March Madness is nearly upon us and conference tournaments across the country are set to unfold this week. Over the next month, NBA fans will get an early look at the next crop of promising prospects. If the current standings hold, the Trail Blazers could find themselves selecting earlier than expected on draft night, an outcome that would add more emphasis to the process. With that in mind, Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald looked at four prospects that have piqued his interest.
Saddiq Bey | F | Villanova
HT: 6’8” | PTS: 16.0 | REB: 4.8 | FG%: 47.5 | 3P%: 44.7
Saddiq Bey has improved his efficiency in several key areas during his second season with the Wildcats. Most importantly, Bey has blossomed into an efficient shooter from beyond the arc. Now in a featured role inside of Villanova’s floor-spacing style, Bey’s three-point percentage jumped from last year’s 37.4 percent to 44.7 percent. Outside of his work from distance, he fills the lane properly in transition, exploits smaller defenders in the post and remains active without the ball in his hands. That combination of skills has led to Bey’s consistent rise up draft boards.
The Big East Tournament gets underway on Wednesday, with Villanova making their debut on Thursday. The field in this tournament is incredibly even and features competent opponents from Seton Hall down to Marquette. You can catch Bey in action during the Big East Tournament on FS1.
Obi Toppin | PF | Dayton
HT: 6’9” | PTS: 19.8 | REB: 7.6 | BLK: 1.3 | FG%: 62.9
Buoyed by a multi-faceted arsenal of skills, Obi Toppin has produced phenomenal numbers this season. Along with manning the power forward spot, Toppin’s modern playing style could attract NBA suitors looks to add a spot-duty stretch five. Working in pick-and-roll sets, Toppin makes decisions quickly once he receives the ball. From court vision to working through contact, there is a lot to like about the 22-year-old forward.
Age and suspect competition are the two critiques Toppin faces most often. Dayton enters Atlantic 10 Tournament play with a perfect record, maintaining that unblemished resume is crucial to the Flyers’ chances of earning a top-tier spot that is conducive to a deep run later this month. A-10 Tournament play starts on Wednesday. Toppin and the Flyers are set to join the field on Friday. NBC Sports, CBS Sports and CBS are all tasked with broadcast duties at different points of the tournament.
Onyeka Okongwu | C | USC
HT: 6’9 | PTS: 16.2 | REB: 8.6 | BLK: 2.7 | FG%: 61.6
Forget Onyeka Okongwu’s lack of ideal height, he possesses all the tools necessary to perform at a high level in the NBA. Defensively, Okongwu quickly reloads between jumps to secure rebounds and block shots. Outside of the post, he is comfortable in space thanks to his superb lateral quickness. As a pick-and-roll target, the 19-year-old center makes himself a big target for finishes at the rim. Okongwu has not done much outside of the paint, but his 72 percent efficiency from the free throw line suggests that his shooting range has the potential to expand.
The Trojans enter the Pac-12 Tournament on a three-game winning streak. A solid showing from Okongwu this week would further cement his place near the top of the NBA Draft discussion and it would bolster USC’s tournament chances. Pac-12 action gets underway on Wednesday and USC is set to join the field on Thursday. The Pac-12 Network and FS1 alternate the broadcast coverage this week.
Jordan Nwora | SF | Louisville
HT: 6’7” | PTS: 18.0 | REB: 7.7 | FG%: 44.0 | 3P%: 40.2
Jordan Nwora’s placement on this list is directly tied to his work as a catch-and-shoot operator. The Cardinals have leaned on Nwora’s ability to space the floor throughout the year. After dipping below the 40-percent threshold from beyond the arc as a sophomore, the 21-year-old New York native has bounced back to form while attempting just over six three-pointers per game as a Junior. He isn’t the flashiest prospect, but his skill set projects nicely as a plug-and-play option.
The ACC features a plethora of intriguing NBA prospects on the perimeter, making this week’s tournament another stellar opportunity for Nwora to showcase his talent. The ACC Tournament gets underway on Tuesday and Louisville is set to join the field on Thursday. ESPN’s family of networks are tasked with broadcast duties.