Draft stock watch: Scouts weigh in on top prospects after tournament
Now that the NCAA tournament is over, now that the final buzzer has sounded and the confetti has ceased to fall, the real work begins. That's the case for NBA scouts, at least, who in the coming months will make order out of the madness that just ensued. They'll tirelessly dissect each college prospect's strengths and weaknesses, determining which warrant selection in the June 28 draft.
Much remains to be sorted out, but plenty has also become clear. Two scouts spoke with SI.com to offer their thoughts on college basketball's marquee event. Here are their comprehensive takes on the top prospects, breakout performers and early-entry declarations.
Davis' box score from Monday's title game says it all: He can dominate while hardly scoring. Kentucky's freshman sensation tallied 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and three steals while shooting just 1-of-10 from the floor (six points), capping what has been one of the most remarkable first-year campaigns in college basketball history.
He won the Naismith Award after leading the nation in blocks (186), Player Efficiency Rating (35.1) and win shares (11.9). He notched 21 double-doubles, including nine in his final 13 contests. Though his offense is still developing, he's drawn comparisons to the great Bill Russell for his vaunted defensive presence.
An already surefire lock to go No. 1 in the draft, Davis has upped the ante. He's no longer just a touted prospect; he's a potential once-in-a-generation talent.
"He's the clear-cut No. 1 guy," one scout said. "In my opinion, he's the only player who's a potential franchise difference-maker."
While Davis was the cornerstone of precocious Kentucky's championship, Kidd-Gilchrist was the engine that made the team go. His defensive versatility -- he can guard positions one through four -- bolstered the nation's top field-goal-percentage defense (37.4), and his proficiency in the open court fueled the Wildcats' tournament run. In five of six victories, Kentucky scored at least 20 points in transition.
"He attacks the rim and finishes," a scout said. "He's one of the best transition players in the country."
But does Kidd-Gilchrist deserve No. 2 consideration? Seemingly far-fetched at the beginning of the season, it's become a distinct possibility. His efficiency on the perimeter needs to improve for a wing (he shot just 25.5 percent from three-point range), but given his intangibles, don't expect MKG to fall any lower than No. 5.
"I don't think he's ever going to turn into LeBron James because he's not that gifted," the other scout said, "but he does enough of everything really, really well. His effort is always so striking. His competitive edge keeps him in that top four or five category."
Monday night's outcome may have weighed heaviest on Robinson, who was seen walking off the court teary-eyed after Kansas' 67-59 loss. He was the Jayhawks' emotional leader all season, and seemingly willed the team to victory on more than one occasion. Kansas opponents shot less than 25 percent in the second half of tournament games, thanks primarily to Robinson.
"He brings so much energy and leadership, diving for loose balls and all that," a scout said. "He's a little bit undersized, but the intangibles help make up for that."
Teams would also like to see him develop an outside game, something he showed flashes of during the season (he was 7-of-14 on three-pointers). But his production, including an NCAA-best 463 total rebounds, leaves little to doubt. He's a near-lock to be a top-five pick and could possibly go as high as No. 2.
"We know he's not 6-10, which is what the program says," the other scout said. "If he were 6-10 or 6-11, he would unquestionably be the second pick. And he still may be. But size will be a question."
Drummond's underwhelming freshman campaign reached a new low in the NCAA tournament, as he fouled out in the closing seconds of the Huskies' first-round loss to Iowa State. It ended a night in which he totaled just two points and three rebounds, and closed a disappointing season in which he averaged just 10.2 points.
His size and athleticism can't be ignored, but neither can his obvious shortcomings. Lacking a polished offensive repertoire and a developed defensive presence, he could go anywhere from second to 10th -- a classic high-risk, high-reward-type pick.
"If you draft him and he fails, you look like a fool," one scout said. "But if you don't draft him and he excels, you look like a fool. It's a tough call."
Echoed the other scout: "He's the type of guy who is probably going get a GM fired for either drafting him or passing on him. The NBA is starving for guys with his physical tools, but he is a major project and years away from really being able to help a team."
