2014 NBA Draft Prospect Stock Watch After Conference Tournaments

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2014

2014 NBA Draft Prospect Stock Watch After Conference Tournaments

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    The mid-March conference tournaments provided an opportunity for top 2014 NBA draft prospects to showcase their skills and potential on a pressure-packed stage.

    Several of these high-profile youngsters were able to strengthen their basketball resumes and bolster their draft stock with outstanding performances. Some left something to be desired, and still others maintained their value without soaring or slipping much at all.

    It's important not to weigh this one-week stretch too heavily and remember that many of these prospects still have a chance to turn heads in the NCAA tourney. But the intense competition from this past week against familiar foes was able to yield some valuable information for NBA scouts moving forward.

20. James Young, G/F, Kentucky Wildcats (6'6", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    James Young continues to show promise as a shooter and slasher, but it has not been to the level that merits him top-10 consideration.

    For much of the year, he has fluctuated in the No. 8-12 range in many mocks, but it's clear that he doesn't stack up from a polish standpoint.

    One game, he's driving the ball confidently, getting to the free-throw line and hitting a high percentage of his threes; the next, he's ineffective as a creator and forcing bad shots.

    Fortunately, his 6'6" height, 6'11" wingspan and scoring potential make him an attractive future asset.

19. T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State (6'8", Sophomore)

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    Stock Report: 

    T.J. Warren's stock is still strong after a nice run through the ACC bracket. He helped carry the Wolfpack through the first couple of rounds into the semifinals, as he averaged 24.3 points and eight boards in the tourney.

    Against some of the best defenses in the conference, Warren managed to find opportunities by moving well without the ball and staying active on the offensive glass. Also, his talent off the dribble is often underrated, as he shows flashes of next-level scoring.

    The only knock on Warren offensively is his shooting consistency, and he didn't help that reputation in Greensboro. Warren went 0-of-7 from beyond the arc in the ACC tournament, which doesn't help his case against other mid-first-round prospects.

    His collegiate productivity and and scoring tools suggest that he could become a rock-solid role player in the NBA, but it's tough to imagine him rising any higher than the late teens on draft night.

18. Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia (6'11", Born: 1994)

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    Stock Report: 

    Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic has continued to climb up draft boards this year due to his low-post presence and increasingly promising future.

    He's not the electric star that Dante Exum is, nor does he display the versatility of Dario Saric. Yet Nurkic belongs in the elite class of international prospects because he can score fluidly and powerfully in the paint.

    Sporting a 280-pound frame and some nice pivots and drop-steps, it's easy to see why Nurkic could become a productive center by his early 20s.

    He doesn't see extensive minutes for Cedevita of the Adriatic league, but he makes the most of his intermittent stints on the floor. The young anchor closed out February by posting 16 points and 15 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, in just 20 minutes against Radnicki KG.

17. Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville (6'7", Sophomore)

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    Stock Report: 

    Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell has an eye-popping 7'3" wingspan and some serious explosiveness, and he picked the right time to maximize those gifts.

    After a couple of relatively uneventful games during early-round routs in the AAC tournament, Harrell showed up in a big way during the title showdown with Connecticut. He dropped 22 points, ripped down 11 boards and registered three rejections en route to the conference crown.

    His size, strength and noticeably developing skills belong somewhere other than the AAC. Harrell is certainly not going to be an immediate-impact contributor in the NBA, but now seems like a great time to make the jump.

    A team picking in the mid-to-late first round that is looking to bolster its defensive depth and add some upside to the frontcourt would do well to add him.

16. Zach LaVine, G, UCLA (6'5", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    Zach LaVine kicked off the Pac-12 tourney on the right foot with 14 points against Oregon, but he wasn't much of a factor during the last couple of rounds, even as his UCLA Bruins claimed the crown.

    Head coach Steve Alford decided to go with an experienced backcourt down the stretch in Las Vegas, so LaVine only saw 12 minutes in the semifinal and 13 minutes in the title game.

