Are these NBA draft prospects taking a plunge?

Not every NBA draft prospect is thrilled about getting to

participate in the NCAA tournament. Some wish they were playing in a

far-off and ignored basketball universe, such as Guam. Or the

NIT.

That’s because a poor performance or two in the

NCAAs can dramatically worsen your stock — much in the same way it can

help to improve it (as we saw in

Part I of our series).

Now, declining draft

status isn’t always the fault of the prospect, as you can hardly

measure someone’s value based on a couple of tournament games. But too

often, that’s how it works.

Basically, the NCAA

tourney is college basketball’s biggest stage. If you flop, you’re doing

it in front of a group of NBA scouts that suddenly seems to evaluate

players based on what they cannot do, as opposed to what they

can.

And when you can’t lead your team to the tourney

at all (read: Baylor’s Perry Jones), you may even take a bigger

hit.

Of course, that mindset goes a long way in

explaining how and why so many unknown international players

continuously climb the draft boards — especially while the tourney is

going on. But that type of thinking also gave the world Darko Milicic

and, even worse, Nikoloz Tskitishvili. It is also why top American

college products such as David West and Tayshaun Prince are drafted No.

18 and No. 23, respectively.

But regardless of

reasons, the bottom line is March Madness often hurts at least as much

as it helps when the idea is improving your draft status. It doesn’t

mean prospects can’t improve their rankings during pre-draft workouts,

and it doesn’t mean they won’t turn out to be good

pros.

All it means is they have plunged for the time

being. For some, those nose-dives have been more obvious than

others.

In a draft that is expected to be

significantly shaped by what happens in the tournament (even more so

than it has in other years), that’s never a good

thing.

And so we look at those whose status may have

hit the skids.

Perry Jones, 6-foot-11,

F, Baylor

Earlier in the season, Jones

drew comparisons to one-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady. So already, he

had one strike against him.

That’s a joke, as the

McGrady similarities were considered a positive, with the long and

athletic Jones displaying the ability to free himself for shots and

score effortlessly, much like a younger T-Mac. Speaking of effort, that

seemed to be the thing about Jones that scouts have questioned

most.

Jones missed the final game of the season (a

Big Eight tournament loss to Oklahoma) after an NCAA suspension for

receiving improper benefits. Should he return to Baylor, the suspension

would continue for the first five games next

year.

None of that concerns the NBA types, of course.

They are more troubled by the fact Jones’ teams often underachieve.

Baylor was expected to be a national title contender — but couldn’t

even get an at-large bid to the NCAAs. He also failed to lead his high

school squad to anything meaningful. So Jones’ status was hurt before

the NCAAs even began.

Again, there are no doubts

about his ability, or whether he has the type of game that will

translate well to the pros. But if he wants to be a star, scouts believe

he needs to be more focused, and perhaps much more

driven.

All of that said, Jones is still a likely

top-five pick. It’s just not as good as the top-two pick he once was

projected to be.

Jordan Hamilton,

6-foot-7, F, Texas

No doubt, the kid

can shoot. He possesses a lanky frame, a quick release and, as the

scouts like to say, “strong scoring instincts.”

But

Hamilton and the Longhorns bombed in an opening-round tourney loss to

Arizona — although the final deficit was just one point (70-69) and

Hamilton scored a solid 18 points. Problem is, Hamilton looked like

little more than a jump-shooter in that game.

Now the

book on Hamilton is that he struggles to beat his man off the dribble,

or shoot off the dribble, and that he has some work to do when it comes

to creating his own looks at the basket. Nor does he appear like he’ll

be much of an inside threat in the NBA. Defensively, he’s so-so at

best.

Bottom line: Hamilton was once considered a

late lottery pick, and strong individual workouts could return him to

that status. But after his tourney showing, he’s more likely to fall

somewhere in the late teens or early

20s.

John Henson, 6-foot-10, PF, North

Carolina

Henson never was considered a

finished product, and even on his best days, he’s mostly just a big guy

with big potential.

On the plus side, he runs the

floor extremely well, often using his energy to find ways to put the

ball in the hole.

On the downside, he lacks the

physical strength to be a great rebounder or inside scoring threat, or

the perimeter skills to make up for those

shortcomings.

He managed just four shots, and scored a

mere four points, in the Tar Heels’ loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight

— mostly because he was overpowered underneath. Of course, Henson also

plays for a college team that is loaded at every spot, meaning shots

could be understandably scarce from time to time.

But

he’ll face a similar dilemma in the NBA, where even the worst players

on the worst teams are ex-college standouts. If and when Henson’s body

matures, he shouldn’t have any issues. Until then, however, he is likely

to be drafted in the middle of the first round (if even that high) and

make scouts wonder whether he’s anything more than The Next Brandan

Wright.

Kyle Singler, 6-foot-8, F,

Duke

Singler is a very good college

player but has never been looked at as a sure-fire NBA prospect. And

after Duke’s collapse against Arizona in the Sweet 16, he may have

played himself out of the draft’s first

round.

Singler can shoot from anywhere, and he did a

fairly decent job of mixing it up underneath during his time with the

Blue Devils. But even in college, he was mostly a player without a

position, hovering somewhere between small and power

forward.

Also, his lack of explosiveness was exposed

in the Arizona loss, as was his sometimes shaky ball handling. There

were also questions about his shot selection all

year.

Singler did a lot of things well this past

season, but nothing that made scouts jump up and insist their team

cannot afford to pass on the guy. Quite the opposite,

actually.

That’s a pretty big contrast to his junior

season, when he likely would have been drafted in the top 18 or 20. But

he didn’t really improve, and his team fared

worse.

In other words, Singler is the epitome of a

guy who can plan on taking a big draft plunge.