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NBA Big Board 4.0: Andrew Wiggins regains top spot

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Tyler Ennis, Andrew Wiggins and Doug McDermott have all improved their draft stock in recent weeks.

Several college prospects have surged in popularity over the last few months.

We have seen NBA scouts fall in love with Joel Embiid, the uber-skilled 7-foot- Cameroonian whose footwork and smooth shooting stroke have caused hyperbole (He's Hakeem Olajuwon!) to run amok.

We have seen the rise and fall and rise again of Julius Randle, a dynamic power forward who routinely creates mismatches.

We have seen interest skyrocket in Dante Exum, Australia's prized prospect who has wowed scouts with his quick first step and athleticism.

But have we really seen anyone do enough to make a team willing to pass on Andrew Wiggins?

The draft is still four months away, of course. There is still the combine, group workouts and individual workouts. Opinions will fluctuate after each, as they always do. Though Wiggins has his warts (see below), there is little doubt that he can be spectacular. From the physical tools to the soft touch on an improving jump shot to the handcuffing defense, Wiggins' potential is off the charts.

A strong NCAA tournament can influence NBA executives enormously. Derrick Rose, Derrick Williams and others can attest to that. If Wiggins ratchets up his game during a long run in the Big Dance --- and Kansas is as equipped as any team to do it -- he could re-establish himself as the No. 1 pick quickly.

On to Big Board 4.0 ...

(Note: Arrows indicate movement up and down since last Big Board; * indicates player is new addition.)

Chris Mannix's NBA Draft Big Board
1
Andrew Wiggins
Kansas, Freshman (6-8, 200)
Last Big Board: No. 3
SG
Wiggins entered the season in a no-win situation. The hype was so great that unless he submitted one of the most dynamic college seasons ever, his draft stock was going to slip. Wiggins hasn't done that -- he has battled bouts of inconsistency and an erratic jumper -- but he has not been bad, either. His jump shot has looked sharp lately (he has converted better than 54 percent in three of his last four games, including 3-of-5 on three-pointers in a win over Texas last week) and looks strong attacking the basket. There's a smooth, Tracy McGrady-like style to Wiggins' game. That is going to be tough to pass up.
 
2
Jabari Parker
Duke, Freshman (6-foot-8, 235 pounds)
Last Big Board: No. 1
SF

Parker's three-point shooting has been surprising; he is connecting on 37 percent, including a 3-for-3 performance in Duke's win over Syracuse last week. League executives view Parker as the most NBA-ready player in the draft, though concerns about his defense still linger.

 
3
Joel Embiid
Kansas, Freshman (7-0, 250)
Last Big Board: No. 2
C

The college season has started to take its toll on Embiid, who has dealt with back and knee injuries that contributed to a sluggish start to February. Embiid has rebounded with three straight strong games, including a 13-point, six-block effort against Texas. His offensive skill set seems to grow by the game; he can score with a hook with either hand. Defensively, he is an imposing presence. The brief February blip aside, it's scary how quickly Embiid is developing.

 
4
Julius Randle
Kentucky, Freshman (6-9, 250)
Last Big Board: No. 5
PF

Randle confounds some scouts with his inconsistency -- he recently followed a 25-point effort against Mississippi with an eight-point performance against LSU -- but teams love the versatility of his offensive game and his relentless work on the glass. Consider: Randle has pulled down at least 12 rebounds in each of his last four games, raising his season average to 10.3. He still needs defensive work -- coach John Calipari recently criticized Randle for lackluster help defense -- but the offensive potential is spectacular.

 
5
Dante Exum
Australia, 18 years old (6-6, 188)
Last Big Board: No. 4
G

Many teams positioned for high lottery picks -- including the Bucks and Lakers -- have done extensive research on Exum, who is not expected to last beyond the first six or seven selections. Still, Exum is something of a man of mystery. Many league executives will be getting their first live look at Exum during the combine and team workouts. Exum is a tantalizing talent with an explosive first step and a fast-improving jump shot, but the workouts will be important in determining his draft slot.

 
6
Noah Vonleh
Indiana, Freshman (6-10, 240)
Last Big Board: No. 9
PF

Vonleh continues to produce for Indiana -- he had 18 points on 8-for-15 shooting in a loss to Wisconsin last week -- despite not being as big a part of the offense as other top prospects elsewhere. His low-post game is a work in progress, but his smooth stroke suggests he can develop into a solid face-up player in the NBA.

 
7*
Tyler Ennis
Syracuse, Freshman (6-2, 180)
Last Big Board: Unranked
PG

NBA executives love playmakers like Ennis who excel in the pick-and-roll. Ennis isn't a great shooter, but he protects the ball (3.68-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, ninth in Division I), is rarely rattled and appears to be most comfortable in high-pressure situations. Point guard has become the NBA's most valued position, and Ennis has the makeup of a very good one.

 
8
Rodney Hood
Duke, Sophomore (6-8, 215)
Last Big Board: No. 13
SF

Hood had a big stage to showcase his shooting stroke against Syracuse. He didn't, missing five of his six three-point attempts. Still, overall that shot is appealing. Hood makes threes (43.6 percent this season) and has a polished mid-range game. The knock (surprise!) is defense. Hood doesn't play much of it, and it's still unclear whether Hood can be a traditional small forward or a Thaddeus Young-type power forward. If he can establish himself as a small forward, Hood could have an immediate impact.

 
9
Dario Saric
Croatia, 19 years old (6-10, 223)
Last Big Board: No. 7
SF

International scouts are impressed with Saric, who has developed physically, particularly in his upper body. His passing is a strength and he has become more of a patient scorer in the low post. He's not a great rebounder and lacks high-level explosiveness, but with such a rich skill set it remains difficult to see Saric slipping out of the lottery.

