Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 NBA Prospects
As the college basketball season approaches conference play, there still isn't a standout player who looks capable of altering the future of a franchise.
But at the same time, this draft is extremely deep with serviceable role players and potential No. 2 or No. 3 scoring options in an NBA rotation.
UNLV's Anthony Bennett and Duke's Mason Plumlee get substantial bumps in this week's top 20 rankings, while Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams takes a trip back to Earth.
Stats updated as of December, 25, 2012.
Stock Up: 1. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA- 6'6'' SG/SF
Shabazz Muhammad had his best week in terms of production, scoring 25, 21 and 27 points in three games.
He continues to convert from all over the court, both inside the arc and out.
Muhammad is playing efficient basketball all around, unlike most freshman scorers who suffer from poor shot selection. He's shooting 49 percent from the floor and 47 percent from downtown, without relying too heavily on one particular part of his game.
He's learning on the fly and gradually improving. The fact that he's scored at least 15 points in every game but one highlights his extraordinary scoring instincts.
Stock Unchanged: 2. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky- 6'11'' C
Nerlens Noel's draft stock remains unharmed, despite pedestrian scoring numbers on a routine basis.
He went for 11 points and 10 rebounds against Marshall, doing all of his damage within five feet of the cylinder.
One piece of good news is that he's rebounding the ball, averaging 9.1 per game. It doesn't have to be a strength, but as long as it's not a weakness scouts will have one less flaw to pick at.
If Noel is providing a strong defensive presence on the glass and above the rim, he'll be a top-three prospect based on his elite physical tools and projected long-term impact. Defense has been his focus so far this year, and it should remain a priority for the rest of his basketball career.
Stock Up: 3. Ben McLemore, Kansas- 6'5'' SG
Ben McLemore scored 22 points in a statement win at Ohio State, as he continues to justify the No. 3 ranking we've given him.
After hitting three more threes against the Buckeyes, McLemore is now 14 for his last 24 attempts from downtown. Not only does he have top-notch shooting potential, but he can put it on the deck and finish with authority.
He's incredibly smooth with his overall delivery, seemingly gliding around the floor without any hesitation.
With no clear-cut favorite for the first overall pick, you can now throw McLemore's name into the conversation.
Stock Down: 4. Cody Zeller, Indiana- 6'11'' C
Cody Zeller remains offensively efficient, but it's hard not to notice his minimal impact under the boards.
Zeller followed up his five-rebound, 37-minute effort in a loss to Butler with back-to-back six-rebound games this week.
He's the most skilled offensive frontcourt player in the country, but his finesse style of play limits his overall ceiling.
There's just no way that a team choosing in the top three would feel confident selecting a center who isn't a factor defensively or on the glass.
Maybe he'll play more aggressively in conference play, but it's something to watch for moving forward.
Stock Up: 5. Mason Plumlee, Duke- 7'0'' C
In a way, Mason Plumlee's consistency is more impressive than his actual numbers.
One of the factors separating him from most of the other NBA prospects is the idea of certainty. Plumlee is certain to make an impact at the next level, even if his offense never pans out.
He went for 21 and 15 against Elon and and 18 and 9 against Cornell, missing a total of five shots between both games.
Seven-foot athletes with Plumlee's level of athleticism were just meant to play in the NBA. He's moved up to No. 5 in our top 20 prospect rankings because of the reliability he brings to the table.
Stock Unchanged: 6. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh- 6'3'' PG
Over 50 scouts flew in to watch C.J. McCollum battle Tony Mitchell of North Texas, only to find out that McCollum wouldn't be playing due to an ankle injury.
On a positive note, he wasn't exposed in front of representatives from likely every team in the NBA.
He hasn't played in a game since December 8, but he's still second in the country in scoring at 24.9 per game.
We have him at No. 6 on our rankings, which will probably be his draft-day ceiling.
Stock Up: 7. Otto Porter, Georgetown- 6'8'' SF
Otto Porter is another one of those guys who will benefit from possessing a level of certainty. He's just too advanced physically and mentally for the transition not to work out.
Adding another efficient performance to the resume, Porter went for 16 points and 13 rebounds on 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc against American. He remains productive across the board, contributing wherever help is needed.
In a league with a surplus of shoot-first mentalities, Porter is a candidate to become a long-term glue-guy and significant cog in a rotation. He's a safe bet anywhere outside the top five.
Stock Up: 8. Alex Len, Maryland- 7'1'' C
Alex Len is making the most of his offensive touches. He was aggressive in a beat down of Stony Brook, finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds, but most importantly, a team-high 14 shot attempts.
The more he looks to score, the better chance he'll have at shooting up the rankings into the top tier of prospects. And because of his rare size and athleticism, he has the upside to justify a pick that high in the draft.
You can be sure that scouts will have their eyes glued to the court when Len faces off against Mason Plumlee on January 26.
Stock Down: 9. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse- 6'5'' PG
Michael Carter-Williams shot 3-of-17, including 0-of-5 from downtown, and 7-of-15 from the stripe in an upset loss to Temple. What's worse was that he was in control of the basketball for the majority of the game.
You don't want the reputation of being volatile, where a bad individual game could ruin the team's chances of winning. Carter-Williams missed 14 field-goal attempts, eight free throws and turned it over three times. That's way too many possessions for one player to waste in 33 minutes.
It's not the biggest deal considering it's only one game, but the bandwagon might be a little lighter this week.
Stock Up: 10. Anthony Bennett, UNLV- 6'7'' SF/PF
Quick, aggressive and decisive—the three best adjectives I got out of watching Anthony Bennett over the past two weeks.
He knows where he wants to go and when he wants to attack.
