Notable players on our annual Sweet 16 lists:

2006 - LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy

2007 - Mike Conley, Al Horford

2008 - Steph Curry, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose.

2009 - Blake Griffin

2010 - DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward, John Wall.

2011 - Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker

2012 - Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Bradley Beal

2013 - Victor Oladipo

2014 - Julius Randle

2015 - Karl Anthony Towns

2016 - Buddy Hield


The Sweet 16

Now that the NCAA tournament field is narrowed to 16 teams, it is time to examine the 16 players remaining that we like best from an NBA scouting perspective. We write this column annually and the players that have made the Sweet 16 list have gone on to become some of the biggest stars in the NBA. In 2010, we were touting John Wall, Gordon Hayward, and Draymond Green. A year earlier, Blake Griffin was the among the Sweet 16. In 2008, we were hyping Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, and Derrick Rose. While inclusion on this list does not guarantee stardom for all, it is safe to say that a couple, if not more, will one-day be among the NBA leaders (see side bar).

The Sweet 16 prospects: (Listed in alphabetical order)

Lonzo Ball - UCLA. 6'5" 195. PG - freshman. ...Ball, in our opinion, is the top prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft. The 2016-17 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, is a point guard that processes at a higher speed than his fellow competitors. He sees the entire floor and he makes everyone who plays with him better. Ball averages 14.7 points (55.6% FG, 42% 3-pt., 67% FT), 6.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He has quick reactions defensively and his he is among the small percentage of guards who have a better defensive rating than their team. ...As a prep: McDonald's All-American. He helped Chino Hills post a perfect 35-0 record during his senior season, culminating in the 2016 CIF State Open Division Championship.


Tony Bradley - North Carolina. 6'10" 248. C - freshman. ...Bradley is long and strong. In limited minutes he is productive off of the bench for the Tar Heels. He averages 7.5 points (58% FG), and 5.3 rebounds per game despite playing just 15 mins per game.

Dillon Brooks - Oregon. 6'7" 215. SF - junior. ...Brooks was the 2016-17 Pac-12 Player of the Year. He has a scorer's mentality. While he will not overwhelm opponents with great athleticism, Brooks is a skilled player that can score inside or outside (40% 3-pt. shooter). He plays Power Forward often for the Ducks but we see him as a small forward in the NBA. Brooks averages 16.4 points per game. He is getting better as a decision maker. ...Brooks is willing to compete. He plays hard and can get mouthy at times when challenged. He is not a great defender. We presently view him as a early second round pick.  

Zach Collins - Gonzaga. 7'0" 230. C - freshman. ... Collins is an athletic BIG that is a key to Gonzaga's success in 2016-17. Playing just 17.3 minutes per game, Collins averages 10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocked shots per game. His per-minute efficiency is the highest in our college database this season. Collins is connecting on 65% of his field goal attempts. He can stretch the floor too, although not at a high volume at this point in his career. This season, Collins has made 9 of his 20 three-point attempts (45%). He makes his free throws at a 75% clip. Defensively, Collins has the ability to block shots due to his length, timing, and athleticism. His defensive rating is 6.7 points better than the Zags team DEFRTG. That is impressive. ...As a prep: Collins was a McDonald's All-American that was Nevada State Player of the Year in 2015-16.

De'Aaron Fox - Kentucky. 6'4" 171. PG - freshman. ... Fox is likely the fastest player with the ball in college basketball. His speed is blinding. He handles the ball like a mix-tape superstar. He averages 16.1 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. The shooting percentages from deep are not where you want a point guard to be. Fox has taken 64 threes and made just 15 (23% 3-pt. FG). He is a 73% FT shooter which shows some degree of touch, and lends some hope to him one day being better from deep. ...His mom played basketball at Arkansas-Little Rock ...As a prep: McDonald's All-American. Shared MVP honors at the Jordan Brand Classic with fellow UK teammate Malik Monk.

Ethan Happ - Wisconsin. 6'8" 200. C - sophomore. ...  Happ is a tremendous team defender. In our opinion, he is among the smartest players in the NCAA. He averages 13.8 points (58% FG), and 9.1 rebounds per game. He is strictly a paint player on offense. He does not shoot the three ball at all, and he is a poor free throw shooter (just 49% FG). He sees the floor well and he has improved this season with his decision making. ...It seems unlikely Happ would be drafted were he to come out. But we are keeping our eyes on him due to his overall ability to make winning plays.

Josh Jackson - Kansas. 6'8" 202. SF - freshman. ...Jackson was the 2016-17 Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He averaged 16.6 points (51% FG, 38% 3-pt., 56% FT), and 7.1 rebounds per game. Jackson has slightly more assists than turnovers (97 assists, 88 turnovers). He scored 31 points, and grabbed eleven rebounds in his best game this season, a win at Texas Tech. ...Jackson was suspended by Head Coach Bill Self for the opening game of the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas then fell to TCU in that contest. ...As a prep: McDonald's All-American. He won gold medals at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships, the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships, and the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championships.


