I don't think Simmons or Ingram is some kind of franchise savior. Simmons is a great fit as a 4 in the modern NBA though because he can guard inside and on the perimeter, rebound, handle the ball like a guard, and score inside. Even if he never develops a reliable jumper, he is still going to be a very valuable player. I see him as a better version of Draymond Green who can create offense on his own much better than Green.
Nolan Smith, G, Duke, Sr.
Because of Kyrie Irving, Kyle Singler and Mason Plumlee, Nolan Smith often gets overlooked as a draft prospect on a talented Duke team. However, Smith is coming off 28- and 33-point performances this past week against Miami and UAB respectively. My biggest question regarding Smith is whether he is a true point guard at the next level or will have to play the two.
Since taking over the point guard duties from Irving, Smith has become a better facilitator; dishing out 38 assists and committing just 16 turnovers during his last six games. Those stats do not jump out at you but are certainly an improvement. At this point, Smith should get late-first round looks depending on which underclassmen declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.
Jordan Taylor, PG, Wisconsin, Jr.
There is no real chance of Taylor leaving Wisconsin early, but I am starting to think he has a great chance of being drafted in 2012. I have seen Taylor play pretty much every game since arriving at Wisconsin - since I live in Madison and cover the Badgers - and do not see a kink in his game that would prevent him from getting to the next level.
He has an incredible 4.24 assist/turnover ratio, is shooting almost 40 percent from three, uses his quickness and physicality to get to the rim, and is a solid defender. Taylor may not blow anyone away with his athleticism, but understands the point guard position and that should translate well for his league potential.
Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse, Jr.
The Canada native has always been praised for his athleticism and ability to finish around the rim. However, there were concerns about his outside shot heading into the season as he hit just 22 percent of his triples as a sophomore. Joseph has upped that mark to 35.8 percent this year while continuing to display his ability to get to the rim and thrive in the open floor. If he can continue to show strides with his jumper, Joseph will almost certainly be a top-20 lock and could possibly sneak into the late lottery.
Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence, Sr.
Brooks went from not even being on my draft radar at the start of the season to someone who has a solid holding on a second-round pick. He has raised his scoring average from 14.2 per game last season to 23.4 so far in 2010-11. He is shooting an impressive 50.8 percent from the floor which means he is getting good looks at the basket and not forcing a whole lot of shots. Brooks is a decent outside shooter, but really excels at getting to the basket. He is also an effective rebounding for his size, grabbing 8.3 boards a game. Brooks has elevated his game against better competition scoring 27 against Syracuse and 28 versus Pitt.
Marcus Jordan, SG, Central Florida, Soph.
Michael Jordan's middle son has played a huge role in leading Central Florida to an unblemished mark this season. Despite seeing about the same playing time, Jordan has doubled his scoring from his freshman year. He has scored 26 points in each of his last two games, getting to the free throw stripe 25 times due to his strength and ability to get to the basket. Jordan can also stroke it from deep, shooting 43 percent from distance. At 6-3, he is undersized to play the shooting guard at the next level, but will certainly get looks whenever he decides to enter the 2011 NBA Draft; and not just because of who his father is either.
2011 NFL Draft Stock: Selling
Alex Oriakhi, PF, UConn, Soph.
Part of the reason for UConn's struggle early in the Big East play is the absence of a second go-to player to complement Kemba Walker. Oriakhi was expected to step into the role but has been a ghost in the Huskies' two conference losses, posting just eight points and one rebound against Pitt, and zero points and six boards versus Notre Dame. Foul trouble has played a major factor as he combined for just 42 minutes in those games. He has first-round potential but needs to become more of a consistent factor and better groomed offensive player before he thinks about leaving for the NBA.
Herb Pope, PF, Seton Hall, Jr.
The Hall's first-year head coach Kevin Willard said all along that he was going to ease Pope back into the lineup due to the near death scare he suffered last May when his heart nearly gave out on him. That has been the case as Pope's minutes have decreased meaning so to have his numbers. The most alarming statistic is his field goal percentage dropping from 46 percent last season to 36 percent this year. He is shooting the three ball more which factors into that dip since he is not a consistent outside shooter. After briefly declaring for the draft last summer, Pope is in for good if he decides to enter this summer. However, with his medical condition obviously still a factor resulting in a drop in his level of play, Pope likely would not get drafted.