NBA Draft: Stock Watch
This year's draft is shaping up to be a very interesting one as there is no clear-cut No. 1 pick. Much like 2006, this is a weaker draft without any immediate franchise changers or great depth. Projecting the first round is much more challenging with the level of talent down from most years.
One scout told me that he's usually hearing other scouts complain about the lack of talent out there and assuring everyone it's not that bad, but this year he's been complaining with the rest. With so many unknowns, if nothing else, it should get very interesting.
Jared Sullinger took over the top spot on the mock draft this week, as more and more scouts are mentioning him as the safest pick at the top. Will he change the fortunes of a franchise? Not likely. Will he end up one of the top 3-5 players out of this draft, and a potential all star and a rock in the paint for 10-12 years? Probably.
Derrick Williams is another player that some teams have No. 1 overall on their boards. He occupied the top spot last week and has been playing as well as anyone, and similar to Sullinger he's dominating games, unlike most of the other No. 1 overall pick candidates.
Perry Jones has the most upside and sat a top the mock draft for a number of months. Teams may ultimately be afraid to take him No. 1 overall as he has the look of a player that will need time to develop a killer instinct. Worst-case scenario, he could get a GM fired before finally figuring things out and gaining the intensity to compete every minute on the floor.
Some may question Sullinger, or Derrick Williams, who occupied the top spot last week as legit No. 1 candidates, but considering that every prospect has their flaws, it's a wide-open race. Perry Jones (inconsistency/lack of intensity), Kyrie Irving (injured/small/not overly athletic), Enes Kanter (unproven at high level/hasn't played/injury concerns - knee), Terrence Jones (maturity/body language), Derrick Williams (lack of defense/position/true 6-9?), Jared Sullinger (weight/mobility).
The team that lands the top pick will likely factor into who that pick ends up being. A GM with job security and a team lacking a franchise talent might opt to swing for the fences with a player such as Perry Jones. More likely a team coming off of a bottom-feeder finish will have a GM with more urgency to show something out of the top pick decide on going with a safer pick, such as Sullinger, Williams or Irving.
Here's a look at who's rising and falling on our draft board:
Jared Sullinger 6-9 286 PF Ohio St. Fr.
He's heftier and less mobile than the prototypical NBA power forward, but he couldn't have picked a better time to be a draft prospect, as Kevin Love is having a breakout season. Love's success could be helping to redefine how the prototypical power forward is perceived. Scouts have described Sullinger as a more nimble and athletic version of Love (with better knees and more potential).
Sullinger has the No. 1-rated Buckeyes rolling like a tank through the early part of Big Ten play, having dismantled JaJuan Johnson and Purdue on Tuesday. They built a 20-point first-half lead and never looked back as Sullinger finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds. He's had some absolutely dominating performances and has made a smooth transition to the college game.
According to sources, Sullinger has battled insomnia in the past and could be found roaming the halls in the wee hours at the adidas Nations camp a few years ago. This isn't considered a major problem, but something that teams will obviously look into when the psychological evaluation tests begin. Sullinger shows no effects of any sleep disorder in games as he has the perfect "ornery demeanor" to mix it up inside.
Said one scout: "This kid is just scratching the surface of figuring out how to use his ass and body to his advantage in the post." Sullinger grew up around basketball, as his father "Satch Sullinger" taught him the basics from an early age. He's got an amazing feel for the game, with the ability to step outside and knock down shots to go along with his tremendous post skills and touch. He's also an excellent passer with the vision to see the floor and find teammates when he's doubled, which happens often.
Ohio State looks like a strong title contender, and if they win it all, it will only enhance Sullinger's chances of going first.
Derrick Williams 6-9 235 PF Arizona So.
Williams has been on a meteoric rise all season with efficiency numbers that are sure to make John Hollinger's heart skip a beat. His efficiency is mind boggling, as he's averaging 2.15 points per shot, hitting 62 percent from the floor and 70 percent (19-27) from 3-point range. His 19.7 ppg and 8.1 rpg are coming in 29 minutes per game.
His performance against Kansas' Morris twins was the one that really made scouts take notice and begin to consider him among the top handful of available prospects. He has played extremely well since that game, too, with strong performances against the Washington teams on the road last weekend.
A number of scouts have mentioned him as a player being discussed as a top pick and more than one team has him atop their draft board. His natural NBA position, however, is up for debate. He's considered a SF by some scouts and a PF by others. He'll have a chance to play both positions, but has the length (7-foot wingspan) and explosiveness to compensate in any height shortcomings. If he measures 6-foot-9 in shoes as he did at the Amare Skills Academy, or more precisely 6-foot-8 barefoot, that will give his No. 1-overall-pick chances a boost.
