NBA Draft

Stock Up, Stock Down for NBA Draft Prospects After NCAA Tournament Round of 64

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMarch 22, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for NBA Draft Prospects After NCAA Tournament Round of 64

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    James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    Though it's team play that's traditionally celebrated during March Madness, we've seen some standout individual performances that just might have been strong enough to move the NBA draft needle. 

    We've also seen a few top NBA prospects make early exits from the dance. One of them experienced what could be a nightmare ending to his college career. And it cost him in our rankings. 

    With the round of 64 complete, we now have a new No. 1 atop our 2014 draft board, and his name shouldn't be unfamiliar.  

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

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Stock Report:

    James Young wasn't much of a factor in Kentucky's win over Kansas State to kick off the NCAA tournament. He shot just 3-of-13 from the field, missing all three of his three-point attempts. 

    Though he's been productive, Young just hasn't established a core strength for scouts to really drool over. He's a good athlete, not a great one, and though he spends most of his time behind the arc, he only sunk 34.1 percent of his three-point attempts this season. 

    Young could really use an extra year of reps to expand his game and improve his defensive awareness. There's potential here—I'm just not sure he's fully ready to tap into it. 

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

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ⬆

    Despite a tough loss to Saint Louis in the round of 64, T.J. Warren's ridiculous season didn't go unnoticed.

    He went for 25 points in the play-in game against Xavier, and he dropped 28 in N.C. State's loss in the round of 64.

    Next to Doug McDermott, he's been as dangerous offensively as any scoring prospect in the country. The last time Warren didn't hit the 20-point mark: January 11. 

    At 6'8", he's got good size for the wing, along with the mobility to fly up and down the floor and pick up free points in transition—an area of his game that really shines. 

    In the half court, Warren finds ways to score by simply rising and firing over defenders when they least expect it. 

    He's not the most explosive athlete, nor does he have the three-point range you'd typically want from a small forward, but the kid can flat out get buckets. The late first round projection sounds about right.

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

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ⬆

    The arrow is pointing up for Montrezl Harrell, who just continues to overwhelm opposing frontcourts around the rim and on the glass. 

    Harrell went for 12 points, 13 boards and four blocks in Louisville's tight win over Manhattan in the round of 64. He racked up 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in the Cardinals' win over Connecticut in the American Athletic Conference championship. 

    It seems like it just clicked for Harrell since breaking out against Cincinnati back on Feb. 22. Over the past month he's averaging 18.3 points and nine rebounds a game. 

    Harrell is an absolute monster physically; he's got the hops to play high above the rim and the strength to tear it down. 

    His skill set is still raw, but as long as he stays active in the paint and finishes the scoring chances that come his way, Harrell will attract first-round teams looking for some frontcourt athleticism. 

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

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ⬆

    Adreian Payne put on a clinic in Michigan State's round of 64 win over Delaware. 

    He went for a whopping 41 points on just 15 shots. It was an incredible showcase of skills and versatility from Payne, who nailed 4-of-5 attempts from downtown and 17-of-17 attempts from the line. 

    In between, Payne showed off his strength in the post. He finished a few plays after contact, including one with his left hand. 

    It was the type of game that's likely to turn heads and generate conversation. 

    He's now hit 38 three-pointers this year, at a 44.2 percent clip no less, after making just 17 threes total his first three years combined. 

    Between his monstrous frame, interior presence and sharp perimeter game, Payne should be able to make a fine living as an inside-out, pick-and-pop power forward. 

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

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ⬆

    The less Aaron Gordon tries to do, the better off he is. That was the case in Arizona's round of 64 win over Weber State, when he racked up 16 points and eight boards while sticking to his strengths. 

    He finished a number of plays around the rim, including just another effortless reverse alley-oop. Gordon even sank his one three-point attempt.

    But despite the impressive offensive stats, it's Gordon's defense that really stands out. He finished with a season-high five blocks, showcasing his valuable versatility as a perimeter and post defender.

    Without the ability to really create his own shot, Gordon's offensive game will need some fine-tuning. But he won't slip too far when you take his size, athleticism, defense and passing skills into account. 

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

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    Doug McDermott went for 30 points and 12 boards against Louisiana-Lafayette in the round of 64—and that was with a personal 14-minute scoring drought in the second half.

    Creighton really does a nice job of freeing McDermott up. He's constantly getting open for jumpers and slip-cuts to the rack. 

    McDermott's ability to move and play without the ball is what should ultimately allow him to succeed without traditional NBA athleticism. 

    At this point, scouts know what they're getting with McDermott—a lights-out shooter who can hit shots from a zillion different angles, though one with legitimate defensive limitations. He's got just five blocks and eight steals on the year. 

