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Stock Watch

Wed, 02/21/2007 - 6:16pm

By Aran Smith
2/21/07

Rising

[img_assist|nid=4020|title=Arron Afflalo - AP Photo: Kevork Djansezian|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=345]Arron Afflalo 6-5 215 SG UCLA Jr.

A model of consistency all season, Afflalo has the Bruins on pace for a better regular season than last year and in position to make a serious run at the National Championship.

Though he lacks the lift and athleticism of many top shooting guards in the NBA, scouts are not concerned and feel that he will make an excellent NBA 2-guard. Unlike a number of the top prospects, he should be an instant contributor on the next level.

Afflalo's game has matured this season. He's scoring more and not forcing shots, his shooting numbers are a good indication of his added patience and maturity. He's averaging 17.5 ppg, with a 1.2 a/to ratio while shooting .478 fg% .819 ft% .382 3p%.

A combo guard in high school (AAU), Afflalo showed excellent versatility with the ability to bring the ball up the court and run an offense. He has maintained great vision and passing ability, as well as a solid handle while honing his 2-guard skills on the college level.

Afflalo's professional approach to the game separates him from the pack. Very few college players show the maturity and mental focus that Afflalo has developed.

Showing improvement in his assist to turnover ratio, as well as his shooting numbers, Afflalo has worked hard and shown improvement each season in college. He has scored in double digits in every game this season but one (UCLA's season opener against BYU in which he scored 9).

Afflalo was seen as a potential first round pick last year, but after a dismal NCAA Championship performance against Florda hurt his stock, he wisely returned for his junior season.

Despite his lack of huge upside, Afflalo is seen by scouts as a likely top 12-18 pick and is expected to enter the 2007 draft.

[img_assist|nid=4021|title=Jeff Green - AP Photo: Kevin Wolf|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=384]Jeff Green 6-8 235 SF Georgetown Jr.

Small Forward appears to be the strongest of any position in the 2007 draft. With players like Kevin Durant, Julian Wright, Al Thornton, Corey Brewer, and Thaddeus Young, all potentially leaving early, getting into the lottery (top 14) will be a challenge for Green.

But he's playing so well of late, he could end up doing just that. After starting the year slow, Green has been on a tear lately averaging 19.1 ppg over his last seven games.

It's no coincidence the Hoyas are undefeated during that stretch, having won nine straight in Big East Conference play. The team is now 20-5 and ranked twelfth in the nation. A strong finish and showing in the Big East Tournament could vault them into a top 2-3 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Green has a great feel for the game, with incredible vision and passing skills for a small forward. His skills work well in Georgetown's version of the "Princeton offense" due to his decision making and ability to find cutters using his pin point passing ability.

Though less utilized, Green's athleticism and strength are very intriguing as well. His ability to drive and get to the rim and finish should make him a very effective player on the next level.

Green has raised his once humble scoring numbers to 17.5 ppg, with a positive a/to as well as raising his shooting numbers across the board (.478 fg% .819 ft% .382 3p%). Like Afflalo, he has shown solid improvement every year, which scouts look for.

[img_assist|nid=4022|title=Julian Wright - AP Photo: L.G. Patterson|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=405]Julian Wright 6-8 225 SF Kansas So.

On a team loaded with talent, Wright is Kansas' biggest star with the ability to make those around him better.

Wright is a freak of nature type of athlete with his great length and leaping ability. Combine that with his point guard handle and vision and you have scouts salivating.

He's a bright kid currently taking 18 units and remains adamant that he will return for his junior season, as he is set to graduate in three seasons.

However, many believe passing up a chance to be a top 5 pick when the time comes will be difficult, plus there's always the option of taking classes in the offseason and graduating after entering the NBA.

Kansas is on a five game winning streak since their loss to Texas A&M at home February 3rd. The Jayhawks have bounced back and are currently 23-4 and ranked sixth in the country and remain in the mix for a one seed in the tourney.

Wright's biggest weakness remains his shooting and scoring ability. But his recent 33 point, 12 rebound outburst against Missouri showed that he can put up big scoring numbers when he puts his mind to it.

He's still in need of refining his jump shot and adding consistency.

Though he's only averaging 11.6 ppg, his willingness to share the rock plus the great talent level at Kansas take away from his scoring to an extent. He may never be a huge scorer on the next level, but he brings so many other attributes to the table. NBA teams love his attitude, ability to defend and his tremendous athleticism and versatility.

Right now, Wright is seen as a top 7 pick by scouts should he choose to enter the 2007 NBA draft.

[img_assist|nid=4023|title=Drew Neitzel - Photo: Al Goldis|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=416]Drew Neitzel 6-0 180 PG Michigan St. Jr.

