NCAA Sweet Sixteen: Grading the D-League Prospects (Part 1)

Deshaun Thomas, Fort Wayne product and possible future Mad Ant! (Probably not.)

In case you didn't know, the NCAA Tournament (March Madness!) is in full bloom. Given that it's that time of year again, where everyone's dad/uncle/grumpy coworker likes to fill out a dozen brackets and complain (loudly) at how the kids in college care about basketball a lot more than those lazy, spoiled professionals, I thought it best to occupy the large amounts of time I'd surely spend watching mediocre to terrible basketball by amusing myself with a little pet project.

I've been watching as much of this year's tourney as I possibly could, while keeping an eye on certain players I feel are talented enough to play professionally, but not quite enough to be immediate factors at the NBA players.

Part 1: The East Regional

#1 Ohio State Buckeyes

F #0- Jared Sullinger (6-9, 280. Freshman) In this weak draft class, Sully McSullinger will almost certainly be a lottery pick, so you'd think he has no place in this article. You'd be wrong. His career potential lies somewhere in between Gary Trent and Carlos Boozer, which means he has a pretty decent shot at being a bit of a bust, putting him in prime contention of being a Hasheem Thabeet-style rookie season send down.

F #1- Deshaun Thomas (6-6, 230. Freshman) In a perfect world, Deshaun Thomas would declare for the draft, go unpicked, sign with his hometown Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and win multiple D-League titles/MVP awards. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. He's staying at OSU, where he'll likely develop into a future lottery pick.

G/F #23- David Lighty (6-5, 220. Senior) From everything I'm hearing, Lighty is a second round prospect. Regardless, he's a good athlete and does a little bit of everything. Look for him to play solidly in the summer league and make a D-League squad next season.

G #33- Jon Diebler (6-6, 205. Senior) I can't quite tell if Jon Diebler is going to be J.J. Redick or Jon Scheyer. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised to see him down here next year.

SG #44- William Buford (6-5, 205. Junior) Buford won't be playing in the D-League next season because the Bulls will be selecting him with their first round pick. Duh.

F #52- Dallas Lauderdale (6-8, 255. Senior) If there was ever a lead pipe lock to play in the D-League, it's Dallas Lauderdale.

#4 Kentucky Wildcats

F #3- Terrence Jones (6-8, 250. Freshman) Terrence Jones will not play in the D-League next season.

G #12- Brandon Knight (6-3, 195. Freshman) Brandon Knight will also not be playing in the D-League next season.

G #20- Doron Lamb (6-4, 210. Freshman) I don't think Lamb will enter himself into the draft, but if he does, I could see him being a Willie Warren-type. As in someone who is intriguing enough to make an NBA roster, but not quite intriguing enough to actually play their rookie season.

G #34- DeAndre Liggins (6-6, 215. Freshman) Like Lamb, I don't think he'll leave. Then again, Daniel Orton left last year. Look where that got him (this Kentucky team would be terrifying with Orton). Liggins is a good athlete and an active defender. I'd see him making an NBA roster before Lamb.

F #55- Josh Harrellson (6-10, 275. Senior) A career backup who finally got some time this year, Harrellson has shown himself to be an aggressive rebounder and solid presence down low. He's a lot like Springfield's Gavin Edwards in the fact that he just needs more playing time before we really know what he is. He's also different from Edwards in the fact that he actually looks like he's physically matured. He might be better served playing overseas.

#11 Marquette Golden Eagles

G #1- Darius Johnson-Odom (6-2, 200. Junior) DJO is an intriguing prospect. I really haven't watched quite enough of him to know where his future lies, but rest assured I'm definitely interested in seeing more.

G/F #33- Jimmy Butler (6-6, 215. Senior) The B.M.O.C. at Marquette has shown a nack for hitting big shots, and he's got the size to play both the 2 and the 3. Other than that, his future is also particularly enigmatic. Blame me for not watching every college game this season. I can't handle that much mediocrity.

#2 North Carolina Tar Heels

SF #40- Harrison Barnes (6-8, 210. Freshman) If Harrison Barnes played in the D-League, he'd average 35 a game. Welcome to Cleveland/Washington D.C./Minneapolis, Harrison!

PG #11- Larry Drew II (6-2, 180. Junior) I suppose Larry is the type of big school guard who gives the D-League a shot every year (Scottie Reynolds), but I just can't get past the idea of him somehow making the Hawks roster.

F #31- John Henson (6-10, 210. Sophomore) I'd venture to guess Henson comes out after this season. His career potential can best be predicted by the careers of two other lanky UNC power forwards, Ed Davis and Brandan Wright. Ed Davis played in the D-League this season (much to his chagrin). Brandan Wright probably should have played in the D-League (much to our chagrin). I'd say Henson has a decent shot at it.

G #5- Kendall Marshall (6-3, 185. Freshman) Kendall has emerged as the fast playing, fast decision making point guard Roy Williams loves. He's a smart player, if not an overly talented one. The D-League loves those sort of guys, though I could see him sticking on an NBA roster.

F #44 Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250. Junior) Well, his brother, Luke, is currently a D-Leaguer. That's got to count for something, even if Tyler looks to be a little better than his brother. The key to his NBA career lies in if he can play center at that level. That has yet to be determined.

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