NBA Draft

Stock Up, Stock Down for Top NBA Draft Prospects After NCAA Tournament

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterApril 11, 2014

Stock Up, Stock Down for Top NBA Draft Prospects After NCAA Tournament

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    Jeff Roberson

    NBA draft season is officially underway, as prospects are now in the process of deciding whether or not to make the jump. 

    The needle moved for a few guys during the NCAA tournament. But just because the season is over doesn't mean your can't rise or fall. 

    With the NBA combine and workouts coming up, this portion of the process is almost as important as the games in March. 

    Here are some key dates to keep in mind moving forward :

    April 15: NCAA Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline

    April 27: NBA Draft Early Entry Eligibility Deadline

    May 20: NBA Draft Lottery

    June 16: NBA Draft Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline (International prospects)

    June 26: 2014 NBA Draft

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    Rodney Hood was a no-show for Duke's NCAA tournament loss to Mercer, when he shot just 2-of-10 before fouling out.

    While he's got a beautiful lefty stroke that can stretch the defense, Hood's ability to impact a game has become a little too reliant on it. He doesn't get to the rack much or score one-on-one. And he projects poorly as a defender, given his lack of strength for the interior and poor lateral quickness on the perimeter. 

    And he averaged fewer than four boards and four free-throw attempts per game, questionable numbers for a 6'8" forward whose game is predicated on versatility. 

    There's no doubting Hood's touch and shot-making ability—just its value without the ability to rebound, defend or create. 

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    The 2014 Player of the Year, Doug McDermott must now be salivating at his opportunity to shoot the lights out in pre-draft workouts. 

    Having shot above 40 percent from downtown in four straight years, McDermott's lethal outside stroke will be the one facet of his game toward which NBA teams will gravitate. And because of his high IQ, ability to play without the ball and get himself open, McDermott should find a way to succeed without elite athleticism or quickness. 

    I like the Mike Miller comparison in terms of how his offensive game will translate. McDermott won't create for others, but he'll finish the plays sent his way as a perimeter-oriented scorer. 

     

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    This year's big international riser, Jusuf Nurkic has been dominant overseas despite the limited time he's been given.

    At 6'11" with a 280-pound body, quick feet and a soft touch around the rim, Nurkic can get up and down the floor or score on his man with his back to the basket.

    He's No. 1 in the Adriatic League in player efficiency rating, per DraftExpress.com, thanks to wild per-40-minute averages of 28.6 points, 13.9 boards and two blocks on 56 percent shooting. 

    With so few centers projected in this year's field, Nurkic should draw plenty of attention if he does choose to declare. 

17. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State, 6'8", SF, Senior

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Cleanthony Early's performance against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament was meaningful, given most of his previous production came against mid-major competition. 

    He dropped 31 points on the Wildcats' diesel front line, looking like an NBA pro from a physical and fundamental standpoint. 

    At 6'8", he's a tremendous athlete with the ideal build for an NBA wing. He showcased his smooth perimeter stroke, along with a vicious attack game in the half court and unstoppable athleticism in the open floor. 

    He looks the part, and he's now shown he can play the part against top NCAA competition. Early is our biggest riser of the year, and he might not be done. 

16. Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5", SG, Freshman

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    Zach LaVine has opted for the draft after playing behind three older guards and alongside the coach's son at UCLA. 

    It's tough to blame him—LaVine isn't ready for the pros, but given his towering upside, his lack of seasoning doesn't mean a team won't reach. 

    At 6'5", LaVine is a spectacular athlete with lightning quickness, a tight handle and a deadly outside shot. He'll eventually need to find ways to create higher-percentage shots for himself in the half court, particularly around the rim. And he didn't show much on the defensive end. 

    But expect LaVine's stock to get a bump during the pre-draft process, when he can blow scouts away up close with his jaw-dropping explosiveness, hops and offensive skills.

    He's a project, though if you've got the time and patience, the reward could be well worth the wait. 

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    It would really be a shock to see Nik Stauskas return to school after blowing up for 17 points a game and winning Big Ten Player of the Year. I'm not sure he could have a better season than the one he just had. 

    Stauskas scored 24 points in a loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, capping off a year in which he took over 100 more free throws than he did as a freshman. And he also managed to maintain that scolding hot 44 percent three-point shooting stroke.

    He can't defend anyone, and it might limit his ceiling, but Stauskas has the size, scoring arsenal and outside touch to fit right into an NBA offense.  

