Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 Draft Prospects Heading into NBA All-Star Break

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterFebruary 7, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 Draft Prospects Heading into NBA All-Star Break

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    As we inch closer and closer to March, some of the top NBA prospects have started to turn up the heat, while a few others have gotten lost in the shuffle. 

    Syracuse's Tyler Ennis and D-League star P.J. Hairston continue to make their way up the board, while Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart have both started to lose some ground. 

    There hasn't been much change with regard to the big dogs in the field, but from No. 5 on down, we're seeing plenty of movement with crunch time approaching. 

     

    Stats courtesy of ESPN, Sports-Reference.com and Eurobasket.com.

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Adreian Payne looked pretty good in his first game after returning from a foot injury—he shot 5-of-9 from the floor for 12 points in just 18 minutes against Penn State. 

    He'll need to get his legs back, but that jumper didn't seem to go anywhere, as at least three of his buckets came in the mid-range. 

    Payne doesn't have much of a post or one-on-one game, but given his outside touch and the physical presence he offers in the paint, he's got an appealing inside-outside package to present to NBA teams on draft night.

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

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    Aaron Gordon is currently stuck between positions, and he can't seem to squeeze his way out. 

    He's only made 11 of his last 42 shots over his past four games—that's just 26.1 percent for one of the best athletes in the country. 

    You can attribute that to Gordon's status as a tweener—he's got no post game as a 4 and no off-the-dribble game or jumper as a 3. 

    As a shooter, he's been awful. Gordon hasn't hit a three-pointer since December 19, and he's currently shooting a dismal 42.2 percent from the line. He recently missed nine free throws against Oregon. 

    With power forward Brandon Ashley done for the year, Gordon should see more touches and scoring opportunities. But I'm just not sure he's got the skill set to take advantage of them.

    What he really needs is another year in college to establish an identity for himself as either a 3 or a 4. 

18. Nik Stauskas, Michigan, 6'6", SG, Sophomore

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Nik Stauskas continues to show off the new-and-improved offensive game that's helped transform him into a multidimensional scorer and playmaker.

    He most recently dropped eight assists on Nebraska following arguably his worst game of the year against Indiana. Prior to that, he had scored 16 points in a win over Purdue, 19 in a win over Michigan State, 26 in a win over Iowa and 23 in a win over Wisconsin. 

    Stauskas isn't just a catch-and-shoot player anymore—he's creating shots for himself, and he's getting to the rack. He's even averaging more free-throw attempts per game than Duke's Jabari Parker.

    His high basketball IQ also contributes to 3.9 assists per game, just 0.5 less than Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart. 

    A deceptively good athlete with an elite 44.7 percent three-point stroke, unteachable awareness and the ability shake off the dribble, Stauskas has emerged as a legitimate top-20 draft option.

17. Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF/PF, Sophomore

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Jerami Grant had one of the better games of his career in that showdown against Duke, when he finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, including three huge buckets in overtime. 

    He even nailed a mid-range jumper and shot 10-of-10 from the line. 

    Grant is one of the more spectacular pound-for-pound athletes in the country when you consider his 6'8" size, 7'2" wingspan, incredible coordination and explosive leaping ability. 

    But you won't find many NBA wings who can't stretch the floor, and Grant hasn't hit a three-pointer all season. 

    Whichever team takes Grant will need to have a little bit of patience and faith, because at this point, his physical tools are still far ahead of his skill set. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Apparently, P.J. Hairston made a wise decision by opting to join the D-League after North Carolina chose not to seek his reinstatement. 

    He's already gone for at least 40 points twice in eight tries, and he's averaging 27.1 points on 40.6 percent shooting from downtown. 

    At 6'6", Hairston is a strong, physical guard who can attack the rim and finish after contact, as well as light up the perimeter as a shooter.

    He's also a defensive playmaker—Hairston is averaging over two steals per game, and given his size, length and athleticism, he's capable of overwhelming opposing ball-handlers. 

    As long as he doesn't set off any alarms during the pre-draft or interview process, Hairston should draw plenty of first-round interest from teams looking for some backcourt toughness and firepower. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Dario Saric has been tearing up the Adriatic League overseas, where he's third in scoring, first in rebounding and third in steals per game.

    He's fresh off a 22-point, 12-rebound game in a win over Partizan, continuing his hot play that he's maintained all year. 

    Saric, who at 6'10", can put it on the floor, stretch it as a shooter, own the glass and facilitate from the wing, just might be the most versatile prospect in the field. 

    He drew lottery interest around this time last year, and there's no reason to think he won't do so again in 2014.

14. Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'8", SF, Senior

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    Stock Report: ↔

    I'm not even sure a 39-point effort against St. John's will move the needle much at this point. We're already familiar with Doug McDermott's capabilities. He's averaged at least 22 points per game since his sophomore year, and he's now the second-leading scorer in the country as a senior. 

    He's shooting it 43.9 percent from downtown, which if sustained, would mark his fourth year in a row with a three-point clip over 40 percent. 

