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Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 NBA Draft Prospects at NBA Midseason

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJanuary 26, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 NBA Draft Prospects at NBA Midseason

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    This college basketball season hasn't exactly played out the way we initially anticipated it would—at least not in terms of the NBA draft prospects.

    Kansas' Joel Embiid has emerged as the surprise treasure of the projected field, while Andrew Wiggins has slipped in the minds of NBA scouts.

    Still, this class is loaded with impact prospects and potential All-Stars down the road. If you have a top-20 pick, chances are you'll wind up with a rotation player at the very least.

    This week, we've seen two new faces grace the board, including a breakout prospect at No. 20.

20. Nik Stauskas, Michigan, 6'6", SG/SF, Sophomore

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    Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    He just might be the biggest riser of any sophomore in the country. Nik Stauskas has taken his game to a new level, transforming from spot-up shooter to go-to scorer. 

    He went for 23 points in a win over Wisconsin, 26 in a win over Iowa and 19 in a win over Michigan State in three consecutive games. As a side note, he picked up at least four assists in each of those victories.

    Stauskas is creating offense off the dribble, separating into clean jumpers and making plays for teammates off the bounce. He's even averaging more free-throw attempts per game than Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. 

    Between his 46 percent three-point stroke, athleticism and high basketball IQ, Stauskas has emerged as one of the surprise first-round prospects in the field.

19. Adreian Payne, Michigan State, 6'10", PF, Senior

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    Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    Adreian Payne has missed Michigan State's last five games with a foot injury, but that won't erase what he had done prior.

    He's already made more three-pointers this year than he did his previous three years combined, and his offensive game looks completely revamped. Payne has become a legitimate inside-outside threat as a senior, averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 boards on 43.9 percent shooting from downtown. 

    Hopefully, Payne's injury is just a temporary bump in the road, as he's been one of the brighter stories on the NBA draft front. Teams looking for immediate size and toughness will likely target Payne anywhere from the late lotto on down.

18. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Sophomore

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    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↓

    Willie Cauley-Stein broke out of a wicked slump against Georgia, where he totaled six blocks and six steals in 26 minutes.

    It's significant, considering John Calipari benched him for the majority of the game before. Prior to the Georgia game, Cauley-Stein had racked up just three points, two blocks and 10 boards over his previous three outings.

    He's got a baby jump hook from about five feet away, but offensively, that's about it.

    Rebounding, shot-blocking, finishing—that's Cauley-Stein's bread and butter. But as an interior specialist with no real offensive game to offer, inconsistency won't cut it.

    For a team looking to add some frontcourt athleticism, he's a solid option in the mid-first round. But top-10 teams searching for a future All-Star should probably look elsewhere.

17. P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends, 6'6", SG

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    Sergio Hentschel/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↑

    P.J. Hairston went bananas in his second NBA D-League showing, dropping 40 points on 14-of-24 shooting after going for 22 points and six steals in his debut.

    I've been saying it all year—Hairston is a top-20 talent. At 6'6", he's an extremely physical guard with a lights-out stroke, along with the ability to overwhelm on the defensive end.

    "I thought the best thing that he did was that he got his hands on a lot of passes and on defense he was great tonight," said Legends point guard Mickey McConnell of Hairston after his first game with the team, via RealGM.com.

    With the ability to defend, shoot and attack the rim in line drives, Hairston offers a two-way package worthy of a first-round pick this June.

16. Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF, Sophomore

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    Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    He's getting there, but just about all of Jerami Grant's production is still powered by his immaculate physical tools. At 6'8" with a 7'2" wingspan and outstanding athletic ability, he's tough to hold down around the rim and on the offensive glass.

    After double-doubling against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, Grant went for 16 points and eight rebounds against Boston College and 16 and eight against Miami. He's been extremely active despite lacking any offensive polish.

    He's even started knocking down mid-range jumpers, though as an NBA 3, he'll likely have to expand his range outside the arc, where he hasn't hit a shot all season.

    There's tremendous potential here, but Grant still has a long ways to go offensively, especially if he plans on manning the wing at the NBA level.

15. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2", PG, Freshman

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    Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↑

    Arguably the purest point guard prospect in the field, Tyler Ennis has been brilliant for the undefeated Orange.

    He's unflappable, demonstrating unteachable poise and leadership despite such little experience on the job.

    Ennis took over down the stretch against Pittsburgh and guided the Orange to a win at Miami after waters got choppy.

    Though not a standout athlete, he just takes the right steps at the right speeds. He's deceptively quick and elusive—Ennis uses pump fakes, hesitation dribbles and all sorts of sneaky tricks to shake his man and make a play.

    But most of Ennis' strengths center on the intangibles he brings to the table. His ability to command the offense and control the pace, along with a sensational basketball IQ, helps neutralize his limitations as an under-the-rim athlete.

