Michigan State's Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Derrick Nix and Gary Harris have what it takes to carry their team.
Simply put, grading the Michigan State Spartans basketball team via the stock-up/stock-down method is...well, simple.
Players have roles to fill and expectations to meet. If they've done so successfully, they'll have a positive "stock up" grade. If they haven't, they'll be given the "stock down" mark.
The Spartans (12-3, 1-1) expect junior Keith Appling to lead the way offensively, while big-bodied bangers like senior Derrick Nix and junior Adreian Payne take care of the glass.
Has Appling done his share lately? What about Nix, who scored a career-high 25 points in the Spartans' 67-56 win over Texas?
What's his worth so far?
Travis Trice was excellent off the bench in Michigan State's 84-61 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. No need to wait for the Trice slide—his stock is sky-high after Saturday's line of 12 points, four rebounds, two steals and two assists in Michigan State's fist Big Ten win of the season.
But what about the rest?
Has sophomore Branden Dawson helped his cause? The super sophomore certainly has an upward climb during his recovery from a torn ACL. He's had lapses in defense, but he's shown a competitive fire levels above from what he showed last year.
We'll start with the "stock up" guys and finish with the "stock down" players—the regulars. We'll judge on the past few games to get a timely assessment. Overall season grades would be different, obviously.
These stock assessments are all about the now.
Gary Harris has been full of pleasant surprises this year.
The former Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.) star entered Michigan State as a 5-star wonder that had Spartans fans in a frenzy -- the good news is that he's exceeded expectations. His 13.1-point scoring average is second only to Keith Appling's 14.3 average.
Harris' career-high 22 points Saturday certainly justify a "stock up" rating. But the way he scored those points deserves another ranking, one that adequately describes his tactical dismantling of Purdue.
His stock is beyond "up"—it's in another atmosphere.
Harris perfectly read his opposition's presence, finding spots along the perimeter to knock down three-point shot after three-point shot. Michigan State went on a 28-7 game-closing run, with Harris pouring on momentum-killers at every turn.
A freshman shooting 6-for-8 from beyond the arc is impressive. He was a major factor in the Spartans' bounce-back win. The first conference victory is always important. Michigan State hurdled that thanks to the kid with undeniable range.
He was picking spots and knocking down shots.
Keith Appling wrestles for a shot Saturday against Purdue.
Keith Appling, Michigan State's leading scorer, had just three points in the first half Saturday versus the Boilers.
He finished with six.
So why is his stock on the rise?
That's easy to explain: He had eight assists and two blocks. He had two steals in a great defensive effort. Other than Terone Johnson, no Boilers guard scored in double figures (11 points).
D.J. Byrd, more a wing than a true guard, scored 14 points.
Both were pestered by Appling, who made finding clean shots a task of its own.
Leading the team despite scoring just six points is an invaluable trait. Appling's energy set the tone. Basketball pundits frequently refer to a player's IQ.
Appling's basketball aptitude was on full display.
Branden Dawson brings power and energy to the Spartans' rebounding efforts.
Branden Dawson didn't give a hearty defensive effort New Year's Eve in Michigan State's Big Ten season-opening loss to Minnesota.
He scored just eight points in the 76-63 loss.
However, he rebounded—literally—with 14 points and 11 boards against Purdue.
Dawson's progression is the top story line for the Spartans. Sure, Keith Appling and Derrick Nix are the leaders, but Dawson's athleticism is key to success for Michigan State too.
Dawson looked more agile and aware against Purdue than he did against the Gophers. The Hollins brothers of Minnesota scored on a couple of backdoor layups behind Dawson's lax defense New Year's Eve.
That wasn't the case Saturday.
The Boilers had difficulties penetrating the lane. Getting clear shots and rebounds weren't easy. Dawson was a big part of the Spartans' push on the glass and in the paint.
Travis Trice (right with mask) is Michigan State's hustle man off the bench.
