The NCAA Tournament is here.
And while this is the cherry on top for most NBA executives when it comes to completing their game scouting and preparing for the NBA Draft, for a lot of NBA fans, this could be their first exposure — and certainly their lasting memory — for the prospects preparing to enter the league.
For those of us in Orlando, we got treated to a special moment in the first game Thursday when Furman stunned Virginia in a play that could only be described as very college basketball:
That is the magic of the NCAA Tournament. But NBA people are focused less on the present than on what this all means for the future.
And this NCAA Tournament could be very big in helping players reorder themselves before workout and interview season begins in just a few months.
The NCAA Tournament may be notable this year for its lack of top NBA prospects. But still the tournament marks the time to close playing profiles and look ahead to the NBA Draft.
Most of the top prospects in this year’s draft will not be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
The tank race this year has been focused on France’s Victor Wembanyama with the G-League Ignite’s Scoot Henderson right behind him. Noise is starting to gather that Alabama’s Brandon Miller breaking into the conversation for the top two. And with the Crimson Tide as the favorites to win the Tournament, a three-week run of pressure basketball could do a lot to tip him over.
This has been an incredibly balanced year in college basketball without a clear favorite or overwhelmingly strong team. There are a lot of players around the country who could greatly help the draft stock and buzz with a deep tournament run. And this tournament may well have that kind of effect on several players.
The Orlando Magic are in a great spot entering the draft. Even though there is still an outward focus on the postseason chase and trying to make the Play-In Tournament — they are four games behind the Washington Wizards with 13 games left — they will be major players on draft night.
The Orlando Magic will have their own pick — currently fifth in the Lottery odds with a 10.5-percent chance at the top pick and a 42.1-percent chance of landing in the top four — and may receive the Chicago Bulls’ pick if it lands outside the top four to complete the Nikola Vucevic-Wendell Carter trade. The Bulls are currently eighth in the Lottery standings with a 6.0-percent chance of getting the top pick and a 26.3-percent chance at landing in the top four.
The Orlando Magic are pretty much trapped in fifth in the Lottery standings — seven games ahead of the Charlotte Hornets but three games behind the Portland Trail Blazers.
That puts Orlando in a very good position heading toward the Lottery, with a chance to add two top-10 picks and two quality young players to their roster.
Now they just have to sort through the prospects. And that is the difficult part.
This is a draft class that has three players who are considered very good at the top. Then there are a lot of questions with players who should have skills that translate to the NBA, but a lot of questions of just how those skills translate and how those skills will continue to expand.
With the NCAA Tournament starting today, it is time to start assembling our big board and figuring out which prospects are indeed the ones to watch as the tournament gets going and we close the book on the playing data from the season.
This big board is a ranking of these prospects with the Magic’s needs taken under consideration.