A lot has happened since our last Stock Watch, including Caris LeVert’s season ending foot injury and Washington dismissing the nation’s leading shot blocker Robert Upshaw. LeVert showed signs of being a formidable all-around player and in a draft that lacks depth at guard, he has been kept in the mid-first round in 2015 on the assumption that he will declare despite the injury.
Upshaw was said to be a likely early entry candidate before the dismissal, and now that appears to be a certainty. With great size and length at center, he proved to be a very apt shot blocker and rim protector. Unfortunately he has not proven to be a dependable player. He was dismissed from Fresno St. for substance abuse and subsequently could not hold up his end of the bargain with Washington this season. With rumors he may head to the NBA Developmental League, teams will certainly be doing their homework attempting to figure out whether he has what it takes to be a professional, both on and off the floor.
DAngelo Russell 6-5 180 PG/SG Ohio State Fr.
Currently leading all NCAA freshmen in scoring at 19.4 ppg, the most remarkable thing about Russell has been his vision as a playmaker. He has completed highlight reel backdoor passes toward the basket on backdoor cuts, while reading defenses to optimize mismatches. While 5.2 apg to 2.8 topg might not be numbers that scream point guard, his ability to handle and pass the ball with legitimate SG size only enhance his potential down the line. During Ohio State’s current three game win streak, Russell is averaging 24.3 ppg (61.4% FG, 50% 3PT), 9 rpg and 7.3 apg, with the last two wins coming against ranked teams. He has moved up to #4 in the latest 2015 Mock Draft, as well as putting more distance between himself and the next best NCAA guard prospect.
Jerian Grant 6-5 205 PG/SG Notre Dame Sr.
It is really hard to ask for much more than what Jerian Grant provided in Notre Dame’s win over Duke. He played the full 40 minutes, scored 22 points with 6 rebounds and 12 assists, with the Irish coming away with a 77-73 victory over the nations #4 team. He was incredibly confident, with highlight plays that included an over 30 foot three pointer with 16 left on the shot clock in the first half, than a crucial basket and assist to help the Irish claim the victory. Even after all of this, Grant managed to keep his cool by urging fans not to rush the court, feeling that #8 Notre Dame should expect to get wins over other ranked opponents. Grant has played like a true floor general this season and seems to be heavily in the conversation for a spot as a 1st Team All-American. His display of leadership and professionalism are key factors in raising his stock. Some scouts even feel he could play himself into the late lottery if he continues to be such a standout impact performer.
Stanley Johnson 6-7 245 SF Arizona Fr.
Ever since his less than stellar showing in Arizona’s loss to Oregon St., Johnson has been playing like a man possessed. Averaging 17.8 ppg (50% FG, 84.4% FT) and 7.8 rpg, he played with more poise while using his physical ability to wear down opponents on both ends of the floor. While some pundits commented on how much Arizona would miss Aaron Gordon as a defender, Johnson has done very well as a replacement, especially since conference play has begun. His shot is still a bit inconsistent and he is still prone to taking wild shots near the basket. The upside is, he seems to be putting in the work necessary to improve in both of these facets, while also showing a consistent floater. His ability to create baskets for himself and others off the dribble is an added wrinkle to his game, and he always seems to bring a high energy level to big game situations.
Brice Johnson 6-9 225 PF North Carolina Jr.
There has been a notable improvement to Johnson’s body every year that he has been at UNC, as he has added around 35 pounds to his frame. At the same time, he has maintained his ability to run the floor and get off the ground that few his size possess. The most crucial thing for him to focus on is staying on the floor, as he has been plagued with foul trouble for a majority of his college career. It remains a bit of an issue, though over the last four Tar Heel games, Johnson averaged 27 mpg as opposed to the 21.6 mpg he had been averaging in his previous 17 contests. He has averaged 15.5 ppg (74.3% FG, including a perfect 6-6 in his last game against Syracuse) and 10.5 rpg, with only 2.3 fouls per game. If he manages to keep this up, we could see Johnson’s stock rise once again. His range is still limited, though his athleticism, energy and defensive potential continue to make him a prospect worth keeping an eye on.
Devin Booker 6-6 205 SG Kentucky Fr.
Throughout the season, we have focused on all of Kentucky’s freshmen McDonald’s All-Americans aside from Booker. And in the meanwhile he has steadily risen to the forefront. He has easily been Kentucky’s most dangerous long range shooter and is currently at 49.3% from 3PT, with almost two makes per game. Booker has also shown an aptitude for spacing and has been great when given opportunities in transition. While his all-around statistics definitely do not pop out at you, he has solid ability as a passer and certainly can add strength to hold his own as a rebounder. Currently Kentucky’s 2nd leading scorer at 10.7 ppg, the 18-year-old already shoots at a very high level with potential to build off of that, which has increased his “one-and-done” options in a 2015 draft lacking many quality shooters. Wiuth a body in need of toning and all around skills that need polish, he is still seen as a likely two year guy with a chance to crack the lottery with further skill development. Though playing at Kentucky has certainly showcased his skillset, and given him a legitimate chance to go if he were to really light it up in March.
Kris Dunn 6-3 205 PG Providence So.
The nation’s current leader in assists, averaging 7.8 apg, Dunn has really come into his own and battled back from the injuries that plagued him during his first couple seasons at Providence. He has averaged 22.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg and 8.7 apg in Providence’s last three games, all wins. Thursday against DePaul, he went for a massive triple double, with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. His turnovers are still an issue, as he has averages 4.2 topg and he can definitely use some refinement as a long range shooter. He still has played well enough to bring himself firmly into the draft discussion, which is great to see from a player who has battled through a lot to get to this point.
Michael Qualls 6-6 205 SG/SF Arkansas Jr.
His “home” versus “away” splits shows that he still needs consistency when in enemy territory. Even so, he is a tremendous run/jump athlete with an incredible wingspan and he has shown definite improvement every year he has been in college. While his three point shot remains similar to last season’s 35%, he has improved his overall shooting inside the arc, while upping his free throw percentage from 68% to 78.8%. Qualls scored a career high 30-points last Thursday against Alabama, showing some diversity on offense and keeping his team in the game up until Bobby Portis’ buzzer beating basket. He still needs to refine his overall game, but the improvement he has shown at the wing position gives him NBA potential.
Karl Anthony Towns 7-0 250 C Kentucky Fr.
Towns is still a prospect with a lot of upside considering his combination of size and skill set, but it has definitely been a rough couple of weeks. Heading into the Georgia game in which he was impressive, he was averaging just 15.8 mpg, 5.3 ppg and 2.5 rpg during Kentucky’s previous four games. The #1 Wildcats have not necessarily been hurt by Towns lack of contribution and have the depth to make up for it, though it still leads to questions about just how ready he may be for the NBA. He still struggles with his back-to-the-basket and has not been as much of a threat as one might expect with his sweet shooting stroke. He needs to work on staying away from bad fouls and that means showing greater awareness as a defender.
Kaleb Tarczewski 7-0 245 C Arizona Jr.
Ranked #7 in the final RCSI rankings in the 2012 class, Tarczewski has been solid but definitely not spectacular during his time at Arizona. Particularly troubling as of late is his production on the boards, as he has averaged only 3.6 rpg in 23.8 mpg over his last five games. This does not even include the game against Oregon St. where he did not manage a single board. He is still a fairly athletic big man who runs the floor pretty well, though he is too predictable offensively and definitely not a rim protector. It keeps getting more and more difficult to envision Tarczewski being anything more than a low 2nd round pick. Being drafted at all is great, though this projection is obviously a great deal lower than what he was advertised as entering school in Tucson.