Predicting the Biggest Risers and Fallers of the 2015 NBA Draft Class

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2015

Predicting the Biggest Risers and Fallers of the 2015 NBA Draft Class

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    Aaron and Andrew Harrison have seen their draft stocks move in opposite directions over recent weeks.
    Aaron and Andrew Harrison have seen their draft stocks move in opposite directions over recent weeks.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    With both the scouting combine and the lottery now over, we're gaining a clearer sense of how the 2015 NBA draft may shake out on June 25.

    Some players, such as Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas and Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton, opened the eyes of executives at the combine, causing their draft stocks to vault accordingly. Others, such as Kentucky's Aaron Harrison and Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvey, may have damaged their odds of being selected in the first round (or perhaps at all).

    Over the coming weeks, players will conduct private workouts, hoping to prove their worth as potential long-term rotation players. As word trickles out to reporters from those workouts, it's becoming more evident which players are and aren't doing favors to their draft stock.

    Using the pre-combine big board of Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman as a baseline, let's take a look at which players' stocks may soar or plummet between now and June 25 based on leaked reports from the combine and individual workouts.

Riser: Rakeem Christmas, PF/C, Syracuse

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    Rakeem Christmas blew scouts away at the combine.
    Rakeem Christmas blew scouts away at the combine.Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Prior to the combine, Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas barely qualified for Wasserman's big board, slotting in at No. 50 overall with a projected range of "second round/undrafted." It's likely safe to say Christmas no longer needs to worry about the latter half of that projection.

    Christmas was one of the combine's breakout stars, measuring 6'9¾" with a 7'5¼" wingspan and a 9'2½" standing reach. He also dominated the five-on-five scrimmages, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, six rebounds and a block Thursday and 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, six boards and two blocks Friday.

    Wasserman wrote that Christmas "looked like a grown man Day 1," and he wasn't the only one impressed by the big man's performance. Following Thursday's scrimmage, one NBA general manager told ESPN.com's Chad Ford:

    He had an advantage [over his combine competition] as a four-year senior. But that wasn't what set him apart. I felt he showed that he could disrupt shots, attack the rim and play bigger than I felt he did at Syracuse. There aren't many centers in this draft after the lottery, and I think he'll draw a lot of interest for teams in the late first and early second.

    Christmas even showed flashes of some impressive shooting range at the combine, knocking down three of five NBA three-point tries from each of the corners during drills. Four-year seniors aren't typically sexy prospects at this time of year, but Christmas' dominance at the combine sent his draft stock soaring.

    "Christmas was projected as a late second-rounder before the combine," Ford wrote. "I think he's going to be one of the first picks off the board in the second round now after talking with scouts."

Faller: Chris Walker, PF, Florida

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    Chris Walker struggled mightily during five-on-five scrimmages at the combine.
    Chris Walker struggled mightily during five-on-five scrimmages at the combine.Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Chris Walker was one of the physical standouts at the combine, measuring 6'9¼" with a 7'2¾" wingspan, a 9'0" standing reach and only 5.1 percent body fat. Unfortunately, those physical gifts didn't help the Florida product stand out during the five-on-five scrimmages.

    Walker hardly made a splash Thursday, playing just four minutes and missing his only shot from the field, although he did notch two blocks. On Friday, he finished with just three points on a miserable 1-of-6 shooting from the field and 1-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line during his 16 minutes of playing time.

    He racked up five boards—three on the offensive end—and three blocks on Friday, but that likely didn't salvage his performance in the eyes of scouts, as ESPN.com's Chad Ford wrote following the combine:

    He didn't do much to scream NBA player on the court. He did have three blocks and five rebounds Friday, but shot just 1-for-7 from the field in two games and looked just as raw as he did in Florida. I kept thinking someone would reach for him based on the physical talent. After what I saw this week, I'm no longer sure that's the case.

    Walker came into the draft with a lot to prove, having averaged just 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds during his 49 games at Florida over the past two seasons. He came to the Gators as the No. 7 prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings—ahead of guys like Joel Embiid, Noah Vonleh and James Young—but was plagued with issues that caused his draft stock to plummet.

    He missed the first half of his freshman season due to academic ineligibility and failed to move the needle upon his return, racking up a grand total of 34 points and 24 rebounds in 18 games. The team then suspended him for three games at the start of his sophomore season for a "violation of team rules," which sources told CBS Sports' Gary Parrish was due to a failed marijuana test.

    The combine was Walker's best chance to prove to NBA teams that he has put his turbulent past behind him and is ready to make a significant impact in the league. Based on his showing during five-on-five scrimmages, however, the former top-10 prospect—who wasn't in Wasserman's pre-combine top 50—is likely to wind up going undrafted.

