Walter - I feel your pain re SD; they have had a huge injury list! I thing I note - doing analysis for AFL Australian football - is that teams with a huge injury list often underperform when they begin to get players back from injury; this is often because the injured players return a week too early and fail to fire (or get re-injured); also the players who have been carrying the extra load for them tend to relax that week; the trend in the AFL is that these teams generally miss the spread (often by a lot) as the year goes on - but they sometimes have 1 (maybe 2) unexpected wins against unwary middle to lower ranked teams. They may fire against JAX this week, but I would like a SD expert to tell us if the recently returned players are likely to improve.
Speaking of injuries - these are good reasons for being confident on TB and DEN this week. Harry Young, Melbourne
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State, Soph.
I have been really impressed the times I have seen Kawhi Leonard play this season. Leonard is far from a finished product but there are a number of things you have to like about his game; his athleticism, activeness on both ends and ability to rebound. He had 15 points, 17 boards against UNLV, 19-15 at New Mexico, and a modest 10-10 versus Air Force. If he can show a more consistent outside jumper, it is realistic that he could be a late lottery pick especially as he continues to get more exposure playing for the unbeaten Aztecs.
JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue, Sr.
Here is a player who stayed in school, continually worked on his all-around game and has improved in so many different areas. JaJuan Johnson has extended the range on his jump shot out to the three-point line and seems more comfortable playing with his back to the basket. Johnson is long and athletic, but his lack of strength will be his biggest challenge when making the transition to the NBA. Right now, I think he is a safe bet to get selected in the late first round but that could change depending on the number of underclassmen who declare for the 2011 NBA Mock Draft.
Jordan Hamilton, SG/SF, Texas, Soph.
I am really starting to be a believer in Hamilton. We all knew that he was a gifted scorer entering the season, but his shot selection is much better as he is shooting 42.3 percent from three. Hamilton is also starting to show more effort in other areas of the game besides just shooting the basketball. I think he has a legitimate shot at being a lottery pick especially with a weak crop of true shooting guards in the 2011 class.
Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn, Fr.
Napier impresses me more and more every time I watch a UConn game. He is a tenacious on-the-ball defender, and shows great poise and vision for a young point guard when running the show. There is no threat of him making the jump to the league, but once he takes the reins from Kemba Walker, I think there is great potential and the possibility of him being a mid-first-round pick down the road seems likely.
2011 NFL Draft Stock: Selling
Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke, Soph.
I know he is long and athletic for a 6-10 player, but it kind of blows my mind when I see him projected as a lottery pick this summer. Potential is a dangerous tool especially in the eyes of NBA GMs, but Plumlee is nowhere near being ready for the next level.
He provides absolutely zero inside presence on the offensive end, will not be able to bang down low with NBA bigs, and does not possess the perimeter game to play the three. The middle Plumlee does rebound the ball well at the college level and block shots due to that aforementioned length and athleticism (like we saw Wednesday night against N.C. State), but he has scored five points or fewer in eight of his previous 10 games. I know he plays on a loaded team, but I expect a lottery prospect to get his as well on any team. Barring a major improvement between now and the end of the season, I would really be shocked if he turned pro.
Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State, Sr.
Due to a number of reasons, Pullen has taken a step back this season as his Wildcat team has really struggled early on. At the beginning of the season, I felt that Pullen could have late-first-round potential if he took ownership of the point guard position at Kansas State; something he has failed to do. His outside shot has been far more inconsistent this season as opposed to a year ago and being just 6 feet tall might be too big of an obstacle for him to overcome at the next level if he cannot run the point. Right now, he is in serious jeopardy of possibly going undrafted.