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Utah Jazz: Top 5 2014 NBA Draft prospects who impressed at NCAA Tournament

Shabazz Napier, UConn
Shabazz Napier, UConn
Ronald Martinez

Everybody watched UConn complete an improbable run by knocking off Kentucky in the recently completed NCAA Tournament. And everybody has watched the Utah Jazz lose 13 of its last 15 games -- including a loss to Dallas on Tuesday, April 8.

But there is a bigger reason, a greater purpose to watching March Madness as the Jazz continue to lose more games with the 2013-14 NBA season about to come to a close.

The NCAA Tournament came into view for the past several weeks, a showcase through which players at competing schools -- mostly underclassmen -- it seemed were competing for the right to continue to play and impress NBA teams.

Some, like UConn senior guard Shabazz Napier, needed a good showing at March Madness to get the legions of naysayers off of his heavily tattooed back. This draft class is filled to the brim with underclassmen, mostly one-and-done’s who are only in college so that they can get that one year out of the way -- and be on their way to making millions in the NBA.

Others, like two-thirds of Kentucky’s roster -- particularly forward Julius Randle -- merely needed to play well but not great in order to ensure they were being taken in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Randle has been No.4 in most mock drafts for months.

College freshmen comprise seven of 10 potential draftees, ranging from Andrew Wiggins to Jabari Parker to Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.

But there were others who stepped up and answered the call at the NCAA Tournament, including UCLA sophomore forward Kyle Anderson who before March Madness was a late first round to early second round pick.

Since that time the draft stock of Kyle Anderson has boosted to the point where this rare 6-foot-9-inch point guard in a forward's body is being considered as a lottery pick -- ahead of teammates Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams.

In the middle of the first round of mocks you have a pair of freshmen in Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis, Kentucky guard James Young -- and a slew of sophomores including Kyle Anderson -- waiting to hear their names called.

College juniors and seniors seem to co-habitate toward the end of most first round mock drafts -- but let’s be clear about something: not everyone -- especially Wiggins and Parker -- did a thing to impress scouts at the NCAA Tournament. But others did, and here’s how they could factor into the Jazz’ decision on Draft Day.

Shabazz Napier, UConn
Shabazz Napier, UConn Ronald Martinez

Shabazz Napier, UConn

Napier was considered by many to be a longshot first-round draft pick before the NCAA Tournament began. But did the senior guard ever deliver when it counted, averaging 23 points per game in March Madness.

The knocks on Napier are largely the same; he is too greedy with the basketball to be considered a team player -- but he’s spent a career trying to dissuade people so what makes this next step any different? Would the Jazz consider this champion at No. 23?

Julius Randle, Kentucky
Julius Randle, Kentucky Ronald Martinez

Julius Randle, Kentucky

Randle is caught in the unenviable position of having to compete dollars-wise with Wiggins, Parker and to a degree Joel Embiid of Kansas and possibly Australian guard Dante Exum.

The good news for Randle is he did nothing to discourage his draft position at the NCAA Tournament -- which might actually improve if Parker stays in school.

James Young, Kentucky
James Young, Kentucky Jamie Squire

James Young, Kentucky

To quote the legendary Forrest Gump, before the NCAA Tournament Young was like a box of chocolates; you never knew what you were going to get -- whether it was an off night shooting the ball or fouling out.

The Jazz and other teams at the 2014 NBA Draft know exactly what they’ll get now: a hard working freshman who is becoming a lock-down defender and happens to be a good three-point shooter. If he’s there at No. 23, would the Jazz be foolish not to consider him?

Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Nik Stauskas, Michigan Andy Lyons

Nik Stauskas, Michigan

Stauska helped his draft stock greatly by playing well during the NCAA Tournament. Of any of the shooting guards in March Madness, the Canadian had to most to gain -- and lose -- with his performances.

He reminded you more of Gordon Hayward than Jimmer Fredette at the NCAA Tournament with his athleticism -- and that alone should make Jazz fans take note if Stauskas is available at No. 23.

Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Kyle Anderson, UCLA Streeter Lecka

Kyle Anderson, UCLA

Kyle Anderson has worked his way into the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft by showing everyone that he can play the “point-forward” position in the NCAA Tournament.

Not only did Kyle Anderson play it, he ran the Bruins offense with precision -- even coming close to notching a triple-double in several games. He averaged 14 points, 8 rebounds and six assists for UCLA.

Moreover, Kyle Anderson is a potential game-changer that a select few are talking about, and is one to keep an eye on as a surprise lottery pick for Utah -- because he won’t be there at No. 23 -- if Jabari does indeed stay in school.