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    Gary Harris had a productive but somewhat unconvincing season at Michigan State. He took more shots and ultimately scored more points, though his field-goal and three-point percentages both took disappointing dips. 

    Harris' strengths center around his ability to score within an offense, whether he's curling off a screen, popping out for a three, cutting through the lane or spotting up off the ball. 

    However, he's not the greatest athlete, and he's slightly undersized at the 2-guard position. Being able to stretch the defense and provide a consistent outside stroke will be key for him moving forward, as there won't be too many easy-bucket chances for him around the rim. 

    Shooting during workouts will likely be huge for Harris, as you wouldn't expect him to stand out physically at the NBA combine.

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Adreian Payne really had a strong year in terms of building his NBA case. He always had the physical tools and natural talent—at 6'10", he's got a monster frame and above-the-rim athleticism. 

    This year, he added a threatening three-point jumper, which gives him appeal as a stretch 4 at the next level. 

    Payne also showed off an improved back-to-the-basket game in the post, where he can wheel and deal and play through contact. 

    At 23 years old, I'm not sure how much upside is left in the tank, but given his size and NBA-ready shooting stroke, he could be ready to roll sooner than most. 

12. Clint Capela, Switzerland, 6'11", PF,

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Clint Capela is currently in Portland participating in the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit, a showcase event that features the top worldwide prospects 19 years old and under. Capela measured at 6'11" in shoes and 222 pounds with a ridiculous 7'4.5" wingspan, numbers that are sure to attract attention from all over the map.

    His game revolves around the tremendous physical tools he uses to finish around the rim and protect the paint on the defensive end. 

    Capela is still raw and limited when he has the ball in his hands, but interior athleticism and rim-protection have become highly valued commodities in today's NBA. 

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

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    Stock Report: 

    Tyler Ennis is off to the NBA following his standout freshman season as Syracuse's floor general. And he'll be selling himself as a decision-maker—not a big-time athlete with upside. 

    Don't expect to hear much buzz surrounding Ennis from here on out, as the combine and workout sessions just aren't settings you'd expect him to shine in. 

    Ennis is a gamer, and if there's a team out there looking for a passing guard to improve its offense, he'll be a strong draft option in that late-lottery to mid-first round range.

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    Willie Cauley-Stein missed out on the last few games of Kentucky's run with a foot injury, but at this point, there's no mystery as to who he is or what he's capable of doing. 

    At 7'0", Cauley-Stein can really fly up and down the floor, finish everything around the rim and change a game defensively with world-class rim-protection. 

    He's got two things working against him—an inconsistent motor and minimal offensive skills. And it might cost him a little bit on draft night. 

    However, there aren't many first-round-worthy centers in this field, outside of Kansas' Joel Embiid and Bosnia's Jusuf Nurkic. Expect that to benefit Cauley-Stein. The mid-first round seems about right at this stage.

9. Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", PF, Freshman

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↑

    Highlighted by his valuable two-way versatility, Aaron Gordon really looked sharp down the stretch into the NCAA tournament. 

    He's unstoppable around the rim, whether it's off lobs, dump passes or offensive rebounds. In between, he's shown he can catch and slash to the rim and occasionally hit the spot-up jumper off the ball. 

    But arguably his most glowing strength is his defense. Gordon finished No. 1 in the country in defensive win shares, per sports-reference.com, thanks to his ability to defend the perimeter and man the post. 

    Forget about the Blake Griffin comparisons, because that's just not his game. Think Shawn Marion in his prime. 

8. Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10", PF, B. 1994

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    Petr David Josek

    Stock Report: ↑

    Dario Saric is fresh off a birthday triple-double that saw him rack up 20 points, 13 boards and 10 assists. He's putting up big numbers on a game-to-game basis in the Adriatic League, which he leads in both scoring and rebounding.

    There has been speculation that Saric might opt to put off the draft yet again, but he recently told Jelena Trajkovic of B92.net, via Sportando, “I think I will apply for the NBA draft, but I need ten more days before making a final decision."

    He also just hired a new agent, who tweeted he'd be making a statement about Saric's plans in the upcoming days. 

    Signs are leading toward Saric declaring, which is good news for teams with a projected lottery pick.

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↓

    Marcus Smart, whose allure stems from his intangibles as a winner and leader, exited the NCAA tournament without a win for the second time in as many years after a shoving incident with a fan earned him a three-game suspension. 

    And he shot below 30 percent from downtown—again.

