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Stock Watch: Sweet 16 & Elite 8

Tue, 03/31/2009 - 12:09am


By Aran Smith

This is make or break time for this year's draft prospects to make a strong impression on NBA scouts. With the tournament field dwindling from 16 to 4 teams over the weekend, the intensity and importance of player's performances ratcheted up a notch. Each game can swing a players draft stock significantly, as scouts want to see what a player is made of when all the chips are down.

A case could be made that too much stock is put into tourney performances and prospect's teams winning, because at the end of the day it's still the same player whether they go to the championship game or lose in the first round. But everyone wants winners, and clutch performers, so obviously a quality tourney performance helps a player's stock... Maybe too much. But then again many feel that too much stock is put into combine results and workouts.

Here's a look at how player's stocks were affected by the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight.

Rising





Blake Griffin
AP Photo

Blake Griffin 6-10 252 PF Oklahoma So.

The highly anticipated match up between Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough ended up a no contest. Oklahoma may have lost the game, but the individual match up between Griffin and NCAA's poster boy over the last few years, Hansbrough, was a landslide for the soon to be #1 overall pick.

Not that there was any existing debate left over who was the superior prospect or player but Griffin destroyed the individual battle showing versatility lacking from Hansbrough's game. Despite getting off to a slow start, Griffin more than doubled his counterpart's output with 23 pts and 16 reb to Hansbrough's 8 pts and 6 reb.

Griffin had one dunk in which he exploded from outside the key and then when no contact happened, decided to flush the ball. The same type of play happened with Hansbrough only he seemed to forget that he was Tyler Hansbrough and not Blake Griffin as he came up 3 feet short on his dunk attempt. A play that was spoofed on the front page of Yahoo the following day.

Griffin also had one turnaround fadeaway jumpshot in the first half that was eerily reminiscent of Karl Malone. Griffin reminds some scouts of Malone (only with much more explosiveness) and it's incredible to think of how strong he will end up considering he turned 20 just two weeks ago. (Hansbrough will be 24 in November)

He'll need to work hard to become the shooter than Malone was, but then again Malone entered the league as a 50% free throw shooter before ultimately becoming a 75% shooter. Griffin already has an edge there as he shoots 59% from the line.

Don"t be surprised if he makes a similar improvement as the Mailman and ultimately becomes a 75% - 80% FT shooter as well. His desire to improve and work ethic should not be underestimated.

Not to be deterred by opponenets using WWF moves on him or hitting his head on backboards during dunk attempts, Griffin has a chance to be special and is the one potential savior that NBA teams can hope to win the lottery and turn their fortunes around.






Kemba Walker
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Kemba Walker 5-11 180 PG UConn Fr.

No one enhanced their stock during the Elite Eight more than Walker who was the best player on the floor in the UConn-Missouri match up.

His crossover is the deadliest on the college level (reminiscent of Tim Hardaway) and his quickness makes him virtually impossible to stay in front of. He's also got tremendous body control and finishing ability which he displayed late in the game splitting two Missouri defenders and spinning the ball off the backboard for two.

Walker's 23 points led all scorers and showed his ability to take over offensively as well as run a team. With Kemba running the team, UConn is in great hands as he has really grown up in the tournament. Ty Lawson has better range and experience, but Walker appears to have equal speed, and better toughness, leadership and potential. it will be a lot of fun to see these two jet quick, diminutive point guards square off if both favorites take care of business.

Like Lawson, Walker is a midget, but smaller, dynamic point guards have received a boost in recent years with the success of players like Chris Paul and TJ Ford.

He's not considered likely to enter the draft this year as he still needs to improve his outside shooting and spend an entire year as UConn's full time floor general to convince NBA teams of his abilities.

Walker needs time, but it's possible he's the best long term (pure) point guard prospect in all of college basketball.





Ty Lawson
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Ty Lawson 6-0 195 PG UNC Jr.

For a player that has long had a reputation for not being soft, showing the toughness to play through his turf toe injury has Lawson's stock on the rise.

