We’re almost to the end of the nonconference schedule, which means it’s time to look at who’s been the biggest disappointment early on and had their draft stock fall in the eyes of scouts. Many prospects have come into the season with a lot of hype to impress NBA scouts, but a few have really struggled thus far. Who has struggled to meet expectations from my Preseason Big Board to now?
5. Skal Labissiere, Preseason Rank: 2
Labissiere remains one of the most offensively talented 7-footers on the board, but he simply lacks the physicality on the low block to be an effective defender right now with his lanky, skinny frame. Labissiere has just one double-digit scoring effort in his last five games. He’s really struggled to adapt to the way John Calipari likes to develop big men, forcing them to the low block and trying to improve his physicality in the paint.
Labissiere is much more of a pick and pop big man than anything else, and Calipari might have to adapt to him as much as anything for this season to be a success for Kentucky. Labissiere still has the look of a top five pick in 2016, but his struggles have been evident early on while Kentucky has disappointed as a top 5 team during the nonconference. There’s still time for Labissiere, but he’ll need to show major strides to gain his stock back from the first couple months of the season.
4. Nigel Hayes, Preseason Rank: 21
Nigel Hayes’ adjustment has been tough sledding from the third (or fourth) option last year to the first one this year as a junior. His shooting percentages are down across the board, as he’s shooting just 35.9 percent as a junior and 29.5 percent from behind the arc. Even his free-throw shooting is way down from a year ago, from 74.4 percent to 68.9 percent.
Defenses are honing in on Hayes and point guard Bronson Koenig for the Badgers, and with Wisconsin’s lack of talent and experience, the team hasn’t looked close to what they were last year. Hayes’ struggles haven’t helped that. Luckily, Hayes is only a junior, so there’s some time for him to learn what it’s like to deal with the pressure of a number one option. Hayes still has plenty of NBA intrigue; it’s just going to take another year before he becomes a serious candidate in the draft.
3. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Preseason Rank: 24
Mykhailiuk has still underwhelmed scouts this season after many predicted a breakout campaign for the second-year swingman. He’s taken a tiny step up across the board, but nothing that might make it seem worth it to leave school. Mykhailiuk is putting up a solid 8.3 points on 44.9 percent from the field, but just 36.6 percent from three-point land. But Mykhailiuk has scored double-figures just twice in his last six games for Kansas, lacking the inconsistency of many top picks in the draft.
Mykhailiuk still struggles to help produce in other statistical categories for Kansas, so there’s still a ways to go before he should take the leap into the NBA. Defensively, who knows if Mykhailiuk will ever be an above average player on that end with his lack of length and strength. The intrigue will always remain with Mykhailiuk thanks to his youth, but there still seems to be a lot of growth left in his game before he’s ready to make the just to the NBA.
2. Malik Newman, Preseason Rank: 17
Newman doesn’t even look close to a top 20 player in this class for Mississippi State, chucking up shots for a team lacking talent on the perimeter. Newman’s shooting just 37.8 percent from the field through the nonconference slate, and just 35.1 percent from three. For an undersized shooting guard looking to play lead guard at the next level, his 20 assists to 20 turnovers on the season aren’t too impressive either, so he’s got a ways to go as a prospect before declaring for the NBA draft.
Newman doesn’t impact the game defensively either, with just three steals on the season so far, so his overall game leaves a lot to be desired right now. Newman likely will still enter the draft despite his struggles early, but it’s probably better for him to stay in school, at least, another year. Right now, his role in the NBA is best suited as a scorer off the bench. There’s still a bit of upside to his game, but he’ll have to improve in all areas for a team to make him worth selecting in the draft.
1. Malik Pope: Preseason Rank: 15
Pope is the clear winner for the biggest faller, as he doesn’t even look close to the talent he was before having an injury as a senior in high school. Many thought there’d be a significant leap in his game after his freshman campaign last season, but he’s averaging just 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and only hit double-figures once this season. Pope is shooting a dreadful 29.1 percent from the field and 21.6 percent from three-point distance after shooting over 40 percent last year.
Pope doesn’t look like he’ll ever return to form from years ago, and that’s too bad because he was one of the most talented prospects in the country. His NBA outlook was once promising with his combination of length, height and ball handling. But now it seems like he’s simply lost confidence in his game, and the same can be said of scouts looking at him for the next level. Maybe his season will turn around, but right now, he’s simply undraftable with all his recent struggles.