What an exhilarating NCAA Tournament it’s been so far. A 1-seed, 2-seed and 4-seed have all gone down. Close games have been the norm in the first round, and NBA draft prospects have shown out in their matchups.
With the Spurs loss to the Grizzlies, they are tied for the second-worst record in the NBA with the Houston Rockets, and will look to secure a top-5 pick in the draft. Most of the potential top-5 picks aren’t playing in this tournament, as they chose alternative paths like the G-League, Overtime Elite and playing overseas.
The Spurs also hold Charlotte’s top-14 protected pick that won’t likely convey this season, their own second rounder (projected in the 31-34 range) and a heavily protected Indiana second that likely won’t convey either. There are plenty of players that fall into that late-first, early second round range that Spurs fans can check out in these exciting tournament games.
Last time we discussed UCONN’s Jordan Hawkins, the Duke Blue Devils and Missouri’s Kobe Brown, who all had good performances and are moving on to round two of the tournament. So there is still a chance to catch those players if you missed them last week. Here are three more prospects you should watch in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jalen Slawson, 6-7 Forward, Furman
One of the biggest stories of the tournament so far has been the three cinderella teams that toppled giants in the first round. The Furman Paladins would not be in this position if it weren’t for their 5th year senior, and potential NBA second-round pick, Jalen Slawson. He had 19 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists as well as a steal and a block in the first-round matchup. He went on a 9-0 run by himself to get the Paladins in position to win the game.
The forward flashed what makes him an intriguing prospect in the matchup vs. the 4 seeded Cavaliers. He is a long wing who can create for himself inside, knock down shots from range, and has great passing instincts. He has big defensive upside, being able to guard both wings and bigs with his size and athleticism. In the Southern Conference this season, Slawson put up 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, while shooting 56% from the field and 39% from 3 on high usage. His impressive shooting numbers this season make him a legit NBA prospect.
He would fit really well into the Keita Bates-Diop role for the Spurs. Someone who can give you spot starting minutes at the forward positions, and provide energy and shooting off of the bench. With KBD set to hit free agency, Slawson could be a younger option for the Silver and Black if he decides to go elsewhere. Furman will play San Diego State in the round of 32, and will need a big performance from their star to keep their magic run alive.
Jaime Jaquez Jr., 6-6 Guard/Forward, UCLA
Sometimes players just scream San Antonio Spurs. UCLA’s 4th year star fits the Silver and Black’s mold to a T. He’s been a terrific college player, is a bit of a throwback player and is someone who just understands the game at a high level. He had 17 points and 8 rebounds in their first round blowout victory over UNC-Asheville.
Jaquez isn’t your traditional wing scorer. He does a lot of his work in the high and low post, and gets more points off of smart cuts and movement than breaking his man off of the dribble for a bucket. He’s a smart off-ball defender and a strong rebounder for his size. Draft experts have said he has an “old man game.” The big swing skill is his jump shot, which has not been consistent this season. He’s scored 17 points a game this season, snatching 8 rebounds, but shooting just 30% from 3-point range this season.
He’s the type of glue guy that has thrived on past editions of the San Antonio playoff teams. More in the mold of a Kyle Anderson or Boris Diaw, he’s not the type of guy who will take over the game at the next level, but he will bring a consistent force off the bench or filling in the starting 5. The Spurs value high-IQ players, and Jaquez is certainly that. He and Slawson are both a bit older, and would fit the timeline of the team they are building right now, and might provide some steady play for a team that has desperately needed depth this season.
The Bruins will play Northwestern in round two, who has been one of the more impressive Big-10 teams this season. Expect UCLA to roll on with the help of their star senior.
Anthony Black, 6-7 Guard, Arkansas
We talked about Arkansas guard Nick Smith in the conference tournament edition of this series, but what about their other guard who has risen to the top of draft boards?
Anthony Black is a unique prospect in this draft, standing at 6’7” and playing the lead guard position for the Razorbacks. He’s a good passer, although a bit turnover prone with a 4:3 turnover ratio in his freshman season. He’s a plus defender, who uses his great size for a guard and his high defensive IQ to shut down teams both at the point of attack and off of the ball. In their first round matchup against Illinois, Black was a winning player, who routinely hounded Illinois’s guards, and put in 12 points and 6 assists.
Black is not a great shooter, nor is he necessarily an elite scorer. Most of his points come on opportune drive to the rim, and getting out in transition. He averaged 13 points a game as a senior, shooting just 30 percent from three-point range. Similar to a Spurs guard, Tre Jones, Black is a good floor general who lacks the jump shot to keep defense honest from outside. If the Spurs were to unfortunately drop to the middle of the lottery, this could be a range where someone like Black could make sense, if they are looking for a high-IQ defensive minded guard to add to their more offensive minded core.
Arkansas will battle Kansas in the second round, in what may end up being one of the best games of the first weekend. With no Bill Self on the sidelines for KU, Arkansas has a real opportunity to continue their stellar play into the sweet-16. Black’s defense will be essential against one of the strongest offensive teams in the country.