Monday March 10th, 2014

His overall numbers are rising, but James Michael McAdoo is still frustratingly inconsistent.
His overall numbers are rising, but James Michael McAdoo is still frustratingly inconsistent.
Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images

The idea of players holding draft stock implies that such stock works in the same volatile way as the actual financial markets. One day you're up 20, the next day you're down 5.

But that's not really how it works. One bad game, or even a bad stretch of games, doesn't ruin a player's stock. NBA teams are looking at the bigger picture when it comes to these players: Where are their skills now? Where can they go from here?

College acts as the vessel by which these players can improve and grow, but the projection part of the analysis is as important as anything.

That being said, with the top players, we have been waiting to see them since they were 16. We've seen the highlight plays and heard analysts talk about them as though they're the next great NBA superstars.

In order to prove that, players have to perform on the court. Potential alone is insufficient -- in most cases -- to get picked in the lottery. There are certainly plenty of cases in which teams foolishly eschewed that rule in favor of intrigue and potential. It's how we got Yi Jianlian and Darko Milicic.

But just as you can prove your worthiness on the court, you can also reveal your flaws. Whether it was staying in school and not showing improvement or failing to live up to big-time hype, the players of the list below were viewed as first-round talents a year ago and have seen their stocks crash.

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James Michael McAdoo, F, North Carolina

Scouts and personnel people lose their jobs missing on guys like James Michael McAdoo.

He was a lottery-pick prospect coming to North Carolina out of high school, an athletic 6-foot-9 forward with length and strength who can score and rebound.

Three seasons later, we're still waiting for McAdoo to consistently be that player. He'll flash it, like his 24 points and 12 rebounds against Pittsburgh. But then he'll have games like Saturday's contest against Duke when he played 24 minutes without grabbing a single rebound.

Per 40 minutes, McAdoo is actually having his best season as a Tar Heel, sporting his top field goal percentage and offensive and defensive ratings, and his assist percentage has tripled his previous best.

In short, he's a better player, but he still appears to be only scratching the surface of his estimable potential. We've heard that story before heading into drafts, and it's why McAdoo remains a second-round prospect with lottery talent -- at least for now.

Mitch McGary, F, Michigan

McGary can't help that injuries derailed his 2013-14 season, but it was his decision to return to Ann Arbor despite his outstanding run in the NCAA Tournament last year that McGary may be regretting.

He was already old for his class -- the sophomore will be 22 this summer -- and as a big man who relies on energy more than athleticism, he couldn't afford to appear limited in terms of his ceiling.

Luckily for McGary, he has measured in above his listed 6-foot-10 at various camps, quelling fears he was, like Kevin Love for instance, closer to 6-foot-8.

McGary flashed some of his previous March brilliance in the few games he did play this season, including 15 points and 14 rebounds in a loss against Duke, but where is his game now? Ankle injuries slowed him early in the season and surgery to fix a vague back issue has sidelined him indefinitely.

Instead of coming out of the NCAA Tournament a lottery pick in an extremely weak draft last year, McGary now has the option to turn pro coming off these injuries and risk being a second round pick or to return to Michigan again and try to rehab himself, his game and his draft stock.

Mitch McGary's injury hasn't catalyzed the offensive explosion expected for Glenn Robinson III.
Mitch McGary's injury hasn't catalyzed the offensive explosion expected for Glenn Robinson III.
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan

McGary's injury was supposed to be a blessing for Glenn Robinson III, who could take a more active role in the Michigan offense. As an athletic, skilled wing player, Robinson was considered a potential lottery pick if he could pick up some of the slack left by the outgoing Trey Burke.

Instead, GRIII has seen his overall efficiency plummet. You might expect a decrease in efficiency when a player's usage rate goes up, but the drop for Robinson has been far more precipitous than expected.

His shooting percentage fell from 57.2 percent to 49.7 percent and his turnovers nearly doubled, despite his usage rate only jumping from 15.3 percent to 22.8 percent. Perhaps more astonishingly, Robinson's rebounding numbers went down, and his assist numbers stayed the same despite his taking a much bigger part of the offense.

The talent has always been there. It was Robinson's assertiveness and focus that seemed to wane at times. His 2013-14 season hasn't done anything to disprove those ideas, and GRIII has slipped from a potential lottery pick to a high second-round pick.

Isaiah Austin, F/C, Baylor

Seven-footers can't average 5.3 rebounds per game unless they shoot like Kevin Durant. Isaiah Austin is not going to have anyone wondering if he's the next KD.

That might be a little disappointing to Austin, who actually plays on the perimeter more than is ideal, especially for a guy shooting just 43.2 percent from the floor. That can't happen, especially in the college game where size is such an advantage.

Austin considered entering the draft last year but returned to Baylor for his sophomore season. While he's shown flashes of his shot-blocking abilities -- he averages 3.1 per game in just under 28 minutes (those are Joel Embiid-type per-40 minute totals) -- that's essentially all he is right now. He's not strong enough to bang in the post, or even rebound among smaller players.

A first-round talent? Probably, but at this point, he's a late second-round prospect.

Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky

In some ways, this is our fault. When a player comes out of high school, the media likes to project down the road because it makes for good conversations and good stories.

It's pretty clear the Harrison twins (Aaron belongs on this list as well, but it seemed somewhat redundant) were a much better story than they were potential NBA stars, at least after lackluster freshman seasons.

Andrew Harrison was supposed to be the next great John Calipari point guard, following John Wall and Derrick Rose. At 6-foot-6, he was big enough to see over the defense and either shoot or pass.

But his shooting has been particularly ugly this season, a brutal 36.8 percent, and he's dished out just 3.5 helpers to 2.5 turnovers per game this year.

Expectations in Lexington had Harrison as a top-10 pick. Just a freshman, he still seems like a safe first-round bet, but another year in college would do wonders for his game.

There are some obvious correlations between Harrison and Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams, staying in school being perhaps the most pertinent at this point.

Chris Walker, F, Florida

OK, this freshman's spot on the list can't be blamed on the media. In fact, it's not even based on what Walker's done on the court; it's the fact that he hasn't been on it much.

Billy Donovan has chained Walker to the bench most of the season, despite the forward's potential as a high lottery pick. But who can blame Donovan? Walker was ineligible to play during his first semester in Gainesville for academic reasons, and the Gators went undefeated in the SEC mostly without him.

Walker only started playing about a month ago, and while he's flashed some terrific energy and athletic ability with sizzling finishes, his game remains exceedingly raw.

He's played so little that he doesn't even have a player page on most Florida rosters online, including SI.com, ESPN.com and others. That has to change before we start mentioning Walker back in lottery pick discussions.

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