Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 NBA Prospects

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 19, 2012

Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 NBA Prospects

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    The NBA draft needles continue to move as more college basketball is played.

    It's been a strong week for Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA, Ben McLemore of Kansas and Isaiah Austin of Baylor, but not so strong for some of the others competing for a top-five bid.

    Cody Zeller entered the Butler game known as "The Big Handsome," but now we'll just have to refer to him as "The Big Kind-of-Decent-Looking Guy." An average game from the Indiana star might have cost his team, and his draft stock.

    But Zeller wasn't the only one to take a hit.

    With six months till the draft, these dents can all be repaired.

Stock Up: No. 1 Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, 6'6'' SG/SF

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    A UCLA freshman averaging 17.8 points per game is like a marathon runner with rocks in his pockets closing in on the leaders.

    Ben Howland's systematic offense isn't generally compatible with volume individual scoring, but Shabazz Muhammad has been an exception.

    Muhammad is shooting 47.6 percent from downtown, giving life to the notion that one of his predetermined weaknesses might end up being an unplanned strength.

    He was our top prospect on the board before the year, but now has a tighter grip on the position a month into the season.

Stock Up: No. 2 Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, 6'11'' C

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    Nerlens Noel has averaged 6.3 blocks over his last three games, getting better and better jumps on his opponent's next move.

    Because of his length and hops, the 6'11" Noel can afford to mistime a swat attempt and still change its direction.

    His competitors over the past two weeks have been mediocre at best, but at least he's making that known.

    Noel is cleaning up the glass, protecting the rim and finishing above it on the other end of the floor. Anything else he contributes is just a bonus.

Stock Up: No. 3 Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6'5'' SG

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    Make it 11 of his last 19 from downtown over his past four games.

    Ben McLemore continues to flash his high-caliber NBA tools as a spot-up shooter and explosive finisher.

    In just a month, we've seen glimpses of McLemore's ceiling, which happens to tower over the majority of his NBA draft competitors. To top it off, his pure stroke from outside keeps his basement above water. Worse comes to worst, he's a spot-up shooter, off-ball slasher and defensive asset.

    With a few prospects regressing and a shallow talent pool to begin with, McLemore has stood out and earned our No. 3 prospect in the country title early on.

Stock Down: No. 4 Cody Zeller, Indiana, 6'11'' C

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    Indiana's early loss reflects poorly on Cody Zeller, who didn't help himself by taking only nine shots all game Saturday.

    Zeller was barely visible down the stretch when he needed to be loud and aggressive.

    Teams have begun to front Zeller in the post and get physical with him inside. Butler made it work, limiting him to just four made field goals in 37 minutes.

    What's even stranger about Zeller's past week is that he followed up a career-high 19-rebound game with a five-rebound game in the loss to Butler. Indiana gave up 17 offensive boards, with Zeller grabbing three defensive rebounds in 37 minutes.

    He's going to have to play tougher on the glass and become more assertive on the offensive side of the ball if he wants teams selecting at the top to take him seriously.

Stock Unchanged: No. 5 Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6'5'' PG

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    Michael Carter-Williams is rattling off double-doubles like it's a routine feat for a point guard.

    Only one time in 10 games has Carter-Williams not eclipsed the nine-assist mark, and he now has five straight double-doubles.

    Inflated scoring can be fluky, but not assist rates (unless Mike D'Antoni is pushing the buttons).

    Just to top things off, Monday's game against Detroit marked the first of the season where Carter-Williams finished with less than three steals.

    The guy is playing at an All-World point guard level, and we've taken notice by placing him in our top five.

Stock Unchanged: No. 6 C.J. McCollum, Lehigh, 6'3'' PG

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    As long as Lehigh's C.J. McCollum is scoring over 24 points a night, his stock is unlikely to plummet throughout the year.

    We know who C.J. McCollum is by now. All it comes down to is the transition process. Can he consistently make shots the way he's making them now, but against stronger next-level competition?

    He currently leads the country in scoring, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him finish that way. The more he keeps rolling, the more believers he'll gain on the way.

Stock Unchanged: No. 7 Mason Plumlee, Duke, 7'0'' C

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    You know things are good when 5-of-14 shooting days turn into monster double-doubles.

    He shot 35 percent from the floor against Temple and still managed to rack up 16 points and 14 boards. Plumlee's bad days are better than his opponents' good ones.

    His stock is really unchanged, but this is just further proof that elite size and athleticism can make a difference, even if's not being used to convert field goals.

Stock Unchanged: No. 8 Alex Len, Maryland, 7'1'' C

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    Alex Len has missed four shots total over his last three games.

    It's fair to say that good things tend to happen when Maryland feeds their big man. Not only is Len finishing, but he's controlling the glass (8.8 RPG) and protecting the rim (2.6 BPG).

    More touches on the offensive end would give scouts a better feel for whether or not Len has secondary scoring capabilities for the next level. The fact that we're trying to decide whether or not he's top-five worthy is a really good sign this early for the sophomore.

Stock Down: No. 9 Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'' PG

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    It's tough to downgrade a freshman for a couple of rough shooting nights, but as Marcus Smart struggles from the floor, others are waiting to pounce.

    He's down to a frightening 25 percent from downtown and 35.4 percent from the floor, and while those numbers are more of a reflection of just a few bad games, we live in the present.

    I didn't dock him too much; Smart is currently our No. 2 point guard prospect in the 2013 NBA draft class, with a bright long-term future ahead.

Stock Unchanged: No. 10 Otto Porter, Georgetown, 6'8'' SF

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    Otto Porter would make the greatest intern ever: He's always around to help out wherever assistance is needed.