Kendall Marshall's wrist injury did more than just derail UNC's tournament chances; it dealt a sizable blow to Barnes' draft stock. The Tar Heels' headliner was unable to generate offense in Marshall's absence. In games against Ohio and Kansas (the two that Marshall missed), Barnes shot 8-of-30 (26.6 percent) overall and 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from long distance.
It's part of a larger trend. Dating to his freshman year, Barnes has bordered on ineffective without Marshall in the lineup. The chart below illustrates his career production in games that Marshall played at least 25 minutes (top) and those that he didn't (bottom).
Barnes remains a lottery pick, but, according to the scouts who spoke to SI.com, he's fallen out of the top three. And after his lackluster March, the player once rated No. 2 in Rivals' 2010 rankings has many NBA evaluators questioning his potential.
"He's going to be a legitimate NBA scorer, but he's a catch-and-shoot guy," one scout said. "He needs to play with a really good point guard so he can get free looks."
Added the other scout: "I think his lack of creativity and ability to create his own shot were exposed. He's going to be a solid player at the next level, but I think he has limited upside."
In a season marred by inconsistency, alternating between briefs stints of greatness and long stretches of frustration, Jones was typically hit-or-miss in the NCAA tournament. He showed promise against Xavier, scoring 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting, but was unimpressive against South Dakota State and Colorado, combining for nine points while going 4-of-14. He has immense upside, but he's notoriously streaky. That worries NBA teams.
"He may be the most talented player in the draft," a scout said. "He's just not consistent. You're concerned about his motor, but not his abilities."
Here's the bigger issue: Blessed with pro-ready size, speed and athleticism, Jones has yet to take over a game. Whether that's a result of his deferential personality or Baylor's system, it's troubling -- and it may cause his stock to fall into the latter half of the lottery.
"He might put up some numbers, but you never walk out of the arena going, 'Man, he really dominated,' " a scout said. "He's probably in that six-to-12 range."
Unlike with Drummond and Jones, there's not much mystery surrounding Sullinger's pro potential. He's arguably the most polished prospect in the low post, and his bullish strength makes him a rebounding force. But his size and athleticism leave something to be desired. They're concerns that emerged against Kansas in the Final Four.
Facing constant pressure from 7-foot center Jeff Withey, Sullinger scored only 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting as the Buckeyes surrendered a nine-point halftime lead. He'll still likely go in the top 10, but his inability to score against taller interior competition could cause him to slip on draft day. It's even spurred some evaluators to consider his outside ability.
"I think that some of the hesitations that scouts had before were magnified just because we did see his struggles versus size and length," a scout said. "He was exposed at this level, let alone at the NBA level."
Said the other scout: "He's going to have to step away from the basket. At one point in his career -- I don't know when -- I think he'll be able to step to the three-point line and make some shots. He's not going to take 500 a year, but I think he may take 100 or 120."
Widely regarded as a lottery pick entering the tournament, Beal vaulted himself into top-five consideration after a stellar four-game showing. He averaged 15.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and three assists during Florida's run to the Elite Eight, all while shooting 60.5 percent. Above all, he showcased versatility that's scarce among this year's guard crop.
"He has a good-looking stroke," a scout said. "He's played himself up into that three-to-seven range."
After yielding the spotlight to teammates Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Patric Young at the beginning of the year, Beal came into his own by the end. That's reflected in his numbers: He upped his scoring average from 13.9 at the start of the season to 15.8 points since Jan. 28, and cut his turnovers from 2.3 to 1.9 per game.
"I think he just improved throughout the season," the other scout said. "We notice things like that."
Regarded as Kentucky's weak link midway through the season, Teague emerged as an unmistakable weapon en route to the Wildcats' triumph. He was the team's third-leading scorer in the tournament (13.3 points) despite its wealth of talent, and showed his savvy as a floor general by maintaining a nearly 2-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio.
