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  • Dalton Pence

NBA Draft Stock on the Rise

Darryl Oumi - Getty Images

As conference play inches closer and closer in college basketball, certain players begin to rise up NBA draft boards. Attempting to foresee which prospects will ultimately rise up into the top half of the first round is a tall task; after all, we are over six months away from draft night. However, there is always a group that witnesses their stocks rise, some more than others. Ja Morant and Jarrett Culver are two from last year’s draft that watched their names skyrocket up big boards and mock drafts. Now, I’m not sure that there will be any rises of that caliber, but there are a couple of prospects to keep an eye out for.

F Obi Toppin

The last forward/big man to win the Lou Henson award for mid-major player of the year was Kyle O’Quinn in 2011-12 for Norfolk State; Toppin will pose as a serious threat to break that streak. In his sophomore campaign, the Dayton star is averaging 23 PPG on just under 70% shooting (50% from deep) to go along with 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game, respectively.

Despite only being 6-foot-9, Toppin’s 220-lb frame makes him a force on the boards and tough to guard around the rim. His basketball IQ and craftiness makes him a matchup problem similar to Tennessee’s Grant Williams last season. Projecting as a three-level scorer, Toppin excels in the pick-and-roll game; his ability to adjust mid-game to opposing defensive approaches increases his draft value as well.

The national landscape is beginning to fall in love with Toppin’s game after a strong showing in Maui during Feast Week, and he lands at 17th on my December Big Board. I would expect him to be a few spots higher in the January edition.

F Onyeka Okongwu

Okongwu has quietly put together an explosive start to the season in his freshman year at USC. The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 17.9 PPG on 61.6% shooting. The ridiculous amounts of energy that he plays with makes him a force around the rim on both ends of the floor. Okongwu is pitching in nine rebounds per contest while also blocking just under three shots. The Chino Hills product possesses a 7-foot-1 wingspan, granting him the ability to possibly be the draft’s best shot blocker.

Okongwu will need to continue to expand his offensive repertoire, but he is efficient and effective on both ends of the floor around the rim. Athleticism and length similar to his, mixed with his motor are hard to come by. He is currently 9th on my Big Board and could potentially rise up a spot or two come January.

G Jahmi’us Ramsey

Averaging 1.5 assists per game as a 6-foot-4 guard isn’t very appealing to NBA scouts, but the Texas Tech freshman has put his advanced scoring arsenal on display from the jump. Ramsey leads the Red Raiders with 17.3 PPG while shooting the deep ball at a 43.3% clip. Defensive projections are still too early to predict, but he grabs six rebounds and records 1.5 steals per contest, which is a good sign.

I have Ramsey slotted as the 20th best prospect, but would like to see his assists numbers increase along with his free throw shooting percentage. However, his athleticism is elite and he can score effectively at all three levels.

G Devon Dotson

All aboard the Dotson bandwagon! I will admit that I’m higher on Dotson than most. The 6-foot-2 sophomore is one of the best floor generals in the nation; he has a tremendous feel for the game and makes a ton of plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet ala hustle and IQ. The Kansas guard is averaging 19.7 PPG on 50/31/87 splits to go along with 4.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, and 2.1 SPG. Despite his seemingly-slow shooting start, he still projects as a more than capable three-level scorer at the next level.

Dotson’s speed and energy make him a dangerous opponent in transition, but he can run the pick-and-roll game as well. His well-rounded game is something every team looking to win an NBA title could utilize. He will most certainly be on my top-30 big board come January.

G Tyrese Haliburton

Haliburton doesn’t necessarily do anything great, but he is good in a slew of different areas. At 6-foot-5, the Iowa State sophomore is one of the most complete point guards averaging 15.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 8.9 APG (third in the nation). Despite shooting just under 40% from three, he will need to re-tool his jump shot due to mechanics. However, he has shown that he can knock down the open shot and his vision makes pick-and-rolls hard to guard for opposing defenses.

Sitting at #21 on my Big Board, Haliburton’s feel for the game, size, and overall balanced skillset could see him rise a few spots in the months to come.

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