    We can't blame Alford for favoring his upperclassmen, and we can't frown upon LaVine too much for the lack of playing time. However, it may be an indication that he's not quite ready to make the transition to the Association.

    Fortunately, his draft status can't take too much of a hit because his value is based on long-term development. No one can deny LaVine's ridiculous athleticism and 6'5" frame as a combo guard, and his shooting stroke isn't too far off from NBA readiness, either.

15. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky (7'0", Sophomore)

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    Stock Report: 

    As the regular season wrapped up, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein was unimpressive and his NBA value was trending down a bit.

    He then had a robust conference tournament. John Calipari didn't always give him significant playing time, but when he did, the sophomore 7-footer delivered in a big way.

    Cauley-Stein was especially striking in the second half of KU's championship bout with Florida. His defensive energy spearheaded a Wildcats comeback, and even though they wound up losing, the big man finished with a double-double and five critical rejections.

    All year, I've loved the Tyson Chandler comparisons, and that type of potential will keep lottery teams interested.

14. Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona (6'9", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    You could look at Aaron Gordon's shooting numbersor even worse, his 43.5 percent free-throw shootingand wonder how in the world his stock is still up.

    But I would point to his three blocks and three steals against Colorado, or his eight assists in the Pac-12 final against UCLA, as the reason for it. Gordon is simply an extremely smart, multidimensional player who also happens to be a spectacular athlete.

    By now, we've learned that his scoring ability doesn't even come close to warranting an early lottery selection. He simply doesn't have the natural talent and skill that other fabulous freshmen possess.

    However, NBA teams picking in the late lottery and mid-first-round range should keep an eye on him as a superb role player—in fact, he'll be much more than the average role player if he can access his versatile ceiling.

13. Dario Saric, F, Croatia (6'10", Born: 1994)

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    Stock Report: 

    Croatian forward Dario Saric hasn't helped his own draft value lately, but none of it has to do with how he's playing.

    "Dario Saric is killing his draft stock," tweeted ESPN.com's Chad Ford. "Talking about staying in Europe two more years. Has fired his agent."

    The 6'10" forward is indeed thinking about remaining overseas for the near future, potentially as a draft-and-stash player. The 19-year-old relayed his thoughts about staying in Europe to 24sata, a Croatian news portal (h/t E. Carchia of Sportando.com):

    I will not decide anything until the end of the season. In the summer I will determine my future. For my development the best is to stay in Europe but we’ll see what happens. I don’t even have an agent right now. I will talk with my family but I will make the final decision.

    Depending on who's in position to draft him, he could be still be a great player to grab and keep in Europe for a few more seasons. According to CarchiaAnadolu Efes Istanbul is ready to offer Saric a five-year, €6 million contract that includes an opt-out to join the NBA in 2016.

    Once his future becomes clearer, his draft status will stabilize. But for now, the only thing keeping him afloat is his long-term potential.

12. Doug McDermott, F, Creighton (6'8", Senior)

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    Stock Report: 

    After his scintillating 45-point display to cap off the regular season, Creighton's Doug McDermott kept things rolling in the Big East tournament.

    His Bluejays ultimately fell short to Providence in the title game, but "Dougie McBuckets" delivered stellar performances every night in Madison Square Garden. He lit up DePaul for 35 points in the quarterfinals, dropped a tidy 32 on Xavier in the semis and then poured in 27 during a valiant comeback attempt in the conference championship. 

    With such a rock-solid resume and all of the polish an NBA scout could ever want, McDermott's NBA value is well-defined by now.

    His below-average athleticism will limit his defensive impact and shot-creating ability, but there's so many other ways he can influence the game. McDermott has a tremendous feel for where he needs to be, and he displays amazing footwork as he sets up his smorgasbord of shots.

    Oh, and about that shot...his range is as deep and NBA-ready as any prospect in the world.

11. Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse (6'2", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    With Syracuse getting upended in their inaugural ACC tourney appearance, we've only seen one postseason outing from Tyler Ennis thus far.

    He didn't shoot the ball particularly well in the quarterfinals against NC State, but he did everything in his power to keep the Orange competitive. Ennis notched 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals in the loss, and he was clearly Syracuse's best player on the floor.

    Although his stock isn't soaring as high as it was a few weeks ago, Ennis remains a steady option within picks No. 8-14 because he's the most skilled pure point guard in this class.

    I still believe he could use another year of collegiate seasoning in order to compensate for the athleticism of the NBA, but if he leaves this spring, he's built up enough credit to earn a high pick.

10. Rodney Hood, SF, Duke (6'8", Sophomore)

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    Stock Report: 

    Duke's prolific secondary scorer Rodney Hood didn't have an eye-popping conference tournament, but he provided the Blue Devils with an ample diet of shooting and attacking.

    Explosiveness and dynamic plays off the bounce aren't his forte, but he manages to generate buckets with great footwork and a keen sense of how to outmaneuver opponents.

    His 6'8" frame allows him to shoot over shorter wings, and his appeal as an accurate three-point option will keep him in the hunt for a top-10 selection.

    Hood's modest ceiling will keep his stock in check, but at the same time, his steadiness will prevent it from sliding.

9. Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan (6'6", Sophomore)

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    Stock Report: 

    Nik Stauskas had a strong Big Ten tournament, but he was unable to move the needle quite enough to outclass his championship-game opponent, Gary Harris.

    His playmaking skills and shooting prowess are complemented by a sharp court sense and the ability to do exactly what his team needs to get the ball in the bucket.

    Factor in his 6'6" frame and adequate athleticism, and you can see why he could steal a top-15 spot.

    If he slips past No. 15, the team that grabs him should consider him a steal.

8. Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (6'4", Sophomore)

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    Stock Report: 

    There's not much to dislike about Michigan State's Gary Harris, as the gifted 2-guard proved his Big Ten supremacy and NBA-readiness throughout the Spartans' championship week in Indianapolis.

    He showed why he's an excellent two-way prospect by making plays as a ball-handler and disruptive defender. In one telling sequence against Michigan's Nik Stauskas, Harris stripped the ball from the Wolverines guard and took it coast-to-coast for a slam.

    Aside from being a dangerous shooter and effective driver off the dribble, Harris is a handful to keep track of away from the ball and a capable passer once he catches it.

    Harris doesn't blow you away in any one area, but he's well above average in all of them. An NBA club could insert him into its rotation and quickly get results.

7. Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State (6'4", Sophomore)

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    Stock Report: 

    In the Big 12 tourney, Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart kept doing what he does best: staying aggressive on offense and wreaking havoc on defense.

    His pair of games in Kansas City ultimately didn't help or hurt his NBA outlook. Smart didn't shoot too well, but he consistently worked his way to the charity stripe and facilitated for his teammates.

    It's fine that he doesn't own superstar upside, because he has the instincts and demeanor to be a highly effective two-way combo guard.

    Entering the Big Dance, Smart does have a chance to enhance his stock a bit and cement himself in the No. 5-7 range. He can make that happen by shooting the ball well throughout the tournament and consistently creating off the bounce.

6. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky (6'9", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    One or two games shouldn't massively affect any prospect's favor among NBA circles, so don't misinterpret Julius Randle's downward arrow for a free-fall.

    He's been a bruising force on the glass all year, and he kicked off the SEC tourney by dominating LSU. But his performance in Atlanta wasn't very efficient, and his championship outing against Florida was underwhelming, to say the least (four points on 1-of-7 shooting).

    Randle just isn't quite there as a ball-handler and scorer, because his right-shoulder spin to the left is predictable. All too often, he coughs the ball up in traffic and fails to generate a decent shooting attempt.

    The SEC finale might leave a bad taste in his mouth, but he can quickly turn things around with a strong tournament showing.

5. Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana (6'10", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    The Indiana Hoosiers were bounced early in the Big Ten tournament, so we didn't get to see a whole lot of Noah Vonleh.

    And what we did get to see wasn't all that impressive, especially considering how much he dominated the paint during the regular season. He followed up his seven-point regular-season finale with a six-point effort in Indiana's lone Big Ten tourney game. You could tell he wasn't 100 percent, though.

    Despite the humdrum finish to his conference slate, it looks like Vonleh will head to the Association this spring. Sources told Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski that he is "leaning strongly" toward entering the 2014 draft.

    Vonleh had built up a ton of favor among NBA scouts throughout the year, and he'll try to cash in on that this June, even if his inflammed foot has hobbled him a bit.

    As long as he looks to be in good shape throughout pre-draft workouts and drills, his tremendous potential will keep him safely in the mid-lottery range.

4. Dante Exum, G, Australia (6'6", Born: 1995)

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    Stock Report: 

    While the top NCAA prospects are busy making headlines and helping/hurting their draft stocks, Australian import Dante Exum is busy working out and training in Los Angeles.

    The 18-year-old prodigy will likely remain a solid top-five option until draft day because he offers a tempting mix of tangible tools and promising upside.

    Depending on where he lands, he could be carrying the team as a floor general or sharing the reins as a combo guard. Either way, he's going to put the pressure on opposing guards with his speed and creativity on both ends of the floor.

    His long-term outlook is nothing short of stardom, as he seems to have the disposition and instincts necessary to grow as a player and leader.

    That's why his draft stock is firmly entrenched among 2014's best prospects. 

3. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (7'0", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    Still out due to the stress fracture in his back, Kansas center Joel Embiid's NBA status won't really change until we see how he looks when he returns to action.

    If the Jayhawks advance past the first weekend of the tourney, we may get to see the Cameroon native suit up and convince us that his injury was a temporary setback. Any prolonged complications or extra time on the bench, however, could raise legitimate concern for high-lottery clubs.

    In a way, an early exit for Kansas could be a blessing for Embiid if his back is still giving him trouble. That way, he wouldn't have to deal with the pressure of returning later in the tournament and proving himself.

    Even though his draft status is "steady," or "even," we had no choice but to move him down a couple of spots due to the sparkling exploits of Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. The two flourishing forwards have earned the right to leapfrog the sidelined big man.

2. Jabari Parker, F, Duke (6'8", Freshman)

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    Stock Report: 

    After finishing the regular season with a bang, Jabari Parker kept sizzling under the bright lights of the ACC tourney. His Blue Devils fell short in the end, but he put his stamp on one of college hoops' best conferences.

    His challengers couldn't slow him down, and he only got better as the tournament progressed. It's readily apparent that moving forward, the pro ranks will better serve him than another year in college.

    Parker blended strength and finesse in Greensboro, as he converted a host of post-ups, drives and dunks. When foes slept on his perimeter skills, he buried a triple to keep them honest.

    A 15-point effort in the second half of the title game was particularly impressive, as he exhibited his multidimensional ability to carry a team.

1. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas (6'8", Freshman)

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    Hopefully, you've had a chance to see this kid play recently.

    Andrew Wiggins entered the 2013-14 season as the favorite to go No. 1 overall in June, but the head-turning performances of Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid quickly jeopardized his top-dog status.

    After a couple of months of fluctuating stock, he has finally regained the uppermost rung of the prospect ladder.

    In Embiid's absence, Wiggins followed a 41-point tsunami against West Virginia with back-to-back aggressive outings in the Big 12 tournament. While dropping 30 points on Oklahoma State and 22 on Iowa State, he looked significantly more assertive than he did during the majority of the regular season.

    He's now looking more eagerly for creases to drive, confidently creating mid-range jumpers and applying himself, both on defense and on the glass.

    Wiggins still lacks the polish of some prospects in his class, but his increased boldness indicates that he may actually have the killer instinct NBA teams would love.


    Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report.

    Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR