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March Madness’ Effect On The NBA Draft

Does the performance during March Madness affect a stock of an NBA prospect that much?
The Kansas Jayhawks triumphed over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Championship Game.

The Kansas Jayhawks triumphed over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Championship Game.

With March Madness kicking off for NCAA College Basketball, there are more ramifications all the way around for all those involved. For schools, it's the chance to hopefully make a splash in the sports media and bring their school’s name to the forefront. But, for fans, it’s more than just covering the spread on their bets. And for players, it's more than just playing in higher-pressure games.

This is the last push to put their name and skills on display for many players before the NBA Draft. The pressure of March Madness and its win or go home setup shows us exactly who the best of the best are. Now some may think that it’s unfair to judge a player by one performance because, let’s face it, anyone can have an off night or a bad game. But when you are considered one of the best players in the world to be dribbling a basketball, you are put under a magnifying glass, especially in situations like this.

But how much do player performances during March Madness really affect their draft status and roughly where they will be drafted at? Let’s take a deeper look.

Improvement

The big players of NCAA College Basketball come to March Madness to dance and make things happen. These guys have been some of the best basketball players in the country since they were still back at their local high schools. But now it’s time to perform on the biggest stage in college basketball with millions of people watching and a National Championship on the line. But playing well while the pressure is on could mean a high draft pick in the NBA Draft, right?

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Not so quick. NBA scouts have already done a lot of research, and due diligence on players before the tournament even rolls around. And while they expect to see projected high draft picks perform well, it is highly unlikely that a good performance will increase their draft stock. Nevertheless, history shows that the projected draft status of college players rises very little even with stellar performances during the tournament.

One such example of this is Buddy Hield in 2016. Before the tournament, Hield was projected in numerous mock drafts to go seventh overall. After a phenomenal performance in the tournament, post-tournament mock drafts had him at fifth overall. That’s a decent jump, but not a life-altering leap for a player of that talent level. He ultimately ended up being drafted sixth overall.

There are some outliers, however. One notable that not only turned heads in the tournament but has also since proven to be one of the best players in the NBA is Stephen Curry. Curry turned heads from the small school of Davidson, ultimately skyrocketing his draft stock into the upper portion of the NBA Draft. He is one of the rarer cases in which this happens. But historically, this does not happen often, nor does it put no-name players into the draft.

Holding Steady

Most of the time, the best players in the tournament play like the best players in the tournament. There are expectations of these players to play at a high caliber and talent level. Most of the time, they perform exactly as they should, even if their team doesn’t win. A lot can happen during the tournament, and miracles do happen. But usually, the best players simply solidify themselves and hold steady where they were at in the draft when they entered the tournament.

Dropping

More often than not, the most major change in draft status comes from players falling lower in the NBA Draft. This historically is seen more often between, before, and after mock drafts and, ultimately, the Draft itself. Players, for whatever reason, may have issues performing during the tournament, which gives off the appearance of not being able to handle pressure well or not being ready to be in the limelight.

Guys like Carsen Edwards in 2019 not only dropped in draft status but fell entirely out of the first round after a poor performance during the tournament. Be on the lookout for the top guys projected in the draft to have poor showings. You will see their stock drop in the next mock draft when and if they do.

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