Playing Stock-Up, Stock-Down with Top 2016 NBA Draft Prospects

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterDecember 16, 2015

Playing Stock-Up, Stock-Down with Top 2016 NBA Draft Prospects

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    It's been a productive last two weeks for some of the country's top NBA prospects. LSU's Ben Simmons has ultimately been the talk of the 2016 draft discussion, but as we reach the midway point in December, there have been a number of prospects who've begun to really strengthen their NBA cases. 

    On the other hand, there have been a few who've struggled to get themselves going. A couple of players we previously pegged as top-five picks could be losing some ground to others on the rise.

    Since the last time we checked in on November 24, we've seen the draft-stock needle move—for better or worse—for the following first-round prospects.

Honorable Mentions

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, SG, Senior

    Stock Report: Up

    Fresh off a 30-point eruption against Oral Roberts on Saturday, Hield is now averaging 22.1 points a game on 50 percent from deep (21 of 42). He's shooting the lights out after a somewhat inconsistent junior year (35.9 percent) behind the arc. With Oklahoma ranked No. 3 in the country, there should be plenty of attention on Hield moving forward. He's looking more and more like a potential late-first-round target for a playoff team in need of immediate shot-making and positive energy.

    Malik Newman, Mississippi State, PG/SG, Freshman

    Stock Report: Down

    Newman has only played two games in December, but overall, it's been a rough and unconvincing start. He's shooting 38.5 percent with 16 turnovers and 13 assists, looking uncomfortable in Mississippi State's offense and heavily reliant on his jumper. Without point guard instincts or 2-guard size, Newman could be in jeopardy of losing NBA supporters rather quickly.

    Justin Jackson, North Carolina, SF, Sophomore

    Stock Report: Down

    In a game that likely received heavy NBA attention, Jackson was a non-factor in North Carolina's loss to Maryland December 1, having finished with nine points in 27 minutes. He continues to struggle with shooting consistency (9-of-32 from three), which can be a problem for a 193-pound wing who'll be expected to spread the floor in the pros. Johnson isn't a threatening enough one-on-one player or defender to get by in the pros without a reliable jumper. 

    Gary Payton II, Oregon State, PG/SG

    Stock Report: Up

    Though already 23 years old, Payton has become difficult to keep ignoring. He's filling up box scores (16 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.9 steals) while doing a better job of making reads as a facilitator. Though known for his defense, Payton's improved offensive game could make him a popular second-round target.

Brandon Ingram (Duke, SF, Freshman)

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    Ted Richardson/Associated Press

    Stock Report: Up

    It took a few weeks, but Brandon Ingram has officially found his rhythm. He just went for 26 points against Georgia Southern Tuesday night after hanging 23 on Buffalo and 24 on Indiana, looking a lot more confident and ultimately comfortable in Duke's offense. 

    Ingram, a 6'9" face-up scorer with mismatch 7'3" length, has showcased his smooth perimeter game, both in terms of jump shooting and attacking.

    He's hit eight of his last 14 threes, some coming off spot-ups, others off screens. Ingram ultimately has a sweet stroke that looks poised to emerge as a reliable weapon in the arsenal.

    But Ingram's upside really shines off the dribble, where he's flashed the handle to drive, change direction and separate, as well as the ability to improvise in the mid-range and lane with one-handers, fallaways, runners and unconventional layups. 

    Meanwhile, that massive wingspan has also led to 14 blocks and 12 steals through 10 games.

    LSU's Ben Simmons is still viewed as the consensus No. 1 favorite, but if Ingram can remain consistent through ACC play, he's sure to at least generate some debate over who's the top prospect in the country.

Skal Labissiere (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Stock Report: Down

    We're not in panic mode, but the vibes surrounding Skal Labissiere haven't been overly positive.

    He's now averaging as many personal fouls (3.5) as he is rebounds through 10 games, following a no-show performance against Arizona State on Saturday (fouled out without a point or rebound). 

    Having converted just five field goals over his last four games, Labissiere hasn't been able to make much of a sales pitch lately to scouts. We've seen him struggle with interior physicality and defensive awareness, and though I'm not questioning his desire, you don't really sense great urgency, toughness or energy.