Riser: Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky

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    Andrew Harrison had a good showing during the combine's five-on-five scrimmages.
    Andrew Harrison had a good showing during the combine's five-on-five scrimmages.Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Andrew Harrison often found himself the subject of criticism during his two seasons at Kentucky, with many wondering why the former top-10 prospect failed to make a greater impact. CBS Sports' Gary Parrish described his freshman year as "underwhelming and deserving of the criticism it received," while College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster dubbed freshman Tyler Ulis the team's best point guard back in December.

    Harrison managed to quash some of the doubts about his game at the combine, however, with a dynamic performance during the first five-on-five scrimmage Thursday. The 6'5" floor general erupted for 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting, five assists, three rebounds, two steals, two blocks and zero turnovers in 26 minutes.

    One general manager, who admitted he hadn't "been a big fan" of Harrison's all season, told ESPN.com's Chad Ford that Harrison "was one of the two or three best players" during Thursday's scrimmage. "He played under control, made some great passes, got to the line relentlessly [7-for-8] and just played with confidence. It was a very good showing," the GM said.

    Harrison wasn't as sharp Friday, finishing with six points on 1-of-6 shooting, but he salvaged the day with a game-high seven assists. Following the combine, Ford listed the Wildcats point guard as one of the prospects who helped his draft stock:

    Neither performance blew anyone away, but Harrison was steady, made good passes, played under control and proved he had a talent for getting to the free-throw line and making them when he got there. Based on the feedback from scouts in attendance, I'm pretty sure someone will draft him in the 30s or 40s and give it a whirl. It was an important weekend for him and I think he passed the first (of many) tests.

    Wasserman was likewise impressed with Harrison's showing at the combine, telling Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson, "He really looked sharp. I think he'll generate maybe late first- and early second-round consideration." For a player who came into the combine ranked 48th on Wasserman's big board, that's a huge improvement.

Faller: Aaron Harrison, SG, Kentucky

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    Aaron Harrison struggled with his shot at the combine.
    Aaron Harrison struggled with his shot at the combine.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Unlike his twin brother, Aaron Harrison failed to impress at the combine, raising more questions about whether he'll be selected at all on June 25.

    During Thursday's scrimmage, Harrison shot a ghastly 1-of-6 from the field with a 6-of-6 performance from the free-throw line to finish with nine points, four rebounds and four assists. On Friday, his shooting woes continued, as he went 4-of-15 overall—including 0-of-4 from three-point range—for 15 points.

    After Thursday, one general manager didn't mince words when discussing Harrison and Tyler Harvey with ESPN.com's Chad Ford: "They both were trying too hard and took some bad, quick shots. You want to come out and show what you have, but in this case, I think their aggressiveness hurt them both."

    Wasserman likewise dubbed Harrison as one of his biggest disappointments from the combine, telling B/R's Stephen Nelson that it "almost looked like he didn't belong out there." The Wildcats 2-guard "struggled to create his own shot," Wasserman said, which was an issue that frequently plagued him at Kentucky, too.

    Harrison shot just 39.5 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three-point range as a sophomore, despite starting on a team that won 38 straight games before losing in the Final Four. With that much talent surrounding him, the San Antonio native shouldn't have struggled knocking down open looks.

    Wasserman didn't have Harrison in his pre-combine top 50, so it's not as though he was ever considered a lock to be selected early in the second round. Following the combine, however, Wasserman told Nelson that he wouldn't be surprised to see Harrison go undrafted.

Riser: Pat Connaughton, SG, Notre Dame

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    Pat Connaughton's 44" vertical at the combine opened the eyes of scouts.
    Pat Connaughton's 44" vertical at the combine opened the eyes of scouts.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Pat Connaughton was one of the clear winners during the athletic testing portion of the combine. The Notre Dame shooting guard shocked scouts with a 44" max vertical—the highest of any prospect—and he recorded strong times in both the shuttle run (3.08 seconds) and three-quarter sprint (3.2 seconds) too.

    Connaughton entered the combine outside of Wasserman's top 50, but that figures to change as the draft creeps closer. After all, one of the biggest concerns about him was his athleticism (or perceived lack thereof), as his strength coach, Erik Kaloyanides, told Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star.

    "It was basically feedback from NBA executives and coaches where sort of the tagline on him was 'deceptively athletic kid,' but real questions on whether or not he was athletic enough to play at NBA level," Kaloyanides said. "This was a word that was continually being brought up."

    Athleticism wasn't Connaughton's only selling point during the combine, however. After a quiet showing in his first five-on-five scrimmage—six points on 2-of-5 shooting in 22 minutes—the 22-year-old erupted for 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including four three-pointers, in 26 minutes Friday.

