The NCAA tournament, also known as March Madness, is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. 68 college teams are squaring off until only one remains, and in the process of doing so, some players will also increase their draft stock as they rise to the occasion and help propel their teams to victory.
Although it is still very early, and their will be many risers and fallers before June 25, 2015, the date of the 2015 NBA Draft, the NCAA Tournament is a great opportunity to take a look at some of the prospects who are competing on the biggest stage of their college careers.
With this in mind, I've put together a list of some of the prospects who are still playing in the tournament who I think have a good chance to be in the Suns range in the late lottery, and could be of interest to Phoenix. Here are some of the players you may want to take a look at if you get the chance over the next week or two.
Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
Grant is the heart and soul of the Fighting Irish, a combo guard who is a great passer and playmaker along with a potent scorer, who has great size at 6' 5", and who plays good defense as well. Grant is the prototypical Ryan McDonough two-way point guard who can slide over and play off the ball as well. His size and athleticism make him a great prospect as an NBA guard, and his versatility and playmaking ability could make him a very intriguing player for a team like the Suns who have only one true point guard signed long-term at the moment. Notre Dame plays Butler Saturday March 21st at 6:30 p.m. MST.
Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
Booker is a three-point shooting specialist on high-powered Kentucky Wildcat team with the size, athleticism, and depth at all positions to make them undefeated so far this season, and the runaway favorite to win the NCAA Championship. Although the Suns are stacked at the wing position, a player like Booker could be too good to pass up if he lands in Phoenix's lap. Devin is shooting 42% from three, and drawing comparisons to a young Klay Thompson. While I think that's probably a bit lofty, I do believe Booker has the skills to succeed in the NBA as a three-point specialist, and like Klay, could certainly develop into more in the future. Kentucky plays Cincinnati March 21st at 11:30 am MST.
Kelly Oubre Jr., SG/SF, Kansas
Oubre is one of the most dynamic freshman wings in among this year's college prospects, and he possesses all of the tools and skills to make an excellent NBA player as well. Oubre has a 6' 7", 205lb frame and is able to play either wing position with his athleticism and lateral quickness. He is great at penetrating through the defense, and also has a good shot as well. Another wing may not be high on the list of priorities for the Suns at the moment, but you never know if moves could be made which could change that. Kansas plays Wichita State on March 22nd at 2:00pm MST.
Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
I've professed my adoration for Montrezl since last season, and I personally think he would be the best case scenario (realistically) to end up in a Suns uniform next season. He fits the Suns system and needs almost perfectly. An aggressive, inside scorer who dunks the ball like crazy, plays aggressive and effective defense, and rebounds very well. In addition, he shows promise as a mid-range shooter, and even has inconsistent range out to the three point line. Montrezl is a beast, and should be one of the top prospects that the Suns will be interested in this summer. Louisville plays Northen iowa March 22nd at 6:30 MST.
Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Portis is one of the more confusing prospects for me to guage this season. On one hand, he has great size for the power forward position, at 6' 11", 230lbs, he's a good rebounder and a good passer for a big man, and has a pretrty decent shot out to mid range. However, he isn't a great athlete, he sometimes disappears, and just seems unpolished or awkward at times. Portis scored 15pts and grabbed 13 rbs in the first round of the tournament when Arkansas narrowly defeated Wofford, but he didn't dominate against much smaller opponents like you would expect, and got pushed around a bit in the post. He's someone I will be watching closely. Arkansas plays North Carolina March 21 at 5:30 MST.
Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Personally, I'm not a big fan of Looney's. I just don't see the type of inside game that I think a guy with his size should posses. But he is a big, strong, long, and skilled big man who should have plenty of interest in the mid to late lottery because of his attributes. Looney is 6' 10", 210 lbs, and does a great job of rebounding using his body inside, especially offensive rebounds. But his offensive scoring is much less polished around the basket, where he seems more comfortable shooting jump-shots from mid-range and beyond the arc rather than taking the ball inside. Still, Looney could be a potential target for Phoenix who needs to add more size to the roster. UCLA plays UAB March 21 at 9:00am MST.
Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
Frank the Tank is without a doubt the most skilled center in this year's draft. He is a great shooter who can stretch the floor and knock down three point shots like a guard, and also has nice footwork around the basket to score inside. He is the anchor to a very potent Wisconsin offense who can spread the floor and punish their opponents on the perimenter, and also use their size to take it to the basket down low. Frank has shown he has a bevy of moves and great touch around the rim to make up for what he lacks in physicality and athleticism. Kaminsky could be the Suns answer to their need for a stretch big. Wisconsin plays Oregon on March 22nd at 4:30pm MST.
Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein is one of the 7-footers at Kentucky who can back-up Karl Towns at the five, or play along side him at the four. He is an exceptional defender and a very mobile and athletic player for a 7' 0", 240 lb prospect. He is extremely agile and runs the floor, and plays above the rim. Willie is currently mocked to go in the top 10 of the draft, but could certainly slide a little by the time the draft comes around if some other prospects move up. The Suns would be very fortunate to get a player of Cauley-Stein's caliber in the late lottery, but it could happen. Kentucky plays Cincinnati on MArch 21st at 11:30am MST.
There are many more prospects that the Suns will be working out this summer, and don't worry, I'll be covering those try-outs later in the year after the season as well. But these players are some of the more probable prospects that should be on the Suns radar at that time, and you can get a good look at them right now in live tournament action.
There's a good chance that one of these players will be wearing purple and orange next season.