    It's worth noting Karl-Anthony Towns experienced similar issues early in his freshman year before eventually figuring things out and going No. 1 overall. But this is clearly going to be a process for Labissiere and a potentially slow-moving one. 

    Though his long-term potential remains intact, given his physical tools, bounce and skills around the key, Labissiere just looks a bit too far away right now from reaching it.

Jakob Poeltl (Utah, C, Sophomore)

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    Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: Up

    Scouts have seen a different Jakob Poeltl through nine games—one who's emerged as a go-to option and the focal point of opposing defenses. 

    Averaging 20.1 points on a ridiculous 69.8 percent shooting, Poeltl has been a force in the post, where he's improved his footwork, touch and offensive IQ. He's become a difficult back-to-the-basket cover now loaded with jump hooks and up-and-unders, while he remains a threat to score off pick-and-rolls and putbacks (16 putbacks, per Hoop-Math.com) on the offensive glass.

    He's even looked comfortable facing up and finishing one-to-two-dribble drives on the move. 

    It's also worth noting Poeltl has made 47 free throws after converting 53 total as a freshman.

    Without the ball, Poeltl's size, athleticism and interior instincts continue translating to rebounds (13 per 40 minutes) and rim protection (three blocks per 40 minutes) as well.

    He's already on the rise, but another standout performance against Duke Saturday night could really tip the scales. 

Jaylen Brown (California, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: Down

    The production is there, but Jaylen Brown has struggled with efficiency and clearly needs work on his perimeter game. 

    So far, he's leaned heavily on strength around the basket and athleticism in transition. But Brown is shooting an ugly 32.5 percent in the half court, according to Hoop-Math.com, mostly due to the fact he's been completely off the mark from outside. 

    Brown has missed 28 of 33 two-point jumpers and 24 of his first 32 three-point attempts. 

    While his stroke remains a major work in progress, Brown has ultimately had difficulty creating high-percentage looks for himself when the game slows down. 

    With 25 total turnovers to just 11 assists through 10 games, scouts have also seen shaky decision-making and very little playmaking early on.

Henry Ellenson (Marquette, PF, Freshman)

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    Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: Up

    Henry Ellenson has consistently looked sharp for Marquette, having scored at least 15 points in nine of his first 10 games. 

    He just came up huge in a tight win at Wisconsin on Saturday (15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists), having converted a pick-and-pop jumper, three-pointer, putback and difficult driving layup down the stretch.

    A terrific skill level ultimately translates to mismatch versatility for Ellenson, who's comfortable from downtown, lethal in the mid-range (50.8 percent on two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com) and threatening in the post. 

    The ability to handle the ball and change direction with his head up also allows him to initiate the break or half-court offense (2.6 assists per game).

    Tough under the boards with a good nose for the ball (nine rebounds per game), Ellenson's inside-out game appears super NBA-friendly, particularly for a projected power forward. He looks like a potential top-10 pick and lock for the top 20.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Kansas, SG/SF, Sophomore)

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: Down

    We're still waiting on Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who after flashing signs early in November, has suddenly hit the wall. 

    Coach Bill Self played Mykhailiuk just six minutes Saturday during Kansas' win over Oregon State. When given time, the sophomore wing has recently struggled to knock down shots (made six of his last 24 threes). And unfortunately, Mykhailiuk doesn't offer much else in terms of playmaking or attacking. 

    Considering he'll still 18 years old, it's impossible to simply write off Mykhailiuk's NBA potential. He's 6'8" with solid athletic ability, shooting range and ball-handling skills. 

    But based on the season's early results, to think he'll be ready for the NBA draft this June seems a little far-fetched. 

Ivan Rabb (California, PF, Freshman)

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: Up

    Though the offense doesn't run through him, Ivan Rabb has been productive and ultimately better than expected with the ball. 

    The bouncy 6'11" big man with fantastic hands has looked like more than just a finisher early on—we've seen fadeaway jumpers in the post and jump hooks around the low block. 

    Otherwise, he's been nearly automatic at the rim (32 of 40, per Hoop-Math.com) off dump passes, lobs and second-chance opportunities (15 putbacks).

    Rabb is even hitting 75 percent of his free throws, a promising development regarding his mid-range shooting potential.

