The NBA Draft is rapidly approaching, the magical night once a year where your favorite team has a chance to make the pick that will change the franchise forever -- or send it straight back into the lottery 12 months from now.
That’s right, for every great under-the-radar player or star rising on draft boards, there are those who are slipping and could ultimately cost your GM or head coach his job.
So whose stock is falling as we head into draft night? Here are five players.
Jeremy BrevardUSA TODAY Sports
Terrance Ferguson, G, Australia
For the non-draftniks out there, Ferguson is the Dallas-bred guard who initially committed to Arizona coming out of high school but ultimately chose to bypass college and head straight to play professionally in Australia. But while the move was lauded at the time, it may have cost him in the big picture.
Understand that at this point a season ago Ferguson was projected by most as a legitimate top-15 pick, who at 6-foot-7 (and coming off a seven three-pointer performance in the Nike Hoop Summit) projected as a solid “three and D” guy in the NBA. But while that all sounded good on paper, it didn’t fully translate to the court in Australia, where Ferguson played just 15 minutes a game and inexplicably saw his three-point shooting drop to just 31 percent for the season. The fact that he also got suspended for one game thanks to an on-court altercation certainly didn’t help things.
Now admittedly, it’s hard to blame Ferguson for all his struggles, since he was playing against grown men overseas rather than players his own age in college. However, NBA competition is a lot tougher than what he ran into Down Under. The player who was once projected as a potential lottery pick now will go late in the first round at best.
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Justin Patton, F, Creighton
Patton was one of the pleasant surprises of the college basketball season, a raw recruit who redshirted during the 2015-16 season, only to blossom into a player the NBA took notice of during this past year. Patton averaged nearly 13 points and six rebounds per game during 2016, and when he declared for the draft in April he was presumed by most to be a lottery pick.
But as the draft process has worn on, questions about Patton have continued to surface. For starters, he struggled late in the season. Part of that was due to teams simply gaining more film on him, but he was also a completely different player without star point guard Mo Watson, who missed the second half of the year with an injury. It also raised questions about whether Patton’s production was due to vast improvement from his high school days, or the simple fact that he was playing with a great college point guard who was leading the NCAA in assists at the time of his injury.
More concerning was a lackluster effort at the NBA Draft Combine, where Patton registered just a 30.5-inch vertical leap, tying for the lowest mark at the event. The 7-foot center will still probably go in the first round, but with so many good big men in this draft it’s hard to imagine him sneaking into the lottery. Don’t be surprised if he slips to the mid or late 20s on draft night.
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Ivan Rabb, F, Cal
In the eyes of the NBA, Rabb had done virtually everything right – up until about one year ago. The 6-foot-10 forward from Oakland was a highly coveted high school player who chose Cal and led the Golden Bears to the NCAA tournament during his freshman season, while averaging a near double-double (12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds). And following that freshman campaign he was expected to join teammate Jaylen Brown in declaring for the NBA Draft, where he would have almost certainly been a lottery pick.
However, unlike Brown, Rabb surprised many and elected to return for his sophomore season in Berkeley. And though it’s hard to criticize any player for wanting to continue his education and improve as a basketball player, Rabb didn’t really improve as a basketball player. Asked to take on a bigger role, his numbers increased incrementally (14 points, 10.5 rebounds per game), but ask scouts and they’ll tell you his skills are basically the same as a year ago. Rabb is still a guy with limited low-post scoring ability who gets most of his offense off putbacks and dunks.
If anything, Rabb is a near worst-case scenario for players who elect to come back to college for an additional year. Though he’s probably a slightly better player and certainly more mature he's been passed by palyers such as Patton, John Collins and Ike Anigbogu who have burst onto the scene more recently. At best Rabb is looking at a potential late first-round selection and could fall into the second round.
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Thomas Bryant, F, Indiana
Bryant is in a virtually identical situation to Rabb. His stock was sky-high after a strong 2016 NCAA Tournament, but he elected to return to school anyway. Unfortunately, Bryant’s numbers plateaued in Year 2 in Bloomington, where his averages went from 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 2016 to 12.6 and 6.6 in 2017.
In Bryant’s case, some of that plateau can be blamed on the departure of an elite college point guard in Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell made everything easier for his teammates, and in the process probably made them all look slightly better than they actually were. That feels like the case for Bryant.
Even worse for Bryant is that his upside was never as high as most on this list, meaning that any drop off would be scrutinized more heavily. Add in a lack of improvement with an overall lack of athleticism and it seems like Bryant will almost certainly fall to the second round. It shouldn’t shock anyone to see him go undrafted.
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Harry Giles, F, Duke
For those of us who’ve watched Giles since his legendary high school days in North Carolina, it’s tough to see his name on a list like this. The 6-foot-10 forward was, at one point, unquestionably the best player in the 2017 draft class, a fluid forward equally comfortable stepping out and hitting three-pointers and dunking in people’s faces.
Sadly, that was a long time ago, and since then Giles has spent more time rehabbing from injuries than he has on the court. In total Giles has had three knee surgeries overall since 2014 (two on his ACLs) and missed his entire sophomore and senior seasons of high school. And after a precautionary procedure to clean out cartilage in his knee last fall Giles was slow to return to old self at Duke, where he averaged just 3.9 points in 11 minutes per game.
The good news is that reports to continue to circulate that Giles has looked better and better as the draft process has gone on. At the same time his medical history has scared some teams away altogether, meaning that at best, Giles will be a mid- to late first-round pick. It shouldn’t shock anyone, however, to see the former projected top overall draft pick fall to the second round.