    Ennis might not offer All-Star upside, but if you're looking for a pass-first point guard to run your offense, look no further.

14. Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", SF/PF, Freshman

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↓

    Aaron Gordon's ceiling doesn't seem as high as it once did. For one, his NBA position remains a mystery. And at this point, just about all of his production has come off dump passes, lobs or offensive rebounds.

    We haven't seen much of a post game from Gordon as a 4, and he just doesn't have the skill set of your traditional small forward.

    However, he's been awesome on the defensive end, and he remains consistent and efficient in terms of his offensive presence. Gordon is tough to stop at the rim, and with an open lane, he's capable of straight-line drives to the rack.

    But without a true position or any offensive polish, Gordon has become a guy I'd rather have fall into my lap, rather than someone I'd reach for in someone else's.

13. Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10", SF/PF, 1994

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↑

    Dario Saric has been tearing it up overseas, averaging 17.8 points and 10.5 boards over his last nine games.

    He's currently the Adriatic League's leading rebounder and third-leading scorer at just 19 years old. At 6'10", Saric is one of the more versatile prospects on the planet, with the ability to put it on the floor, facilitate from the wing and dominate the glass.

    NBA teams showed heavy interest in Saric last May before he chose to withdraw. Now a year older, better and more NBA-ready, expect his name to resurface as a potential lottery pick this June.

12. James Young, Kentucky, 6'6", SF, Freshman

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    Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    James Young continues playing to his strengths as an athlete and shooter. He's made a living from downtown and in transition—Young is making 2.2 three-pointers a game while seeing some good action on the break.

    We haven't seen much in terms of Young creating his own shot, but that's just not his role in Kentucky's offense. Between his stroke, slashing ability and two-way impact and energy, he projects as a spark who can make and finish plays.

    He's averaging 14.2 points a game in a likely one-and-done freshman season.

11. Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4", SG, Sophomore

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Gary Harris has found the zone after a rough month shooting the ball. He went for 23 points against Illinois, 24 against Indiana and 27 in a tough loss to Michigan at home.

    He's made some serious strides since last year. Harris is taking four more shots per game, looking much more aggressive on the offensive end.

    There really isn't much not to like—he's a disciplined offensive player who can score off the ball as a shooter and slasher, and he D's up every possession. This year, he's actually become a much bigger one-on-one threat on the perimeter, where he's generating offense off the dribble.

    Outside of the top six, Harris is really as safe as any prospect in the field.

10. Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8", SF, Sophomore

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    Rodney Hood hasn't had many off games this year. He even converted a 4-of-12 showing at Florida State into 18 points and nine boards by getting to the line 11 times.

    He's still making two three-pointers a game at a scorching 45 percent clip. Hood has consistent shooting mechanics and gives off the impression that every jumper is going to fall.

    The NBA guys love his size for the wing and versatile offensive touch. A scoring threat from just about every position on the floor, Hood is averaging 17.7 points a game in what should be his only season at Duke.

    Think Rashard Lewis in his prime.

9. Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'7", SF, Senior

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Despite being the focal point of every defense's game plan, nobody seems to have an answer for the nation's second-leading scorer.

    Doug McDermott rolls out of bed with 20 points. He averaged 26.8 points over his last four games prior to Saturday and shot above 50 percent in all of them.

    That gave him one of the coolest stat lines in basketball: 50 percent from the floor, 44 percent from downtown and 90 percent from the stripe.

    Though not a standout athlete, it's his ability to play without the ball that should allow his game to translate. McDermott could drop 20 a night without using a dribble.

    Whether you view him as a potential All-Star or a role player, McDermott's skill set is built to fit and complement any and every lineup.

8. Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5", PG/SG, Freshman

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Zach LaVine continues to light it up off the bench for UCLA, as he's now hit 9-of-17 from downtown over his last four games.

    He's also been given more freedom to create off the bounce, one of his hidden strengths playing alongside point guard Kyle Anderson. LaVine picked up six assists against Stanford, showing the quickness and ball-handling skills to penetrate the defense and make plays within it.

    With top-flight athleticism, a crafty handle and a lethal outside stroke, LaVine has presented himself as a dynamic offensive weapon with loads of untapped potential. Based on his upside, he's a guy some team is bound to reach on if he chooses to declare.

7. Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'9", PF, Freshman

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    It's not that defenses have figured him out, but they've definitely adjusted to his game.

    Julius Randle hasn't been dominating like he'd been earlier in the year. He's still relying a bit too much on his strength in the half court, which leads to turnovers and shots in traffic.

    And with under-the-rim springs and short arms, it's fair to question how well his power game will translate to the NBA's interior.

    Still, he sure is fun to watch in the open floor, thanks to that devastating blend of size, speed and agility. He's also made his first two three-pointers of the year over his last three games—something we sure would like to see more of.

