The underlying story that goes along with a player's performance in the tournament is the effect that performance and their team's success can have on their draft stock. Obviously this applies greatly to the Wildcats' stable of NBA talent, as the better our guys play, the further we go and the higher their stock rises, making the jump to the pros more likely for some and more profitable for others. People whose job it is to pay attention to these kinds of things watched the first weekend and here's what a couple of them had to say about Kentucky's prospects.
First, from ESPN guru Chad Ford
On John Wall:
Wall's biggest weakness? Shooting. So what does he do? Goes 6-for-10 from behind the arc in the tournament. And about those crazy turnovers: He's sporting a 2.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio so far. What else do you want?
And Eric Bledsoe:
GMs love Bledsoe's toughness and speed, but they've questioned his offensive abilities. Bledsoe has responded by shooting the lights out his last four games including nailing 8-of-9 3s in the first round. In a draft devoid of point guards, he's making a late charge for the lottery.
And here's a rundown on all the top prospects from Mike Prada
, who isn't an expert but runs a Washington Wizards blog called Bullets Forever
(insert Gilbert Arenas joke here) for SBNation, and considering the Wizards have pretty much nothing to live for but the lottery at this point, I would imagine he's paying pretty close attention:
It's hard to say Wall's stock could go up any more since he's the probable number one pick, but this weekend only cemented it for me. Wall's biggest strength is his ability to change the game without dominating the ball, and he was able to do that in both of Kentucky's games. He also flashed an improved jump shot, nailing six of his ten three-point attempts this weekend. Wall didn't shoot that well from three this year, so he'll need to continue to show his shot has improved in the NCAA Tournament to hold off Evan Turner.
...Now, two years later, we have another Russell Westbrook on our hands in Eric Bledsoe. His regular-season numbers are almost irrelevant because he played with John Wall, which explains the low assist totals. In the NCAA Tournament, though, he's shown he's capable of scoring efficiently, shooting the deep ball, defending and, on occasion, setting others up. He torched East Tennessee State from the three-point line, then went back into the background and quietly dropped 13 and 5 in 26 minutes on just nine shots against Wake Forest. He's capable of carrying the load when necessary, and he's learned to play off other great players by playing with this crew at Kentucky.
Assuming the Wildcats keep winning, Bledsoe will get more and more attention from NBA scouts. Don't be surprised to see his name called in the mid-lottery by a team who needs a point guard. I'm looking at you, Philadelphia, Indiana and New York.
And Patrick Patterson:
Patterson's going to be a really tough guy to project on the next level. Like Bledsoe, Patterson's skills get hidden by playing with Cousins. One of the reasons Patterson's defensive rebounding has slipped this year is that Cousins is stealing his rebounds, for lack of a better term. Patterson's also not scoring nearly as efficiently as last year, which is a concern. However, Patterson's had to sacrifice more than anyone else on Kentucky, and he's still managed to turn himself into arguably as important a player as anyone on the Wildcats. If Cousins gets into foul trouble, the Wildcats still have Daniel Orton, but if Patterson goes out, Kentucky has nobody that can replicate all the things Patterson brings to the table.
It's also worth noting how Patterson took Wake Forest' Al-Farouq Aminu out of the game with his defense.
The moral of the story: Wall has a tight hold on No. 1, Bledsoe's playing himself into the lottery and the guy basically avoided making any kind of worthwhile analysis based on the tournament for Patterson, which means he lied to us. So there you go.