Granted he hasn't faced elite level point guard competition, but he's continued to show what he proved all season, that he's a judicious decision maker who rarely turns the ball over despite running the team at 120 mph.

Lawson dropped some daggers on Oklahoma in the first half with three pointers that helped build an insurmountable lead.

The ACC player of the year was held out of the first game of the tournament to let his toe heal. Since then he has been outstanding averaging 20.3 ppg and 6.6 assists to just 0.6 turnovers. he has turned UNC into a machine bowling over opponents (including Oklahoma) with ease.

While Lawson lacks optimum size and some scouts question his ability to be a starting NBA point guard, he has shown improvement this season and has the type of quickness that will stand out at the next level.

No one has more to gain from a Tar Heel championship than Ty Lawson, who has taken over the team leadership responsibilities this year from Tyler Hansbrough.


Stanley Robinson 6-8 220 SF UConn Jr.

The junior small forward continues to shine as the Huskies roll on. He has averaged 14.8 ppg in his four tournament games showing excellent defense blocking shots and suffocating his man with his great length.

Robinson benefits from the success of a player like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. While not the defender of Luc, Robinson is even longer and more athletic and could have the same versatility to defend both 3s and 4s at the next level.

Robinson would benefit by returning for his senior year and rounding out his offensive skills while assuming a bigger role in the team's offense. With a better playmaker in Kemba Walker running the show, it would make things that much easier for him to get good looks and impress. However, with such an impressive tourney performance, Robinson figures to go somewhere in the early second round, with an outside shot to sneak into the late first.





Tyreke Evans
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Tyreke Evans 6-6 220 SG Memphis Fr.

Unlike many players who go down with their teams without putting up a fight, Evans showed great intensity and fire helping lead the Tigers back into a game that they easily could have packed it in and quit. Down 24 points, Memphis scratched and clawed their way back in giving Missouri a late scare before eventually being eliminated.

Evans finished with a season high 33 points on an effective 12-25 shooting and a perfect 9-9 from the line in one of the top single game performances of the entire tournament. The tenacity he showed and competitive fire is one of his best assets and something that many players are lacking.

Reke has begun to deliver on the promise he showed in high school which made him a household name and the #1 rated player in his class early in his high school career.

He has really developed physically becoming very strong at driving and finishing around the basket, despite not having great explosiveness. His first step is good and he really excels when he gets a head of steam on his defender moving towards the basket as he has some great shake and bake moves and an innate ball handling ability.

Evans is a unique player. He's similar to Stephen Jackson with his size and great ability to handle the ball and play the lead guard position. Obviously a 27 game winning streak with him running the show helps his cause.

The big drawback for him that scouts question is whether he can be effective without the ball out of his hands, and his ability to be a productive member of a winning team. Because there's little question he can score and be productive in the NBA, but his ball dominance might be a hindrance if he doesn't become more efficient and learn how to play better off the ball.

He's a player that scouts are all over the board with, but his great one on one skills and length give him good promise and it would be interesting to see how/whether he could fit into and contribute to a playoff level team. His stock is on the rise, as scouts project him in the 18-30 range.






Jonny Flynn
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Jonny Flynn 6-0 186 PG Syracuse So.

The 3 seeded Syracuse Orangemen were making short work of the opposition until they met the 2 seed Oklahoma Sooners in the Sweet Sixteen. Late in first half, Flynn got steam rolled by Blake Griffin on a drive sustaining a lower back injury.

Despite admirably playing through the pain, he was visible affected by the collision and unable to play with the same explosiveness. However he was able to score 22 points on 9-26 shooting.

The talented PG adamantly stated that he would return for his junior year a week ago. However as we've seen numerous times before, what a player says during the tournament should be taken with a grain of salt. For him to say anything else would bring unwanted media attention to him, so he was just doing what any player in that situation should do.

Flynn is still deciding whether to enter, but word is he's leaning towards putting his name into the draft. After a great end to his sophomore season he's seen as a near lock to be a mid-late first rounder this year. Granted, nothing's ever guaranteed, just ask DeAndre Jordan.