    However, we have't seen Randle adapt the way others have early on. He operates in beast mode for 29.3 minutes a game, and I'm just not sure he'll be able to make a living that way in the pros.

    Personally, I'd like to see him differentiate his offensive arsenal a little bit and implement that face-up game and jumper into his everyday repertoire. Randle looks like the better player now, but long-term, it's Indiana's Noah Vonleh who might have the more promising two-way tools.

6. Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'10", PF/C, Freshman

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↑

    Noah Vonleh has expanded his game since the start of the year, as he's recently taken it out behind the arc. He's made seven of nine three-point attempts over his last four games—an awfully intriguing development when you consider his 6'10", 240-pound man-frame.

    He's been an absolute terror in the paint—Vonleh is averaging 15.2 boards per 40 minutes, a better rate than Kentucky's Julius Randle.

    Despite a skill set that still needs some major fine-tuning, Vonleh is able to consistently get buckets inside by using his strength to get position, foot speed to separate and instincts to finish around the rim.

    He looks a whole lot like Chris Bosh out there, with the ability to win the battle on the boards, score around the key and knock down jumpers from 20 feet away.

    Vonleh might be a longer-term project than Randle, but ultimately one with fewer questions about his game.

5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4", PG/SG, Sophomore

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Marcus Smart had trouble getting through Kansas' rim security last week, finishing just 3-of-14 from the floor. But he ended up with 16 points, 10 boards, nine assists and four steals, which pretty much sums up what Smart is all about.

    He doesn't need to score to impact games, something not typically said of combo guards. Smart facilitates the offense, crashes the glass and wreaks havoc on the defensive end.

    As a prospect, it's not Smart's upside that drives his appeal—it's the intangibles he brings as a potential rock in your lineup and locker room.

    His ceiling isn't quite as high as Australia's Dante Exum, but Smart should be a safe bet from No. 4 overall on down the board.

4. Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG/SG, 1995

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    All signs point to Dante Exum declaring for the draft this June, with Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reporting he'd met with "eight powerhouse player representation agencies."

    Following his dominant performances at the 2012 and 2013 FIBA World Championships, along with an impressive showing during last year's Nike Hoops Summit, Exum skyrocketed up boards straight into can't-miss prospect status.

    And for good reason. At 6'6", Exum is a rare point guard who can score and create evenly, and he has the chance to evolve into one of the toughest backcourt covers in the league.

3. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8", SF, Freshman

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    Andrew Wiggins has been up and down lately—he had three or fewer made field goals in three of his last five games prior to Saturday.

    After a monster 17-point, 19-rebound effort at Iowa State, Wiggins would go on to drop three points and two boards against Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State.

    With a lane to hit or open floor to attack, there isn't a more potent weapon in the country. Despite a shaky handle, he's still averaging six free-throw attempts a game, using his quick first step to beat his man and an explosive last step to beat the help.

    But creating his own half-court offense has been a struggle. He tends to go long stretches without being heard from, while his three-ball has fallen to just 33.8 percent. 

    His inability to consistently impact games has dented his stock, but nothing has changed regarding his long-term potential—just his chances of reaching it.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman

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    Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    His three-ball has officially cooled off—Jabari Parker hasn't hit one in two games, and he's actually missed 34 of his last 47 attempts from downtown.

    But it's not stopping him from making an impact—Parker racked up 17 points and 15 boards against Miami and 14 and 14 against Florida State.

    At this point, Parker is in the trial-and-error process of trying to score when his jumper is off. He's been better the last three games, getting to the line a total of 27 times, after totaling only 12 free-throw attempts over the four games prior.

    Without the ability to change a game at both ends of the floor, his ceiling just isn't as high as that of a kid like Joel Embiid.

    Regardless, Parker will enter the draft as the most NBA-ready offensive prospect in the field. Consider him a top-three lock from here on out.

1. Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0", C, Freshman

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Joel Embiid put up a few signature performances during the third week in January—performances that will likely have moved the needle when we look back at his journey to the draft.

    He went for 16 points, nine boards and five blocks at Iowa State. There just wasn't an answer for him. When left in single coverage, Embiid went to work one-on-one in the post; when the Cyclones doubled him, he stepped back and found the open man.

    Against Oklahoma State, he completely shrunk the size of the rim he was defending, blocking eight shots while changing a variety of others.

    His offensive skill set is beyond impressive—he's got an array of moves to go to and others to counter with in the post. Defensively, he's learning, adjusting and improving.

    When it's all said and done, we could be talking about a No. 1 scoring option and an elite rim-protector. That two-way upside separates him from guys like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

    With the ability to dominate games at both ends of the floor and the visible progress he's made on a week-to-week basis, Embiid is now locked in as our top prospect on the planet.

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