    With the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, both as a one-on-one threat or off-ball complement, McDermott is as refined and skilled as any prospect in the country. 

    The question is how well his game will translate without the athleticism to go with it. Some aren't bothered by his physical limitations, while others are turned off by it. One scout told me he didn't think McDermott was worth a lottery pick. 

    Either way, his outside stroke and shot-making ability, along with his high basketball IQ, could all be used in plenty of lineups. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    After getting replaced by Dakari Johnson in the starting lineup, Willie Cauley-Stein finally came to life in a big way against Ole Miss. 

    He went for 18 points, 11 boards and six blocks—it was a clinic for how to impact a game without the ball in your hands. 

    When Cauley-Stein is active and engaged, he's a machine around the rim as a finisher, defender and rebounder. Regardless of his skill set, you just can't find or teach that 7'0" size, effortless mobility, wide-receiver-like coordination and phenomenal athleticism. 

    With so few big men in this year's field, Cauley-Stein's stock should get an automatic boost. He seems destined for the late lottery if he can continue without any setbacks. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↓

    It's starting to look like Zach LaVine might be better off testing his draft luck in 2015. 

    He's made just three field goals over his last three games—LaVine shot 1-of-5 against California, 1-of-5 against Oregon and 1-of-7 against Oregon State, totaling just one assist during the stretch. 

    The fact is, with Kyle Anderson running the show, and Jordan Adams and Norman Powell both fixtures in the lineup, there just aren't that many scoring or playmaking chances available to LaVine. 

    He's still a lottery talent, but another year as a top offensive option at UCLA might prepare him a little better for life at the next level. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    There's no mystery as to what James Young will be offering on draft day—at 6'6", he's a high-flying athlete with a lethal outside jumper.

    Though Young's three-ball has been erratic (0-of-5 against Ole Miss recently), he's still making 2.3 per game. He's got that microwave ability to heat up and knock down shots in bunches, as one make usually leads to another. 

    Young recently went for 23 points against LSU and 20 against Missouri, again, doing most of his damage from behind the arc and in the open floor. 

    The NBA guys love athletic wings who can light it up from deep. And that pretty much describes Young to a tee. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Rodney Hood has been productive, though he's been pretty much held in check over his last few games. 

    Hood finished with just eight points in a blowout over Wake Forest, and he scored 14 in 43 minutes in an overtime loss to Syracuse. 

    After scoring at least 20 points in three consecutive games early in January, Hood has now fallen short of the 20-point mark in seven straight. However, he continues to shoot the lights out—he's shot at least 40 percent from downtown in four of his last five games, and he now sits at 44.9 percent on the year. 

    At 6'8", Hood has great size and shot-making ability for an NBA wing. Defense will be a challenge, and he'll have to improve as a scorer off the dribble, but Hood is a deceptively good athlete with three-point range and excellent offensive instincts. 

    Think Rashard Lewis in his prime with a slightly lower ceiling. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    The Syracuse Orange continue to roll, with Tyler Ennis guiding the way as the team's consummate floor general. 

    He's got 125 assists and 32 turnovers in 757 minutes of action on the year. It's a phenomenal rate—his pure point rating, which measures assists to turnovers relative to each other, is 6.67, good for No. 6 in the country and No. 1 amongst prospects in power conferences. 

    Ennis is constantly in passing and playmaking mode, yet he's scoring when he needs to. He went for 18 points, five assists and five boards against Wake Forest, and he followed up with 14 points and nine assists in a classic win over Duke. 

    He might not have that above-the-rim athleticism or explosiveness, but neither did Tony Parker, Steve Nash or Jason Kidd.

    Given his elite point guard instincts, 39.1 percent three-point stroke, deadly floater game and physical frame for the position, I wouldn't worry too much about how high he can jump. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Gary Harris has been playing with extreme confidence this year—he's taking almost four more shots and 2.1 more free throws per game as a sophomore. 

    He's put up some monster games lately—Harris went for 24 points against Indiana, 27 against Michigan and 20 against Georgetown. He's improved this year as a shot creator, as he's become more threatening off the dribble, both attacking the rim and separating for a jumper.

    Defensively, he's a hound. Harris is consistently forcing turnovers or stepping into passing lanes.

    He might not have the flashy athleticism or towering upside of some of the other top picks, but Harris is a disciplined, two-way guard who knows how to score within the offense. 

    Harris is averaging 18.2 points per game, up from the 12.9 he averaged last year, and he's now our No. 1 true 2-guard in the field. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↓

    Marcus Smart has hit some rough turbulence—he's made just 19 of his last 67 shots over his previous five games, four of which resulted in losses. 

    He's even lost his cool on occasion, while his decision-making continues to suffer. Smart's shot selection has been poor—he's taking a whole lot of three-pointers for a guy who isn't much of a shooter. Over his last five games, Smart has attempted a whopping 33 threes, and he's only hit four of them. 

    For a guy who isn't your traditional point guard (his handle is shaky, as is his poor 1.64 assist-to-turnover ratio), Smart will need to improve his in-between game as a scorer (pull-ups, floaters). He's averaging over 17 points per game, but he's shooting just 41.9 percent from the floor and 28.2 percent from downtown. 

