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NBA Big Board 5.0: Joel Embiid center of attention

Photo: Greg Nelson/SI

Kansas center Joel Embiid missed the last six games of his freshman season with a back injury.

Can a poor NCAA tournament performance significantly affect a player's draft stock? That's the question making the rounds this month.

Will Andrew Wiggins' four-point disaster against Stanford last week knock him off the top spot?

Will Jabari Parker's porous defense against Mercer bounce him out of the top three?

Will Joel Embiid's back injury make teams reluctant to draft him?

The answers: No, no ... and maybe.

In interviews with SI.com, several executives said poor tournament performances were irrelevant. Teams invest too much time and manpower studying a player all season to be disproportionately influenced by a bad game or two. They know Wiggins tends to drift, just as much as they know Parker's defense is a glaring weakness.

Embiid is a little different. If Embiid's back injury proves to be something serious -- more on that below -- his stock could plummet. Boston's Jared Sullinger was considered a lottery talent in 2012, but questions about his back caused the former Ohio State power forward to slip to No. 21.

So Embiid will be a player to watch over the next few months. As for Wiggins and Parker? Teams already had a pretty good read on them before the tournament started.

Here is the final Big Board before our first Mock Draft next month.

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

SI Now: Were freshman phenoms hurt by early March Madness exits?
On Monday's SI Now, senior NBA writer Chris Mannix discusses the NBA draft stock of freshmen Andrew Wiggins from Kansas and Jabari Parker from Duke following their teams' early exits from the NCAA Tournament.
Chris Mannix's NBA Draft Big Board
1
Andrew Wiggins
Kansas, Freshman (6-foot-8, 200)
Last Big Board: No. 1
SF
Wiggins began the season in the No. 1 spot -- and finishes it there. He disappears a little too often, has shown a reluctance to consistently attack the rim and his mental toughness has been questioned, but there is too much brilliance to overlook. Wiggins has that rare ability to make difficult plays look effortless, and his on-ball defense is superior to that of virtually anyone at his position. NBA coaches should be able to draw out Wiggins' star talent.
 
2
Joel Embiid
Kansas, Freshman (7-0, 250)
Last Big Board: No. 3
C

Let's be clear: Embiid's back injury isn't raising red flags among NBA executives -- yet. Several executives with likely lottery picks told SI.com that they will wait to get a closer look at Embiid's medicals before moving him down on their boards. For now, they still see Embiid as a strong defender with high-level physical tools and the form and footwork to develop into an elite two-way center.

 
3
Jabari Parker
Duke, Freshman (6-8, 235 pounds)
Last Big Board: No. 2
SF

Parker has proved to be a prolific college scorer (19.1 points per game), a strong rebounder (8.7) and a developing three-point shooter (35.8 percent). His defensive problems against Mercer were a high-profile reminder of Parker's biggest question marks. Teams still aren't sure which forward position Parker will play in the NBA -- or if he can defend either one. Still, a strong-scoring/weak-defending forward can thrive in the NBA. Right, Carmelo?

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

Randle has drawn comparisons to a more athletic Zach Randolph, Michael Beasley and even Derrick Coleman. Scouts wish Randle was more consistent, but back-to-back strong games in the tournament (32 points, 25 rebounds in Kentucky's first two wins) are a reminder that when he's on, the freshman is a dynamic post player and a rugged rebounder. His wingspan -- just 6-11 -- will likely be dissected at the combine, but the offensive talent will be hard to overlook.

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

Exum has been working out in Los Angeles in preparation for the draft. There have been reports that Exum, who is represented by Kobe Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, may be angling for the Lakers to draft him. But two executives from lottery teams said that wouldn't stop them from drafting Exum if he's available. Scouts rave about the Australian's natural talent. Exum can play both guard spots, but his long-term future is likely at shooting guard.

 
6
Marcus Smart
Oklahoma State, Sophomore (6-4, 220)
Last Big Board: No. 11
PG
Smart's strong game (23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists) in a tournament loss to Gonzaga capped an impressive post-suspension eight-game stretch that reminded league executives just how much potential the sophomore guard possesses. A bulldog defender and physical slasher, Smart still needs to work on -- and perhaps reconstruct -- his jumper, but his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses. It will be surprising if Smart isn't the first point guard off the board.
 
7
Aaron Gordon
Arizona, Freshman (6-8, 210)
Last Big Board: No. 10
PF
NBA talent evaluators often echo similar opinions of Gordon: great athlete, good defender, can't shoot a lick. Gordon's abysmal free-throw shooting (42.1 percent) is a big concern for league executives, all of whom note that Gordon, 18, is a significant project. The hope is that Gordon's raw talent can be harnessed to the point where he develops into a Blake Griffin/Shawn Marion type.
 
8
Noah Vonleh
Indiana, Freshman (6-10, 240)
Last Big Board: No. 6
PF

Vonleh -- who has already decided to enter the draft -- didn't exactly dazzle in his final few weeks at Indiana. He missed two games with a foot injury, struggled against tournament-bound teams Iowa (four points, five rebounds) and Michigan (seven points, eight rebounds) and chipped in just six points and five rebounds in a season-ending loss to Illinois. Vonleh has a strong base and is a rugged rebounder, but his offensive game remains extremely limited.

 
9
Tyler Ennis
Syracuse, Freshman (6-2, 180)
Last Big Board: No. 7
PG

Ennis announced this week that he'll be turning pro, and he should be in the mix to be the first point guard off the board. Ennis finished the season ranked in the top 30 nationally in assists (5.5 per game) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio. His strength in the pick-and-roll -- the NBA's bread-and-butter play that has become a must for every point guard -- is arguably Ennis' greatest asset.