Bennett moved the needles this week with two complete offensive games. He scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games for the third time this year, but it's the five combined three-pointers he made that shows just how well-rounded he is as a prospect.
He gets himself a few easy baskets a game earning strong position down low, making him a favorable candidate for offensive boards and easy finishes at the rim.
Stock Unchanged: 11. James McAdoo, North Carolina- 6'9'' SF/PF
In North Carolina's loss to Texas, James McAdoo finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, 6 steals and five turnovers before fouling out.
He''ll make your jaw drop with one possession and make you scratch your head with another.
McAdoo is actually making NBA-level shots, specifically an over-the-shoulder fade-away jumper that he's extremely confident taking. But he still needs to show a better feel for his limitations by improving his shot selection and ball security.
I think he'll find his way back into the top 10 by year's end, but scouts haven't been overly impressed by what they've seen so far.
Stock Unchanged: 12. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State- 6'4'' PG
Marcus Smart continues to struggle from the floor, which is strange because his three-ball is coming around.
Despite shooting just 31 percent from the floor over his last three games, he's made seven three-pointers during the stretch. Playing against inferior competition, his scoring and assist rates are likely to fluctuate, especially when OK State is winning by 25 or more consistently.
I'll stress this all year, but Smart's numbers in college will have no impact on his draft stock. His ability to make teammates better will be what attracts NBA attention.
Smart should hang around this tier of the rankings throughout the rest of the year.
Stock Unchanged: 13. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky- 6'5'' SG
Archie Goodwin minimized the damage done from a 4-of-17 performance against Marshall by getting to the line and making 10-of-11 attempts.
This is why he's so dangerous. Because of his explosiveness and ability to take off before defenders can set their feet, he becomes unguardable when accelerating and exploding toward the rim.
He's shown confidence pulling up off the dribble, and the willingness to give it up if it means an open look for a teammate.
Before extending his three-point range, which he'll need to do eventually, he'll have to do a better job of picking and choosing when to attack and when to make the simple play.
Goodwin's stock remains stable with room to grow.
Stock Unchanged: 14. Isaiah Austin, Baylor- 7'1'' PF/C
Isaiah Austin posted a double-double against BYU, going for 14 points and 10 rebounds along with a career-high five blocked shots.
Believe it or not it's only the fourth time all year that he's finished a game with a block, so you wonder if this was a fluke or something he'll look to build on moving forward.
Austin might be the most talented true 7-footer because of his ability to play on the perimeter, work the in-between game and finish inside. But his ceiling might be capped because of a severe lack of strength.
Unless he shows flashes of quickness off the dribble and rhythm as a shot-creator, the top seven might be off limits to Austin.
Stock Unchanged: 15. Rudy Gobert, France- 7'2'' C
The highlights in the video are from December 22, 2012.
Rudy Gobert is only averaging 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in a limited role for Cholet, but it's the impact his physical tools can potentially have on a game that generates so much NBA attention.
With a 7'9'' wingspan, the ability to run the floor and sky above the rim, he's got a JaVale McGee-like outlook only without the bad habits and brain-farts.
Stock Up: 16. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh- 7'0'' C
Steven Adams has been showing signs of gaining confidence and comfort maneuvering out on the floor.
He's averaging 11 points and 8.3 rebounds over his last three games, playing above the rim inside and maintaining an active motor throughout.
The intrigue surrounding Adams is visible without seeing him use a dribble. At 7'0'', you just don't see that many prospects with his level of athleticism, effortless mobility and coordination.
He's also shown potential as a pick-and-pop or drive-and-dish target in the half-court, knocking down a few mid-range jumpers off the catch-and-shoot, and doing so with good rhythm.
Adams is probably better off playing two years in college, but it wouldn't be surprising if someone throws him a guarantee based on his long-term potential.
Stock Up: 17. Tony Mitchell, North Texas- 6'8'' SF/PF
Tony Mitchell had his best game of the season against Lehigh in front of a boatload of NBA scouts, going for 22 points, nine boards and three blocks. The only problem is that his team lost for the seventh time this year, and Lehigh was playing without C.J. McCollum, the second-leading scorer in the country.
Throwing stats and records aside, Mitchell fits the bill as top-tier NBA prospect because of his elite athleticism and overall talent level, but there are question marks about his ability to impact a game.
Stock Down: 18. Alex Poythress, Kentucky- 6'8'' SF
Alex Poythress continues to be plagued by the inability to create his own shot.
He fouled out against Marshall, finishing with just five shot attempts, although he was still able to impact the game by grabbing nine rebounds in 21 minutes.
It's because he can make a difference without scoring that makes him such a likeable prospect, however, without an offensive game off the dribble, his ceiling will be limited.
Stock Up: 19. Trey Burke, Michigan- 6'0'' PG
Trey Burke had an efficient game as a facilitator against Eastern Michigan, finishing with eight assists and one turnover.
He's actually finished with two turnovers or less in six of his last seven games. That's a pretty incredible stat considering the speed that Burke plays at and the amount of time he dominates the ball.
It's always a good look being the quarterback of a top team in the country. Marquis Teague went in the first round last year running the point for a championship group without producing consistent individual results. Burke is producing consistent results and his team is flying high because of it.
Stock Unchanged: 20. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky- 7'0'' C
In another routine day at the office for Willie Cauley-Stein, he finished 4-of-6 from the floor for eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes against Marshall.
He's not creating many scoring opportunities himself, but at 7'0'' with his type of aggressive athleticism, the opportunities find him.
Playing a secondary role in the middle to Nerlens Noel, Cauley-Stein's stock is unlikely to change for the better or worse.
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