    You love the intangibles he brings as a leader and competitor, but they won't carry him in the NBA. Smart has some work to do with his skill set and decision-making. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Julius Randle has been up and down lately—he was shut down by LSU for only six points and five boards, only to bounce back a few days later with 18 and nine against Missouri.

    Against Ole Miss, Randle had just one point and one rebound entering the second half before deciding to turn on the jets. Within the first five minutes, Randle hit scouts with one of those highlight plays likely to stick in the memory bank. Showcasing that shifty agility in the open floor, Randle took a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a two-handed dunk in transition. 

    Overall, Randle has been doing a better job of finding the open man as a passer once he draws the help or double-team, as he's picked up at least three assists in three of his last five games. 

    But he'll still need to diversify his offensive repertoire, as he's just too reliant on power and strength. 

    There are definitely questions with Randle, like his undersized wingspan and his minimal defensive impact—he has just 18 blocks and 11 steals total on the entire season. 

    But realistically, Randle offers terrific value anywhere outside the top four picks.  

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

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    Stock Report: 

    Noah Vonleh doesn't get many touches in the offense—his 22.2 percent usage rate, which estimates the percentage of plays a particular player is used in when on the floor, is extremely low.

    But Vonleh has capitalized on those touches, shooting 53.9 percent from the floor. And when he doen't see a lot of them, you can still count on him to win the battle on the boards.

    Vonleh currently leads the Big Ten in rebounding, and he's got the No. 1 defensive rating in the conference. 

    Offensively, he has the skill set and moves, along with some phenomenal physical tools to deliver them. Vonleh is even 10-of-18 shooting from downtown, showing some serious inside-outside potential.  

    He's just 18 years old and almost a year younger that Kentucky's Julius Randle. He might not have Randle's polish just yet, but with five extra inches of length, a jumper and more defensive potential, Vonleh has become our No. 1 power forward on the board.

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Dante Exum recently hired an agent, meaning he'll officially be entering the 2014 NBA draft. He even opened up about how he wants his situation to ultimately play out. 

    "I want to go to a place that needs me, I don't want to go somewhere like the [L.A.] Clippers who have Chris Paul and be stuck behind him," Exum said to Jon Tuxworth of The Canberra Times. "I want to go to a team which is going to want and need me, and hopefully get minutes in my first season."

    Exum is really a one-of-a-kind talent as a 6'6" scoring point guard, and given his remarkable athleticism and upside, which is driven by the mismatch that he presents in the backcourt, it's not out of the question we're talking about the No. 1 pick in June. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Sometimes, Andrew Wiggins looks like that superstar NBA prospect that everyone hyped him up to be. 

    And other times, he does not. 

    Wiggins recently finished 4-of-13 from the floor against Baylor and just 2-of-12 shooting in a bad loss to Texas. He didn't even take his first shot until over 15 minutes into that Baylor game. And for a player who thrives on rhythm, taking a backseat doesn't seem like the right answer.

    However, Wiggins erupted in his previous two games, going for back-to-back season highs with 27 points against TCU and 29 against Iowa State. He came firing out of the gates, and once he found that zone, there was no looking back. Step-backs, pull-ups, spot-ups, hard drives—Wiggins went into takeover mode, something you really just wish he'd do more often. 

    Despite the frustrating inconsistency, the upside Wiggins recently flashed should keep him in the No. 1 overall conversation. I'm not sure he's the favorite anymore, but Wiggins is still a strong candidate with just over a month to go before the madness. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Jabari Parker has officially snapped out of the funk that caused him to struggle during two weeks in January. He recently walked all over Wake Forest, going for 21 points, eight boards and two blocks on just two missed shots. 

    However, he struggled against Syracuse's zone and length before fouling out of that epic game at the Carrier Dome. And if there's one thing that could cause Parker to slide to No. 3 in this draft, it's the difficulty he has scoring against length. 

    Otherwise, Parker looks like the same kid who took the country by storm back in November and December. He was big-time in a win over Pittsburgh, finishing with 21 points and 11 boards in a solid road win for Duke. And throughout the past few weeks, he's thrown down a few nasty slams that's helped showcase the athleticism some say he lacks. 

    There are still a few minor holes in his game, but Parker appears locked into the top three with Kansas' Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins.  

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Joel Embiid has been somewhat quiet lately, but he has already made a lasting impression. 

    There isn't another prospect on the planet capable of impacting a game like Embiid, who has the two-way tools and potential to dominate at both ends of the floor.

    Per 40 minutes, he's averaging 19.3 points, 13.6 boards and 4.6 blocks, and he's shooting 61.6 percent from the floor.

    Embiid had a few off nights this week against Baylor and Texas, but between a lack of touches and the constant double-teams, the offensive inconsistency shouldn't be alarming. 

    There probably isn't going to be a clear consensus No. 1 pick this year—but given the rarity of franchise centers and the progress he's made in such a short amount of time, Embiid right now looks like your favorite.