 
10
Gary Harris
Michigan State, Sophomore (6-4, 205)
Last Big Board: No. 12
SG

When healthy, Harris is a terrific two-way player. He's strong off the dribble, can hit the mid-range shot and finishes at the rim. Defensively, Harris makes up for a (slight) lack of size with aggression and speed. The primary concern continues to be his three-point shot. He's a solid 4-of-11 from deep through two tournament games but has made just 35.2 percent for the season, down from 41.1 last year. The good news is his form isn't bad and scouts can see it developing over time.

 
11
Dario Saric
Croatia, 19 years old (6-10, 223)
Last Big Board: No. 9
SF

ESPN.com's Chad Ford reported that Saric agreed to a three-year deal with Efes Pilsen of the Turkish Basketball League, which could keep him (again) out of the draft. Saric is having a terrific season for Croatia's KK Cibona, leading the Adriatic League in scoring and rebounding. Executives say he is physically stronger this year and has the polish to develop into a strong point forward.

 
12
Adreian Payne
Michigan State, Senior (6-10, 245)
Last Big Board: No. 13
PF

Payne may be the most NBA-ready big man in the draft. At 6-10, 245 pounds, Payne has legitimate pro size, can space the floor (43.8 percent from three-point range) and bang on the glass (7.3). The knock on Payne: He's 23, and doesn't have the upside of some younger players at his position. Payne was brilliant in a 41-point, eight-rebound effort against Delaware in the second round of the tournament. He showcased the kind of skills that scouts would drool over if Payne were 19.

 
13
Nik Stauskas
Michigan, Sophomore (6-6, 205)
Last Big Board: No. 17
SG

Stauskas continued his long-range sharpshooting by hitting 7-of-15 threes in tournament victories against Wofford and Texas. The Wolverine has a lightning-quick release and combines his shooting with an efficient off-the-dribble game. The issue is the other end of the floor, though. One scout called his defensive potential in the NBA "a nightmare," but if he can develop into a serviceable defender, Stauskas' offense will make him a serious weapon.

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

Young is erratic, and his defense is weaker than that of Harris, one of his primary rivals on the two-guard depth chart. But when he's on -- like he was in a 13-point, eight-rebound performance against Wichita State -- he's dangerous. Young has tinkered with his shooting technique through the season, and though it isn't flawless, it's improved. With solid size, Young has the potential to become a solid starter.

 
15
P.J. Hairston
Texas Legends, (6-5, 220)
Last Big Board: No. 16
SF

A lack of consistency has plagued Hairston, who had a six-point dud on March 6, a 29-point outburst on March 19 and a 10-point (on 5-of-17 shooting) stinker on March 20. Scouts are enamored of Hairston's size (6-6, 220 pounds) and scoring potential. If Hairston were producing like this at North Carolina (21 ppg) he would be a lock for the lottery. The draft combine could be big for Hairston to address teams' lingering questions about his character.

 
16
Rodney Hood
Duke, Sophomore (6-8, 215)
Last Big Board: No. 8
SF

Hood's jump shot failed him during a 2-of-10 performance in Duke's season-ending loss to Mercer. Still, Hood shot 42 percent from three-point range this season. In recent weeks, scouts have been more vocal with their concerns about Hood's weaknesses -- ball handling, defense and mid-range game are chief among them -- which pushed him down this month's Board. But teams looking for shooting likely won't find a better option than Hood.

 
17*
T.J. Warren
NC State, Sophomore (6-8, 215)
Last Big Board: Unranked
SF

Warren is old school. He's an efficient, inside-the-three-point-line player with a pretty mid-range game and a knack for finishing through contact at the rim. It's rare NBA executives get excited about a swingman who can't shoot from deep (26.7 percent), but Warren is so strong in other areas that scouts are willing to overlook it. Warren is a minus defender, which could hurt him on draft night. But a team in the mid-to-late first round craving offense will snap him up.

 
18
Willie Cauley-Stein
Kentucky, Sophomore (7-0, 244)
Last Big Board: No. 14
C

Cauley-Stein is something of an enigma. He has tremendous defensive potential, with superior athleticism and timing that have made him a feared shot blocker (2.9 per game). He's solid on the glass, too, particularly on the offensive end. But offensively, there is not much there. Cauley-Stein could fall into the Mason Plumlee/Gorgui Dieng draft range, going to a team that can live with his offensive limitations.

 
19
Doug McDermott
Creighton, Senior (6-8, 225)
Last Big Board: No. 18
SF

Let the debate begin. Advocates for McDermott cite his diverse offensive game, developing step-back jump shot and three-point shot (44.9 percent, the fourth straight season it has been above 40 percent) that should easily be as effective in the NBA. Critics cite his lack of size and speed and wonder which position he will be able defend effectively. McDermott's best fit would seem to be a team that doesn't need him to be the focal point of an offense and can develop him slowly in a limited role.

 
20*
Kyle Anderson
UCLA, Sophomore (6-9, 230)
Last Big Board: Unranked
G/F
Anderson is a fascinating prospect. After Anderson played off the ball last season, UCLA coach Steve Alford made him the Bruins' point guard this season. And Anderson excelled, averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists while shooting 48 percent from the field and 48.3 percent (28-of-58) from long distance. Scouts rave about his ball handling and vision, as well as his ability to play under pressure. Defense is the issue, and a big one. Anderson doesn't appear to have the speed needed to defend faster playmakers.
 
 

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