Kentucky's Kevin Knox

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Schmeelk: Texas A&M's Robert Williams, Kentucky's Kevin Knox Among Knicks Prospects To Watch In Sweet 16

John Schmeelk
March 21, 2018 - 2:41 pm
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A number of top NBA prospects were knocked out of the NCAA tournament last weekend, but there are still some top guys remaining. I added a few prospects into the mix here based on their improved performance. Others are carryovers from my preview of the tournament’s first two rounds. Players are listed based on when they play.

THURSDAY

7:37 p.m., Texas A&M vs. Michigan (TBS)

Texas A&M sophomore center Robert Williams: A new addition to my list, Williams is 6-foot-10 and will fit a niche role in the NBA that’s very valuable. Draft guru Jonathan Givony used Houston Rockets center Clint Capela as a comparison, and he is right on the money. Williams is a pick-and-roll, rim-running player who will do well on the glass and defend well as a rim protector. He can be an excellent screener in the pick-and-roll who can attack the rim with explosiveness. He had 13 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in the first round against Providence, and registered eight points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in Round 2 vs. North Carolina.

The problem is that Williams hasn’t shown the ability to do much else offensively. His doesn't score well in isolation or consistently hit open jumpers. In the right offense, Williams could make an excellent frontcourt mate to Kristaps Porzingis. The question to ask, however, is a fair one: Is his limited-but-still-valuable skill set worthy of a top-10 pick? Probably not.

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9:37 p.m., Kansas State vs. Kentucky (CBS)

Kentucky freshman forward Kevin Knox: A returner from my first-round list, Knox showed both sides of his game in the tournament's first two rounds. He put up 25 points against Davidson on 8-of-16 shooting and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line. In Round 2 against Buffalo, he only shot 4-of-10 for eight points. He was 0-of-6 from behind the arc combined in the first two rounds.

Knox is a combo forward with all the physical attributes you look for, but his game still lacks some refinement. He is an excellent athlete and can make the 3, but he hasn’t flashed much creativity on offense. He has the potential to be a good defender based solely on his athletic skills. But his lack of a complete offensive game makes me wonder if he is top-10 worthy.

Kentucky freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A new addition to the watchlist, Alexander might now be considered the top prospect on the Kentucky roster. Physically, he is a bigger point guard at 6-6, 180 pounds, so some might see him as more of a combo guard like Frank Ntilikina. Gilgeous-Alexander has been dynamite so far through two games in the tournament with 46 points on 15-of-25 shooting with 14 rebounds, 13 assists and seven steals.

Gilgeous-Alexander has shot 42 percent from behind the arc this season, but he only attempts 1.5 per game. He gets his looks using his length more than any great combination of quickness or explosiveness. He could prove to be a versatile, pass-first, two-way guard on the next level, but he does not have the break-down-the-defense skills you want from a point guard.

FRIDAY

7:27 p.m., West Virginia vs. Villanova (TBS)

Villanova junior small forward Mikal Bridges: Bridges continues to help himself in the NCAA tournament. He has scored 36 points through two rounds on 12-of-26 shooting, with 4-of-12 makes from behind the arc. His style screams NBA player with his smooth stroke from 3-point range and 7-foot-plus wingspan to defend the perimeter. He knows exactly what his game is and takes the shots he knows he can make.

Villanova's Mikal Bridges
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Bridges has flashed some improved playmaking ability to create his own shot in recent weeks, but he is still more of a catch-and-shoot guy. He doesn’t have the quickness or explosiveness to be a top isolation player, but that’s OK if he's an excellent defender and knock-down shooter. He might even develop into a Klay Thompson-level player. Bridges has a high floor and slightly lower ceiling that would be a great fit for the Knicks.

9:37 p.m., Syracuse vs Duke (CBS)

Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley III: Bagley has been absolutely dominant in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. He has scored 44 points on only 24 shot attempts, making 18. That’s 75 percent. He’s 2-of-3 from behind the arc, and he's also grabbed 16 rebounds. Bagley scores with ease, and there’s no reason to think that won’t translate to the NBA.

Bagley is going to be an excellent NBA offensive player who will likely have to play power forward because of his rim-protection issues. His defensive fit in the NBA could be a question, but it will be overshadowed by the monster he will be on offense. He would be an excellent fit next to Porzingis, who can protect the rim well. Bagley should be a top-three pick.

Duke freshman center Wendell Carter Jr.: Much like it's been most of the regular season, Carter’s numbers in the tournament pale in comparison to Bagley. He has scored 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting through two rounds. He also has blocked two shots, grabbed 14 rebounds, nabbed two steals and dished out five assists in only 43 combined minutes.

The question for Carter is how much more would he be able to do if he was asked to? He has shown range but often plays in the paint. He is a good defender and rim protector, and has shown flashes of being a smart player on offense with the vision to move the ball. He could be a good, physical player next to Porzingis, and he would add some physicality to KP’s finesse.

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