Ford: Stock Watch - Redemption Song

Ford: Stock Watch - Redemption Song

Postby JSM on Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:07 am

Chad Ford of ESPN wrote:Three talented draft prospects have been sitting lower in our Top 100 than their talent warrants. Questions about work ethic, off-the-court issues and temperament have dogged them. All three are putting up terrific seasons without incident. Are NBA scouts beginning to look past their pasts?

Here's a look at those three players who are transcending character questions as they rise on our Big Board in this week's Stock Watch.

STOCK UP

DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Kentucky

For most of the season the refrain on Cousins has been the same: He's a lottery talent whom few teams would actually draft in the lottery. Cousins came to Kentucky with a high school rep of being both lazy and ill-tempered. He's been compared to other NBA pariahs like Derrick Coleman and Zach Randolph -- a compliment on the court and a slap to the face off it.

But lately NBA teams are changing their tune. Just a few weeks ago Cousins was on our "Stock Down" list and we lowered him into the 20s. Three weeks later? Cousins is in the top 10 for the first time this season.

Yes, there are still questions about Cousins' taking off plays on the defensive end of the court, and the game against Louisville showed off his short fuse. But his overall talent level? Oh boy.

Cousins is getting just around 20 minutes per game. But his per-minute numbers are off the charts, and his standard stats aren't exactly shabby: He's averaging 15.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg and shooting 55 percent from the field.

"There isn't a better low-post scorer in college basketball right now," one GM said. "Pure talent he's a top-four pick. Factor in all of the question marks about him as a kid, I still think he goes lottery. Can you name 14 players you'd rather have even with the baggage?"

That sentiment is growing rapidly. Some of the same GMs who had him ranked in the 20s at the start of the season all told me he's in the top 10 now. What's changed? Nothing really other than the fact that a number of top prospects have been underwhelming while Cousins gets it done virtually every night.

"Even if the guy is going half-assed," another GM said, "he's still got more upside than most of the players in the draft."

Stanley Robinson, F, UConn

In the summer of 2008, Stanley Robinson flirted with quitting basketball. He was struggling in school, he had two daughters to support and, after talking it over with head coach Jim Calhoun, Robinson took a semester off and sorted scrap metal for a living.

The experience opened Robinson's eyes to the realities of life and the opportunities that basketball could bring with a little hard work.

"It made me more hungry, and made me want to get back to doing what I had to do to get back to playing basketball," he said at the time.

Robinson returned in January 2009 and was an integral part of UConn's Final Four team last season. This season he's gone from being a talented athlete who is learning to play the game to one of the best players in the country.

Robinson is averaging 17 ppg and seven rpg while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the arc. His athleticism is jaw-dropping. On Saturday, in a huge win against Texas, he slammed home a MONSTER alley-oop dunk that was so powerful it seemed to shake the whole building.

By the end of the night UConn and Robinson had outplayed Texas' cadre of NBA prospects, UConn had pulled off a huge upset and it was almost impossible to keep justifying holding Robinson out of the lottery on our Big Board. Robinson has the physical tools and an emerging skill set to be a terrific NBA player. His jump shot has improved dramatically. So has his basketball IQ. Most importantly, the word out of Storrs this season is that Robinson has grown up. He's the leader of this UConn team. If NBA teams verify all of that in the draft process, he could crack the top 10.

Jerome Dyson, G, UConn

Robinson's teammate, Jerome Dyson, has had his own fair share of issues.

As a freshman he had the rep as a player who didn't work hard. During his sophomore season, Dyson was suspended by the team for 10 games after police found a small amount of marijuana next to his car after they pulled him over. His junior season went down in flames in February when he tore his ACL.

Down to his last season in college, most NBA scouts had written off Dyson as a legit prospect. How many undersized guards with recent knee problems and a team suspension under their belt are really NBA material? Dyson is trying hard to follow in the footsteps of A.J. Price, who overcame his own suspension and an ACL tear his junior season to become a second-round pick of the Pacers.

Dyson has been good as a senior, but his game against Texas on Saturday gave him his best argument yet that he's a legit NBA player. Dyson destroyed the Texas backcourt. He was unstoppable getting to the basket, and when the defense sagged, he knocked down 3s and ended up with a career-high 32 points on 12-for-23 shooting.

Dyson is definitely a slasher more than a shooter. He has an amazing knack for finishing around the rim. But he is also proving to be a decent passer and can hit the open 3 when he's given the chance. Just as important for NBA scouts, he's a lockdown defender who can guard both backcourt positions.

No one I've spoken with is ready to throw Dyson in the lottery or even the first round, but for the first time in several years he's seriously back in the discussion as a second-round pick. If he plays like he did against Texas for the rest of the season, his stock will continue to climb.

STOCK DOWN

Xavier Henry, G, Kansas

In early January it looked like Henry was the second-best freshman in the country and a potential top-five pick. However, he's been fighting through a horrific slump in Big 12 play and has raised all sorts of questions in the process.

Henry hasn't had a great game in a month. He was a red-hot shooter in December, but in January he's shooting just 30 percent from the field and just 11-for-36 from 3-point range.

It's hard to explain exactly what's going on. Henry has a great, NBA-ready body and a nice stroke. But his confidence has disappeared. It may have something to do with the glut of talent on KU's roster. He is playing alongside four, maybe five NBA players, and senior point guard Sherron Collins has recently moved back into his alpha-dog role.

While Henry seemed a lock to be a top-10 pick a month ago, that is no longer the case. He needs to have a big February to regain his lofty status.

John Henson, F, North Carolina

While Henry looked like the second-best freshman once the season got going, a number of scouts were referring to Henson in those terms before the season began. He has dropped a long way since then.

Henson isn't playing a huge role at North Carolina. But the minutes he does get haven't been overly impressive. He has struggled to score and made some pretty bad errors on both sides of the floor, and at this point, he looks hopelessly skinny.

No one is losing sight of the fact that Henson has the tool set to be great someday. But the emphasis, for now, is on someday. He's clearly not ready for the NBA. It's not even clear whether he's ready for college at this point. He's slipped out of our top 15 for the first time this season and could be in a free fall the next few weeks.
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JSM
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