Travis Trice broke his nose in Michigan State's season-opening 66-62 loss to UConn.
The sophomore was shelved for a couple of weeks and has come on strong since donning a Rip Hamilton-like facial apparatus.
Trice scored eight points in the first half against Purdue. He finished with 12, but not before draining two of four from long distance and hitting each of four free-throw attempts.
Energy and hustle are Trice's best traits. He's not the biggest or fastest on the floor, but he is one of the smartest players Spartans coach Tom Izzo has.
Aptitude counts for something. Just as long as the mask stays put, Michigan State can rely on high-motor efforts from Trice, a budding sophomore defender and table-setter.
Freshman Denzel Valentine makes the most of his minutes on the floor.
Don't lose sight of this freshman guard.
He's surrounded by talent, but Denzel Valentine deserves his time in the spotlight, too.
The Lansing native scored 11 points (eight in the first half), dished out four assists and came away with five rebounds Saturday against Purdue.
Considering he scored just five points against Minnesota, the Purdue game was a welcome improvement for the former Lansing Sexton star.
Valentine is giving Tom Izzo productive minutes. He's still learning to adapt to the speed of the college game, but all signs point to Valentine being a solid contributor during his time at Michigan State.
Turnovers can be minute-takers. Valentine has had four turnovers twice in the past five games. He has to eliminate poor ball-handling and errant passes.
Former Eaton Rapids star Alex Gauna's stock is on the rise, sort of.
Another former recruit with promise, Alex Gauna hasn't really performed as well as most Spartans fans would like to see.
But he scored four points against Purdue; he even had a rebound. He was held scoreless in two prior appearances.
When there is a foul to give, Gauna will be there. When an extra body is needed down low, Gauna will be there—for about five or so minutes, that is.
Derrick Nix can dominate...when he wants to.
Derrick Nix opened a lot of eyes with a career-high 25 points against the Longhorns.
Finally, the relentless menace on the glass showed himself for good. Finally, Michigan State's "Doughboy" came into his own.
He has matured, so he deserves credit on that front. However, he didn't really show up against Purdue with 10 points and four rebounds.
Nix is so up-and-down it's challenging to really pinpoint the peak of his potential. Is he a 10-point, five-rebound-a-night guy? Or is he a 20-and-10 guy?
Nix scored 10 points in each of his two games since rushing Texas for 25. Is his ascent now a descent?
With Nix, it's hard to tell. But a "stock down" grade is warranted because he set the bar so high with a phenomenal game against Texas.
Adreian Payne's length allows him to create shots that others can't.
During his past three games, Adreian Payne has been a leading presence on the glass for Michigan State.
Games of seven rebounds twice and nine rebounds once are always welcome for one of the nation's top rebounding teams.
Payne paired 13 points with nine boards against Texas, but he's scored just four and three points during his past two outings.
An athletic 6'10" big man with a decent mid-range jumper, Payne has a skill set that's unique compared to other players his size. For one, Payne can get up with the upper-echelon forwards and centers. Rim-rocking dunks are a staple of the junior's game.
His reach allows for blocks and second-chance scoring opportunities. He's so lean and agile.
But, like Nix, Payne is another up-and-downer. One night Payne can't be stopped; the next he's dormant, dull and uninspired.
A "stock up" Payne is what Michigan State needs Thursday against Iowa.
Will Russell Byrd ever get on track?
Russell Byrd brought something to the table during his nine minutes against Purdue.
The oft-injured redshirt sophomore notched three assists in the win. He didn't take a shot, though. And that begs one to ask a timely question: Has Byrd lost his confidence? Or, better yet, has he been confident at all this year?
Let's call Byrd a borderline player. In an increase from one and three minutes in two previous contests, to nine against the Boilers, Byrd at least gave Spartans fans some sort of hope.
But not much.
Overall, his stock is down. Maybe he should be given the benefit of the doubt for now.
Follow Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81