Said one scout: "He's been playing as well as anybody. Why couldn't he go No. 1?"
Another scout said this: "I'd love to see what he could do if he was actually playing with a decent point guard. Teams are able to double and triple team him, focusing all of their defensive focus on him, and he's still killing it."
Jimmer Fredette 6-2 190 PG BYU Sr.
Fredette's performance against SDSU on Wednesday night was the stuff of legend. He was in such a zone, it was as if he couldn't miss. His 43 points in BYU's biggest game of the year was absolutely phenomenal. He started slow with just two points in the first eight minutes, but then began to pour it on.
The performance was no fluke, either. Remember last season, Fredette torched the Arizona Wildcats to the tune of 49 points and nine assists in one of the greatest individual performances in McKale Center history.
This season, Fredette leads the nation in scoring (27.4 ppg) and is making a strong case to be National Player of the Year. He is incredibly crafty at creating shots and only needs an inch of daylight to get his shot and it's not just shooting, he finds teammates and his overall feel for the game is at an extremely high level. He makes it look easy.
He has yet to exhibit the PG skills and defensive speed to consider him as a full-time PG at the next level. However, he will have a chance to be an instant-offense type of player in the mold of an Eddie House. He's not Stephen Curry, but he has some of Curry's innate ability to get quality shots off in rhythm in the blink of an eye.
Despite his shortcomings, scouts are beginning to believe he will be a first round pick. This was Fredette's fifth-career 40-point game, and third within his past four games. He looks like a man on a mission, and BYU is quickly becoming a team that nobody wants to play in March.
Nolan Smith 6-3 180 PG/SG Duke Sr.
Smith has been very strong taking over the PG position for Duke with Kyrie Irving's injury — so strong, in fact, that he has even been mentioned as a National Player of theYear and first-team All-American candidate.
Scouts still question his ability to play the PG position full time at the NBA level, but he has shown the ability to play mistake-free ball and be an excellent decision maker.
In comparison to a player such as Jimmer Fredette, Smith lacks that one standout ability (shooting), but doesn't have any major weaknesses either. In the right situation, Smith should prove to be an excellent role player off the bench for an NBA team.
His four-year Duke pedigree and the way he has filled in so effectively for Irving has put him into a good position to be a late first-round pick in this year's draft.
Tristan Thompson 6-9 225 PF Texas Fr.
Thompson has really found a groove lately with nine straight double-digit scoring games. His 17-point, 15-rebound performance in Texas' win over Michigan State had scouts buzzing, and he has continued with strong play since.
His performance against Kansas, outplaying the Morris Twins in the second half (finishing with 12 points, six boards and five blocks) to help Texas upset the Jayhawks also raised some eyebrows among scouts.
Tristan has been a part of winning teams (adidas 64 champions & back-to-back high school champions) at the prep level. In high school, he appeared too enamored with being a SF and developing his handle and face-the-basket skills. He finally appears to be putting more focus on his bread and butter and developing a post game. His footwork is looking more comfortable and he's making plays around the basket.
Athletically, he's got a lot to work with, possessing a huge wingspan, great fluidity, speed in the open floor and excellent leg strength, which leads to his explosive leaping ability. In such a weak draft, Thompson is getting mentions as a possible top-10 pick — one team has him rated eighth on their board —although he's still seen as more of a potential pick than a player that can be a big contributor initially.
In high school, Thompson developed a reputation for lacking focus and some analysts became skeptical about him. He has developed a reputation as a hard worker this season.
Kawhi Leonard 6-7 210 SF San Diego St. So.
Leonard is getting a lot of buzz from NBA scouts and is benefiting from the exposure that SDSU's great season has afforded him. He's a multi-skilled forward with tremendous rebounding ability. He also shows an excellent ability to handle the ball and get by opponents off the dribble.
Leonard has a prototypical basketball body with extremely long arms and huge hands. He's a rebounding machine who attacks the glass with reckless abandon. His 10.6 rebounds per game ranks 13th in the nation and he has had 15 or more rebounds in three of his past four games.
He considered leaving early after last season and made a great decision staying in school for his sophomore year. He's considered a first rounder by most scouts and could go as high as top-10 with a strong finish to the year.
Marshon Brooks 6-5 190 SG Providence Sr.
