The Sweet Sixteen begins tonight and pulls no punches. Multiple draft prospects will be on display headlined by Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Duke's Brandon Ingram. A bevy of potential second round picks also play so let's outline who is playing tonight. All rankings are via the most recent DraftExpress mock draft.
For reference, the New Orleans Pelicans hold their own first round pick and second round picks from the Sacramento Kings (via a pick swap with the Milwaukee Bucks) and the Denver Nuggets. If the Pelicans fail to move into the top three of the lottery (odds explained here) they will have the 6th, 37th, and 41st picks in the draft. Hoping the Pels land a second star beside Anthony Davis? Pray for those ping pong balls.
Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M - 6:40 on TBS
#9 Buddy Hield - 6'4.5", 6'8.5" wingspan, 215 lbs
Hield is the best shooter in college basketball since Stephen Curry. He's on the small side for a shooting guard by NBA standards, standing just 6'4.5" in shoes with a 6'8.5" wingspan. Buddy Hield is almost certainly going to fill it up tonight and faces one of the stiffer challenges in the long and athletic wings Texas A&M can throw at him. If Eric Gordon leaves in free agency it is possible Hield could step in right away as a starting shooting guard. He gets a taste of NBA length and athleticism tonight.
Kansas vs. Maryland - 8:40 PM on CBS
#23 Diamond Stone - 7'0", 7'3.5" wingspan, 246 lbs
A throw back to a bygone era. If Diamond Stone was born a decade or two ago he would be a lock for a lottery pick and in the discussion for the top five based on measurables and shooting touch alone. Stone is shooting 76.5% from the free throw line and has converted 36.6% of his two point jumpers outside of the paint according to Hoop Math. His rebounding numbers (14.6% defensive rebound rate) are low for a man his size and thanks to two other Maryland Terrapins on this list he's not the focal point as Jakob Poeltl has been for Utah. I'm not high on Stone for the Pelicans, but he could have a coming out party tonight.
#35 Melo Trimble - 6'2", 6'2" wingspan, 185 lbs
The easiest path to a Maryland upset involves Trimble going thermonuclear. He can light it up from behind the arc or live at the free throw line. Of course, Melo Trimble can also throw the game away, as he did committing eight turnovers against North Carolina in December. Trimble is inconsistent and his performance has varied wildly during the season; nine game without a made 3-pointer (0-24 combined) and seven games shooting 50% or better behind the arc (21-31 in total). Does hot or cold Melo Trimble show up tonight?
#36 Cheick Diallo - 6'9", 7'4" wingspan, 220 lbs
Cheick Diallo hardly plays. He didn't play against Connecticut in the second round and given the talent on Maryland's roster I would be surprised if Diallo sees much playing time tonight. Moving on.
#41 Wayne Selden - 6'5", 6'10" wingspan, 229 lbs
If not for a career of horrendous free throw shooting (62.8%) Selden would be a fine option for a late blooming 3&D candidate. Selden has steadily improved behind the arc in three years at Kansas, converting 40.4% of his attempts this season. Another area of growth is finishing at the rim, where he has shot 70.6% this year. Ideally Selden has the physical makeup and shooting touch to develop into a player not too dissimilar to Quincy Pondexter. Selden at this point is a better 3-point shooter than Pondexter was in college but far worse at the free throw line. Can Selden defend a taller longer player? Our next prospect will provide some evidence.
#45 Jake Layman - 6'9", 220 lbs
Maryland is one of the few teams in the country with the NBA talent to matchup with Kansas. Layman is the fourth leading scorer for the Terrapins averaging just 11.7 points a game. Saying Layman is dependent on Trimble creating his shots would be an understatement; just two of Layman's 57 3-point makes are unassisted this season. When Layman does get around the basket it is near automatic, converting an absurd 78.9% of his attempts. A hypothetical ceiling of Chandler Parsons is possible, but highly unlikely. Parsons, while far worse shooting the ball as a senior at Florida, was a significantly better creator (21.6% assist rate compared to 6.7% for Layman) and a greater contributor on the glass. This overview of Layman by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress sticks out to me.
You take a 6-9, super-athletic guy who can shoot 3s and stays in his lane and knows how to play, you take a flier on him because it’s really, hard to find those guys. The profile is what is going to get him drafted.
Oregon vs. Duke - 9:07 PM on TBS
#1 Brandon Ingram - 6'9.5", 7'3" wingspan, 196 lbs
If the Pelicans get the first pick in the draft I will stump as hard as possible to pick Ben Simmons over Brandon Ingram. Yes, Ingram is a better shooter now and slots more easily into a small forward role hypothetically. Simmons has the far higher upside if managed correctly and the Pelicans roster can easily accommodate his skill set with Jrue Holiday's versatility off the ball.
Ingram creates some of his offense but nearly 95% of his 3-point makes are assisted according to Hoop-Math. Ingram is also converting a less than stellar 59.3% of his shots at the rim (Simmons shot 75.2% to compare) and Oregon's team length will make scoring at the basket tough. Now, if the Pelicans pick second and Simmons is off the board sign me up. But this is not a 1A and 1B in my mind for the Pels.
#31 Grayson Allen - 6'4.5", 6'6.5" wingspan, 189 lbs
Watching Allen play is quite simply insufferable. However, if the guard comes out I can see an obvious fit for the Pelicans if Allen is available in the second round (or if the Pelicans package their seconds to move up). Despite looking like Ted Cruz the easiest analogue to Allen's game in the NBA is James Harden. He lives at the foul line (.492 FTr for his career), converts at a high rate (84%), and can knock down the three as well where he's shooting 41.9% this season. I hate watching him play but could see how he fits on a Pelicans roster which could use more 3-point shooting and the ability to get to the foul line. Oh, he can do this too.