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Stock Watch: Beasley's building case, Mayo's slipping
By Chad Ford
With the college basketball season roughly a third of the way over, it's time to check on the draft status of some NBA prospects.
Insider spoke with a number of NBA scouts and executives to get their takes on who's hot and who's not on the draft stock meter.
Here's what they're saying… Cream of the Crop
Michael Beasley, PF, Freshman, Kansas State
Beasley has used the first third of the season to solidify his status as the top prospect in the draft. His size, athleticism, scoring ability and relentless work on the glass make him a prototypical No. 1 pick.
Unless he suffers a severe drop-off in production during conference play or revisits concerns about his work ethic or off-the-court problems, it's tough to see anyone knocking him off the top of our big board. It's his position to lose.
Derrick Rose, PG, Freshman, Memphis
Rose is second by default. His production has been good, but not great. A high-profile, head-to-head matchup with USC's O.J. Mayo ended up as a flop for both players. However, Rose's stock continues to soar because he has his team playing at a super-high level.
Rose has all the physical attributes to be a great NBA player and he has leadership ability. He is drawing comparisons to the Jazz's Deron Williams because of his size, but Rose is an even better athlete. I think he's more of a combo between Chris Paul and Williams.
Eric Gordon, SG, Freshman, Indiana
Gordon was ranked No. 4 on our Top 100 back on July 1 (with Mayo No. 3). But in the past month he's been listed as the third-best prospect in the draft on most NBA scouts' boards, passing Mayo. The two are getting head-to-head comparisons from scouts and Gordon is winning -- but not by a landslide.
He's shooting the lights out and has been a much more efficient scorer. Scouts also feel he has a better basketball IQ than Mayo.
O.J. Mayo, SG, Freshman, USC
He is averaging nearly 20 points a game as a freshman. He's shooting 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3. His turnovers are high and his team has struggled a little, but it's not a disgrace to lose to teams like Kansas and Memphis.
Mayo is not, as some in the media have suggested, dropping like a rock on NBA draft boards. All the people I've spoken with are still high on him. He may not be the No. 1 pick in the draft anymore, but he's not slipping out of the top 10, either. Who's Hot?
DeAndre Jordan, C, Freshman, Texas A&M
I've gotten a number of questions about Jordan. How can a guy averaging 10 points and seven rebounds a game be ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the draft? A few things come to mind:
The freshman big man is putting up those numbers in 20 minutes per game; he's shooting a mind-boggling 80 percent from the field; and athletic big men often take a little longer to develop.
Jordan would be the No. 1 pick in the draft if he were producing anywhere near the numbers of the guys ranked ahead of him. If he comes out, he'll go high even though he's a work in progress. With Andrew Bynum now busting out in L.A., the chances that an NBA team gambles on him early in the draft only increases. To me he's the one guy who, if he continues to improve, could pass the four guys currently ranked ahead of him come June.
D.J. Augustin, PG, Sophomore, Texas
There's an interesting debate going on about who the second-best point guard prospect is behind Rose. The top two candidates are Augustin and UNC's Ty Lawson. For almost a year, Lawson's been mentioned as a possible lottery pick. Meanwhile, we had Augustin ranked No. 14 on our big board last year around this time, though some scouts strongly disagreed with that assessment.
The feeling, at that time, was that Kevin Durant was inflating Augustin's stock. With Durant gone, Augustin was supposed to drop off. Instead he's having an amazing year, averaging 20 points and 6 assists while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
The more you watch Augustin, the more you can see some Steve Nash in him. He lacks size and is somewhat reckless at times, but when you look at the total package, and his age, I think there's a chance Augustin goes in the top 10 in this draft. Lawson isn't far behind, but at this point in the season we're giving a slight edge to the Texas sophomore.
Brook Lopez, C, Sophomore, Stanford
Lopez looked like a potential top-10 pick in the 2007 draft before inexplicably deciding to return to Stanford for his sophomore season, only to start skipping classes. Lopez was put on academic probation and missed the first nine games of the season for Stanford. Since returning on Dec. 19, Lopez has picked up right where he left off last season, averaging 19.5 points in his first two games back.
Lopez isn't a perfect prospect as a center. He's just an average rebounder, but he has a very developed offensive game -- he can score both inside and outside. He's also a very good defender. As a high-post center, he looks like he has a bright future in the league. We've moved him back into our top 10 at No. 8. Assuming he avoids future bonehead moves, Lopez looks like he'll be a lock for the top 10.
Trent Plaisted, C, Junior, BYU
We touted Plaisted as a first-round pick at the start of the 2006-07 season, and he responded with a disappointing sophomore effort. This year he's redeeming himself big-time, averaging 17.4 points and 9.8 rebounds, shooting 59 percent from the field in 27 minutes per game for BYU this season.
Plaisted's 24-point, 17-rebound performance against North Carolina had scouts declaring he's a better pro prospect than UNC's Tyler Hansbrough; Plaisted is bigger, more explosive as a leaper and is becoming much more active on the glass. He's ranked No. 21 on our big board, but he still has room to rise in the rankings.
