Spartans’ Draft Stocks after NCAA Tournament

After a disappointing loss to UConn in the Elite Eight, four Spartans now have time to think about their NBA futures.

Adreian PayneKeith ApplingGary Harris and Branden Dawson are all targets of NBA scouts and general managers. Their draft stocks have gone up and down throughout the season, especially in the tournament. Here is where each player’s draft stock stands.

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Adreian Payne’s Draft Stock: UP

Payne had the best season of his college career and is peaking at the right time. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting just over 50 percent from the field and over 42 percent from beyond the arc.

Payne really developed his outside game this season, hitting 27 more three-pointers than his first three years combined. At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, he has an NBA-ready body that would be perfect for a power forward. His inside-out game has high value, but his post game needs a little work to be effective against the giants in the Association.

Payne projects to be a mid-first round pick just outside of the lottery. At age 23, he is mature enough to be a plug-and-play guy and could contribute right away in his rookie year.

A contender would like to have someone like Payne on their roster to be a role player that can handle the bright lights of the NBA.

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Keith Appling’s Draft Stock: DOWN

Through the first seven games of the season, Appling was in the conversation for best point guard in the NCAA. He averaged 16.9 points and 5.6 assists per game, shot 59 percent from the floor and 52 percent from long range. Those were All-American numbers.

In the eighth game of the season against North Carolina, Appling took a nasty spill and injured his right wrist. No one really knew the severity of the injury, and he played through the pain for 14 more games. His shooting numbers declined, but his overall production only diminished slightly.

Then, Appling missed three games in the middle of the Big Ten season. The idea was to let him fully heal and be ready for the final stretch. That is when things really went downhill.

For the rest of the season, he averaged 4.7 points and 3.7 assists per game, shot 45 percent from the field and only made two three-pointers. It seemed as if his injury became more of a mental problem than a physical one towards the end.

Appling is small for the NBA at 6-foot-1 (and that is a very generous measurement). He is lightning quick and is great at taking the ball to the hole, but might struggle with the trees down low when trying to drive. NBA scouts saw Appling’s true potential at the beginning of the season as a great shooter and an even better defender.

Appling is projected to go in the late second round or undrafted. He could be a solid backup point guard for a team that has a star guard already. He likely would not play much, if at all, right away, but is worth the gamble for a team late in the draft.

* * *

Gary Harris’ Draft Stock: UP

Harris could have left after his freshman campaign, but shocked many MSU fans by staying another year. This decision worked in his favor, as he led the team in scoring and ranked sixth in the Big Ten.

However, his shooting numbers did go down from last year and he really struggled at times. Harris’ field goal percentage dropped to 42.9 percent, down from 45.6 percent last year. His three-point numbers dropped even more. He shot 35.2 percent this year and 41.1 percent last year. This drop off is due to Harris having to take over the majority of the scoring load with Payne, Appling and Dawson missing significant time.

Harris is projected to be a lottery pick in this year’s draft. He is a bit small for a shooting guard in the NBA at 6-foot-4, but has huge scoring potential. His outside shooting numbers will have to improve for him to make a huge impact with his new team right away. As a role player who could come off the bench, he could quickly develop into a top-tier two-guard.

Based on where he is projected to be drafted, he will get a good amount of minutes right away. Harris plays lock-down defense, but might struggle initially trying to guard bigger two-guards. Given time and developed properly, he could have All-Star potential down the road.

* * *

Branden Dawson’s Draft Stock: UNCHANGED

Dawson’s future at MSU is uncertain, but odds are he will stay in school for his senior season. He has not made an official decision yet, but making the leap right now would be a mistake. His draft stock is unchanged because he was not ready for the NBA coming into this season and is not ready now.

After missing nine games with a broken hand, Dawson’s scoring output greatly increased. He finished the year averaging 11.2 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds per game. He shot over 61 percent just because he never left the paint.

At 6-foot-6, he is vastly undersized as a power forward and would never be able to play the same role he does at State, which is to swallow rebounds and make layups. Dawson does have springs for legs and is a freakish athlete, but athleticism only carries you so far in the NBA. He has absolutely no jump shot and needs to refine his ball-handling skills.

If Dawson stays a Spartan for one more year, he could develop a jump shot and use the season to prove to NBA scouts he can consistently score outside of the paint. He is basically the opposite of Kenny Kaminski, who is a big man that cannot score inside. The majority of NBA experts either do not think Dawson will go pro or think he will go undrafted.

An NBA team could take a chance on him based on his pure athleticism in the hopes that next-level coaching could help him with his jumper.

He is entertaining to watch and has tremendous upside, but is just not ready for the Association.


Blake Froling is the co-host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports


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