    His elite offensive instincts and NBA-ready shot-making ability are likely to be too enticing to pass on after the top eight to 10 guys are called. I'd project McDermott as a mix between Ryan Anderson and Kyle Korver.

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

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ⬇

    Zach LaVine has really taken a backseat in UCLA's offense. He didn't play much of a role in the team's round of 64 win over Tulsa—LaVine finished just 1-of-5 from the floor, and it marked the third consecutive game he finished with just one or no made field goals. 

    It doesn't change the height of LaVine's NBA ceiling. At 6'5", he's an exceptional athlete who can handle the rock and shoot it. 

    LaVine would benefit greatly from another season at UCLA, where he'd spend more time in a featured playmaking role. But his upside has already been established, and it's possible the NBA comes calling early. 

    Though not NBA-ready, he's the type of prospect you reach on if you can't find anyone that is. 

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

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ⬇

    Rodney Hood saved his worst game of the season for the most important time of the year. Nothing worked for Hood in Duke's round of 64 loss to Mercer; he finished just 2-of-10 from the floor before fouling out.

    Jumpers weren't falling, and he couldn't find other ways to score inside the arc. On top of that, he was getting beat defensively, he committed two costly turnovers late in the game and he gave up a crushing and-one bucket with just over a minute left to play. 

    Looking at his whole body of work, this was just one bad game among a whole lot of good ones. But as a one-way offensive player who doesn't offer much defensive resistance, he really needs that jumper to fall in order to make an impact. 

    Hood's projected draft range falls in that late-lotto to late-first round range, but this wasn't an encouraging final impression. 

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

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ⬆

    Willie Cauley-Stein blocked four shots, picked up four steals and grabbed eight boards in Kentucky's win over Kansas State. 

    It wasn't a masterpiece performance, as he made just 1-of-4 shots from the floor, but Cauley-Stein's interior presence was enough to make a difference on the glass and defensive end.  

    He's a sensational athlete with 7'0" size and wide receiver-like mobility. And though limited with the ball in his hands, it's his ability to make an impact without it that really drives his NBA potential. 

    There aren't many 7-footers to choose from in this projected draft field. I'm expecting Cauley-Stein to reap the benefits.

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

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ⬆

    Tyler Ennis was on point against Western Michigan in the round of 64, finishing with a cool 16 points, six assists and two steals on 7-of-11 shooting. 

    He's been looking for his shot a little more frequently as of late, which is really just tied to Syracuse's desperate need for offense. 

    Over the last six games he's averaging 17.3 points to go with 5.1 assists. He's even 10-of-23 from downtown during the stretch. 

    His performance the rest of the way could be the difference between him declaring for the pros or returning to college. If Syracuse can make a run led by Ennis, I'd imagine the NBA buzz will be too loud to ignore. 

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

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: 

    Nik Stauskas bounced back against Wofford after an underwhelming performance in the Big Ten tournament final. 

    He went for 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the round of 64. It looked fairly effortless, as Stauskas is just able to shoot right over the top of the defense with that 6'6" size and deep three-point range. 

    He's actually been on fire from behind the arc as of late, having now made 10-of-19 threes over his last three games. 

    Stauskas did struggle at times in the Big Ten conference final against Michigan State, where he finished 4-of-14 shooting with nine of his misses coming on jumpers. 

    But he appears to be back on track, and with Duke getting the boot early, this is Stauskas' chance to make a serious statement in the Midwest region.

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

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    He's been the most productive player in the Adriatic League, leading it in both scoring and rebounding. 

    Dario Saric can ball—the question is whether he wants to ball in the NBA or Europe. 

    “I will not decide anything until the end of the season,” Saric said via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.com. “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."

    Saric has evolved into quite the matchup offensively. At 6'10", he can create and make shots on the perimeter, wheel and deal in the post, facilitate from the wing and dominate the glass. 

    But his stock could take a hit if he starts talking about staying overseas. 

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

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    Gary Harris took a backseat to Adreian Payne in the round of 64 game against Delaware. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting and 2-of-5 from downtown, playing under control, system basketball. 

    He's actually scaled back a little bit offensively as of late. Harris hasn't hit his scoring average in six straight games, and he hasn't taken double-digit shot attempts in four of his last six.

    This tournament is especially important for Harris, who doesn't have those showtime physical tools (athleticism, size, length) to shine during the NBA combine or pre-draft workouts.

    If he wants to stand out as a can't-miss prospect, and ultimately solidify himself as one, he'll need to do it on the court over the next few weeks. 

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

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Stock Report: 

    Julius Randle needed a big game in the Round of 64 after a poor overall effort in Kentucky's conference tournament loss to Florida. 

