Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospects Before March Madness

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMarch 12, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospects Before March Madness

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    The injury to Joel Embiid doesn't change much at this point, although it does make his NBA draft stock more vulnerable. 

    Embiid's injury opens the door to others, specifically his teammate Andrew Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker, to regain the spotlight during postseason play.  

    Michigan's Nik Stauskas was our biggest riser this week, while Kentucky's James Young took the biggest plunge down the board. 

20. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8", PF, Sophomore

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↑

    Montrezl Harrell is playing some of the best ball of his career during this recent stretch that's seen him average 21.2 points and 9.4 boards over his last five games.

    Physically, there might not be a prospect in the country with a more potent blend of size, strength, athleticism and hops. It's one of the reasons why he shoots nearly 74 percent at the rim.

    Lately, he's been taking it to opposing frontcourts, playing and finishing after contact inside. He's even flashed some mid-range touch.

    Harrell is still raw offensively, but he's starting to put up some big numbers at just the right time. Let's see if he can carry it into the postseason and straight through the pre-draft festivities. 

     

19. T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8", SF, Sophomore

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↑

    T.J. Warren had been flying slightly under the radar, but three 35-plus-point games in four tries seems to have gotten people's attention. 

    Within a span of 11 days, Warren went for 36 points against North Carolina, 41 at Pittsburgh and 42 against Boston College. 

    He's averaging roughly 29 points a game over his last 12, and he's only shot below 50 percent from the floor in one of them. 

    Warren isn't the most explosive athlete, but at 6'8", he moves like an NBA wing, and he's a threat to score from everywhere on the floor. 

    He just beat out Duke's Jabari Parker to win the ACC Player of the Year award. Warren and the Wolfpack will need to perform some type of magic to advance to the NCAA tournament, but his mark has already been left. 

    Expect Warren to be a hot name once we wrap up postseason play and head into the pre-draft process. 

     

18. Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia, 6'11", C, 1994

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    Stock Report: ↑

    The biggest riser among the international prospects, Jusuf Nurkic has been a frontcourt machine this season for Cedevita overseas. 

    He's putting up big numbers in limited action—Nurkic recently went for 16 points and 15 boards in 20 minutes, and he followed with 14 points in 16 minutes.

    Though 16 minutes a game is his average, he's got the highest PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of any player in the Adriatic League. 

    At 6'11", 280 pounds with a 7'2" wingspan, Nurkic is an absolute monster in the post. He's got the footwork, touch and back-to-the-basket game to work one-on-one, while his size, length and strength allow him to own the glass.

    There are questions regarding his attitude, but there's no arguing his production or talent. Expect Nurkic's stock to heat up as we get closer to the draft. 

     

     

     

17. James Young, Kentucky, 6'6", SG, Freshman

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↓

    Though an offensive spark that can ignite a lineup, James Young's inconsistent shooting stroke and limited shot selection have driven his NBA stock down. 

    Young finished the season making 33.7 percent of his 199 three-point attempts. There just aren't enough makes in there to justify that many attempts from deep. Young shot it well in Florida's recent beat-down on Kentucky, but he's had too many games like the one he previously had against Alabama, when he shot one of 10 from downtown. 

    He's also demonstrated a low basketball IQ and poor defensive awareness, as he just gets beat or caught out of position far too often. 

    Young has the shooting range and athleticism but not the discipline or polish. He's slippin'.

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

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↑

    Aaron Gordon has been playing with a little more confidence as of late—he took a season-high 17 shots in his regular season finale against Oregon, when he finished with 21 points and eight boards. 

    He's averaging 16.8 points and 7.4 boards over his last five games. During a recent three-game stretch against Colorado, California and Stanford, Gordon shot a combined 22-of-33 from the floor. He's finding ways to score in a number of different ways, from slashes and one-dribble drives to offensive put-backs and backdoor lobs. 

    With the athleticism to explode to the rim and the hops to play high above it, fouling has been opposing defenses' preferred strategy. 

    Gordon is shooting a disastrous 44.7 percent from the line this season, and when you consider he's shooting 28.6 percent on two-point jumpers and 28.6 percent on three-pointers, his perimeter game and stroke will need some serious fine-tuning. 

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

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↓

    At this stage, there's not much of a point in picking apart his game and quiet box scores. Without many basketball skills in terms of a handle, post moves or a jumper, you're just not going to see consistent offensive production from Willie Cauley-Stein. 

    He's been held to four points or fewer in three straight games. The fact that he's only cracked the six-rebound mark once in his last eight games is a little unsettling as well.

    But at the end of the day, scouts see a 7'0", 244-pound physical specimen with wide receiver-like athleticism. And that counts for something, especially in a projected draft field with so few center prospects. 

