Which Wizards draft prospects improved their draft stock in March Madness originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
There’s no better way for draft prospects to impress scouts and NBA franchises than putting it all together for the men’s NCAA Tournament. This year was no different as a ton of athletes were on the big stage, giving those evaluators one last data point in competitive action.
Stars like Brady Manek, Collin Gilespie and David McCormack certainly garnered some additional addition to improve their draft stock. Going in they probably weren’t going to be drafted, now they are. None of those, though, are expected to go in the first round.
For the projected lottery prospects that should be targeted by Washington, here’s the crop of players who had good showings.
Kennedy Chandler, PG (Tennessee)
One of the biggest obstacles to Kennedy Chandler’s draft stock is his size. At 6-foot, he is the shortest prospect expected to be considered for a lottery pick. That’s going to stay with him throughout the draft process.
But his performance during the NCAA Tournament was reflective of his freshman season. It was another data point that makes it extremely difficult to pass on the young point guard. Already, he’s established himself as a premier defender in college. Both of his team’s two results in March Madness were reflective of two different elements of his offensive game.
Playing the Longwood Lancers in the first round, Chandler did not showcase his overall body of work. He did, however, had a performance that contrasts what many think of him. The Memphis native went 3-of-4 from 3-point range. It was the sixth game this season where he hit three or more threes. Much of the early part of the year saw Chandler struggle from deep and those shooting numbers were in the low 30s. But after a strong second half and postseason, he posts a 38.3% mark from three for the year.
A narrative surrounding Chandler is that he’s a true PG. Sometimes it’s oversimplified to being just a pass-first point guard that’s unable to playmake for himself. That wasn’t the case against Michigan. Chandler went off to try and keep the Wolverines at bay, taking 19 shots and making nine of them. That’s in addition to the nine assists he posted.
Chandler can be a late lottery option for Washington if the ping pong balls don’t bounce their way. – Tyler Byrum
Bennedict Mathurin, Wing (Arizona)
Mathurin had a strong tournament run with Arizona highlighted by a second-round game against TCU which saw him post a line of 30 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. He also got to the free-throw line 13 times and knocked down 11 of his attempts.
In that game, he had a viral poster dunk and also a big three at the end of the second half to force overtime. He displayed the explosive athleticism, advanced skill set and intangibles that make him an intriguing draft prospect. Mathurin made important plays in clutch moments and displayed the type of emotion that showed his competitive nature and passion for the game.
Though his tournament run also featured some duds, and his shooting percentages dropped late in the season overall, Mathurin may have solidified himself as a top-10 pick with the game against TCU with the potential to move up higher depending on the combine and his pre-draft workouts. For the Wizards, he would give them athleticism on the wing, more outside shooting, shot creation and, because of all that, arguably a higher ceiling than any of their other young players on the roster currently offer.
If the Wizards end up picking late in the top-10, Mathurin could prove to be the best option on the board. – Chase Hughes
Keegan Murray, Wing (Iowa)
Keegan Murray only played one game in the NCAA Tournament and it was a huge upset where the 12th-seeded Richmond Spiders shocked Iowa. None of the reasons why Iowa lost, though, were because of the sophomore’s play.
The Spiders did an outstanding job defending the 3-point arc against one of the best offensive teams in the country. In doing so, that left Murray wide open to drive to the rim, showcasing his quick first step and length to get to the basket. It was a situation that was ideal for Murray’s bread and butter, which is penetration and backing down smaller guards.
He finished with 21 points (8-for-15 FG) and nine rebounds to lead the Hawkeyes in defeat. Nobody should think much of his 0-for-3 night from three when he’s 39.8% on the season.
NBC Sports Washington has mocked Murray into the top five after his March performance. That pretty much ensures that if the Wizards don’t have the luck of the lottery, they’ll need a trade to jump up for the talented wing. Overall positional fit might be a question mark, but system-wise he would be another great wing that can hit the ball from deep in a Bradley Beal-led offense. – Tyler Byrum
Mark Williams, C (Duke)
Williams was overshadowed by his teammates Paolo Banchero and A.J. Griffin, both likely top-8 picks, during Duke’s memorable season, which took them all the way to the Final Four. But Williams was a big part of their success and particularly in the tournament. He had at least three blocks in each of their first four tournament games, including five blocks in the first two rounds.
Williams, a sophomore, averaged 2.8 blocks per game this season and also makes an impact on the glass, with a 7.4 rebounds per game average. Williams is one of the biggest players expected to be taken this year, at 7-foot and 242 pounds. While he has zero outside game at this point, he’s a scoring threat as a rim-runner and on putbacks.
Williams has shot up draft boards this season and after his impressive tournament run, is projected by many mock drafts to go in the top-20. So, it’s possible he won’t fall in the Wizards’ range.
That said, the Wizards have two centers under contract next season in Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford and may be in the market for a third big man. They could also use more help defending the paint. Williams could develop behind Gafford as a different type of athlete, but one who impacts the game in similar ways. – Chase Hughes
Ochai Agbaji, SG (Kansas)
There are a ton of sophomore prospects in this year’s class. Few, though, had to make the decision that Agbaji did last season on returning to school. Many of these guys were not considered draft prospects, Agbaji was just a second-round prospect.
This year he’ll be selected either in the late lottery or middle of the first round. One of the biggest elements of his game that was noted for him to improve on is his creation for teammates. He did just that by leading Kansas to a national title.
Aside from a clunker performance against Providence, Agbaji had a stellar tournament en route to being named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Total, he averaged 13.7 ppg (46.2 FG%) while shooting 11-for-26 (42.3%) from deep across six games.
No game was more impressive than the 3-point shooting clinic he put on Villanova by hitting six of seven long balls to post his tournament-high 21 points.
While a natural No. 2 on the court, the senior would fit in a backcourt with Beal. He was the primary playmaker for the Jayhawks’ offense despite the low assist rate (1.6 per game). The lengthy guard (reported 6-foot-10 wingspan) draws attention in a variety of ways. His 3-point shooting would force teams to respect him, opening the floor for Beal to go to work. – Tyler Byrum