    He's fouling a bit too much, but with averages of 13.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per 40 minutes, his size and athleticism have led to plenty of positive activity. 

    Rabb has begun drawing comparisons to former lottery pick Ed Davis, but that's starting to look far too conservative. 

Wade Baldwin IV (Vanderbilt, PG, Sophomore)

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Stock Report: Up

    With NBA point guard size (6'3", 194 pounds), Wade Baldwin IV entered the year as a prospect to watch following a promising freshman season. Through nine games, he appears to have taken the next step and consequently become a must-address talking point in the NBA draft discussion. 

    Averaging 15.3 points, Baldwin has emerged as Vanderbilt's leading scorer early on, and though his assists numbers (three per game) aren't overwhelming, he's looked capable of making the necessary reads and passes.

    Baldwin has been in attack mode with 27 made buckets at the rim, one fewer than 7-foot teammate and potential lottery pick Damian Jones, according to Hoop-Math.com

    And Baldwin has picked up where he left off last year (43.9 percent from three) as a shooter, having hit 14 of his first 28 attempts from downtown. 

    With quick feet and long arms, he's also been difficult to shake defensively around the perimeter. 

    Baldwin has a strong frame and an outrageous wingspan (last measured 6'10"). He isn't notably explosive, but he's equipped to bounce above the rim and adjust mid-air around it. 

    There is obvious NBA potential here worth tracking. 

Troy Williams (Indiana, SF, Junior)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Stock Report: Down

    It's not that Troy Williams has played poorly—we just haven't seen any progress or additions to his game. 

    Williams is a phenomenal athlete, but his skills refuse to catch up. He continues to turn the ball over at an absurd rate (20.5 percent turnover percentage, 4.2 per 40 minutes, according to Sports-Reference.com), while his jumper remains a glaring issue. Williams is shooting 30.8 percent from deep (and 64.8 percent from the line) after making 12 triples combined through his first two seasons. 

    At this stage, without a three-ball, in-between game (just 3-of-10 on two-point jumpers all season, per Hoop-Math.com) or strong ball-handling ability, he just doesn't offer enough to a half-court offense—at least by NBA standards for a projected small forward. 

Melo Trimble (Maryland, PG, Sophomore)

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    Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: Up

    So far, so good for Melo Trimble, who's already shown notable improvement in areas that needed it.

    Through 10 games, he's nearly doubled his assist rate to 6.7 per 40 minutes from 3.6. Trimble has done a better job using his tight handle and quickness for setting the table with drive-and-dishes and passes off ball screens. 

    Extra concentration in facilitating hasn't affected Trimble's scoring numbers either—he's averaging 15.8 points after lighting up North Carolina for 23 and Connecticut for 25. We've seen him take over stretches and put on pull-up shooting clinics (15 of 38 from three). 

    His shot selection has also looked cleaner early, particularly around the basket, where he's forcing up fewer tough layup attempts (64 percent inside the arc, 46.8 percent last year). 

    Trimble isn't explosive or long (6'2" wingspan), but he operates with a confident, fearless bounce to his step that ultimately plays to his likability. Strong play highlighted by showtime ball skills has made it easier to overlook his physical and athletic limitations. 

Deyonta Davis (Michigan State, PF, Freshman)

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Stock Report: Up

    Though he's been relatively quiet in the box scores, Deyonta Davis has managed to stand out under the NBA lens.

    He looks the part of a pro power forward with 6'10", 245-pound size, bounce and soft hands. And though he spends most of his time in dunking position waiting around the baseline, he's given his guards a high-percentage target (62 percent from the field), as well as a team-leading 32 second-chance points (16 putbacks, per Hoop-Math.com.)

    In doses, we've seen a jump hook and mid-range jumper. Davis is still raw and unpolished offensively, but he also just turned 19 years earlier this December. 

    In the meantime, he's grabbing 13.1 rebounds and blocking 5.1 shots per 40 minutes, showing a high activity level despite limited skills and touches.

    Playing just 18.5 minutes through 11 games, Davis might not be ready to declare this upcoming June, but Denzel Valentine isn't the only Spartan who's going to attract NBA attention moving forward. 

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