another season at Michigan State, he’d be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Of course, what are the chances of that happening?
Bridges is already a stud who will instantly draw unfair comparisons to fellow Spartan Draymond Green. He’s an improving shooter and a beast on the boards. The 18-year-old had a solid slash line of .486/.389/.685 to go along with a team-leading 8.3 rebounds per game.
The Big Ten Freshman of the Year kept up that solid play during the tournament. Despite being matched up against the Miami Hurricanes in the first round, one of the best defenses in the nation, he dominated with 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds.
The Spartans won their opening round contest, 78-58. They weren’t so lucky in the second round as they ran into the buzzsaw known as the Kansas Jayhawks. Bridges’ team was blown out by 20, but it had nothing to do with him. The former McDonald’s All-American had 22 points and 8 rebounds.
4. Johnathan Motley, Baylor Bears
Baylor’s latest freak athlete prospect is junior forward Johnathan Motley. The 21-year-old was selected First-team All-Big 12 this season after his minutes, points, and rebounds all jumped.
Motley was one of the most productive players in the Big 12. He was first in the conference in rebounds per game and fourth in field goal percentage.
He dropped 15 points and ten rebounds in their first round win against Vermont and 19 and ten rebounds in the second round against USC. Baylor needed every point against the Trojans.
The Bears are a three seed in the East region that has already had Villanova and Duke been eliminated by upsets. Right now the road looks right for them to reach the Final Four.
3. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue Boilermakers
Caleb Swanigan was First Team All-Big Ten and Big Ten Player of the Year this season as a sophomore. He dominated the conference with his improved play, and that’s carried over into the NCAA Tournament.
Swanigan has led the Boilermakers into the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven years behind two excellent performances during the opening weekend. In the opening round against Vermont, the big man notched 16 points and 14 rebounds to go along with four assists and 3 blocks.
In Purdue’s tight second-round contest against Iowa State, Swanigan stepped up with 20 points, 12 boards, and a career-high 7 assists.
The-19-year-old had four games this season with 20 points and 20 rebounds, so his dominance on the glass wasn’t a surprise. Swanigan was second in the country in rebounding (12.6).
2. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky Wildcats
Knicks fans are falling in love with Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox, and that makes sense. His stocking is soaring with his two performances for the Wildcats.
During Sunday’s game, Fox was drawing comparison’s to ex-Knick Brandon Jennings. They are both quick lefties who like to attack the rim. Although Fox strays away from the three-point line, unlike Jennings.
That’s something he’ll have to work on for his time in the league. It didn’t impact this season, and it didn’t during opening weekend either.
Fox had 19 points against Norther Kentucky in the first round, but it was against Wichita State when he stood out. Fox didn’t shoot the ball well, but he made big plays like a late steal leading to a dunk that helped seal the game.
The 19-year-old stepped up when his team needed him the most. His backcourt mate, Malik Monk, had a rare off night going just 3 of 10 from the field.
Fittingly, it was Fox’s defense that made the difference at the end of the game. That’s what will push teams to draft him, perhaps even ahead of Monk.
1. Josh Jackson, Kansas Jayhawks
Josh Jackson is undoubtedly the star of the NCAA Tournament. Draft Express has him slated to go third as of now in the draft, but if Kansas wins a National Championship he could jump both point guards.
The 20-year-old is drawing comparisons to former Kansas star Andrew Wiggins, and unlike most NBA comparisons they aren’t that crazy. Jackson seems to be further along than Wiggins was during his one year with the Jayhawks.
The Big 12 Freshman of the Year is a freak athlete who grabbed 7.1 rebounds per game as a 6-foot-8 forward. He’s automatic when finishing on the fast break, and he’s the Jayhawk’s best defender.
Jackson was 51.7 percent from the field and averaged 16.6 points. His lack of a jump shot is definitely a concern, but that was a concern for Wiggins too. He’s been consistently improving from the perimeter since he entered the league.
The youngster dominated his first two opponents, the 16-seed UC Davis and the 9-seed Michigan State. He barely needed to do anything against UC Davis (Kansas won 100-62), but he dropped 17 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Against the Spartans, Jackson had 23 points in 36 minutes. He exploded for 16 of those 23 points in the second half. Kansas rallied behind Jackson and blew Michigan State out of the water.