    Still, Cauley-Stein might want to turn it up this postseason, given the lack of improvement he's shown from one year to the next.

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

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Doug McDermott went off for 45 points on 17-of-25 shooting in his final home game at Creighton.

    It's just gotten too easy for him.

    He's seemingly mastered the college game at this point. McDermott finished the regular season averaging 26.5 points on 52.2 percent shooting from the floor, 44.7 percent from downtown and 86.7 percent from the line. 

    Unlike most big-time college scorers, McDermott does his damage within the flow of the offense. You don't see him isolated one-on-one often, though the one-legged Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway he's developed looks borderline unstoppable. 

    But it's McDermott's ability to play without the ball that should ultimately allow him to flourish as an offensive specialist and role player in the pros. 

    There are obvious defensive limitations—he's totaled just four blocks and seven steals all season. But there will be plenty of teams out there who value his remarkable shot-making ability.

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

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Tyler Ennis has been looking for his shot over the past few games, something he started to do when teammate Jerami Grant hurt his back. 

    Ennis is averaging 16.2 points and 4.5 assists over his last four games, though two of them resulted in losses. 

    He has been shooting it better as of late, having made six of his last 13 three-point attempts. 

    Ennis finished the regular season with a fantastic 5.5-1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio, drawing rave reviews for his poise, decision-making and point guard instincts. He's not going to win any awards at the NBA Combine, but Ennis' intangibles as a leader and floor general have caused scouts to start overlooking his physical limitations. 

    The only question at this point is whether or not he declares for the 2014 draft.

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

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Zach LaVine's production has fluctuated playing behind sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, but the promise and upside he's flashed should allow scouts to overlook his inconsistency. 

    He missed all eight of his shots in his regular season finale against Washington State, though a few games earlier against Oregon, when UCLA's starting backcourt of Anderson and Adams was suspended, LaVine went off for 18 points, eight boards and five assists.

    Athletically, he's on par with just about anyone. And he's showcased the handle and shot-creating ability to score in a variety of different ways, from pull-up and step-back jumpers to floaters and aggressive takes to the rack. 

    He's still far away from reaching it, and he probably needs another college season of reps, but the upside here is just too enticing. 

     

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

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Rodney Hood closed out the regular season with one of his better games in recent memory, which saw him score 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting against North Carolina. 

    He's been fairly consistent all year—Hood has actually hit a three-pointer in every game but one this season. 

    But it's not just his jumper for a 6'8" wing that drives his NBA appeal—Hood can score on the move, in the post or off the ball. 

    Though he doesn't offer much defensive resistance, Hood's offensive versatility should attract teams looking for a shot-making presence in the lineup. Because Hood can knock them down in a variety of different ways.

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

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↓

    Dario Saric's future has been a major topic of conversation abroad over the past week. Many are still questioning whether or not he'll even declare this year.

    “I will not decide anything until the end of the season,” Saric said via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. “In the summer I will determine my future. For my development the best is to stay in Europe but we’ll see what happens. I don’t even have an agent right now. I will talk with my family but I will make the final decision."

    Sportando also reported that Anadolu Efes Istanbul is prepared offer Saric a five-year (or possibly a three-year) contract worth €6M with an NBA out starting in June 2016.

    Saric could enter the draft and remain in Europe as a stash player, and at this point, it's uncertain how that move would affect his stock as a lottery option.

    But given the production he's putting up as the Adriatic League's leading scorer and rebounder, the wait might be worth the reward for rebuilding teams that aren't in a rush.

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

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    Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Nik Stauskas has been torching defenses all season with that 45.8 percent three-point stroke, but it's his off-the-dribble game that's catapulted him up our ranks and draft boards around the country. 

    He's not just knocking down shots from standstill position—Stauskas is creating for himself in every direction, whether he's attacking the rim and scoring on the move or pulling back and separating into a fall-away jumper. 

    To kick off March, he nailed 12-of-17 threes combined in back-to-back games against Illinois and Minnesota, and he's averaging over 21 points a game on 16-of-30 shooting from downtown over his last five.

    Now a complete offensive weapon that can play on or off the ball, Stauskas has emerged as our biggest riser of 2014.  

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

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    Gary Harris has been somewhat quiet the past two games after blowing up for 25 points against Purdue, 21 against Michigan and 19 against Illinois.

    In his last two regular season games, Harris only took 17 shots combined against Ohio State and Iowa. But he's starting to shoot the ball much better than he had been for most of the year—he'll be entering the postseason having made 18 of his last 37 three-point attempts. 

