Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 Draft Prospects After 2014 NBA Trade Deadline

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterFebruary 21, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 20 Draft Prospects After 2014 NBA Trade Deadline

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    As we inch closer to conference tournament play, our top-20 board has begun to solidify itself. 

    And the top dogs in the class continue to ball. Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker have each been pretty darn good as of late. 

    This week, we've added one new member to our board at No. 19, with Syracuse forward Jerami Grant falling out to No. 21.

    Each team has about five games left before the microscopes zoom in and the lights get brighter. 

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

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↓

    Aaron Gordon fouled out with over eight minutes to go against Utah, finishing with three points, three boards and five turnovers. 

    There's just no way he's ready for NBA action at this point, and without a true position, it seems hard to believe a team will feel inclined to reach on draft day. 

    Gordon has done a nice job of positioning himself for catch-and-finish opportunities at the rim, where his athleticism allows him to score in a variety of different ways. 

    But he's shooting just 28.6 percent from downtown, while his off-the-dribble and post games are both extremely limited. 

    Gordon has also been a disaster from the line—he's missed 71 free throws so far, while only making 50 (41.3 percent). 

    Sure, there's upside here if he can find a niche. But until he establishes an identity for himself, I'm not even sure what he brings to the NBA table other than strong effort and physical tools. 

19. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, 6'5", PG/SG, Junior

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Jordan Clarkson has now scored at least 21 points in three of his last four games, most recently going for 21 points, five boards and five assists in a win over Vanderbilt. 

    He's so crafty off the dribble and in the paint, where he has the size and athleticism to finish around or over traffic.

    Though not a true point guard, he's doing an admirable job as a playmaker, averaging 3.5 assists to go with his 18.8 points per game. 

    Clarkson's jumper has been erratic, but he's nailing 83.3 percent of his free throws, and when he gets hot, he can knock jumpers down in bunches. 

    With terrific physical tools for a guard and the skill set to play on or off the ball, Clarkson has moved into our top 20.

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

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    Nik Stauskas has cooled off in February, as he's failed to make more than four field goals in any of his last five games. 

    Partial blame should go to Michigan's offense, which tends to allow its better players to go long stretches without getting a touch. But Stauskas hasn't offered the same go-to presence lately—the way he did back in January when he dropped 23 on Wisconsin, 26 on Iowa and 19 against Michigan State in three straight wins.

    Still, he's shooting it 44 percent from downtown and averaging 16.7 points per game, and he'll always have appeal as a sniper and high-IQ presence. 

    The lottery seems like a stretch, but as a shooter, passer and opportunistic playmaker in a supporting role, Stauskas should be able to help balance out an NBA lineup.

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Adreian Payne caught fire in a recent win over Purdue, knocking down a season-high four three-pointers en route to a 23-point evening. 

    The shooting stroke is no joke—he's now at 44.1 percent from downtown, and he's already made nine more treys this season than he has his entire freshman, sophomore and junior years combined. 

    Given his 6'10", 245-pound frame, Payne now has a legitimate jumper to pair with size, strength and length for the interior. 

    Though there isn't much upside here, big men who are active in the paint and reliable from the outside will always have a home in an NBA frontcourt.

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    P.J. Hairston is still putting up big numbers in the D-League, where he's averaging just under 25 points per game.  But he's cooled off a little lately—Hairston is only shooting 36.8 percent from the floor in his last four games, totaling just two assists and two steals during the stretch. 

    He'll likely have a lot riding on his pre-draft workouts, when he'll go head-to-head with other guards and wings projected in the lottery and first round. 

    At 6'6" with terrific length, strength and a lethal outside stroke, he certainly fits the profile as an NBA 2-guard. As long as he doesn't raise any red flags from now until the draft, expect Hairston to remain in the top-20 conversation.

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    You won't find many scoring zones hotter than the one Doug McDermott is currently in. He just dropped 39 points on Villanova, the No. 6 team in the country at the time, while missing just four shots all game. He followed with 25 points against Marquette on only three missed shots. 

    Step-backs, fadeaways, spot-ups, runners, step-backs—McDermott has a move and shot for every angle or spot on the floor.

    "We know he can shoot, but I think he can post up in the NBA as well," one NBA assistant general manager told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix. "He uses that Dirk [Nowitzki] one-foot fadeaway and has good length to get it off."

