Every year there are prospects who’s draft stock fluctuates as the year goes on. Some of the top projected players fall flat on their face, while some of the no name guys rise to occasion. Recent memory has seen top 10 recruits like Chris Walker go completely undrafted, while other players such as Elfrid Payton see their stock rise meteorically through strong performances in games and at combines. So here’s a look at this years biggest risers and fallers to this point in the season.
Rising: Kahlil Felder, Point Guard, Oakland
Kahlil Felder was one of the best players in the country last season, putting up averages of 18.1 points and 7.6 assists. Felder’s Grizzlies have already been mentioned in a previous article, but Felder has taken his game to a whole new level this season. The 5’9 point guard is averaging an eye popping total of 26.9 points and 8.9 assists per game. His best game may have been his last against Michigan State, the number one team in the nation. In that game, he had 37 points and nine assists before fouling out in the overtime loss. The junior point guard will get plenty of comparisons to Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas due to his size and scoring ability. With the career that Isaiah has had, Felder should be on the rise in draft boards.
Falling: Malik Pope, Small Forward, San Diego State
Arguably the biggest faller of them all, Malik Pope’s physical traits ooze NBA potential. He’s 6’10 with a 7’2 wingspan, very similar to Duke stud freshman Brandon Ingram. Where they differentiate is that Ingram actually has some skill to go along with his size. The former top 100 recruit only averaged 5.1 points per game last season, but hit 40% of his threes, which made NBA scouts drool over him. Pope was recently demoted to the bench, as he was off to an ice cold start. In 13 games, Pope has shot 28% from the field and 21% from three. Some NBA draft analysts had Pope in their lottery, but now it looks like he’ll be lucky to get drafted at all.
Rising: Henry Ellenson, Power Forward, Marquette
Ellenson has been one of the few top 10 recruits from last years class to really live up to expectations. Ellenson is reminding people of Kevin Love, because he can play inside or out and is a very good defensive rebounder. In 11 games, the freshman has six double-doubles. He’s the main catalyst in Marquette’s 9-2 start, as he’s averaging 16.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. His legitimacy will be tested in conference play, as he’ll have to go against the likes of Butler, Providence, Villanova and Xavier, who are all ranked in the AP Top 25. But if he can maintain a steady pace through the season, he’ll be the Golden Eagles’ highest draft pick since Dwayne Wade, who went number five all the way back in 2003.
Falling: Chieck Diallo, Power Forward, Kansas
Chieck Diallo didn’t get off to the hot start that he was hoping for. He was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for classes that he took in high school , but was cleared a month ago. Since his ruling was overturned, Diallo has been used sparingly by Bill Self. In 11 minutes per game, Diallo has averaged 6.5 points and 3.3 rebounds. Certainly not bad numbers for limited minutes, but the Mali native was a top 10 recruit out of high school. Always deemed as raw due to his skills, Diallo has made it this far on his hustle, athleticism and rebounding ability. If Diallo can continue to show these traits and build on his offensive game, there’s plenty of time for him to get his draft stock up.
Rising: Buddy Hield, Shooting Guard, Oklahoma
Arguably the best player in the country, Buddy Hield has his Sooners undefeated heading into conference play. The senior shooting guard is on fire early, averaging just under 25 points per game. Hield has gone over 30 points four times this season, including three in his last five games. He’s shooting a mind boggling 52% from three point range, making 3.4 per game. The leading candidate for the Wooden Award, Hield is making a push towards a lottery selection. One of my favorite players in the college game right now, Buddy Hield is proving that he is the top dog in college hoops.
Falling: Jaylen Brown, Small Forward, California
Another top 10 recruit, Jaylen Brown came out of high school being compared to All-Star Jimmy Butler. Unfortunately for Brown, he’s failed to live up to the hype. Expected to be a huge key in the turnaround of California basketball, Brown signed with other top 10 recruit Ivan Rabb (more on him next). Instead of being a savior. the freshman has struggled. He’s averaging 14.3 points, but is shooting a paltry 41% from the field, 24% from deep and 64% from the foul line. Expected to be a menace on the defensive end, Brown is averaging .3 blocks per game and .6 steals per game. He’s also fouling a lot and turning the ball over frequently. There’s still a lot of light at the end of his tunnel, but this certainly wasn’t the start that he, Cal fans and TJ were expecting.
Rising: Ivan Rabb, Power Forward, California
The other prize from Cuonzo Martin’s first recruiting class at Cal was Ivan Rabb. A local kid from Oakland, Rabb decided to stay close to home and join the Golden Bears. Unlike his freshman counterpart, Rabb has exceeded expectations, especially as of late. Rabb is only averaging 12.8 points, but he’s hauling in an impressive 8.8 rebounds per game. He’s shown good touch around the basket and has shown off a promising stroke from the foul line, leading to 66% shooting and 75% shooting at the line. He’s also getting a good percentage of blocks, rejecting 1.8 attempts per game. Rabb came into this year with questions surrounding his NBA readiness, now the questions should be about how high he’ll go in the 2016 NBA draft.
Falling: Skal Labissiere, Center, Kentucky
Skal Labissiere was the second overall recruit in the class of 2016, just behind LSU star Ben Simmons. The Haitain native reminded some people of Anthony Davis when he was at Kentucky. Labissiere has the same build and skills as Davis, just not polished enough. Instead of contending for multiple national awards like Davis, Labissiere has been a massive disappointment. Averaging fewer than 10 points per game and less than four rebounds, the start for Labissiere has been a forgettable one. He’s still making an impact on defense for the Wildcats, with 2.1 blocks per game. Labissiere, like Brown has tons of potential to be a star at the next level, but it may take longer for him to reach that potential than most people thought.
The players mentioned have had up and down starts to their seasons. We’re just over a month into the NCAA season, so theres plenty of time for each of these guys to either rise or fall.
Picture via campus insiders
Stats via ESPN