    "His stated goal in the workouts is to prove he's more than a jumper and a jump-shooter," according to Pacers.com's Mark Montieth. "It will be of primary importance to show he can operate off a pick-and-roll, a staple in most NBA offenses."

    If Connaughton accomplishes that mission, his draft stock only figures to continue soaring. "While he lacks elite size for his position," ESPN.com's Chad Ford wrote after the combine, "his combination of athleticism, shooting ability, toughness and rebounding make him a very, very intriguing pick in the early second round."

Faller: Tyler Harvey, SG, Eastern Washington

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    Tyler Harvey didn't live up to his reputation as a knockdown shooter at the combine.
    Tyler Harvey didn't live up to his reputation as a knockdown shooter at the combine.Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Tyler Harvey led the nation in scoring with 23.1 points per game as a junior, but much of that production came against mid-major competition. Accordingly, scouts were curious to see whether his point-producing potential would carry over against high-level competition during the combine.

    Unfortunately for the Eastern Washington 2-guard, that still remains a question. Harvey struggled during the five-on-five scrimmages at the combine, finishing with eight points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field (including 2-of-9 from three-point range) Thursday and six points on 2-of-9 shooting (2-of-6 from three) Friday.

    In speaking with B/R's Stephen Nelson, Wasserman expressed his disappointment in Harvey's showing:

    [He] led the country in scoring this year. [I] would have loved to see him come out and do the same during five-on-fives and just take over, and it just didn't happen. [He] struggled with shot selection, too many step-back jumpers. Everything was a low-percentage shot. He really just didn't look very good at all in five-on-fives.

    He wasn't the only one underwhelmed by what he saw from the nation's leading scorer. Harvey "often looked overwhelmed by the bigger, more athletic guards he faced," ESPN.com's Chad Ford wrote following the combine. "I still think he's got a shot to get drafted, but the buzz that he had coming into the camp dampened considerably."

    Harvey entered the combine ranked 45th on Wasserman's big board, and his shooting struggles likely didn't do him any favors in the eyes of scouts. It's hard to ignore his numbers from college—he knocked down 43.2 percent of the 602 treys he attempted over the past three years—but he'll need to start showing off that sweet stroke during individual workouts to merit a second-round selection.

Riser: Vince Hunter, PF, UTEP

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    UTEP's Vince Hunter has been drawing rave reviews from NBA personnel.
    UTEP's Vince Hunter has been drawing rave reviews from NBA personnel.Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Few prospects have helped themselves in recent weeks more than UTEP's Vince Hunter, who wasn't anywhere to be found in Wasserman's pre-combine top 50. Though the sophomore is undersized for a power forward—he measured just 6'7½" with a 6'11" wingspan and an 8'8½" standing reach at the combine—he didn't let his size adversely affect him during the five-on-five scrimmages.

    Thursday, Hunter notched a game-high 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go with 12 rebounds, three steals and an assist in just 24 minutes. The next day, he proved that first performance was no fluke by finishing with a team-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, nine boards and two dimes in 24 minutes.

    Following Thursday's scrimmage, one NBA general manager showered praise on Hunter when speaking with ESPN.com's Chad Ford: "He played really hard, was everywhere on the floor, and he clearly has NBA athleticism. I'm just not sure whether he can shoot."

    After the combine, one GM told Ford that despite Hunter's lack of ideal size for a 4, he could merit a late first-round selection: "I love how hard he plays and how he uses his athleticism. As he gets stronger and more developed, I think he could be a great energy guy off the bench in the NBA."

    Wasserman was similarly impressed following Hunter's showing Thursday. "[He] was viewed more as a fringe second-round option coming in," Wasserman wrote. "But he definitely improved his chances of getting drafted with a strong first impression in Chicago."

    Hunter isn't much of a playmaker—he racked up just 98 assists over 67 games the past two seasons—and he attempted a grand total of 12 three-pointers during that span, too. In other words, he might not be the next Draymond Green, but as Kenneth Faried has proved, there's still a place in the NBA for high-motor undersized 4s.

Faller: Jarell Martin, PF, LSU

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    Jarell Martin's unimpressive measurements put more pressure on him to develop as a mid-range shooter.
    Jarell Martin's unimpressive measurements put more pressure on him to develop as a mid-range shooter.Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Heading into the combine, Wasserman was high on LSU's Jarell Martin, who averaged 16.9 points and 9.2 rebounds as a sophomore last season. He had the Tigers power forward at No. 21 on his pre-combine big board, although he noted how critical the measurements portion of the proceedings would be:

    His measurements at the combine could ultimately move the needle one way or the other. Martin came in smaller than 6'8" this past summer at the Nike Skills Academy, via DraftExpress.com. Meanwhile, LSU lists him at 6'10".