    Harris continues to show the ability to pick up buckets within the offense, and though his percentages and efficiency fell off, he returned to Michigan State as a more complete two-way guard. 

    A role player last season, Harris has emerged as the Big Ten's third leading scorer. 

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

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    Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

    Stock Report: ↑

    Oklahoma State is 4-1 since Marcus Smart returned from suspension, and in those five games, he averaged 19.8 points, 6.4 assists, 5.2 boards and 4.4 steals.

    He took over down the stretch in a must-win game against Kansas, dropped 10 dimes on Texas Tech and he nailed nine three-pointers combined against TCU and Iowa State. 

    Smart appears as locked in as he's looked all season, and with Kansas' Joel Embiid out, the upcoming Big 12 tournament is up for grabs.

    If Smart is able to lead his troops on a deep postseason run, it would look awfully sweet on a resume that had been questioned throughout the year. 

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

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    Julius Randle enters the postseason coming off four straight double-doubles and eight games in a row with double-digit boards. 

    But his offensive game hasn't been as reliable as it had been earlier in the season. He shot 1-of-7 in a loss to South Carolina and 6-of-15 in a loss to Arkansas, although he did play well at Florida, where he finished with 16 points and 10 boards. 

    Randle is obviously a beast on the glass, terror on the block and train in the open floor. But we've seen him struggle against length and double-teams, as he tends to rely a little too much on strength as opposed to refined, polished post moves. 

    Still, there's no denying the presence he's capable of making on the interior. Look for Kentucky to establish Randle early and often this postseason. 

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

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    Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    A foot injury, along with his role in Indiana's offense, have kept Noah Vonleh somewhat quiet over the past two weeks. 

    He returned against Michigan, finishing with eight points, seven boards and a three-pointer in 21 minutes.

    Vonleh's regular season was more about quality than quantity, though he did lead the Big Ten in rebounding. But at 18 years old with a 21.5 usage rate in less than 27 minutes a game, there's only so much offensive production one can realistically expect. 

    Between his standout physical tools, and the inside-outside skill set he's flashed as a post scorer, rebounder and shooter, Vonleh offers tremendous long-term promise. 

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

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    You might not hear from Dante Exum for the next two months—he's officially in training mode for the 2014 NBA draft. 

    Exum, a 6'6" scoring point guard with ultra-athletic ability, has the upside and promise to potentially go anywhere from No. 5 overall to No. 1. 

    And there are a few teams projected to draft at the top that could use some backcourt assistance, particularly the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers.

    Outside of Philadelphia, a team that desperately needs a wing, I don't think any team can go wrong with Exum, whether it's Milwaukee at No. 1, the Magic at No. 3 or the Lakers at No. 5. 

    Look for him to blow teams away with athleticism, skills and pure likability during the pre-draft process.  

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

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↑

    Kansas didn't look too hot with Joel Embiid out of the lineup. But Andrew Wiggins sure did. 

    He dropped 41 points against West Virginia, though most of them came with his team down double-digits. 

    Still, the takeaway here is that Wiggins has been active and aggressive. And when he's on the attack, that's when his upside gets flashed in blinding fashion. 

    With Embiid on the shelf, Wiggins is going to have a dream opportunity from an individual draft-stock standpoint.

    The stage is now his to take over. If there was ever a time to show scouts he's got that alpha-dog mentality and killer instinct, this postseason would be it. 

     

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

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↑

    Jabari Parker finished the regular season strong with 30 points and 11 boards in a win over North Carolina.

    He's now reeled in six consecutive double-doubles. Parker actually led the ACC in rebounding this season, which just highlights his versatility as an inside-outside mismatch. 

    From post ups and offensive put-backs to mid-range scoring and three-point shooting, he's been effective and comfortable in practically every facet of the game. 

    With Joel Embiid out with a stress fracture, general managers expected to draft at the top might be looking for a reason to go in a different direction. And Parker has the takeover ability to give them one. 

    If he's able to lead Duke to some postseason magic, it could go a long way towards his draft stock.

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

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↓

    The good news is that a stress fracture to the back appears to be something Joel Embiid will be able to fully shake off prior to the draft. 

    However, it's not necessarily the stress fracture itself that could now cause a general manager to hesitate on Embiid—it's the durability factor. The combination of big men and injuries just tends to frighten some.

    This one might cost Embiid the rest of postseason, depending on how far Kansas can advance without him. And that opens the door for some of his direct draft-night challengers to make a move on him—particularly teammate Andrew Wiggins, who hung 41 points on West Virginia in the regular season finale. 

    Still, unless Embiid suffers a setback, all indications are that he'll be good to go by the time the draft rolls around. And if that's the case, there's a chance this temporary injury will have already been forgotten.