Knocks against Flynn are that he's undersized and not a true floor general. However he has the explosiveness to make up for his size and is a true leader with the intelligence to hopefully improve and develop those skills.

This is an extremely deep PG class, and underclassmen appear to be set to declare in droves, but Flynn appears to have put himself among the top handful of point guards and would likely fall in the 18-25 range that young point guards often do (ie. Rondo, M.Williams, Lowry, Farmar(26)).

Derrick Brown 6-8 220 SF Xavier Jr.

Brown was impressive in Xavier's loss to Pitt. At times he looked like the superior prospect over Sam Young. He's younger, taller, and shows more fluidity in his movements and offensive game. However, he's not nearly as polished shooting the ball as Young, who has used his 4 years of college well to develop his game.

Although his numbers didn't jump off the page and he struggled shooting from outside, Brown displayed some impressive moves. He went up for one nice two handed stuff in traffic as well as knocking down a rainbow 3. He struggled shooting the ball in the second half finishing 6-15 from the floor with 14 pts and 9 boards.

If he entered, Brown could certainly get into the first round this year. However with so many underclassmen looking to enter, and a number of athletic small forwards, he likely would be better off going back and improving his perimeter skills and potentially become a lotto pick next year.

Michigan State Players:

Durrell Summers 6-5 186 SG Michigan St. So.

Has the most NBA potential of any Michigan State player. His athleticism was on display late in the game with his breakaway dunk, which had he not had a tremendous wingspan would have come up short on. He has solid outside shooting ability and finishes well at the rim. He's just a sophomore and will have time to further develop his body and mid range game before making the jump.

Kalin Lucas 6-0 170 PG Michigan St. So.

Aside from the best tournament coach in the business, it was a quality point guard that Michigan State had and Louisville was lacking in their Elite Eight match up. Lucas is a likely four year guy who figures to get drafted but he;s seen as a likely NBA back up due to his size. He could make a push to be a late first rounder if he can continue to develop.

Goran Suton 6-10 240 PF Michigan State Sr.

Sutan has made a case for himself as an NBA player and while he lacks foot speed and athleticism, his feel for the game and outside shooting ability make him interesting. He's got a European game and will likely end up playing ball in Europe where his skills translate best.

Regardless, there's no question that without him the Spartans would not still be dancing in the Final Four, and he's been a match up nightmare for teams as his versatility to pass as well as knock down shots from the perimeter make him a


Villanova Players:





Scottie Reynolds
AP Photo

Scottie Reynolds 6-2 185 PG Villanova Jr.

As he showed with his full court jaunt through the Pitt defense to score the winning basket, Reynolds possesses tremendous speed and quickness. He redeemed himself with the winning basket after nearly giving the game away when his ill advised full court pass was stolen.

Despite being an incredibly fast guard with a quick first step and solid scoring ability, scouts don't see him as a true floor general. And because of his lack of point guard skills, his NBA outlook is diminished. Unless Nova wins it all, he's unlikely to be drafted this year, especially with such a deep point guard class.

Dante Cunningham 6-8 230 SF Villanova Sr.

The heart and soul of the Villanova team, Cunningham has been extremely valuable to the team as their leading scorer and jack of all trades player. Cunningham has become a dependable mid-range shooter and looks like a perfect role player at small forward for the next level.

Cunningham has averaged 17.8 ppg over the tournament raising his stock from a mid second rounder to a possible high second rounder.

Corey Fisher 6-2 185 PG Villanova So.

Fisher has more NBA potential than his teammate and Nova hero Scottie Reynolds. Fisher's ability to play the point guard position and vision make him a superior prospect. However, he needs to further develop those skills as right now he's more adept at scoring than anything.


Falling





Gerald Henderson
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Gerald Henderson 6-4 210 SG Duke Jr.

Henderson picked the worst possible time to have his worst game of the season shooting 1-14 against Villanova. He was struggling in the tournament coming into this game hitting 10-30 from the floor (33%).

The defensive pressure of Nova's defense took him out of his rhythm and he was never able to get in a groove.

He shot just 1-11 from 3 point land in the tournament.

