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NBA Draft Stock Watch: March 2012

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Kansas forward Thomas Robinson goes up for a dunk against Oklahoma State on Monday, Feb. 25, 2012, at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson goes up for a dunk against Oklahoma State on Monday, Feb. 25, 2012, at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla. by Richard Gwin

Welcome to March.

I know around here that’s usually the time to talk about tournaments and winning streaks and match-ups and all that jazz. Don’t worry. We’ll have plenty of that in the coming days and weeks.

But the beginning of March also marks time for us to unveil this season’s first Hawks in the NBA “Stock Watch” blog, a regular feature that’s been floated around here during the past couple of years that examines the overall stock as well as the rise and fall of the KU players most likely to play professional basketball in the Association in the near future. This season’s team, with its lack of depth and proven star players, features just three guys who are showing up on mock drafts all over the Internet. Thomas Robinson is a lottery lock, Tyshawn Taylor fluctuates often but is trending upward, and Jeff Withey, a guy who was not really on the NBA radar midway through the season, has started to see his name pop up in the second round of many mock drafts.

Throughout the next few months, we’ll track the stock and status of all three of these guys as their NBA potential changes. It may be a little too early to make an accurate read on how things will end up, but this gives us a starting point.

*** It’s important to note that the NBA Draft Order has not been set yet, which explains why Robinson is tapped to go in the same spot to different teams in the various mock drafts used for this blog.

• THOMAS ROBINSON: JR., FORWARD, 6-9, 237 pounds
Stock Assessment: Entered the season as a pretty certain first-round pick and has emerged as a favorite to win both Big 12 and National Player of the Year honors and become a lock to be a high lottery pick. After playing eight minutes a game as a freshman and around 14 as sophomore, Robinson has flourished as the Jayhawks’ go-to player this season, something that has allowed him to showcase his overall NBA game for the scouts who appear to be drooling over his size, strength, athleticism and improving ability. Robinson will make big bucks at the next level as he has the size and strength to bang with the big boys and may even have the ball-handling skills, jumpshot and quickness to play some small forward.
Average Mock Draft Position: 4th.
Current High: 3rd (DraftSite.com)
Current Low: 5th (MyNBADraft.com)
Overall Movement: + On the Rise + Before this entry, I looked back at one of the final Stock Watch entries from the 2011 season and, in it, I noted that some of the mock drafts from last year that were looking ahead to the 2012 draft had Robinson listed as the 23rd pick of the first round. It goes without saying that he’s improved his stock tremendously since then. But it’s not just since that time that has him listed as “On the Rise,” Robinson actually has improved his stock from the midway point of this season, when he was somewhere in the 6-10 range but has now firmly put himself into the top five. At this point, I’d be surprised if Robinson falls out of the top five. Time will tell.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor throws up three fingers after hitting a three to start overtime against Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor throws up three fingers after hitting a three to start overtime against Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

• TYSHAWN TAYLOR: SR., GUARD, 6-3, 185 pounds
Stock Assessment: Taylor’s NBA potential has been a hot topic around KU for the past few years, and it’s a discussion that has varied substantially. Some, at one point or another, saw Taylor as the type of player who could become the next Rajon Rondo, the star point guard for the Boston Celtics. Others saw Taylor as limited and in possession of a game that doesn’t necessarily translate to the NBA level, largely because of its most notable flaws - inconsistency and a tendency to turn the ball over too much. But then the 2011-12 season happened — and, in particular, Big 12 play — and Taylor showed that, when dialed in, he could be a huge asset to any team. The jury’s still out on what type of pro Taylor will be, but, at this point, it looks like he’ll get his shot.
Average Mock Draft Position: 41st.
Current High: 28th (DraftExpress.com)
Current Low: Not Listed (DraftSite.com)
Overall Movement: + On The Rise + Coming into the season, Taylor was not listed on very many mock drafts for 2012. Today, although he’s still listed as a second-round guy on several of them, there are plenty of people out there who believe Taylor’s played his way into the first round. A strong finish and a solid showing in the NCAA Tournament could cement that.

Jeff Withey gets a hand on a shot by Baylor forward Perry Jones.

Jeff Withey gets a hand on a shot by Baylor forward Perry Jones. by Richard Gwin

• JEFF WITHEY: JR., CENTER, 7-0, 235 pounds
Stock Assessment: Based on what he had done during his first couple of seasons in Lawrence, it was nearly impossible for anybody to talk about Withey leaving school after his junior season to pursue a pro career. Not only had he played limited minutes and not shown a whole lot in terms of production, the 7-foot former volleyball player also had shown a tendency to get injured often, something that almost always drops a player’s stock a level or two. But Withey has been sensational this season, bringing toughness, incredible interior defense and even a limited but consistent offensive game, particularly at the free throw line. He’s now legitimately in the conversation and nobody’s laughing. In fact, a handful of KU fans may very well be worried about what the future holds.
Average Mock Draft Position: 38th on those sites where he’s listed.
Current High: 33rd (DraftSite.com)
Current Low: Not Listed (DraftExpress.com)
Overall Movement: + On The Rise + Had a ridiculous three- or four-game stretch that made talk of Withey leaving school early started to heat up. Then the 7-footer struggled against Missouri (again) and played an uninspired game against Oklahoma State and at least some of that talk calmed down. Here’s the thing about Withey, he’s got a couple of things that NBA scouts love and NBA coaches can’t teach — height and great timing as a shot blocker. Because of that, he’s destined to get a shot in the NBA at some point, the question now becomes whether he wants that to be sooner or later. Sooner might make his road tougher and later could land him in the lottery. Because he’s a junior, Withey should and likely will throw his name into the ring this year without hiring an agent. That would allow him to gather feedback on where he stands without comprising his college eligibility. We know Robinson’s going to be a Top 5 pick and Taylor’s a senior so he’s gone for sure one way or the other. Withey’s status could be the most interesting one to follow in the coming months.

Draft sites used for the player positioning portion of this blog include: NBADraft.net, DraftExpress.com, HoopsHype.com and DraftSite.com and MyNBADraft.com.

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