Neitzel is quickly developing into one of the top floor generals in the college game. He has had a breakout season taking over as MSU's go to guy, assuming more of the scoring load after focusing mostly on setting up teammates last season.

His scoring output has jumped from 8.3 ppg last year to 18.5 this year.

Neitzel led the Spartans to a nine point win over #2 ranked Wisconsin Tuesday scoring 28 points on 10-17 shooting, including 6-11 from 3.

At 18-8, Michigan St. lacks the talent of teams past, but with Neitzel at the wheel, the Spartans have a shot to finish the season strong and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. Their win over Wisconsin will surely be a quality win that could make the difference.

On the year, Neitzel is averaging 18.5 ppg while shooting 43% from the field and 41% from 3. His a/to ratio is at 1.9, down from 2.9 a season ago, but understandable considering his added focus on scoring this season.

Neitzel lacks optimum NBA size and athleticism, however he displays a high level of basketball understanding and a competitive fire lacking from many players.

His ability to run a team as well as shoot and score will give him a chance to make it in league after his college career comes to an end.

Freshman of the Week

Javaris Crittenton 6-5 195 PG Ga.Tech Fr.

After a four game losing streak, Crittenton sparked a four game winning streak for Georgia Tech with wins over Clemson, NC State, UConn and Florida State.

[img_assist|nid=4024|title=Javaris Crittenton - Photo: John Bazemore|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=329]During that stretch, Crittenton blew up for big scoring games including 29 against Florida State and 26 against Clemson.

There is some buzz that Crittenton will enter the 2007 draft, and though this is a very weak point guard class, Crittenton should tread wisely as the history of point guards without at least 2 years of college experience do not have a great track record. Marbury and Telfair being the main examples (freshmen, high school). (Marbury has been an effective scorer, but some wonder if building a winning team around him is possible).

A sensational athlete, Crittenton is further along than former Yellow Jacket PG Jarrett Jack at the same stage, and can develop into an excellent point guard if he's patient.

Right now, he's effective because he's able to use his superior size and athleticism against college point guards. But on the next level, he'll need to develop more facets of his game to have the same success.

His handle is still too high and he is much better in the full court set than in the half court. He still has to learn the nuances of the position, decision making, controlling tempo and elevating the level of his teammates.

In his favor, the NBA game has changed and point guards are more scoring-oriented, however a true point guard can make all the difference. Crittenton is having an excellent freshman season, averaging 14.3 ppg on 46% fg and 40% 3p with a solid 1.42 a/to ratio (5.4/3.8).

Crittenton is projected as a lottery pick for the 2008 draft, but if he were to enter the 2007 draft, his stock would project considerably lower, as his long term potential would not be as intriguing.

Falling

[img_assist|nid=4025|title=Josh Heytvelt - AP Photo: Amy Sinisterra|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=341]Josh Heytvelt 6-11 238 PF Gonzaga So.

Heytvelt faces felony drug charges after police found 33.2 grams (over an ounce) of psychedelic mushrooms inside a plastic bag in the back of the Chevy Blazer he was driving (Feb 9th).

He was suspended indefinitely by the Gonzaga program and it appears unlikely that he will suit up again for Gonzaga this season.

Heytvelt has a child and was considered a potential early entry candidate for this year's draft. His chances at getting into the first round before the drug bust were possible, however now they are slim to none.

He was having a breakthrough season, highlighted by a dominant performance against Tyler Hansbrough in Gonzaga's upset win over North Carolina early in the season.

A tremendous athlete who is very effective running the floor and crashing the glass, Heytvelt had become one of the top bigmen prospects on the West Coast.

However, it is unlikely that he can leave this year and expect to be drafted any where close to where his talent should dictate.

Heytvelt's poor decision could cost him millions in the long run, and he'll need to show a rededication to playing basketball and staying out of trouble to convince teams he's worth the risk in the future.

[img_assist|nid=4026|title=Dominic James - AP Photo: Nam Y. Huh|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=370]Dominic James 5-11 180 PG Marq. So.

Marquette's win on Monday over Villanova broke a three game losing skid. James scored 18 points, his highest output in 7 games. Over that span, James scoring average and shooting numbers have dropped significantly. During a four game stretch in that time, James had an 11-52 shooting run including 1-of-7 at Rutgers followed by 2-of-17 against Georgetown.

James' numbers have regressed across the board with his FG% dipping below 40% and his 3 point shooting at 28%. His assist to turnover ratio is solid but down from last year (1.74).

As a scoring point guard, he'll need to show better consistency to go with his terrific quickness and athleticism in order to find a spot in the first round.

James has elite level athleticism, but scouts worry about both his point guard skills and his outside shooting. He was thought to be a likely early entry candidate and potential first round pick this season.

However, his frigid recent play has lowered his stock into the second round and barring a huge turnaround, he'll likely be advised to return for his Junior season.

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