Eye on the Draft: Sweet 16, Day 2; who's stock rose, who's stock fell among NBA prospects?
Day two of the Sweet Sixteen saw four really competitive games, with all four decided by five points or less, and three of the four coming down to the final seconds. Lets talk about some of the NBA prospects that took the floor on Friday, and how they fared.
Stock went up: Jordan McRae, Tennesse - McRae is a fringe second round pick at the moment, but he looked every bit the part of an NBA player last night. He torched Michigan for 24 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks, showing off his athleticism for the shooting guard position. For the season McRae averaged 18.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 2.5 APG in the hyper-compeitive SEC, and he has all the size (6'6", 190) that NBA teams look for in a SG. He's not a great shooter, but he does knock down 35% of his threes, and he's constantly attacking the rim. I think he's being underrated because of his age (23), but I'd be shocked if he's not drafted. Glenn Robinson,III, Michigan - Robinson flies under the radar at times, but he is a consistent performer that gets to the basket seemingly whenever he wants to. He went for 13 points (on eight shots) and added five rebounds as Michigan squeaked by Tennessee, and if Robinson decides to enter the NBA draft, he's projected to be an early second round pick. He's an NBA caliber athlete who should be, at worse, a good backup wing for years to come.
Shabazz Napier, UConn - Kemba Walker deja vu anyone? It's hard not to draw the parallel as Napier is a similar player to Kemba, an undersized tweener guard who gets 20 every night and has the type of intangibles that you can't measure. Napier went for 19-5-5 as the Huskies advanced to the Elite 8, and is now averaging 23-6-5 for the tournament. He's currently thought of an a mid-second round pick, but if he can complete the Kemba run and win it all, it's going to be hard for a team not to take a chance on him at the end of round one.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville - Harrell is viewed as a mid-to-late first round pick, and someone who the Celtics may consider with their second first rounder. Despite Louisville's loss to Kentucky, Harrell played really well, going for 15 points and 8 rebounds despite being in foul trouble all night. He has a crazy high motor, and despite being undersized for a PF (6'7"), his 7'3" wingspan makes up for it.
Julius Randle, Kentucky - Randle did basically what he's been doing all season long, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 boards as Kentucky knocked off Louisville. But his consistency, even as the stage continues to get bigger has got to have the attention of NBA teams. He also played great defense down the stretch, contesting Russ Smith's game tying three in the closing seconds. Randle looks like a remarkably safe bet to be a double-double machine at the next level, and continues to stake a claim at being the fourth pick in the draft.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State - Dawson was unbelievable for the Spartans as they knocked off #1 seed Virginia, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He's an interesting player as he plays SG/SF, but never shoots threes. Instead he is constantly in the lane, shooting 61% for the season, and averaging 8.3 RPG. He's a PF in a SG/SF's body, but NBA teams will always need wing players who can both get to the rim and play defense, and Dawson can do just that. He's currently viewed as a second round pick.
Stock went down:
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky - Injuries are never anyone's fault, but Cauley-Stein played only four minutes against the Cardinals, and he's unlikely to play on Sunday after hurting his ankle. It's unclear if this will hurt him come draft night (he's currently projected as a mid-first round pick), but with such a deep class, it certainly won't help.
James Young, Kentucky - Young scored only 9 points and fouled out, but KU was bailed out by Randle, Aaron Harrison and Alex Poythress down the stretch. Young's been a bit of a disappointment this season (14 PPG, 40% FG, 34% 3 PT), but was so highly touted coming out of high school that he's still likely a first round pick if he decides to come out.
Gary Harris, Michigan State - The good news? Harris will get another chance to raise his stock on Sunday against UConn. The bad news? Virginia's defense locked him up on Friday night, completely neutralizing the future first round pick. Harris struggled to make an impact, scoring just six points and getting into foul trouble. This could be a red flag as Harris is not a great athlete, something that reared it's head against the Cavaliers.
Keith Appling,Michigan State - A little weird that all of these "stock went down guys" were on winning teams, but Appling, a senior point guard and projected second round pick, was also stifled by UVA. Appling scored only 2 points and dished out 2 assists for the Spartans as he also got into foul trouble.
Stock stayed the same:
Nik Stauskas, Michigan - Stauskas is perhaps the best shooter in the country, but had merely an average night against the Vols, scoring 14 points and dishing out 2 assists. The Big 10 player of the year has been remarkably consistent this season, and is a great bet to go off the board somewhere between 15-20 in June's draft.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State - A physical specimen who can shoot a bit and plays even bigger than his 6'9" frame, Payne went for 16 points (on 5-12 shooting) and grabbed 5 rebounds against UVA. We now have a four year sample size on which to grade Payne, so NBA teams are a lot less likely to overreact to one game for him, be it good or bad (or in this case, just about average). He's the 25th ranked prospect according to Draft Express.
The Harrison brothers, Kentucky - Yes, they struggled shooting (combined 7-24), but they were big down the stretch for UK, especially Aaron, who's three gave the Wildcats the lead for good with under a minute to go. Neither of these guys have had a great Freshman season, and both are better served to come back next season, giving themselves a chance to both grow as players, and avoid a loaded 2014 draft class.