College Basketball: Prospect Stock Watch
Joey Whelan's Stock Watch ranks college basketball’s top prospects every other week. The previous ranking is in parentheses.
1. Blake Griffin – Oklahoma (1)
If the concussion he suffered during the Sooners match up with Texas proved nothing else, it’s that Blake Griffin actually is human. The sophomore seems to be showing no ill effects from the injury though, abusing Texas Tech on Saturday for 23 points and 18 rebounds. This performance of course came just two weeks after Griffin obliterated the Red Raiders for 40 points and 23 rebounds in one of the most dominating performances in the country this season. Griffin has been at the top of this list from day one and there is very little if anything that will knock him off this perch, at least during the course of the college basketball season. The big man is a complete package of size, strength, athleticism and hustle.
2. James Harden – Arizona State (2)
Harden’s scoring has cooled off in recent weeks, but he has shown his ability to affect the game in other ways, stepping up his rebounding and assist numbers. A 2-11 shooting performance against Washington State on Saturday is rough in the box score, but with a fantastic season of work under his belt, one game isn’t going to change things for Harden. With good size, a craft offensive game and excellent basketball IQ, Harden will get to strut his stuff for a national audience once the NCAA Tournament gets underway.
3. Hasheem Thabeet – Connecticut (3)
There’s another big man right on his heels, but at 7’3” and having the ability to change a game defensively, it’s hard not to have Thabeet as high as he is. The massive junior has fared well against each of the front court challenges he has met in the Big East, save for DeJuan Blair. While one game shouldn’t be the evidence with which we make a decision on Thabeet, it does shed light on some of the weaknesses he will need to address if he is to make an impact in the NBA. He has been impressive as of late though, going for 25 points, 20 rebounds and 9 blocks at Seton Hall, and on Saturday dominated Luke Harangody, going for 16, 11 and 8 in a win over Notre Dame.
4. Jordan Hill – Arizona (5)
There may not be a single player in the country who has done more to help his draft stock this season than Jordan Hill. The junior big man has made tremendous strides in his overall game and has shown the ability to take over a game on more than one occasion this year. His most recent performance, a 27-point 10-rebound shellacking of Washington’s Jon Brockman, showed that Hill has the strength and ability to bang around with the toughest interior players in the country.
5. Al-Farouq Aminu – Wake Forest (NA)
It’s hard to watch a Wake Forest game and not be taken with the potential that Aminu exudes while on the floor. Combining size, freakish length and outstanding athleticism, the forward may come to be the first freshman taken in this June’s draft. The numbers may not always stand out in the box score, but seeing Aminu elevating over defenders for offensive rebounds and streaking down the court in transition for a thunderous dunk is enough to make almost any GM take notice.
6. Gerald Henderson – Duke (NA)
How good has Henderson been down the stretch of the regular season? All he’s done in his last five ACC games is average 23.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and3.8 assists, the highlight of which was a career high 35 point explosion in a win over Wake Forest. The junior has really come on as of late, showcasing his unbelievable athleticism that is going to make him a very intriguing late lottery prospect. He may be a tad undersized for the off guard spot at 6’4”, he may not be a consistent threat from beyond the arc, but his quickness and ability to elevate will allow him to hang in the pro game.
7. Jeff Teague – Wake Forest (6)
Teague is another player who has cooled off somewhat in recent weeks, but has still drawn plenty of attention from defenses. The biggest questions have focused on his position at the next level, whether he has the ability to be a true point guard. Certainly Teague is an explosive scorer, and any questions about his lack of size may have been silenced for at least a little while after he threw down a ferocious dunk on the head over Maryland center Dave Neal on Tuesday night.
8. Greg Monroe – Georgetown (4)
As the Hoyas have floundered, their heralded and talented freshman has received less and less of the spotlight that was so strongly fixed on him at the beginning of the season. Monroe, despite failing to post any dominating performances in the last month, has still been a consistent scorer who contributes in a variety of different ways. His rebounding numbers could certainly be higher for a player of his size, but to see a big man with his kind of versatility and defensive production is enough reason to expect him to land somewhere in the lottery.
9. Stephen Curry – Davidson (10)
As the 08-09 season has progressed, more and more concerns with Curry’s game have risen to the forefront, not the least of which is his propensity for firing at will from beyond the arc. Despite several shooting performances that would make most GM’s cringe, the junior is still very much near the top of most draft boards due to his ability to score at will when he is in the zone. While his size and frail stature would likely have him fall deeper into the first round in most years, a weak draft class will favor Curry who is still one of the better prospects available at the collegiate level right now.
10. Earl Clark – Louisville (8)
All year Clark has proven to be a microcosm of Louisville; tantalizing ability with frustrating inconsistency. The junior looks like he may have turned a corner as of late though, stringing together arguably his best month of the season. Over his last seven games Clark is averaging 13.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4 assists, all above his season averages. Even though his shortcomings this season have been enough to drive even casual observers crazy, Clark presents such a scary combination of size, athleticism and skill set to imagine him falling much further than the later part of the lottery.
Dropped Out: Ty Lawson, UNC (7); B.J. Mullens, Ohio State (9)
Next in Line: Ty Lawson, UNC; Willie Warren, Oklahoma State; Tyreke Evans, Memphis; B.J. Mullens, Ohio State
James Johnson – Wake Forest
While his offensive role may have taken a step back from last season, James Johnson has made tremendous strides in every aspect of his game and as a result, is skyrocketing up draft boards. Possessing a powerful 6’8” frame and the versatility to play on the perimeter, the sophomore is a very intriguing prospect as a potential small forward. His ball handling skills have made rapid improvements and his court sense has improved, allowing him to trim his turnover numbers while doubling the number of assists he doles out.
Johnson’s offensive game is a nice combination of finishing around the basket with either hand and a soft touch, or taking advantage of mismatches on the perimeter. He isn’t afraid to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, but at the same time his ability to shoot off the dribble from mid-range has improved to the point where it is now a legitimate weapon. While nothing is definite, it’s a safe bet that a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament will push Johnson to enter his name in June’s draft.
Dominic James – Marquette
When it’s all said and done, James could very well wind up being the poster child for why not to stay in college four years. After a freshman season in 2005-06 that left scouts drooling over the explosiveness of the tiny point guard, James has seen his numbers decline each of the three years since then. No longer the first, or even second option on his team this year, he has fallen off the map somewhat. The good news was a bump in shooting percentage and assist numbers to the highest they’ve been since his freshman year, but now having suffered a season ending broken foot, James is going to have his back against the wall as far as cracking an NBA roster is concerned.