This (Villanova) game (and tourney, 10-44 overall shooting) definitely hurts him, but ultimately it shouldn't drop him too far. He is considered likely to enter the draft this season and is still considered a likely top 10 pick based on his body of work this season.

Terrence Williams 6-6 220 SG/SF Louisville Sr.

Granted Williams has been on the rise for weeks and benefits from an excellent senior season, and also came through with a clutch performance against Siena. But his collapse against Michigan State is sure to keep his stock from climbing where it might have had Louisville won it all, or reached the Final Four.

Williams disappeared when Louisville needed him most going 1-7 for 5 points in Louisville's biggest game of the season. His disappointing final game reinforced the sentiment that he's inconsistent and despite all of his athletic gifts, struggles to maximize his ability.

Samardo Samuels 6-8 250 PF Louisville Fr.

Samuels came into Louisville with a lot of hype as a top 10 recruit but his lack of height and mobility makes him a better college player than pro prospect. He'll have a chance to play in the NBA someday as an undersized PF, but in Louisville's loss to Michigan State on Sunday, it became abundantly clear that he is far from NBA ready now.

His 0-6 shooting, 0 point effort in the Elite Eight match up with MSU has his stock falling. Granted, he'll have plenty of time to grow his stock back up. Samuels appears to likely be a four year player, or at least a player who should stay four years.






DeJuan Blair
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DeJuan Blair 6-6 287 PF Pittsburgh So.

Blair made a number of mistakes over the second weekend blowing important shots around the basket and throwing the ball away. Granted he made his share of great plays all tournament and is a player who seems to focus and rise to the occasion in clutch situations, carrying Pitt with his personality and determination.

But his game was exposed some over Pitt's final two games, and he's a guy that surely would have benefited by Pitt making the Final Four or winning a championship. Obviously he's a guy who fits certain teams better than others due to his half court style.

Blair has a habit of making dumb fouls and getting into foul trouble, and while this didn't derail his team ultimately, it has to be noted.

We have chronicled that the small but effective power forward (ala Big Baby Davis, Leon Powe, Paul Millsap, Jason Maxiell) is in vogue. Blair is seen as a guy who can be every bit as effective as these players and possibly more so. He is one of the best passing post players on the college level and has a tremendous feel for the half court game.

Concern remains about his body and willingness to shed 20-25 pounds and add mobility. Will he have the dedication to trim the fat and keep it off? This is the main concern teams have, as he could easily turn into a Robert "Tractor" Traylor or John "Hot Plate" Williams, with all the moves on the court, but missing the important "push away move" (from the table) off the court.

Though he was rated a late lotto pick after his regular season success, Pitt's failure to reach the Final Four has dropped him into the mid-to-late first round. Look for Blair to end up in the 18-25 range come draft night.


Raymar Morgan 6-7 210 SF Michigan St. Jr.

Despite making the final four, the Spartans did it essentially without any meaningful help from their top player coming into the season, Raymar Morgan.

Morgan came into the year as a projected borderline first rounder but his bout with mono and pneumonia severely derailed his conditioning and effectiveness. He'll have time to get back in shape and recapture the momentum he had through his first two seasons, but right now he looks nothing like an NBA player.

Austin Daye 6-10 200 SF Gonzaga So.

Daye has been seen in the falling department for some time now. Once projected as the #1 pick in the 2009 draft, Daye has shown little development in his body, and his game has stagnated as well. Without the strength and toughness to go inside and with stand contact, his game has become very one dimensional.

In the tourney he averaged just 10 points per game, which isn't terrible considering the number of quality teammates he has, but for someone looking to become a first rounder, he hasn't taken the next step and become a dominant player.

Reports began before the year that he would like to enter the draft this year, but it's not certain that he would even get drafted at all right now, so his best bet would be returning to Gonzaga, working hard in the off season on adding strength and coming back and taking over the Zags scoring load next year. Otherwise, he could be looking at a similar college career path as Rick Rickert, another frail athlete who once occupied the projected #1 pick, 2 years before the draft.
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