February 06 2016: Marquette F Henry Ellenson in the game between the Marquette Golden Eagles and the Xavier Musketeers at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Xavier defeated Marquette 90-82. (Photo by Jim Owens/Icon Sportswire)
NBA Draft

NBA Draft 2016: Stock Watch

Photo by Jim Owens/Icon Sportswire

We’re midway through the conference portion of the schedule, so it’s time to take a look at who’s draft stock has been rising and falling during this stretch. This draft has been a bit harder to predict than past drafts, because after the top two prospects (Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram) there remains a lot of uncertainty. Which prospects have been moving the most on draft boards during the last few weeks?

STOCK UP

Henry Ellenson 6-10 245 PF Marquette Freshman

While playing at Marquette in the Big East, the noise behind Ellenson has been relatively quiet. But Ellenson has been arguably the most dominant freshman in the country early on, displaying offensive versatility that will allow him to thrive at the NBA level.

My colleague Daniel O’Brien wrote about that versatility, and it’s hard to find another freshman who can do everything Ellenson can. Although Ellenson has struggled from three this season (just 28.8 percent overall), he’s hit a hot spell in his last six games, hitting 7-of-16 attempts from distance. Ellenson’s consistency has been surprising as well, as he’s registered double-figures in all but one game this season. Look for Ellenson to be picked in the lottery this year — it’s a relatively weak 2016 draft, and he’s one of the best overall talents in it.

Jaron Blossomgame 6-7 220 SF Clemson Junior

Blossomgame is a name few had heard before this season, but the junior has worked himself into a legitimate NBA prospect, with the chance he could earn first round status after next season with a strong senior campaign. Blossomgame has all the physical tools scouts look for in an NBA wing at 6-7 with good length and explosive leaping ability that allow him to block 1.5 shots per game.

Blossomgame’s really evolved as a perimeter threat, where he currently knocks down 42.4 percent of his threes. For comparison, he shot less than 30 percent in his prior two seasons at Clemson. His ability to stretch the floor should let him play on the wing at the next level, but he’ll have to work on adjusting his range and working on his ball-handling skills to do so. Right now, Blossomgame is a borderline first round pick in 2017, but more growth as a senior should solidify his spot next summer.

Jarrod Uthoff 6-9 220 PF Iowa Senior

Uthoff fits the mold as a new age small ball power forward, thanks to his lethal shooting ability combined with underrated athleticism and shot blocking prowess. Uthoff came into the season as a second-round pick, but a monster senior season has him creeping into an early second-round pick, with a chance as a late first rounder if things go his way with workouts and measurements. Uthoff is shooting a ridiculous 46.0 percent from three, as well as 47.1 from the field while blocking a ridiculous 3.0 shots per game. Check out this graphic from SI.com:

Uthoff Shot Chart

Yes, Uthoff has blocked more three-point attempts than 342 NCAA teams! His versatility is incredibly rare, and it wouldn’t shock me if Uthoff was a second-round pick who played a decade in the Association while teams regret not taking him for other “higher potential” prospects.

Honorable mention: Deyonta Davis (Freshman, MSU), Malik Beasley (Freshman, MSU), Diamond Stone (Freshman, Maryland)

STOCK DOWN

Skal Labissiere 6-11 220 PF/C Kentucky Freshman

Labissiere has to be first on this list, as many projected he be the lone competitor with Ben Simmons for the top pick in the 2016 draft. Labissiere has since seen his stock plummet, struggling with consistent playing time on the Wildcats. Labissiere hasn’t logged more than 20 minutes since December 19th against Ohio State.

Labissiere should be a lock to go back to school for his second season at Kentucky, where he’ll add some much-needed weight to his lanky frame to help him out in the paint at the college level. It’s easy to see his natural talent and touch, but Labissiere is missing too much from the other parts of his game to be successful at the highest level right now. Give him another year with coach Calipari, and watch Labissiere reach his potential as a top pick in the 2017 draft.

Damian Jones 7-0 250 C Vanderbilt Junior

Damian Jones is another big man who has failed to live up to his immense potential this season. Many saw Jones as a potential top 10 pick with his combination of size, skill and athleticism, but his inconsistent motor has hurt him in the eyes of NBA scouts. Jones still has all the tools to make himself a likely first-round pick if he entered this draft, but he’s rawer than the typical junior.

Jones reminds me a bit of another former Vanderbilt center, Festus Ezeli. Ezeli was taken with the last pick of the first round, and has turned himself into a pretty good player while sitting behind Andrew Bogut for a few years. If a team does the same with Jones, I could see him turning into a decent player with additional seasoning. Jones might not be the lottery pick many projected, but his size, talent and potential will still warrant a first round pick come June.

Marcus Paige 6-2 175 PG North Carolina Senior

Paige came into the season as one of the top senior point guards in college, but injuries have caused the guard to struggle this season. Paige suffered from a broken right hand and missed the beginning of the season, and also had an ankle injury before conference play started. Paige has been ice cold from the field this year, regressing in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage from his prior two seasons. 

Although Paige was only a deemed a potential second-round pick earlier this season, he’s been disappointing — Paige had a two-game stretch where he made just 2-of-17 from the field and just 1-of-12 from three. It’s unclear if Paige has struggled due to the hand injury, or if there have been other reasons as well. Regardless, Paige is off my draft board, and has to have a strong end to his senior season to become draftable.

Honorable mention: Isaiah Briscoe (Freshman, Kentucky), Malik Newman (Freshman, Mississippi St.), Marcus Paige (Senior, North Carolina)

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