 
10
Aaron Gordon
Arizona, Freshman (6-8, 210)
Last Big Board: No. 6
PF
Gordon, who has drawn comparisons to Shawn Marion and Blake Griffin, is a strong defender and relentless worker with off-the-charts athleticism. But his shooting is a legitimate issue. Gordon had made one three-pointer in 14 games before going 2-for-2 as part of a season-best 10-of-13 performance in a victory at Colorado last week. He is a minimal threat from mid range and is making a cringe-worthy 41.1 percent of his free throws. At 18, time is on Gordon's side. But until those numbers improve, he remains a risk.
 
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11
Marcus Smart
Oklahoma State, Sophomore (6-4, 220)
Last Big Board: No. 8
PG
Smart's altercation with a Texas Tech fan on Feb. 8 raised eyebrows across the league. "I was stunned," said a general manager who has scouted Smart extensively. "He would be the last guy I would expect to do that." But the incident hasn't done much to affect his draft stock. His poor perimeter shooting (29.3 percent from three-point range) is another story. Several league executives believe he will need to tinker with his form to be effective in the NBA. Still, Smart's size, playmaking (his assists are up and his turnovers are down from last season) and ability to finish at the rim will make him one of the first point guards off the board.
 
12
Gary Harris
Michigan State, Sophomore (6-4, 205)
Last Big Board: No. 10
SG

Harris' season, summarized by six numbers: 1-7, 6-9, 4-13. Those are his three-point totals the last three games. The Spartans have asked a lot of Harris, but the dip in his three-point shooting (33.9 percent, down from 41.1 percent last season) has raised red flags with executives who viewed Harris's jumper as his greatest strength.

 
13
Adreian Payne
Michigan State, Senior (6-10, 245)
Last Big Board: No. 15
PF

There isn't much not to like about Payne. The NBA loves stretch power forwards, and Payne is shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range. Add that to a decent post game, solid rebounding and strong defense, and the Spartans' senior stands as arguably the most well-rounded prospect in the draft. He may need to get stronger to tussle with some NBA big men, but what college player doesn't? Teams draft on potential, which could hurt the 23-year-old Payne early. But he will make a roster next season.

 
14
James Young
Kentucky, Freshman (6-6, 215)
Last Big Board: No. 12
SG

Young has put up strong numbers lately, including 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting in a loss to Florida. Young is shooting only 33.5 percent from three-point range and his defense has looked a little sloppy at times. Bu's prototypical two-guard size and scoring potential make him attractive to teams in need of immediate backcourt help.

 
15
Willie Cauley-Stein
Kentucky, Sophomore (7-0, 244)
Last Big Board: No. 11
C

Cauley-Stein has failed to crack double figures in scoring or rebounding in any of Kentucky's last five games. He doesn't look as engaged as he did early in the season, and Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne recently said that Cauley-Stein wasn't "mentally prepared" to produce at a high level every game. Cauley-Stein has all the physical tools to be a solid defender/rebounder in the NBA, but his lack of consistency is alarming.

 
16*
P.J. Hairston
Texas Legends, (6-5, 220)
Last Big Board: Unranked
SF

It's worth noting that the last prospect to tear up the D-League -- the Wizards' Glen Rice Jr., who opened eyes with a strong playoff run with the Rio Grande Vipers last season and was sent down to the D-League's Iowa Energy on Wednesday -- has not done much in the NBA. Still, Hairston's 22-point scoring average with the Texas Legends is impressive. An athletic scoring guard, Hairston has potential. Like Rice, Hairston will have to explain his problems in college -- which reportedly included repeated violations that cost him his final two years of eligibility at North Carolina -- but if teams like what they hear, he could be a mid-first-round pick.

 
17*
Nik Stauskas
Michigan, Sophomore (6-6, 205)
Last Big Board: Unranked
SG

Stauskas started the season in the shadow of Glenn Robinson Jr. and Mitch McGary, but he has emerged as Michigan's strongest draft prospect. Despite a couple of rough outings in February, Stauskas is still shooting 43.3 percent from three-point range while showcasing a surprising all-around offensive game. Though not as stout defensively as Michigan State's Gary Harris, Stauskas' perimeter game has him climbing ahead of Harris on some draft boards.

 
18
Doug McDermott
Creighton, Senior (6-8, 225)
Last Big Board: No. 20
SF

McDermott's offensive potential continues to impress scouts. He can shoot threes and play out of the post, skills that should quickly translate to the NBA. Questions about McDermott invariably center on defense. Listed at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, McDermott appears too small to defend power forwards and lacks the foot speed to stay in front of small forwards. In the right situation, McDermott can be a valuable rotation member. If picked too high, McDermott could be a disappointment.

 
19
Jerami Grant
Syracuse, Sophomore (6-8, 210)
Last Big Board: No. 18
SF

A poor man's Aaron Gordon, Grant's strength is his athleticism. With a reported 7-2 wingspan and a standing reach of 9 feet, Grant -- the son of one former NBA forward, Harvey Grant, and the nephew of another, Horace Grant -- has the physical tools NBA executives love. He's something of a tweener and will need to improve his perimeter game significantly.

 
20*
Jusuf Nurkic
19 years old, Bosnia (6-11, 280)
Last Big Board: Unranked
C
It's European scouting season in the NBA, and Nurkic has started to generate significant interest. At 19, Nurkic is a physical specimen. He's a space eater who plays a physical game. He posts up hard, has solid footwork and is a willing offensive rebounder. The rest of his game is raw, though, and scouts have questioned his conditioning. Any team that drafts Nurkic will have to be patient while he develops.
 
 

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