3 Sleeper NBA Draft Prospects To Watch In March Madness

Tyler Kolek, NBA Draft
Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 NBA Draft presents a refreshing balance of talent, with no clear standout at the top and uncertainty permeating throughout the draft class. This unpredictability extends an open invitation for standout performances in March Madness to reshape the fortunes of various prospects.

From late-blooming freshmen to seasoned college stars, the upcoming month offers ample opportunity for players to capture the attention of NBA scouts and surge up draft boards. Our mission here at FanSided is to identify these potential breakout candidates.

Rather than adhering to specific criteria, we’re drawing insights from expert projections across the draft landscape, as well as our own prospect evaluations and mock drafts. The objective is to spotlight players typically receiving second-round grades or those not expected to declare for the 2024 draft who could quickly ascend in status.

Let’s dive in.

Tyler Kolek, Marquette

Amidst the frenzy of the NCAA Tournament, seasoned senior point guards often steal the spotlight with their intuitive grasp of the game. Marquette’s Tyler Kolek epitomizes this archetype. While not blessed with extraordinary athleticism, standing at 6-foot-3 without standout physical attributes coveted by NBA teams, Kolek’s forte lies in his basketball IQ.

A maestro in the pick-and-roll, Kolek has mastered one of the NBA’s fundamental actions. His deft ball-handling manipulates defenders, complemented by a keen sense of tempo and adept passing skills with both hands. Beyond his playmaking prowess, Kolek boasts a solid shooting touch, connecting on 40.0 percent of his three-point attempts while averaging a respectable 15.0 points per game as Marquette’s offensive linchpin.

Despite concerns regarding his defensive abilities and athletic limitations, a deep tournament run could assuage these doubts and bolster Kolek’s draft stock. In an NBA landscape increasingly valuing skill over sheer athleticism, players like Kolek, who excel in orchestrating plays and elevating teammates, are carving out roles in the league.

D.J. Wagner, Kentucky

D.J. Wagner’s freshman journey at Kentucky has been a rollercoaster ride. Once touted as a potential top-10 pick, Wagner has faced stiff competition from teammates Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard. However, his consistent presence as Kentucky’s starting point guard, coupled with marked improvement throughout the season, suggests untapped potential awaiting discovery.

Wagner’s ability to penetrate defenses with his quick handles and explosive first step underscores his offensive prowess. Despite struggling from beyond the arc and being a below-the-rim finisher, his knack for playmaking and generating scoring opportunities for teammates remains evident.

While questions linger regarding his scoring efficiency against NBA-caliber defenses, a standout performance in March could propel Wagner into first-round consideration, leveraging his raw talent and upside in a draft class hungry for potential.

Kwame Evans Jr., Oregon

Despite sporadic playing time at Oregon, Kwame Evans Jr. enters the tournament with the Ducks riding a wave of momentum as Pac-12 champions. While his recent performances may not have turned heads, Evans’ contributions in various facets of the game have caught the eye of scouts.

Standing at 6-foot-9 with an impressive wingspan, Evans possesses the physical tools coveted by NBA teams. His defensive versatility, highlighted by active hands and shot-blocking prowess, augurs well for his professional prospects. Offensively, while his three-point shooting requires refinement, Evans’ fluid drives and underrated passing ability offer glimpses of his potential to contribute on that end.

The key for Evans lies in Oregon’s performance. A successful tournament campaign could provide the platform for him to showcase his skills, potentially influencing NBA front offices and accelerating his draft trajectory.

In summary, the 2024 NBA Draft presents a canvas ripe for unexpected narratives to unfold. With March Madness serving as the ultimate stage for prospects to shine, players like Kolek, Wagner, and Evans have the opportunity to seize the moment and alter their draft destinies.

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