NBA looks beyond tourney

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

The madness began in earnest yesterday, a time when Cinderella resurfaces on the hardwood.

It is a time when bracketologists come out of the closet, even though most of these self-anointed college experts don't know a thing about basketball.

The madness takes on a different meaning among the many NBA executives and scouts because it's such a maddening process to identify the bona fide pro prospects, which is all the NBA cares about.

At a time when the NBA has notified its teams that next year's salary cap will decrease, making a mistake becomes more painful in a league were first-round picks are guaranteed a fortune.

The Raptors, barring some miraculous last-season run, are poised to have a top-10 pick.

At the rate they are dropping games, the team's draft slot may actually improve.

NBA officials can't officially discuss underclassmen and are loath to provide any meaningful insight, at least on the record, but history has taught the bird dogs to be wary.

Success on the college level does not automatically translate into the pros because the games are so entirely different.

For all of Mateen Cleaves' leadership and toughness, he had absolutely zero impact in the NBA.

Christian Laettner is among the greatest to ever play college basketball.

Because he attended Duke, there was this added aura attached to Laettner.

He was even chosen to the original Dream Team and was taken third overall in the NBA behind Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning.

In the final analysis, Laettner will be remembered as a marginal NBA player.

And therein lies the mystery behind the madness.

A prospect who plays centre on the college level might be best suited to play small forward at the pro level.

A prospect who can beat his defender with ease in any tournament game may not necessarily be talented enough to create his own shot on the pro stage.

Players who have been overlooked are provided a stage to impress.

One of the most celebrated nobodies who transformed into a somebody is Antonio McDyess.

There was very little buzz surrounding McDyess when he played at Alabama.

In his second year with the Crimson Tide, McDyess exploded by showcasing a rare combination of athleticism and power.

Alabama didn't go deep in the NCAA tournament, but McDyess' stock shot up the charts.

When the NBA's draft was held in Toronto in 1995, McDyess was taken second overall.

That's how much of an impact that the NCAA tournament can have on a college kid's future.

A kid such as Tyler Hansbrough, one of college basketball's premier players, isn't exactly rated favourably by the NBA.

He gets a lot of attention because he plays at North Carolina, but at best Hansbrough is projected as a late first-round pick.

Hansbrough's college teammate, Ty Lawson, has a better chance to have an impact in the NBA. As such, he stands to collect much more money.

If he decides to come out of school early, Blake Griffin is expected to be the NBA's first overall pick this June.

A sophomore at Oklahoma, Griffin is a 6-foot-10 power forward who needs to improve his face-up game and defence.

His Sooner teammate, shooting guard Willie Warren, also is projected to play in the NBA, but he's not in Griffin's class.

Whether you're Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), James Harden (Arizona State), Darren Collison (UCLA), Pitt teammates DeJuan Blair and Sam Young, Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth), Duke's Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler, Arizona's Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, Louisville's Earl Clark, Ohio State's B.J. Mullens and Evan Turner, Wake Forest teammates Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu, USC's DeMar DeRozan, or Tyreke Evans of Memphis, March Madness is a time to make an impression.

For the NBA, it is a time to take stock of the prospects and continue the evaluation.

With so much at stake, every mistep carries a financial consequence.

Strip away the madness and what you're left with is money -- lots of money.


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