    Still, Smart played well down the stretch for the most part. And when he's locked in, he's capable of taking over a game as a facilitator, scorer and defender. But it just wasn't the year he was anticipating. And with a stronger field than a year ago, his stock has taken a hit. 

    ESPN's Chad Ford recently reported (subscription required) that "Not everyone is on board with him being a lottery pick."

    While that seems extreme, there's no doubt Smart could have trouble cracking the top six in 2014.

6. Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'10", PF, Freshman

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↑

    Julius Randle was the last top prospect standing in the NCAA tournament, having played a major role in Kentucky's run to the national title game.

    He had a rough outing against Connecticut, but at this point, it's pretty clear what type of talent we're working with here. At 6'9", Randle has the mobility of a wing and the power to take over a game in the paint. 

    He's established himself as a threat facing up, with his back to the rim and on the offensive glass.

    Next is adding a jumper to give him an extra avenue for his offensive game, as well as a shot he'll eventually need to complement his heavily interior-oriented attack. 

    Regardless, he'll be right in that No. 4 to No. 8 mix assuming he officially declares for the draft. 

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

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: ↔

    We've had Noah Vonleh at No. 5 on our board for most of the year, and despite Julius Randle's strong postseason run, Vonleh isn't going anywhere. 

    Nearly a year younger than Randle with five extra inches of length, Vonleh has the NBA body to go with the NBA game. 

    He just makes it look effortless, whether it's a simple hop-step into a jump hook or a deep drop-step into a layup. Though raw, Vonleh has a sound back-to-the-basket game in place—he just needs to continue polishing it up.

    Vonleh also led the Big Ten in rebounding while playing less than 27 minutes a game, and he finished 16-of-33 shooting from downtown, showing off his touch and range away from the rim.

    Given his skill set and monster frame, he's probably going to turn heads at the combine and during workouts as well. 

     

4. Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG, B. 1995

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    Dante Exum has been working out in Los Angeles in preparation for the draft, in which many analysts believe he could be a top-five or even a top-three pick, depending on how the lottery plays out. 

    He's certainly a top-five talent. At 6'6", he's a sick athlete who can handle the ball at the point or take over a game as a scorer. He also has the tools to completely overwhelm opposing ball-handlers, along with the versatility to guard a few positions on the floor.

    And if you watched him dominate in the FIBA World Championships in 2012 or 2013, there's just no way not to be intrigued with what you saw.

    He's got the potential to evolve into a legitimate All-Star scoring point guard if he hits his NBA stride. 

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

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Stock Report: ↔

    All eyes and ears are now on Jabari Parker, who hasn't made a decision yet on whether to declare or return to Duke. 

    It would be a crushing blow to the top of the board if Parker did happen to return to the Blue Devils. 

    Coming off a poor outing in the NCAA tournament, when he was benched down the stretch for defensive possessions in the loss to Mercer, it seems logical to think a competitor like Parker would want to seek some redemption. 

    Plus, with his buddy and top-shelf recruit Jahlil Okafor coming in, Duke could look unstoppable in 2014-15.

    Either way, he'll be locked into the top three whether he leaves this year or the next. 

     

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

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    Stock Report: ↔

    Andrew Wiggins went out quietly in the NCAA tournament, having taken just six shots in 34 minutes in a loss to Stanford. 

    But when looking back at his entire body of work, Wiggins finished a better player than he did when he started.

    He ended up with a higher true shooting percentage and more three-pointers than Duke's Jabari Parker, something nobody would have guessed a month into the season. Credit that to more confidence and a tighter overall game. 

    There's really just not much to question from a talent standpoint. If you're not into Wiggins, it's gotta be because you question his killer instinct. And that's fair.

    But at 19 years old, I'm not sure it's a big enough reason to pass on the potential reward Wiggins is offering. 

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

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    Stock Report: ↑

    Joel Embiid lucked out a little bit when neither his teammate Andrew Wiggins or Duke's Jabari Parker could really capitalize on his back injury and absence. Wiggins and Parker both put up duds in disappointing NCAA tournament losses. 

    General managers will remain in wait-and-see mode with Embid until his physical comes back pre-draft, but the sense right now is that his injury is an isolated, temporary setback and not something expected to linger long term. 

    And at full strength, there's no question in my mind who the biggest potential game-changer is in this field.

    Based on the two-way impact he's capable of making as a go-to option in the post and a premier rim-protector, Embiid remains No. 1 on our board for the time being.  

     

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