    If it turns out he's closer to 6'8", it will become even more imperative that Martin expand his range and improve that jumper. At 6'10", we could be talking mismatch.

    Martin wound up measuring 6'8", and 6'9¼" in shoes, but he was just one of three prospects (along with Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky and Arizona's T.J. McConnell) whose wingspan didn't exceed his height in shoes by at least an inch. Much like Wasserman, CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie believes "that lack of length really could cause him problems unless he becomes a knockdown shooter from mid-range."

    The Louisiana native still has much work to do in that regard, as he went just 14-of-52 from three-point range this season (26.9 percent) and hit only 34.7 percent of his two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com. He was even worse on off-the-dribble and catch-and-shoot attempts, per DraftExpress' Kyle Nelson.

    Martin is nowhere to be found in the latest first-round mock from ESPN.com's Chad Ford, and Vecenie slid him down to No. 34 on his post-combine big board, too. While he could still sneak into the late first round with some impressive individual workouts, he's looking more and more like an early second-round pick.

Riser: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV

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    Don't be surprised if Rashad Vaughn sneaks into the first round.
    Don't be surprised if Rashad Vaughn sneaks into the first round.Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Over the past few weeks, Rashad Vaughn appears to have gone from a fringe first-round prospect to a near-certainty to be selected in the first round. The UNLV product has been quelling fears about the meniscus he tore in February—Scout.com's Evan Daniels reported in late March that his knee was at 100 percent—particularly at a recent workout at the Boys & Girls Club in Santa Monica, California.

    ESPN.com's Chad Ford deemed it "the best workout I've seen the past few weeks on the road," writing that Vaughn "put on a shooting show, effortlessly knocking down shots from everywhere on the floor." Additionally, the freshman 2-guard was "in great shape [and] showed off more athletic explosion than he's shown in a while," Ford reported.

    "The kid was on fire," one general manager told Ford. "I love the energy that he attacked the workout with. He's out to prove something. I saw him standing on the sidelines before it was his time to go in and he looked like a tiger stalking his prey. He was ready."

    On his latest big board, Ford placed Vaughn 23rd overall: "The range right now seems to be 20 to 40, but a lot of teams had him in the 20s." An Eastern Conference general manager echoed those sentiments to SheridanHoops' Michael Scotto, saying, "Vaughn has a chance to go in the first round."

    The Minnesota native was 12th in 247Sports' composite rankings heading into college, and he lived up to that reputation by pouring in 17.8 points per game on 48.1 percent shooting. He knocked down 54 of his 141 three-point attempts this season (38.3 percent), which should be an eye-opener to any team toward the bottom of the first round that is in need of perimeter shooting.

    At the end of March, Vaughn was ranked 38th on Wasserman's big board, and he was still just 34th heading into the combine. Following his explosive showing in California, however, Ford can now "see him in the teens by draft night," as he revealed in a recent online chat.

Faller: Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky

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    Dakari Johnson showed up at the combine woefully out of shape.
    Dakari Johnson showed up at the combine woefully out of shape.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    As the draft draws closer, size tends to rise on teams' big boards. Though the league may be headed toward a more perimeter-oriented approach offensively, there will always be a need for rim protectors, which, at least in theory, should bode well for Kentucky center Dakari Johnson.

    But Johnson showed up to the combine woefully out of shape. The 7-footer registered the highest body fat percentage (14.9) of any prospect, and his 25" vertical leap was one of the "lowest scores in the last 15 years," according to CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie.

    Afterward, Johnson admitted to Kyle Tucker of the Courier-Journal that he took a few weeks off from basketball following the Wildcats' loss in the Final Four, only starting workouts the week before the combine. He also decided to sit out of the five-on-five scrimmages, despite being a fringe first-round prospect at best.

    Johnson told Tucker that he would head back to Los Angeles following the combine for two more weeks of workouts before starting individual workouts with teams at the beginning of June. "That'll give me more time to get more prepared," he said, while conceding that there may be concerns about his level of fitness thanks to his performance in Chicago.

    Wasserman had Johnson ranked 38th on his pre-combine big board, with a projected draft range of "late first to second round." Barring a series of incredible individual workouts, though, it appears as though his showing at the combine all but eliminated the chance of him going in the first.

    Vecenie slotted Johnson 50th on his post-combine big board, writing, "He'll still get drafted, but it might be more toward the middle of the second round now." Given his lackadaisical approach to the combine, teams now have reason to question whether his psychological makeup is conducive to a long, fruitful NBA career.

    All statistics via Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. All measurements and combine statistics via NBA.com. All recruiting rankings via 247Sports.

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