Justin Jackson - North Carolina. 6'8" 210. SF - junior. ... Jackson is a smooth wing player that was the 2016-17 ACC Player of the Year. He averages 18.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He is really trustworthy with the ball. He rarely turns it over for as many touches as he gets. His 1.93-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is a number you might expect from a point guard. ...Jackson is shooting 38% 3-pt FG. He makes 74% of his foul shots. ...Jackson is a player that has improved gradually each season, raising his scoring and rebounding numbers. ...Our nitpick, and the reason we rank him lower than most scouts, is his poor defensive rating, relative to his team. His DEFRTG is 5.8 points worse than the UNC team DEFRTG.

TJ Leaf - UCLA. 6'9" 215. PF - freshman. ... Leaf is an efficient stretch four that has an under appreciated ability to attack the basket. While Lonzo ball gets the bulk of the headlines for UCLA, Leaf is an absolutely vital part of the Bruins success. Leaf averages 16.2 points, and 8.2 rebounds per game. He is shooting 61.6% FG on the season. He connects on 45% of his three-point shots. Leaf is smart. He understands the concept of "team", and he moves the ball willingly. He has a 1.73-to-1 assist-o-turnover ratio.

Lauri Markkanen - Arizona. 7'0" 230. PF - freshman. ...Markkanen, originally from Finland, has improved as his freshman season continues to unfold. He averages 15.8 points, and 7.2 rebounds per game. He is very comfortable as a pick-n-pop player. He is an excellent three-point shooter (43% 3-pt. FG). He is also the rare seven footer that is a good free throw shooter. He makes 83% FT! His size, and agility give him a high ceiling. ...He needs to improve as a decision maker.  

Kelan Martin - Butler. 6'7" 220. SF - junior. ...Martin is thriving in his role as the sixth-man for Butler. He can score in bunches but sometimes he needs to be more selective in his jacks. Martin has a sturdy, NBA ready body. Martin averages 16 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He shoots 35% from 3-pt. range and he hits 78% of his free throws. While his shot selection needs work, so too does his decision making. He has more turnovers than assists by a wide margin.  


Kennedy Meeks - North Carolina. 6'10" 260. C - Senior. ...Meeks is a steadying force for the Tar Heels. His DEFRTG is 3.9 points better than the UNC team DEFRTG. He is dependable as a paint scorer and rebounder. Meeks averages 12 points and 7 rebounds per game. He has worked hard to slim down over his four seasons at North Carolina. He has never shot below 54% Fg in his four NCAA seasons. Meeks does not shoot the three-ball at all (one attempt in four seasons). It seems very doubtful that Meeks will be drafted, but he make sneak into the NBA as an undrafted free-agent.

Malik Monk - Kentucky. 6'3" 185. SG - freshman. ...Monk is the most dangerous scorer in college hoops in our opinion. He loves to score! Monk averages 20 points per game. He hits a high volume of three point shots and does so at a 39% clip. He is an excellent foul shooter, connecting on 83% this season. Monk has slightly more assists than turnovers. Defense, at this point, is not Monk's thing. Not that he can’t play D effectively for a possession, but his consistency on D is erratic at this stage of his career. SEC Freshman of the Year 2016-17.


Devin Robinson - Florida. 6'8" 200. SF - junior. ...Robinson is among the players who continues to noticeably improve. This season, Robinson averages 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He is an NBA athlete without question. Robinson started his career at Florida as a 25% 3-pt. shooter. As a sophomore, he upped that percentage to 34% 3-pt. This season, Robinson is hitting 39% of his college long-balls. ...Players that are improving AND have the prerequisite NBA athleticism are always worth watching.

Caleb Swanigan - Purdue. 6'9" 246. PF - sophomore. ...The most productive power forward in college hoops is Caleb Swanigan. He averages 18.5 points (53% FG, 79% FT), and 12.6 rebounds per game. Swanigan was a decorated high school player that came into college ball overweight as a freshman. Since then he has worked hard to change his body and the results on the court have been phenomenal. Swanigan comes from a tough upbringing. His father had addiction issues and Caleb spent time in homeless shelters as an escape from an abusive household. Swanigan's father (now deceased) weighed in the neighborhood of 500 lbs. Caleb, himself was near 400 lbs. in eighth grade! A breakthrough came at age 13 when Caleb was adopted by former NFL player Rosevelt Barnes. Barnes put Caleb through intense workouts, getting the prospect known as "Biggie" down to 260 lbs. as a high school Senior. ...Swanigan could be better as a decision maker. He has more turnovers than assists.

D.J. Wilson - Michigan. 6'10" 240. SF - junior. ...Wilson averages 11 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The jump he made in production from his sophomore year to now is phenomenal. As a sophomore, Wilson played just six minutes per game and averaged 2.9 ppg. ... He is a 6'10" guy that can legitimately play on the wing. He can stretch the floor. He is hitting 36% of his deep shots. He is an 83% FT shooter. Wilson also has more assists than turnovers. As of today, if he were to declare for the Draft, Wilson would likely be a late-second round selection. If he stays in school and improves next year he might be a first rounder!