A virtual unknown before the season, Brooks is long, lanky and shows excellent ability to create off the dribble. He's second in the Big East to Kemba Walker in scoring and uses his length well to finish around the basket.
His style of play and body are similar to former first rounder Josh Howard. Brooks can take players off the dribble, as well as pull up from the perimeter. Like Howard, his body is thin but with his big wingspan he plays bigger than his listed 6-5 height.
His foot speed is solid but not sensational, and could keep him from being a standout at the NBA level. But there were some of the same concerns with Howard, and he became a quality pro.
On the negative side, Brooks doesn't always show the best body language. He can appear frustrated with teammates when they make mistakes or don't get him the ball enough. Regardless, Brooks has ridden a tremendous senior season into being legitimately discussed as a first rounder by scouts.
Harrison Barnes 6-8 215 SF UNC Fr.
Barnes has fallen considerably from his early season perch as the top-overall pick. He has not found a comfort zone and appears to be thinking too much instead of just reacting and playing instinctually. He's shown the ability to step up his play late in games, knocking down a game winner against Miami and hitting some clutch shots in prior games. However, his inability to put together consistent 40 minutes and struggling to stand out is a real concern.
The consensus is that Barnes is no longer considered a lottery pick for this year's draft. "If he didn't have the reputation coming in, I'm not sure I would have even taken notes on him," said one scout.
Another scout mentioned that they felt at some point they could see things finally coming together for him and he'll gain that confidence and comfort in taking over and playing to his ability. But the general feeling is that he wasn't just in a slump early on and it was more of him being overrated coming into college.
"Maybe that's just what he is," said one scout. "A player who blends but doesn't necessarily stand out".
In his defense, he's been playing with a below-average PG Larry Drew most of the year and plays extremely unselfishly, always moving the ball and never really looking to use the dribble to create for himself. But for a player some had touted as the preseason National Player of the Year, 11.8 ppg on 37-percent shooting is a major disappointment. He's still projected as a lottery pick for 2012, but he's got a long ways to go.
Josh Selby 6-3 183 PG Kansas Fr.
Selby has shown some intriguing ability as a go-to scorer and ability to attack the basket. He had a solid start to his college career but has fallen off dramatically. He's forcing things far too much, taking ill-advised shots.
The biggest issue so far for Selby has been consistency. When he's on, he's on. When he's off, he's been way off. Typical freshman stuff — he puts together a solid showing and follows that up with a bad showing. But for a player who wants to be a one-and-done guy, he's not showing the readiness necessary to be a high pick and his status as a first rounder is in jeopardy if he doesn't improve.
Similar to Jerryd Bayless, Selby is a physical specimen with a great combination of strength and athleticism. But similar to Bayless, there are concerns with his attitude. If anything, he is overconfident, as he wants every big shot and has the attitude that he's the man and should be the leader of the team. On the negative side, some scouts question whether he's too cocky and if he's more about himself than the team. He's also very turnover prone, averaging nearly as many turnovers as assists: three per game.
On the positive side, he's knocking down a high percentage of shot from 3-point range at 40 percent (22-55) showing a terrific form and willingness to take over in important moments. He's had less time acclimating to the college game than others, so how he finishes the year will be important.
Elias Harris 6-8 235 SF/PF Gonzaga So.
Harris has really struggled this year. His FT percentage and assists have improved, but everything else has regressed from his freshman year. He's averaging just 12.3 ppg, and his 3-point shooting has dropped to 33 percent.
There are some scouts who still like him and the toughness he has shown playing through an achilles injury should be noted. But for a player that is the age of a senior, Harris could be running out of time. He still lacks perimeter skills, prompting some scouts to write him off as a small forward and declare him an undersized power forward. It's still uncertain if Harris has the skill level to make it in the NBA. He's a bouncy athlete who competes hard and shows desire, but he could be too much of a tweener to stick in the league.
Kevin Love should be grateful that he has a coach that lets him play in garbage time in order to keep his double double streak alive.
I'm sure Sullinger would love to post 20-20 games on a bottom-dwelling team.
I think Purtogoose is really Moses Malone's bitter mother. You really dont think a team like Boston, LA or Miami would be improved by adding a player like Kevin Love? I think it's refreshing to see him play the game the way his poition traditionally should be playing it.
miami maybe since they lost haslem but love wouldnt be able to keep up with them...and he wouldnt do anything on the lakers or celts..Hes a hustle role player who is the only real option on a last place team, lets not talk like hes suddenly charles barkley or something...his coach leaving him in just to get his stats kinda waters the whole effect anyway.