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NBA scouts traveling to the Final Four will be mostly focused on two teams.
While it’s difficult to identify any pro potential in the San Diego State-Florida Atlantic game, there will be a handful of interesting prospects and matchups in the Connecticut-Miami game.
A few have helped themselves this NCAA tournament. And their impact over the last two weeks has led to intriguing storylines for NBA scouts to monitor during the final three games of the year.
Here’s what they’ll be looking to see in their final scouting trip before the Portsmouth Invitational, G League Elite Camp and NBA Draft Combine.
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NBA teams will target Jordan Hawkins in the draft’s first round for his shot-making. Coming off six made threes against Gonzaga, he looks ready to immediately add shooting to an NBA rotation. But scouts question his effectiveness creating in the half court.
He missed all five two-point attempts in the Elite Eight. It’s rare for a scorer to finish a season without any made field goals out of isolation, but that’s been the case this year for Hawkins. He’s also entering the Final Four with an 8.6 assist percentage, a low number that reflects his limited off-the-dribble game into passes.
For NBA teams, there is still plenty of value in adding the sophomore’s spot-up, off-screen and quick-release transition shooting.
And he has flashed a few glimpses of self-creation into step-back and pull-up jumpers. Against Miami, scouts will be looking for any signs of untapped creation, especially for attacking the rim. Per Synergy Sports, Hawkins has converted just seven field goals all season off drives.
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Coming into the season, it seemed like Andre Jackson Jr.’s only path into the NBA draft discussion would require improved shooting. Instead, he’s building an interesting case for scouts around the impact that his athleticism, passing and motor have made on winning.
The 10 assists and six offensive boards against Gonzaga highlighted Jackson’s knack for setting up teammates and making plays around the rim with his springs and energy.
Scouts have ultimately been more open-minded about his pro potential, with the idea that the two-way playmaking, cutting and transition scoring can translate. In the NBA’s open floor, he should be able to use his speed and gravity to create for teammates.
The vision and ball-moving should work in a connector role in the half court. And with some of the nation’s most explosive hops, it’s not hard to imagine the easy baskets and wild defensive plays on the ball.
At this stage, we know the shooting will be a weakness, given his 28.4 three-point percentage on just 2.6 attempts and 65.2 free-throw percentage this year. While it would be ideal for him to make an open three or two in the Final Four, scouts will just be happy to see him take them and look capable.
Regardless, Jackson has become an intriguing outlier for NBA teams to bet on continuing impacting games without needing to score.
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Alex Karaban has caught some eyes this weekend with consecutive double-digit scoring games in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
His 6’8″ size and 40.6 percent three-point shooting have caught the attention of scouts. He’s also made 60.0 percent of his twos, attacking closeouts with straight-line drives and using off-ball movement to pick up easy finishing opportunities.
Scouts will be watching to see how he performs at both ends against Miami’s stronger or quicker athletes. Karaban’s super-low steal (1.1 percent) and block (2.4 percent) rates point out his limited athletic ability.
But his archetype is typically coveted for spacing and off-ball scoring. He grades in the 94th percentile as a spot-up player this year, per Synergy Sports.
Regardless of what happens in the Final Four, he’ll presumably be back at Connecticut next season. And he should be a potential breakout name to watch, particularly if Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. both go pro.
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Scouts have been hesitant to call Isaiah Wong a future pro for the last few years. He’ll have an opportunity to change some minds in a matchup against projected first-round pick Jordan Hawkins and another draft riser in Andre Jackson Jr.
Both of Connecticut’s wings have an athletic edge over Wong, who’s 6’4″ and 184 pounds. While he’s already outplayed Houston’s trio of older guards and Indiana’s potential lottery pick, Jalen Hood-Schifino, during this tournament, scoring and playmaking against Hawkins and Jackson would say more.
Wong is ultra-creative, both with his dribble and shot-making. But scouts aren’t sold on his ability to separate and finish as effectively against NBA defenders.
There is also some debate about how his preference for the mid-range will affect his NBA fit and if this year’s three-point shooting improvement is real/translatable. Wong is up to 38.8 percent from deep, although his two-handed push motion and wide base don’t have every scout convinced.
Looking comfortable getting his shot off and shooting with range against Connecticut could make it easier for scouts to picture Wong’s offense working at the next level.
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Jordan Miller’s impact has emerged as one of the biggest storylines of the NCAA tournament after his 27 points on 7-of-7 shooting against Texas.
He suddenly has scouts’ attention, though it’s his defensive activity that they typically mention first. At 6’7″, Miller has the tools, technique and foot speed to smother ball-handlers around the perimeter. But he’s looked equally disruptive off the ball, anticipating, rotating and making plays on the ball.
Offensively, Miller gave Texas problems with his ability to get downhill and separate into paint finishes. He’s flashed some crafty footwork for countering into better shots and finding ways to score without a reliable jumper.
Scouts who’ve caught on to Miller recently or late will be focused on his shooting next weekend, as he’s only made one three-pointer this tournament and has attempted just 2.6 per game this season.
Otherwise, his passing has also stood out all season and gives scouts another reason to consider taking the 23-year-old seriously after he’d spent most of his college career off NBA radars.
Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports-Reference.com
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