"He really helped himself," a scout said. "He could sneak into the back of the lottery."
As with many young guards, however, he needs to hone his decision-making and three-point shot. He's been programmed to drive to the rim, a tactic that won't be as readily available in the NBA. Even with coach John Calipari's one-and-done history, he could benefit from a second season on campus.
"He's the type of guy that should go back to school, but I could see possibly with the lack of point guards in this draft for him to think twice, especially coming off a national championship," the other scout said. "He'd probably get lost on the end of some good team's bench. Those are the type of situations where you get lost in the shuffle."
From a purely NBA perspective, perhaps no one had a more beneficial March than Withey. He racked up an NCAA tournament-record 31 blocks against some of the nation's premier big men (Sullinger, Davis, Tyler Zeller, John Henson), and displayed rare free-throw efficiency for a center by finishing the season at 79.5 percent. He climbed from an underrated talent to a genuine pro prospect, and is now squarely on the NBA radar.
Withey is rail thin and struggles to score outside of the paint, but he could serve as a more-than-capable second or third interior option. If he declares (which seems unlikely), he could prompt late first-round consideration given his size and defensive impact alone.
"He certainly has everybody's attention," a scout said. "We love bigs in our league, so I wouldn't be shocked if he threw his name in the draft and someone took him in the first round this year."
A unique player in this year's class, White piqued significant national interest with his sparkling performances in the first two rounds. He combined for 38 points and 22 rebounds against a bevy of future NBA players from UConn and Kentucky, and wowed personnel evaluators with his dynamic ball-handling and passing.
"He's kind of a point guard mentality in a tight end's body," a scout said. "He's a big, strong guy, but he can handle the ball and see the floor."
White tends to disappear in stints and has had off-the-court issues -- he also, as the same scout noted, "supposedly has a fear of flying. That's obviously a big issue in the NBA" -- but is physically menacing and a terror in the open court. Based on talent alone, he could go anywhere from 25 to 35.
"He's explosive at times but he's not consistent with it," the other scout said. "But he intrigues me. I think he can get into the first round."
Green has been on the NBA radar for quite some time now, but his standout efforts in March still deserve mention. The Spartans' forward averaged 17.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and six assists through the Sweet 16 to provide another sample of his well-rounded skill set. He's not exceptional in any one area, but he's proficient in all of them.
"He kind of reminds me of an Anthony Tolliver-type of guy who can step in, take charges, make shots when he needs to and pass the ball," a scout said. "He does a little bit of everything."
Green's consistency speaks volumes, as his efforts as a scorer, rebounder and distributor carried a Michigan State team without a go-to secondary threat to 29 wins and a No. 1 seed. After four years in East Lansing, he's finally turned skeptics into believers.
"If you were to ask me this Dec. 1, I'd say someone would take him in the 40s," the other scout said. "Now I think he's in that 26-to-36 category."
If the nation didn't know about McCollum before Lehigh's first-round upset of Duke, it certainly is aware of him now. The Mountain Hawks' junior buried the heavily favored Blue Devils, amassing 30 points, six assists and six rebounds in a shocking 75-70 win.
But McCollum's success isn't significant solely for its David over Goliath storyline. From an NBA perspective, it's important because he displayed several qualities that could translate to the next level.
"He can guard. He can rebound. He does a lot of things really well," a scout said.
After declaring a week ago (he's yet to hire an agent), McCollum stands a legitimate shot at going in the late first round. And the Patriot League's leading scorer (21.9 points) and second-leading rebounder (6.5) could continue to surprise in the pros.
"He looked like he could create off the dribble, wanted to take big shots and made big shots," the other scout said. "He put on a show against Duke. He's better than what a lot of people thought."
If any of UNC's three underclassmen are justified in their early exits, it's arguably Marshall, who could benefit from the dearth of quality point guards in the 2012 class. He has the best court vision of any guard coming out, and his importance was immediately clear after his wrist injury: The Tar Heels committed a combined 20 turnovers in their first two tournament games. They committed a whopping 34 in the two that he missed.
