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NBA Draft 2021: NCAA Tournament first weekend stock risers

GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 11: Buddy Boeheim #35 of the Syracuse Orange reacts following a play during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round of the 2020 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 11, 2020 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 11: Buddy Boeheim #35 of the Syracuse Orange reacts following a play during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the second round of the 2020 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 11, 2020 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /
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Louisiana State Tigers Cameron Thomas NBA Draft Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Louisiana State Tigers Cameron Thomas NBA Draft Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The NCAA Tournament is a great opportunity for players to boost their stocks. While a holistic review of a player’s season is still more important, the tournament is a great opportunity to leave a lasting impression on NBA Draft scouts. There was also reportedly a significant number of NBA personnel in attendance this past weekend. Tons of players had good showings, but for the sake of brevity, here are the five that caught my eye.

FR Cam Thomas – LSU – Freshman – 6’4, 210 lbs

My view on Thomas has altered throughout the season. I liked his high school tape out of Oak Hill but was discouraged by some of the things I saw early on. His shooting splits weren’t great (40-32-88), and he was an unwilling passer. He also looked shorter than I anticipated.

But Thomas had a terrific showing in the NCAA Tournament. His jumper wasn’t falling early in the opener against St. Bonaventure, but Thomas found ways to score, getting to the line 13 times. He also showed good touch in the midrange game and made some good passing reads, which was a pleasant surprise.

In LSU’s second-round game against Michigan, Thomas erupted again. He shot an encouraging three of five from three, showcasing his deep range and ability to shoot off the dribble. Even against the Wolverines stout defense, Thomas found ways to get into the paint, finishing with 30 points, bringing his weekend average up to 28.5.

Thomas has his warts, and to be an undersized microwave scorer you need to be elite at that skill, but Thomas has proven that. He’s compact and makes up for his lack of height with very good elevation on his jumper. When he’s open, Thomas is a dangerous shooter, he just didn’t get a ton of open looks this season. He’s an easy guy to diagram sets for to get downhill and attack openings.

I buy his catch-and-shoot ability enough to play him off the ball. Ultimately, I think those scoring gifts are too enticing to not take in round one and I could see him rising into the top 20 after the lights-out scoring in Indianapolis.