JaVale McGee, C, Sophomore, Nevada
On Thursday versus North Carolina, McGee confirmed what NBA scouts have been saying about him for the past few weeks -- he's one of the most promising young big men in college basketball. McGee is a legit 7-footer with a huge wingspan and excellent athleticism. Defensively, he's an excellent shot-blocker and a good rebounder. Offensively, he'll surprise you with his shooting touch and his ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. He still needs a lot of polish in the low post offensively and he needs more muscle, but it's clear that his 14-point, 7-rebound, 4-block performance against UNC is just a peek at things to come.
Scouts have him pegged as a late first-rounder right now, but you know how big guys rise on draft day. If he's smart, he'll stay another year at Nevada and flirt with the lottery in 2009. Both of his parents were former pro basketball players, so there's a good chance he doesn't need the money and will get good advice about coming out early. He's not ready for the NBA right now, but he has all the tools to be an excellent NBA player down the road. Who's Not?
Kosta Koufos, C, Freshman, Ohio State
Koufos came into the season with a significant amount of hype after dominating in junior play for the Greek national team this summer. He started the season hot but then hit a buzzsaw at a critical scouting time for him. A number of NBA scouts watched him live in two high-profile matchups versus Texas A&M and North Carolina. Koufos struggled mightily in both.
Matched up against A&M's Jordan, Koufos shot 4-for-16 from the floor and grabbed just five rebounds. Five days later against UNC, he went 1-for-10 from the field and grabbed four boards.
Koufos has since put together a handful of good games, including a 17-point, 10-rebound performance against Florida. However, his bad outings have damaged his stock and he's slipped to No. 13 on our board. He certainly has time to rehabilitate his stock in conference play.
Roy Hibbert, C, Senior, Georgetown
Hibbert probably wishes he had declared for the NBA draft last season along with Jeff Green. Hibbert was supposed to be the go-to guy for Georgetown this season, but his numbers remain underwhelming. He's averaging 12 points and seven rebounds per game -- basically the same numbers he's put up the last two years.
Hibbert continues to underperform on the boards despite his size. And he really bombed in a matchup with Memphis, where he tallied six points and six rebounds and was outplayed by 6-foot-9 center Joey Dorsey. Of all the scouts I spoke with, none had Hibbert on their list of Top 10 prospects. We have him at No. 18.
Brandon Rush, SG, Jr., Kansas; Bill Walker, SF, Fr., Kansas State
We love the potential of Rush and Walker, but both are coming back from knee surgery and are struggling to find the same explosiveness and consistency that they had before they were injured. While it's likely both will get stronger as the season progresses, they have slipped badly on draft boards. Sleeper Alert
In November we introduced you to Sudanese big man John Riek. Riek set the scouting world ablaze this summer after dominating at the LeBron James skills camp. He's been playing at the Winchendon Academy prep school in Massachusetts and I recently spoke with a coach who got a couple of up-close looks at Riek.
Here's the latest scouting report:
"He looks like he's a legit 7 feet, 7-1 in shoes. He has extraordinary length, I'm thinking closer to a 7-8˝ wingspan. He's a very raw prospect from a physical standpoint. He's not in good shape at all. He already has a great physique, however. His body is reminiscent of Amare Stoudemire coming out of high school. From the waist up, he looks great. He has broad shoulders. Needs to work on his lower body. He doesn't really jump that high. I heard his vertical is 36 inches, but I didn't see it. He's athletic but he's not super athletic.
"The thing I really like about him is that he keeps the ball high. He knows how to play with fully extended arms. He gets full extension on his jump hook using both his left and right hand. He doesn't bring rebounds down below his shoulders. It takes years to teach that stuff. Obviously someone has been working with him.
"Offensively he has a soft touch around the basket. However, he has no clue how to shoot from any distance. On the offensive end he has no idea where to post and how to post. He doesn't know how to play without the ball. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he improves greatly.
"Defensively is where he shines. His instincts on shot-blocking and rebounding are very good. He naturally knows how to find the ball on the defensive end. He really chases balls. I think he could be a Top 3 pick if he gets the right coaching before the draft. He's a big risk, but the physical package is there and he has enough tools to show he can be a basketball player."
That's just one man's opinion, but it lines up with what others are saying. He's getting more and more Bynum comparisons -- a project that could pay off down the road. As most veteran scouts know, these "projects" usually bomb; Bynum is the exception, not the rule. But Riek continues to intrigue NBA scouts.
The biggest question that remains is whether he'll be in the draft. Several college teams, including Florida and UConn, are pursuing him. According to sources close to the situation, the plan is for him to play in the Nike Hoop Summit in April for the international squad. If he blows up the way Mohammed Saer Sene did two years ago, he'll probably enter the draft. If not, he may choose to go to college if he can become academically eligible.
We have him currently ranked No. 9 on our big board. He could obviously go higher based on what we're hearing, but he could also go much lower based on the risk factor. It's still too early to tell.
What the heck happened? I added their heights to the article, right before their position, and the heights disappeared.