"He's an elite passer," a scout said. "Someone is going to take him in the teens or early 20s."
While his offensive adjustment should come naturally, his defensive transition could be trying. Marshall lacks the speed to hang with many current NBA point guards, and could prove to be a liability if he doesn't improve his lateral quickness.
"I think athletically he's going to be challenged," the same scout said. "When you have to guard Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis, he could really get exposed."
Another distinctive prospect in this year's draft, Henson boasts the high motor that many of this year's forwards lack. He blocks, rebounds and runs the floor well, and upped his scoring, free-throw percentage and Player Efficiency Rating in each of his three years in Chapel Hill. He finally seems comfortable after the six-inch growth spurt he experienced his senior year of high school. He could make an immediate impact with his shot-blocking.
Problem is, he's still frighteningly frail. And lacking an established perimeter game (he took just 24 three-pointers in his entire UNC career), he could've benefited by adding some weight before testing the NBA waters.
"People still don't know what position he's going to play," one scout said. "He's got the size and the length to play a four or five, but his body and his frame suggest that he should be a wing. He might have been better off to come back to school."
Said the other scout: "I think he needs to go to a team that plays really, really fast. I think he can get beaten up physically in a slowed-down type game. But I think he can sneak into the back of that lottery, that 13-to-17 range."
Ready or not? That question may resonate most strongly with Rivers, as he's been criticized for leaving prematurely following a less-than-perfect freshman season and a stunning first-round exit. He scored consistently, but often did so inefficiently: Despite averaging 16.4 points over his final 10 games, he shot an underwhelming 38.7 percent from the floor (50-of-129).
His assets are obvious -- he's supremely confident and is a terrific penetrator -- but so are his flaws (he's undersized, can lag on defense and has a questionable shot selection). Celtics coach Doc Rivers' son is a project, to be certain, but maintains the potential to be a potent NBA scorer.
"I heard somebody say that he has more AAU game in him than he has a Duke game," one scout said. "That's actually pretty good analysis. He's a great one-on-one player and can get to the basket, but he's still learning to play within the team concept. Staying another year at Duke would've been pretty beneficial to help him do that."
Said the other scout: "He's a first round pick, but I just don't see him in the lottery."
A less-heralded prospect than Rivers, Ross could have higher upside as an NBA shooting guard. He has good size for his position and pro-ready athleticism, and, more strikingly, has demonstrated his ability to score in bunches. He averaged 23.5 points over four NIT games, making the most of his lesser March opportunity.
"We were all kind of hoping [Washington] would make the tournament so we could see him a few more times on a national stage," a scout said. "But he played great. I liked him coming into the year and I still like him now."
He tends to check out defensively and force ill-advised, contested shots, but many of his issues could be resolved via coaching. He passes the eye test. Other than Beal and UConn's Jeremy Lamb, Ross may boast the most pure potential of any guard in the draft.
"If he takes good shots, he's got a chance to be a really good player," the other scout said. "I think he finds his way into the 13-to-19 range."
Subject to a coaching change that could alter his role with the Illini, Leonard's decision to enter the draft makes sense. His college situation would feature as much uncertainty as his professional one, and he made colossal strides from his freshman to sophomore year. He more than tripled his minutes (8.2 to 31.8) and scoring (2.1 to 13.6) while showing a much-improved feel for the game.
But he's still far from a finished product. Leonard lacks an offensive presence outside of five feet and can be emotional on the court. In stretches, he's prone to lose focus.
"I think he goes through moments where he just disappears out there," one scout said. "He drifts out on the perimeter too much. I think he has a short attention span at times."
Yet, the adage holds true: In the NBA, size matters. Given Leonard's frame, youth and athleticism, his potential outweighs his immaturity. He could enter draft discussions starting in the last few picks of the lottery.
"There's such a need for size and he's a center," the other scout said. "I think he gets consideration in the teens. You could start with him in that 13-to-19 range."