    Against Longwood, Georgetown required his vision and playmaking abilities, so he dished out seven assists and scored 22 points. Against Western Carolina, they used him under boards, where he grabbed nine rebounds, five of them offensive.

    This has been his forte throughout his short college career, and is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future.

    More isolation scoring action would raise his ceiling, and most likely his stock.

Stock Up: No. 11 Isaiah Austin, Baylor, 7'1'' PF/C

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    After a loss to Northwestern, Isaiah Austin bounced back nicely with a 23-point, 17-rebound showing against Lamar and a 12-point, 10-rebound, five-assist game against South Carolina Upstate.

    It's games like these where his talent level shines, particularly for a seven-footer with the mobility of a wing.

    He's still averaging a measly 0.6 blocks a game. You'd think at 7'1'' with a 7'3'' wingspan, Austin would average at least one by accident.

    Given he's a one-way prospect, it slightly limits his ceiling. But seeing his offense and rebounding come around is the priority in terms of Austin's development. Overall, a strong week for the big fella from Baylor.

Stock Unchanged: No. 12 Archie Goodwin, Kentucky, 6'5'' SG

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    Archie Goodwin's stock remains unchanged after a week playing against minor league competition.

    He's been efficient as a scorer and productive as a playmaker, averaging 15.8 points per game with 49.5 percent shooting and 4.4 assists while playing out of position.

    As long as he keeps making plays, limiting turnovers and taking good shots, Goodwin will remain on the lottery radar because of his fitting tools for an NBA scoring guard.

Stock Unchanged: No. 13 James Michael McAdoo, Northa Carolina, 6'9'' SF/PF

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    Not much has changed in the life of James McAdoo, although he did have a 19-point, seven-board game against Eastern Carolina.

    His numbers look good at 15 points and eight rebounds a game, but he hasn't made that statement yet that says what exactly he brings to the table.

    McAdoo is taking a good amount of 15-foot jumpers, so he seems to think he can make them. If these start dropping, it will add a sorely needed dimension of offense to help make his game more complete.

Stock Unchanged: No. 14 Rudy Gobert, France, 7'2'' C

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    Rudy Gobert's stock remains unchanged, and that's likely to be the case for the majority of the season.

    We'll know a lot more about Gobert when he gets to compete against the top prospects in college basketball during pre-draft activities and workouts.

    Until then, peg him anywhere from the mid-first round to the early lottery.

Stock Up: No. 15 Anthony Bennett, UNLV, 6'8'' SF/PF

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    When you score 25 and 27 points back-to-back, you're allowed a 2-of-9 off night against UTEP, which is sure to become an outlier looking back on the schedule months from now. 

    Anthony Bennett has played the most complete basketball of any freshman in the country, contributing as a scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. He's averaging 19 points to go with eight rebounds and 1.7 blocks a game, and he has already surpassed expectations just a month into the season.

    A name we originally expected to see in the 2014 NBA draft, it's going to be hard for Bennett to return as a sophomore if he continues on this pace.

Stock Unchanged: No. 16 Alex Poythress, Kentuky, 6'8'' SF

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    Alex Poythress' stock remains unchanged after a typical week in a Wildcats uniform.

    Along with the rest of his NBA prospect teammates, Kentucky played against some pretty underwhelming programs this week, making the box scores completely irrelevant. 

    Until Poythress starts creating more scoring opportunities for himself, the mid-first round will be his projected draft range.

Stock Up: No 17 Trey Burke, Michigan, 6'0'' PG

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    Trey Burke finished the week averaging 20 points and six assists over a three-game stretch.

    He's really starting to show off NBA potential. Ball screens are a nightmare for Burke's defenders because of his ability to change speed and direction on a dime off the dribble.

    With top-notch quickness, Burke has been accelerating toward the hoop and finishing like a pro. His pull-up jumper has also been an effective tool, one he'll use a lot once he reaches the next level.

    Some people I've spoken with think he's the best pure point guard prospect in the country, which they wouldn't have said a few weeks ago.

    Trey Burke is on the rise, and so are the Michigan Wolverines.

Stock Down: No. 18 Tony Mitchell, North Texas, 6'8'' SF/PF

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    What's happening to Tony Mitchell?

    After recording his first double-double in seven games, we thought the train was back on the track. But it veered off once again and eventually toppled over on its side.

    Mitchell shot 1-of-9 against a Southeastern Louisiana team that scored a total of 40 points in 40 minutes.

    We thought Mitchell would make for a nice stretch target on the perimeter, but his three-point percentage has dipped from 43 percent to 28 percent. Also, his rebounding numbers are inexplicably down by almost two per game, a strange development considering his minutes are unchanged.

    He's going to have to snap out of this funk in order for teams to consider using a top-10 pick on him. Mitchell's stock is undoubtedly down to start the year.

Stock Unchanged: No. 19 Isaiah Canaan, Murray State, 6'1'' PG

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    Isaiah Canaan is coming off back-to-back 21-point games this week, which isn't a big deal considering that's his average for the year.

    He's a consistent producer, and there's no reason to believe his scoring average will ever dip below 20.

    Those questioning his point guard tools are just looking for something to pick at. He's a Raymond Felton replica in terms of body type and ball-handling, and he just happens to have one of the deadliest shots around (43 percent from three).

    Why not use it?

    His stock is unchanged after an average yet productive week at the office.

Stock Unchanged: No. 20 Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0'' C

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    It's tough for a guy's stock to fluctuate when he's only getting 19 minutes a game.

    Willie Cauley-Stein is likely to be slotted in the mid-first round throughout the year, with the idea that someone with time to spare will look to snatch him up based on potential.

    He's producing when he's out there, averaging seven points and five boards with 57.9 percent field-goal shooting in a limited role, but statistics are unlikely to have any effect on his draft stock.