Chad Ford of ESPN wrote:
We have an interesting collection of players making our stock watch list this week. For one sophomore, skipping last year's draft looks like a very good decision. One college senior may finally be convincing NBA teams that he's a legit prospect. And two more freshmen are turning the heads of NBA scouts looking for upside.
Here's a look at some players who've hurt or helped themselves the past few weeks.
Also, check out our newly updated Top 100.
Eric Bledsoe, PG, Kentucky
In a draft without any great point guard prospects past John Wall, could the second-best point guard actually be his teammate? A growing number of scouts are coming back from Kentucky scouting trips saying exactly that after watching Wall's freshman backcourt buddy, Eric Bledsoe (especially those who see Oklahoma's Willie Warren as a 2-guard).
Bledsoe is clearly talented and there's no question that he's been playing in Wall's shadow all season. But dig deeper and you can understand why NBA scouts are intrigued. While Bledsoe doesn't have Wall's size or his PR machine, he's incredibly quick and an explosive leaper, and he's very, very tough -- almost to a fault (against Louisville, John Calipari had to pull him from the floor early to keep him from going after Reginald Delk). Unlike Wall, Bledsoe has shown the ability to nail the open jumper and is shooting an impressive 47 percent from 3-point range.
In a recent game against Florida, Bledsoe -- not Wall, Patrick Patterson or DeMarcus Cousins -- was the best player on the floor. While Bledsoe could clearly use another year or two of seasoning at Kentucky -- one in which he, not Wall, is the team's alpha dog -- more and more scouts are talking about the possibility that he will declare this year. If he does enter the draft, he could end up going somewhere in the mid-to-late first round. Or higher.
"If John Wall didn't play for Kentucky, I think we'd all be calling Bledsoe a lottery pick," one GM told Insider. "He's playing in the same backcourt as the best player in college basketball. But if you look close, you'll see it. He's an NBA talent all the way."
Al-Farouq Aminu, F, Wake Forest
Aminu is still a pretty raw prospect, but for the first time in his career, you are seeing him consistently live up to his potential. Aminu has always had a physical profile NBA teams covet. He's a "wow" athlete who flies up and down the floor. Last season, that's all he really was. This season he has become one of the best rebounders in college basketball and is quickly developing an offensive game that should convince teams that he could be a full-time 4 in the NBA.
With several other top prospects struggling to play well in big games this week -- Ed Davis and Wesley Johnson both fell short -- Aminu has risen into the top five for the first time.
Hassan Whiteside, F/C, Marshall
I'm not sure exactly what to do with Whiteside. He just recorded his second triple-double of his freshman season (and almost logged a third). The more NBA scouts go to watch him play, the more they come back intrigued. Scratch that. Infatuated. There just aren't many players with his physical profile. He's a legit 6-foot-11. He's a terrific rebounder and shot-blocker. He runs the floor like a deer. And, while far from having a polished offensive game, he's aggressive around the rim.
Whiteside is old for a freshman -- he turns 21 in June -- and the word in draft circles is that, given his age, he wants to make the leap to the league this year. He's all over the place on draft boards and teams haven't scouted him as heavily as other top prospects. But with more and more teams making trips to watch him play and pulling up his video on Synergy, that will change soon enough. With a huge matchup against West Virginia looming on Jan. 20, you can expect scouts to be out in force to see him in action. If he can perform well against West Virginia, you'll begin hearing his name in the lottery.
We've moved Whiteside up into the mid-first round. But he could easily be 10 spots higher or 20 spots lower in June.
Scottie Reynolds, G, Villanova
We've profiled Reynolds as a freshman, sophomore and junior. Every year NBA teams have been intrigued, but ended up feeling that Reynolds' lack of a clear position and elite athleticism kept him from being a serious NBA prospect.
This season that opinion is slowly starting to change. Reynolds is having the best season of his career. His numbers are up across the board -- including a dramatic increase in field goal percentage (from .400 last season to .505 this season). It's no surprise he's leading the No. 4 team in the country.
He still has many of the weaknesses that kept him out of the draft last year. But his improved leadership and shot selection combined with a dearth of point guards could mean this is the year Reynolds hears his name called in the draft.
Lance Stephenson, F, Cincinnati
Just when scouts were getting comfortable with Lance Stephenson the person, Lance Stephenson the basketball player went on vacation. For more than a year NBA scouts have had Stephenson pegged as a first-round pick if he could ever get his act together. For the first half of the college basketball season, Stephenson was on his best behavior and impressed everyone with his unselfishness on the court.
However, he's been struggling of late, averaging less than nine ppg in his past four games -- two of them losses. He hasn't made a 3 in those four games and has 20 turnovers to 8 assists. Despite those unimpressive stats, Stephenson may still attract first-round interest. But if he continues to struggle, teams are going to wonder whether he's worth the risk.
Kemba Walker, PG, UConn
After a terrific early-season performance against Wall, Walker was poised to move himself into the first round. Then ... ugh. UConn has lost four of its past six and Walker hasn't been great. He's been out of control (averaging nearly five turnovers per game), shooting a poor percentage from the field and slipping on the defensive end. Unless he really turns it around in the next few weeks, Walker probably needs to start looking at the 2011 draft.
Charles Garcia, F, Seattle U
Garcia was the "it" sleeper name in late November. But armed with scouting reports from a number of different NBA scouts who've seen him play, it's safe to say his 15 minutes of fame may be coming to an end. I've yet to talk to an NBA executive who has Garcia ranked in the first round right now. Much of that has to do with background concerns. But some of it has to do with play. In games against Oakland, Oregon State and most recently against Utah Valley University, he's looked nothing like a star. While Garcia is still on the NBA radar, he's no longer a serious first-round prospect. He'll need an amazing performance in the Chicago pre-draft camp and individual workouts to get back there.