Stock Watch for the Top NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
Outside of Cody Zeller, the Big Ten has a number of NBA prospects who could either go in the first round or undrafted.
We've seen some breakout starts and early setbacks. It's a league that's likely to see a lot of ups and downs in terms of individual draft stock. Maintaining consistency, developing specialty skills and limiting low points should be a priority for these prospects, who all have the potential to become NBA role players.
Stock Up: Victor Oladipo, Indiana, 6'4'' SG
Victor Oladipo can impact the outcome of a game without using a dribble.
He's never been considered a threatening prospect because of his inability to create his own shot. And while that's still the case, he's more efficient because of it.
Rarely is an offensive possession wasted on Oladipo. He's shooting 63 percent from the floor, only missing 2.7 shots a game, yet still scoring 12 points.
He's getting himself baskets from constant off-ball movement and defense-to-offense points in transition.
Because his offensive identity is established as a slashing off-guard and lockdown defender, it will be easy for teams in the market to seek him out.
Playoff teams looking to add defensive ball-stoppers for the playoffs could be interested in Oladipo's motor off the bench.
Stock Down: Adreian Payne, Michigan State, 6'10'' PF/C
Adreian Payne has the body for the NBA, just not the game to go with it right now.
Payne has a broad, strong 6'10'' frame with long, powerful arms. It's the reason he's even considered an NBA prospect, because the seven points he's been averaging, most of which have been coming within five feet of the rim, do not help his cause.
Payne has potential, and you root for him to produce because he looks the part of an NBA player. But he just takes so long to execute his move that he rarely gets separation. He lacks fluidity and creativity in the post, and just doesn't seem to have a deep bag of tricks.
Payne hasn't been doing enough to differentiate himself from the other raw big men in the country. He'll likely get looks, just not long ones.
Stock Up: Brandon Paul, Illinois, 6'4'' SG
Brandon Paul seems to be experiencing a breakout we see from a few seniors every year.
He averaged 14 points last year shooting 39 percent from the floor and 33 percent from downtown, which earned him the label as an undersized, inefficient scorer.
Through nine games this year, Paul has increased his scoring average to 17 points a game, and is now shooting 46 from the floor and 39 percent from three-point range. These type of improvements come as the result of taking better shots, and consequently converting more of them.
Paul has NBA-scoring tools, most notably his ability to shoot off the dribble on the perimeter and finish at the rim.
Keep an eye on his shooting percentages to determine whether this is just a streak or if a corner has actually been turned.
Teams looking for scoring production off the bench should have Paul on their draft boards anywhere in the second round right now.
Stock Down: Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota, 6'8'' PF
Just a year ago, we were talking about Trevor Mbakwe as a potential lottery target. After suffering a torn ACL and preseason DUI, we're now questioning what round he goes in.
Minnesota has given him a limited 17-minute role off the bench, after averaging 29 minutes a game over the previous two seasons. As a reserve, he's averaging 8.4 points and 6.7 rebounds, and is no longer the focus and go-to option for the offense.
Turning 24 years old in January, Mbakwe is old for a prospect, but the fact that he looks old on the floor is what's troublesome from an eye-test point of view.
He doesn't have that explosive athleticism he once had before the injury, which won't win him any fans in the top portion of the draft.
Mbakwe is one of the better true post-scorers in the country, but with physical and character question marks, along with a decline in production and usage, the arrow is certainly pointing down.
Stock Up: Trey Burke, Michigan, 6'0'' PG
We recognized Trey Burke's talent last year, but the freshman mistakes and physical flaws had kept him from legitimate first-round consideration. He contemplated entering his name in the draft, but ultimately decided that another year at Michigan could help boost his draft stock.
Turns out Burke was right.
He came back stronger, having added muscle while maintaining the same top-notch speed and quickness.
Burke is averaging 17 points and seven assists, and has been knocking down threes at a respectable 36 percent clip.
The Wolverines look as good as any team in the country, and it's because of the floor leadership and reliability their point guard is providing.
Trey Burke has enough positive qualities that could attract mid-to-late first-round attention.
Stock Down: Drew Crawford, Northwestern, 6'5'' SG
Drew Crawford put himself on the NBA radar after averaging 16 points as a junior, so any form of regression as a senior is not going to help.
He's down to 14 a game this year, and his field-goal percentage has dropped from 48 percent to 42 percent.
Crawford isn't the most electric athlete, so converting on the perimeter is a must for his draft stock.
After the departure of leading scorer John Shurna, Crawford was primed for an even bigger year than he had last, and that just hasn't been the case early in the season.
With an abundance of athletic scoring shooting guards to compete with, Crawford will need to add something new in order to separate from the pack.
Stock Up: Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan, 6'5'' SG
There's no question that Tim Hardaway has the tools to be a scoring off-guard at the next level. Until now, he had been using those tools at all the wrong times.
As a junior, he's taking better shots and making more of them. He's gone from being a 41 percent shooter to a 52 percent shooter, making the same amount of threes, only taking 1.1 less a game.
Hardaway's ability to create separation off the dribble as a mid-range scorer makes him lethal in the half-court.
He's scoring 15 points a game, and looks to have matured as an all-round decision-maker and complete offensive weapon.
If he sustains this type of offensive efficiency, Hardaway could draw interest as early as the late first round.
Stock Down: Christian Watford, Indiana, 6'8'' SF
Christian Watford looks like he belongs at the NBA party, we're just not sure what he'll be bringing.
His shooting percentage is down to 36 percent, and he's had some rough games against better competition. Watford went 1-of-9 against North Carolina and 3-of-10 against Georgetown. Despite the fact that Indiana won both games, Watford was not a factor.
He's an appealing stretch-prospect, with his three-point percentage at at least 38 percent over the past three years, but he's never made more than 1.4 a game. It's just not a big enough sample size to justify taking Watford as a specialist.
He's an effective finisher at the rim, but he's limited off the dribble and looks more comfortable in a spot-up role.
This isn't to say he's not draft-worthy, but Watford has dug himself a shallow hole to start the year.
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