NBA Draft Watch: Willie Warren Highlights Players Stating Their Cases Early On

Sean StancillSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2009

Over the course of the past few weeks, some players have sparkled while others have played sparingly and fermented over their actions.
Here's a group of players that have recently affected their draft status for June in a positive way:

Chris Johnson
The elongated senior is steadily improving each season (increased his free-throw percentage from 50 percent as a freshman to 85 percent last season as a junior) and his uprising numbers are a testament to his continual progression. 
Johnson has seven blocks over his past three games and is averaging career-highs in rebounds and assists, resulting in a career-best assist-to-turnover ratio while his his turnover rate is the lowest in all four of his years at Louisiana State University.
Johnson is ahead of schedule of former teammate and fellow rail-based project Anthony Randolph (in terms of maturation and body control), who stood 6'10" and weighed a brittle 197 pounds at LSU last season as a freshman before foregoing his collegiate career for a pipe dream in the NBA.
Standing at 6'11" and and feathering the scales at 210 pounds, Chris Johnson needs to add weight to his noodle-based frame to be a key component to any team considering the thought process of selecting him in June. As is, he's a marginal second-round prospect.
Though his point production has dropped this year, his scoring woes can be attributed to the fact he's returning from a broken hand and learning a new system implemented by new head coach Trent Johnson.
However, his assertiveness around the basket and his multifariousness in-and-out of the paint, makes him a wild card in a draft submerged in guard play.

Manny Harris
Every major statistical category from his freshman campaign to this season is rising: points, assists, rebounding, and free-throw and field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
The only numbers in Harris' columns that has dropped is turnovers and fouls per game, which is surprising because he's averaging over 3.5 minutes more per game this season than last and averages near 20 ppg (19.8 ppg to be exact), the highest scoring guard in the Big Ten.
Even more astounding, the Wolverines haven't produced a 20+ ppg scorer in over a decade—since Louis Bullock's average of 20.7 in 1998-99—Harris looks to become only the second player in the last 10+ years to accomplish that feat at the University of Michigan. 
He also leads the Big Ten in free-throws made (76), free-throws attempted (87), and free-throw percentage (87.4). Harris also ranks 3rd in rebounding and fifth in assists in a Dwyane Wade-esque season.
The 6'5" sophomore loves to attack the rim and entices defenders with his nifty ball-handling, This season, he learning spacing and how to better position himself on the floor, the reason for the implosion in his numbers.
Although Michigan was upset at home and Manny managed to contribute only nine points, he's scored 38 points while grabbing 22 boards and dishing out 10 assists in his last 69 minutes of play.

Willie Warren
Despite a regrettable outing by the Sooners in Tuesday night's loss at Arkansas, Warren had the best performance of his game collegiate career, tallying 35 points (7-of-11 3PT), four rebounds, four assists, and a steal.
More importantly, all of the other Sooners' guards aside from Warren shot 7-for-26 combined and had no free-throw attempts, while Warren made 4-of-7. Over his last two games, Warren has recorded 66 points on 11-of-20 from downtown and 16 free-throw attempts.
Warren's outlandish numbers and exceptional play this season has him heralded as one of the best freshmen in the nation and is rapidly developing into Oklahoma's most talented underling.

Greg Monroe
Monroe excelled out on the perimeter against Hasheem Thabeet in the Hoyas' recent game by drawing the 7'3" Thabeet towards the perimeter and delivered several up-fakes to blow past the monster toward an unguarded goal. Monroe also has showed an array of offensive moves this season, from sky- and sweeping hooks to floaters and the occasional long-distance jumper—all moves UConn can attest to. 
Though Monroe was often been characterized as a lackadaisical star in high school, his numbers this season and over the past two games: 26 points and 13 free-throw attempts, along with eight steals, displays the makings of a young Rasheed Wallace and an abundance of talent in range from a lottery pick to within the top three.