Payton Sandfort has drawn NBA attention leading up to the Big Ten Tournament

Sandfort needs a strong performance in Minneapolis for himself just as much as he does for his team.
Penn State v Iowa
Penn State v Iowa / Grace Smith/GettyImages

Despite two late-season losses to Illinois, the Iowa Hawkeyes closed the 2023-24 regular season with a strong showing. A lot of that had to do with junior forward Payton Sandfort.

Since the win over ranked Wisconsin to start the late season push to a potential NCAA Tournament bid, Standford has averaged 20.7 points per game, 3.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds. He also recorded the first triple-double in program history against Penn State in that stretch.

The surge has brought some attention to Sandfort as his point and assists averages are higher than his season averages. Not only are opposing Big Ten teams paying attention but so is the NBA.

In an ESPN article detailing the biggest NBA Draft questions of the Big Ten Tournament, Sandfort was listed with an understandable question: Can he lead Iowa to the NCAA Tournament?

NBA Draft analyst Jeremy Woo suggests that Sandfort has likely earned himself an invite to the NBA Combine. This is in large part because of the late-season surge that has drawn attention to the program after a slow start. Sandfort has put on such a show that it's hard not to recognize that he's a well-balanced player with proper size to boot, making for an interesting prospect for the next level.

While his size at 6-foot-7 is intriguing, the biggest question of his game translating to the next level will be his lateral movement and defense against elite speed, so says The Athletic's John Hollinger. Still, Sandfort's shooting percentages are eye-catching as is his leadership of the Hawkeyes in their hour of need.

While being ousted early in the tournament would dash the Hawkeyes' efforts to make the NCAA Tournament, it would likewise be unfortunate for Sandfort to lose out on extra opportunities to provide quality film for NBA scouts. If he can will the Hawkeyes to multiple wins in the Big Ten Tournament and clinch a spot in the Big Dance, it will impress those scouts a great deal.

Sandfort is currently projected as a late second-round pick at best, and climbing those rankings won't be easy. But, at the very least, solidifying himself as a draftable prospect would kickstart his career from an advantageous position.

Nonetheless, there's no word on if Sandfort has any intentions of heading to the next level once the season is over. The 21-year-old from Waukee, Iowa, has two years of eligibility remaining.

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