The Utah Jazz continue to free fall in the NBA standings, setting the team up for a high lottery pick at the 2014 NBA Draft — as well as for two more picks at Nos. 23 and 34 if the Jazz keep both of those.
Meanwhile, the NCAA Elite 8 concluded in grand fashion on Sunday, March 30.Three of four games went down to the wire, the most memorable being Wisconsin’s overtime upset of No. 1 seed Arizona. The Badgers continued an improbable run, knocking off the Wildcats with a three-point shooting 7-footer — and stingy defense.
No. 8 Kentucky’s narrow win over No. 2 Michigan came in a close second — as those Wildcats got the job done against the Wolverines without center Willie Cauley-Stein and with a fabulous freshmen cast that soon will be headed for the NBA.
Not all of the “winners” actually won during the Elite 8 — but they did move up the draft boards, which is a win in and of itself. And the “losers” didn’t necessarily lose — but they probably lost favor to NBA scouts leading up to the draft.
Here’s how they did at the NCAA Elite 8.
WINNER – Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
First of all, where did this guy come from? Kaminsky isn’t even on this draft board for starters. The 7-footer showed a range of skills uncommon for a big man.
He can splash threes, and bull his way inside for quick buckets. He poured in 28 points and had 11 rebounds in the Badgers’ 63-62 overtime win over Arizona.
WINNER – Nick Johnson, Arizona
Johnson is going to be a solid late first-round/early second-round choice — someone the Jazz might consider at No. 23 because he can do one thing very well: shoot three-pointers.
Johnson had 16 points and four rebounds in the Wildcats swan song versus Wisconsin — and he even scored all 16 before the last two minutes of the game.
WINNER – Julius Randle, Kentucky
If anyone is playing their way into the Jazz’ heart — especially considering how poorly the Jazz bigs are playing right now — it’s Randle.
He had another double-double in Kentucky’s Elite Eight win over Michigan, 16 points and 11 boards. It doesn’t matter what you throw at this guy; he simply shows up with a lunch pail and goes to work. And that work should parlay into a high lottery pick.
WINNER – Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas wasn’t even considered a threat to make it into the lottery before the NCAA Tournament — but if you’re an NBA team you’d better consider him now.
The questions about him not being able to create his own shot were just that, hearsay. Stauskas has proven he can take it to the rim. He had 24 points against Kentucky in a loss — most of which came from his willingness to take on Kentucky’s bigs.
WINNER – Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Napier played his way into being considered for an early second-round pick — the Jazz have one at No. 34 — and could be someone Utah puts in the D-League for seasoning.
Though he is a point guard — and the Jazz already have a good one in Trey Burke — Utah would be foolish not to consider a senior that can get his own shot — and is getting better at distributing the ball. He had 25 points in Uconn’s win over Michigan State.
LOSER – James Young, Kentucky
Young is showing his age the last two games. First, he fouled out of Kentucky’s Sweet 16 win. Next, he had a much better game against Michigan, scoring 13 points and hauling in four rebounds in the Wildcats’ win over the Wolverines.
His draft stock is dropping with every bad game in the NCAA Tournament — but he’s still a solid late first-round pick, someone the Jazz could select at No. 23.
LOSER – Gary Harris, Michigan State
Harris didn’t take Tom Izzo’s bunch to the Promised Land at this NCAA Tournament, and his play can be characterized as sporadic.
In the Sweet 16 he disappeared — only to reappear at the Elite Eight and score 22 points in the Spartans’ loss to Uconn. Even so, he’s still a consideration at the Jazz’ No. 23 spot.
LOSER – Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Payne needed to have a big game before casting his lot into the NBA Draft. He didn’t come through, scoring just 13 points and hauling in 9 rebounds.
The 6-9 senior reportedly has had a few medical problems — such as lacking lung capacity — but his upside is good enough that the Jazz would be foolish not to consider him as a late first-round pick.
LOSER – Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Nobody –outside of UCLA’s Zach LaVine — has had a more disappointing NCAA Tournament than Gordon. Arizona needed Gordon to step up and deliver the game everyone knows he’s capable of — and he didn’t.
At the Elite Eight he had 18 rebounds but only eight points. That said, Gordon is still in that late lottery pick range — but he could have done more at March Madness to help his draft stock.
LOSER – Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Dekker was once considered a possible lottery pick but the Keith Van Horn look-alike has done nothing but disappoint the entire NCAA Tournament. Lucky for his team, Kaminsky has stepped up big time.
Dekker might do well to stay in school one more year before turning pro. Seven points and eight rebounds against Arizona means he isn’t ready for the next level.