- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
We're nearing the end of the college basketball regular season. NBA scouts are out in force getting their final scouting reports before the conference and NCAA tournaments.
While there aren't many major surprises at this point in the season, here are the players NBA scouts are (or aren't) buzzing about.
Also be sure to check out our updated Top 100 and our updated Mock Draft Lottery Machine.
Evan Turner, G/F, Ohio State
It's hard to put into words how hard NBA executives have fallen for Turner. His play since returning from a back injury has been stellar. If John Wall didn't have such superstar potential, Turner would have a legit shot at going No. 1.
Turner's do-it-all game has GMs salivating. They love players who can play three positions, and Turner has proven night in and night out that he'll be able to do that in the pros. His leadership, ballhandling skills, floor vision, scoring ability and rebounding ability should make him comparable to Brandon Roy at the next level.
While teams still have some concern about his deep range, and a few GMs continue to remind me that they'll be taking a close look at his back MRI, I don't think it's a stretch to say that Turner is close to locking down the No. 2 spot in the draft.
DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors could give him a run if the team drafting No. 2 needs a big man. But with Cousins' personality issues and Favors' so-so production, I think Turner gets the nod in virtually every scenario.
Xavier Henry, G, Kansas
Henry rose all the way to No. 5 on our Big Board earlier this year before hitting a major midseason speed bump. Henry's shot stopped falling and his role with the team receded as veterans Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich took over in conference play.
Henry's stock quickly began to slide and scouts questioned whether he had anything else to his game besides a jump shot. Over the past few weeks, though, Henry has finally found his groove again. His shot has started falling and he's started to get a little more aggressive taking the ball to the basket. In key Big 12 matchups against Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma, Henry looked like the most talented Jayhawk on the floor again.
His recent increase in production has put him back into the late-lottery discussion. While he's not ready to crack the top 10 anytime soon, if he can stay hot through the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, he could make it back there by draft night.
Jeff Taylor, F, Vanderbilt
I came into the season very high on Taylor. He's a terrific athlete who can play multiple positions. After a strong end to his freshman campaign, I didn't think it was out of the question that he could be ranked as a lottery pick by now.
Alas, Taylor got off to a slow start in front of a number of NBA scouts at the Maui Invitational and stayed in a funk until February. However, this month he's begun to show the promise we expected before the season.
What's changed is Taylor's aggressiveness. He's taking more shots and, more importantly, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket with much more regularity. When he does this, it's hard to stop him. His best game was in a big Vandy win over Tennessee. Taylor went 7-for-12 from the field and a perfect 12-for-12 from the line. He also had a big game against Ole Miss and was good, but not great, against Kentucky.
If Taylor can put up a big performance or two in the tournament, he's the type of player who could shoot up the rankings quickly based on his athletic profile. Right now we have him in the 20s on our Big Board, but there's room for him to go higher.
Solomon Alabi, C, Florida State
Size rises as we get closer to the draft, but lately, Alabi has been sinking. The big man from Africa has his admirers, but lately he hasn't played worthy of a lottery pick. Alabi has scored in double figures just once in the last six games. Even more pathetic, he's averaging fewer than 4 rebounds per game in his last six. While Alabi has his eye on declaring for the NBA this spring, he might want to think twice.
A number of GMs I spoke with no longer have him ranked in their top 14. For someone with so much athletic potential, he might be better off returning to school for his junior season and proving to scouts that he can, at the very least, rebound and block shots.
Jordan Hamilton, F, Texas
There is no question that Hamilton is teeming with talent. He's a Rashard Lewis-type small forward who can let it fly from distance. But Hamilton, more than any other Longhorn, has really hurt his stock this season with poor shot selection and even worse basketball IQ.
Even when Hamilton gets hot (against Oklahoma State and Missouri, for example) the reaction from scouts has been tempered. His bad shots are going in, nothing more.
It will be interesting to see what Hamilton does. From the sound of things, he and coach Rick Barnes don't really see eye-to-eye and he'd like to make the jump. Scouts see him as a potential lottery pick down the road -- but not this year. If he declares now, he could slip all the way to the second round.
Syracuse sensation Wesley Johnson has been struggling of late, but scouts aren't too concerned. Two injuries suffered in games in February (a bruised hip and a bruised hand) have cooled him down considerably.
Johnson recently told the New York Times that his shooting hand still swells and it makes it difficult for him to catch the ball. Once he gets healthy again, I'd expect him to return to form. Right now, Johnson looks like a lock for the top 10.
Marshall big man Hassan Whiteside continues to wow scouts. Whiteside posted his third triple-double of the season, going for 14 points, 11 rebounds and 13 blocks against Central Florida last week.
GMs have been flocking to Marshall games the past few weeks to get a good look at him before the draft. Given his age and his hot draft stock, the word is that he's likely to declare. While he's a bit of a project, it looks like he has a great chance of cracking the top 10. We've had him in the lottery for the past few weeks and he continues to climb.
UNC forward John Henson may not declare for this year's draft, but lately he has shown why many scouts had him rated as one of the top three talents in this year's freshman class. With Ed Davis out the rest of the season, Henson has stepped in as the starting power forward and has played well. His scoring numbers aren't off the charts, but he delivers in a number of other ways.
The chances are likely that Henson will return to school for his sophomore year. He needs to add a lot of strength and polish to his game. If he does return, expect him to be a top-10 prospect in 2011.