    With below-average athleticism at a position that's traditionally explosive in the NBA, McDermott's ceiling is limited. But on a good team with playmakers around him, McDermott should be an extremely effective complementary scorer and shooter. 

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

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↓

    Zach LaVine can't find a rhythm lately coming off UCLA's bench. He's now gone seven straight games without scoring in double digits, totaling just seven assists during the slump. 

    He's just not getting the opportunity to make many plays with guards Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Norman Powell all in the lineup. LaVine really needs another year at school, just so he can actually get a season's worth of reps as a full-time playmaker. 

    Still, as an ultra-athletic 6'5" guard who can handle the ball and shoot it (42.6 percent from downtown), LaVine's upside has already been established and documented. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Dario Saric had numerous NBA scouts present to watch his team get whooped by Mega Vizura, though he did finish with 19 points and seven boards. 

    He actually hit a number of jumpers, showing the ability to stick them off the dribble or out of triple-threat position. Saric also did work in the pick-and-roll game, and he made a couple of nice finishes around the rim. 

    Saric plays with passion, which sometimes results in poor body language. And defensively, his NBA position is still in question. But in terms of offensive versatility, there aren't many like him. 

    He's currently ranked No. 2 in the Adriatic League in scoring, No. 1 in rebounding and No. 3 in steals per game. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    It is what it is—Willie Cauley-Stein's game just wasn't built to put up consistent numbers at the college level. However, his 7'0" size, massive length and incredible athletic ability should carry him a long way in the pros. 

    Cauley-Stein holds value as an easy-bucket machine, rim protector and rebounder. If he can maximize his talent in those three areas, teams won't be overly concerned with his lack of offensive game. We've seen centers like Tyson Chandler do just fine without one. And given Cauley-Stein's immaculate physical tools, a lack of post game shouldn't prevent him from making an impact. 

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

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    James Young had one of his better all-around games against Ole Miss, when he finished with 16 points, six boards and five assists.

    Offensively, he looked sharp in a loss to Florida the game prior, going for 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, though he did get burned a few times on the defensive end. 

    Still, Young is going to draw interest thanks to his ability to fit in a half-court offense as a shooter and slasher. He's not an isolation scorer; instead he's a wing who can spot up from three, finish above the rim and hit floaters, runners and pull-ups in between. 

    Young's defense could use some work, but all of his offensive strengths are ones that typically translate to a supporting NBA role. 

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

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    We haven't seen Rodney Hood take over in a while, but as a No. 2 or complementary scorer, he's been fairly consistent and productive.

    Hood went for 16 points in the loss to North Carolina, where he showcased his deep shooting range, shot-creating ability and deceptive athleticism on a backdoor lob. 

    He's hitting 44.9 percent of his threes this year and averaging 16.2 points per game. The only real knock on Hood is that he's not much of a defender—as a 6'8" small forward, a position with some explosive athletes at the NBA level, he only has 20 steals and seven blocks on the year. 

    But his ability to spread the floor and score in a variety of different ways is just too valuable to pass on at a certain point. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↓

    The shoving incident turned some people off. So has his 28.1 percent three-point percentage and his team's lousy record.

    Marcus Smart's stock has taken a hit since the start of the year. We haven't seen the intangibles everyone was banking on to make up for his erratic jumper and decision-making. 

    But there's bound to be someone out there who covets his competitive spirit, versatile skill set and physical style of backcourt play. 

    Smart will have a ton of important eyes tuned into his games from here on out, as he makes his return from a three-game suspension. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    It wasn't the best week for Tyler Ennis, who shot 3-of-10 against North Carolina State and 6-of-14 in Syracuse's first loss of the season to Boston College. Given his lack of explosiveness, Ennis gets forced into some tough floaters and runners, and they haven't all been falling for him. 

    But he's still facilitating out there like a pro—Ennis has had at least five assists in each of his last eight games. He turned it over four times against North Carolina State, but that was only the second time all year he's finished a game with more than two turnovers. 

    He won't blow anyone away at the NBA combine, but for those who value intangibles, particularly the ability to manage a game and run an offense, Ennis could be considered a potential long-term floor general. 

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

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Gary Harris hasn't been shy with the green light he's been given—he's taking over seven three-pointers a night. He recently made six of them against Purdue in a 25-point effort on 7-of-11 shooting. 

