March Madness: Top NBA Draft Prospects — Midwest Region
Jabari Smith, Keegan Murray and Johnny Davis headline our Top 10 NBA Draft Prospects in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region
NBA scouts and general managers will be out in force over the next few weeks scouting all the prospects in the Big Dance.
While we believe that a player’s performance in the NCAA Tournament shouldn’t be a big factor in the overall scouting evaluation, there is evidence that it plays an outsize role in ultimate draft position.
Recency bias is surely one factor. So is that fact that this is when NBA coaching staffs, NBA owners and, occasionally, NBA GMs are getting more engaged in the scouting process. What they see here can leave an indelible scouting bias.
In other words, what happens over the next few weeks, rightly or wrongly, will likely significantly shake up our current Big Board 5.0.
Note that I’m ranking players based on their long-term NBA potential, not on their current production. Obviously several of the players in the “best of the rest'' are currently better than some players ranked above them.
On Monday, I broke down the Top 10 Prospect in the East Region.
On Tuesday, Chad Ford broke down the Top 10 Prospects in the West Region.
Today we move to the Top 10 prospects in the Midwest Region. This region is loaded with five potential lottery picks including a contender for the No. 1 pick — Auburn’s Jabari Smith.
And don’t forget this is the last day to register for our March Madness Bracket Challenge where you could win a lifetime subscription to NBA Big Board!
01 JABARI SMITH
6’10” | 210 | Wingspan: 7’1”
Age on draft night: 19.1
2022 Draft Projection: 1-3
The Skinny: Through 32 games, Smith is averaging 22.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.2 steals per 36 minutes and shooting 43.7% from the floor and 42.8% from 3.
The Good: Smith is an athletic, 6’10” sniper who scores on three levels and defends multiple positions. A great number of scouts believe Smith is the most promising prospect in this class with his elite combination of size, length, shooting and energy. He’s had some brilliant shooting performances this season, most notably a two-game stretch where he drained 11 of 15 3’s against Florida and Vanderbilt.
The Bad: He’s considered the best shooter of the players projected to be drafted in the top five, but he’s the least efficient overall from the floor. His post game is still a work in progress, and he’s at his best when someone sets him up to score as opposed to creating his own offense off the dribble.
Bottom Line: Smith is the favorite to be the first player selected in the 2022 NBA draft, and a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament could solidify him as the top prospect in college basketball. Auburn is expected to make a deep tournament run, and the potential showdown I am looking for is a matchup against Iowa’s Keegan Murray with a Final Four berth on the line. Regardless of how Smith looks over the next few games, his play this season guarantees him to be selected in the top five and probably no lower than third.