NCAA tourney: Rising and falling draft stock

The draft prospects of Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes may have taken a dip this season.

After 31 days, March has finally passed. With April now upon us, it is time to welcome in warm weather, the NBA playoffs and…the Final Four of this year’s NCAA Tournament. After a wild four rounds to begin the tournament, only four teams remain: North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Villanova.

With four rounds in the books, 64 teams have officially been eliminated. Along with these 64 teams, hundreds of players have packed their bags for vacation as well. Some of these players will simply be moving on to their next year of school, looking to improve their game and make it back to March Madness again.

For the players who are not returning to school, there is one thing on their mind: the NBA. Many players have been putting their skills and talent on display for NBA scouts, coaches and GMs across the country. For the players entering the draft, there is one common goal amongst them: be one of the 60 names called on Draft Night.

With that in mind, here is an updated NBA prospect stock watch as we enter the Final Four this weekend.

RISING 

Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma 

It would be a severe understatement to say Hield’s stock is simply rising as of late. Hield’s stock could be described as skyrocketing, catapulting, soaring … you get the point.

Hield has averaged 29.3 PPG over the first four rounds of the tournament while shooting 57 percent from the field and a scintillating 48 percent shooting from downtown.

Hield has been a one man wrecking crew during this tournament. With Hield leading the charge, it feels like anything can happen (including Oklahoma winning the tournament).

Hield has two games left to lead Oklahoma to a national championship, shatter countless records along the way and further cement his status as a top five, if not top three, pick in the NBA draft.

Georges Niang, F, Iowa State 

Niang was a popular name coming into the tournament. After a brilliant career at Iowa State (after not being heavily recruited coming out of high school), Niang was able to put his game on display in this tournament.

He did not disappoint by any means.

Niang was able to lead his Iowa State squad to the Sweet 16. In three games during this tournament, Niang averaged an impressive 28.7 PPG to go along with 7.3 RPG, 3.3 APG and 54 percent shooting from the field (including 47 percent shooting from three).

While Ben Simmons might be considered the best point forward/stretch four in this draft, Niang certainly made his stake in that claim as well. Niang has a unique ability to shoot well from deep, grab rebounds, push the ball up the floor, and set up his teammates in an effective manner.

After a tournament run like this, Niang has established himself as a sure fire first round pick.

Domantas Sabonis, F, Gonzaga 

Sabonis was a trendy pick entering the tournament. Most pre-tournament mock drafts had Sabonis being drafted in the late teens and early twenties. After the tournament run that he just put together, Sabonis is very well on his way to becoming a lottery-lock.

Sabonis played in three games during this year’s tournament, leading his underrated Gonzaga squad to the Sweet 16. In 3 games, Sabonis averaged 19.7 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 2.7 BPG and a very effective 57 percent shooting from the field.

While this draft is very deep and full of talented/high potential big men, Sabonis is making a claim to be one of the top big men available in the draft. With a solid combine and private workouts, Sabonis can lock himself in as a lottery pick during this year’s draft.

Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina 

To be fair, Johnson was on the last “Stock Watch” as a prospect who was already rising. With the first four rounds of the tournament in the book, Johnson’s stock is rising as fast as any prospect’s outside of Buddy Hield.

Johnson has been the driving force behind North Carolina’s Final Four push. While North Carolina is a solid team all around, Johnson has far and away been their best player.

Throughout the tournament, Johnson has averaged 21 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.5 BPG and 63 percent shooting from the field. If Johnson can perform this well over the next one/two games, he has a chance to crack the top 10 come draft night.

FALLING 

Malcolm Brogdon, G, Virginia 

Brogdon was one of the biggest names coming into the tournament this year. He was widely assumed as the face of the Virginia team, after a productive season this year.

However, this potential draft pick so his stock take a serious hit after this tournament run. Outside of a 22 point outing against Butler, Brogdon averaged 11.6 PPG and 5.3 APG on 28 percent shooting from the field.

In his final two games of the tournament, Brogdon only converted six of his 27 field goal attempts in addition to hitting only one of his eight attempts from downtown.

At this time of year, NBA talent evaluators are looking for players like Brogdon to show off on the national stage and carry their team when necessary. In this regard, Brogdon failed in a serious way. The end result was a very disappointing loss to Syracuse in the Elite Eight and a damaged draft stock heading into the NBA draft.

Nigel Hayes, F, Wisconsin

After a productive season at Wisconsin this year, Hayes had a chance to really boost his draft stock and make a big name for himself in this tournament. But that is not what ended up happening. Instead, Hayes slipped up in the national spotlight.

In three games during this year’s tournament, Hayes averaged 9.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 2.3 TOPG to go along with 23 percent shooting from the field and 13 percent shooting from downtown. In his final game at Wisconsin, Hayes scored 11 points while shooting 33 percent from the field and giving up six turnovers.

The last impression that Hayes left on the NBA talent evaluators was a very sour one at that. Hayes might be very eager to jump to the NBA now that his season is over. But after the way his tournament run played out, Hayes might be wise to stay another at Wisconsin and repair his stock for next year’s draft.