    He's been somewhat erratic from downtown this year, but what separates Harris from most 2-guards is his ability to score within the flow of the offense. He moves so well off the ball that he's constantly finding himself in scoring position without requiring many dribbles to get him there. 

    And though his shooting consistency hasn't been there, Harris' threat to score from everywhere on the floor remains intact. 

    A strong defender and a refined offensive player, Harris should be a safe yet potentially rewarding pick anywhere outside the top six. 

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

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Julius Randle has found his groove over his last three games—he's double-doubled in all of them. Randle is fresh off a 25-point, 13-rebound line in a blowout over Ole Miss where he got to the stripe 14 times. 

    He's just too strong for the majority of college frontcourts. Over 20 percent of Randle's made baskets come on offensive putbacks, per Hoop-Math, where he relies heavily on outmuscling and outworking his man.

    Defensively, he's still not much of a difference-maker. In fact, in 26 games (774 minutes) this season, Randle only has 13 steals and 21 blocks—incredibly low numbers for anyone averaging roughly 30 minutes per game. 

    Between his poor defensive outlook and limited shooting range, I've got Randle a spot below Noah Vonleh. But I'll bet on his rebounding motor, open-floor athleticism and interior scoring instincts to translate.

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

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Don't blame Indiana's woes on Noah Vonleh, who's really been one of the brightest spots in the Big Ten. It's actually a shame he doesn't get more touches. 

    He hasn't shot below 50 percent in any of his last five games. Vonleh recently double-doubled against Michigan and Minnesota before going for 14 points with two three-pointers at Purdue.

    Now 13 of 24 from downtown on the year, he's emerging as a legitimate inside-outside threat with the skill set to play in the post or face the rim. 

    The only question with Vonleh is his NBA-ready timetable. But unless one of these lottery teams is in any rush, the reward should be worth the wait.

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    After hiring an agent, Dante Exum has officially arrived in Los Angeles where he'll be preparing and training for the 2014 NBA draft. 

    Realistically, Exum's stock will be tied to the performances of guys like Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Because if they underwhelm or fizzle out down the stretch, it could be Exum who steals one of their spots in the top three, if not at No. 1 overall. 

    Either way, there aren't five better prospects in the country. If I'm a team like the Orlando Magic who could really use a new lead guard, I've got Exum highlighted in bright colors on my draft board at the top.

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

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Forget about the stats for a second—Andrew Wiggins has been playing better simply by playing more aggressive. He's using that quick first step more often—the one that's nearly impossible to contain one-on-one or in space. 

    He's coming off a 19-point game in a win over Texas Tech—Wiggins hit the game-winning layup after a loose ball fell into his lap. And he's now gone for at least 14 points in five straight games. 

    When he's attacking the rim the way he is now, nobody seems to notice (or care) that he's made just two of his last 14 three-pointers. 

    As long as Wiggins continues to play with confidence, he'll be right there in that No. 1 overall conversation.  

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

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Jabari Parker has been playing some really good ball as of late, which is why it was a little frustrating to see him go without a touch from the 7:55 mark to the 2:44 mark of the second half against North Carolina, per ESPN Stats. 

    He deserves some of the blame—Parker looked a bit fatigued down the stretch, and he didn't take the initiative the way we've seen him do so in the past.

    Still, Parker was great in the first half, and he'd been terrific the entire month of February. He went for 29 points and 16 boards against Boston College, 23 and eight against Maryland and 16 and 14 against Georgia Tech. 

    Look for Parker to put his foot back on the gas starting Saturday night at home against Syracuse. 

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

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Visibly worn down and beat up, coach Bill Self rested Joel Embiid for the TCU game to allow his battery to recharge. And it worked. 

    Embiid was tremendous a few days later in a win over Texas Tech, finishing with 18 points, eight boards and a block on one missed shot. He took control of the game just by being in it—Embiid drew constant double-teams in the post where he was scoring or dishing to open shooters. Defensively, he was changing shots and anchoring the middle. 

    He's even knocking down his free throws—Embiid hit some big ones down the stretch with the pressure turned up. 

    There just isn't another prospect out there capable of impacting a game from as many cylinders as Embiid, who's evolving into a difference-maker at each end of the floor. 

    The first pick might come down to who gets it—teams like Orlando, Utah and Sacramento already have centers. But if we're starting a team from absolute scratch, Embiid is the guy we'd choose to build around based on his towering two-way ceiling and the progression he's already flashed.