    Randle took over the paint against Kansas State, finishing with 19 points and 15 boards on just five missed shots all game. 

    He found ways to avoid contact in the post, and other ways to take it and finish after it. 

    The 15 boards were just a result of him being the strongest, most athletic kid on the floor. 

    Randle has been up and down lately, particularly on offense. But he bounced back strong in Kentucky's first NCAA tournament win. He'll have a good shot to make a statement to scouts in the round of 32 against Wichita State. 

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

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ↔

    Marcus Smart played about as well as one can in a loss, which came to Gonzaga in the round of 64. Smart blew up the box score for 23 points, 13 boards, seven assists and six steals, but without much help from his frontcourt, his Cowboys just never had the proper floor balance.

    It's been a bizarre year for Smart. Between the fan-shoving incident in February and his team's uninspiring play, it just wasn't the season anyone anticipated.

    But don't expect Smart to fall too far down draft boards. At 6'4", 220 pounds and with terrific instincts as a passer and attacker, Smart is as safe of a bet as any guard prospect in the draft. 

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

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Stock Report: 

    Noah Vonleh's season is over, but he did just about everything in his power to maximize his NBA draft stock under the circumstances. 

    He didn't play a major role in Indiana's offense, while his team just wasn't very good. Still, Vonleh managed to stand out with that 6'10", 240-pound frame and massive 7'4" wingspan. We've seen him work the back-to-the-basket game, whether he's hop-stepping into the lane for a jump hook or drop-stepping into a power layup.

    Vonleh even nailed 16-of-33 three-pointers this season, and he led the Big Ten in rebounding playing less than 27 minutes a game. 

    Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that Vonleh is "strongly leaning toward entering the draft."

    Think Chris Bosh as an NBA comparison, and expect someone to reach for him in the top 10.

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

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    Graham Denholm/Getty Images

    Stock Report: 

    Dante Exum remains in wait-and-train mode in Los Angeles, where he's been working with Kobe Bryant's trainer Tim Grover, per ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required). 

    He's even made a few appearances at Lakers games over the past few weeks.

    Exum has expressed interest in playing in L.A., but unless the Lakers get into that top four, it might take a draft-day trade for them to land him. 

    With questions over Joel Embiid's durability, it's possible that Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker go No. 1 and No. 2. And if a team like the Orlando Magic, who have a center and a need for a point guard, get pick No. 3, Exum could very well be a target.

    Outside of Wiggins and Embiid, Exum is next in line in the upside rankings, given his elite athleticism, size and skill set for the position he plays. 

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

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ⬇

    Jabari Parker's college career is likely to end on a forgettable note. He was ineffective in a head-scratching loss to Mercer in the round of 64, finishing just 4-of-14 from the floor while struggling on the defensive end. 

    In fact, he was even benched down the stretch during defensive possessions. 

    Offensively, Parker had trouble finding the sweet spots against Mercer's zone, and he missed all three of his three-point attempts. 

    It just wasn't a good look from Parker, who many were hoping would eventually take over for Duke and will it on a run.

    “I don’t know," he said when asked about his plans regarding the draft, according to Stephen Wiseman of The Herald-Sun. "Me and coach will talk about it. But I don’t know right now.”

    With Duke eliminated, Kansas moving on and Andrew Wiggins playing well, we've knocked Parker out of the No. 1 spot on the board. Just too many of his weaknesses were exposed in his most meaningful game of the year. 

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

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ⬇

    Whether this stress fracture to his back is a long-term problem or not, it still raises questions over Joel Embiid's durability. It also gives his teammate Andrew Wiggins a green light in the offense and a chance to really blow up in the NCAA tournament. 

    Embiid may have caught a break with Jabari Parker's no-show in Duke's upset loss to Mercer, but Wiggins continues to keep the pressure on.

    If Embiid doesn't suit up for the rest of the tournament, his pre-draft physical is likely to play the biggest role in determining his draft stock.  

     

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

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Stock Report: ⬆

    Andrew Wiggins made a few plays in Kansas' round of 64 win that flashed his NBA All-Star ceiling in blinding fashion. From ridiculous alley-oops to lightning-quick takes to the rack, Wiggins spent half the afternoon with his head above the rim. 

    You sometimes forget he's 6'8", given how well he moves out there. 

    Wiggins went for 19 points on only 13 shots against Eastern Kentucky. Defensively, he was an animal as always, blocking two shots and altering others. 

    And while Wiggins was looking sharp, showcasing his jaw-dropping athleticism, his biggest draft-day competitor, Jabari Parker, had a real rough day at the office. 

    Wiggins had been picking up steam prior to the tournament. Between his recent standout play and Parker's March Madness dud, it's Wiggins who's starting to look like the top prospect on the planet. 

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