The biggest jump has been made by junior forward Jake Layman, who went from being considered a top prospect toward the end of his freshman year to a low second-round pick as a sophomore -- if he was even going to picked at all.
A lot will play out during the Big Ten season and NCAA tournament. Some scouts measure a player’s value when going up against another high pick, as Alex Len’s skyrocketed two years ago after dominating Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.
Layman, whose stock jumped when he put up 21 points and 12 rebounds in a win at Oklahoma State against Cowboys star Le'Bryan Nash and consistently had big numbers while Dez Wells was out a month with a fractured wrist, will get a chance to play against Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker (projected No. 17 pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, according to Draftexpress.com) next month in College Park.
Many scouts are uncertain about Layman since he is playing more inside this season for the Terps and is expected to be a small forward at the next level. Pro scouts I’ve talked to want to see Layman put the ball on the floor with more fluidity and become a more consistent 3-point shooter.
The only other Terps player who is being mentioned as a potential top draft choice is freshman point guard Melo Trimble. Now that I have Maryland fans all upset about the possibility of Trimble leaving after one year, he is being touted as the No. 18 pick in the 2016 draft, not this year's.
The one player who is conspicuously absent from most mock drafts is Dez Wells.
Though he has never been considered more than a mid second-round pick, even before getting hurt – mostly because he doesn’t project to have a true position in the NBA – his struggles since returning have thrown his status further into doubt. NBADraft.net lists Wells as the second-round pick of the Denver Nuggets, No. 58 (of 60) overall.
If he can continue to play as he did in the final minutes of Sunday’s 68-67 win over Northwestern – when he hit his last four shots, including the game-winner on a ridiculously-athletic banked follow of a missed 3-point attempt by Trimble, Wells should have the kind of stage to attract the interest of pro scouts.
It also doesn’t hurt that Wells has two pretty good mentors in the NBA – Washington Wizards All-Star guard John Wall, who grew up with Wells in Raleigh, N.C., and Los Angeles Clippers All-Pro guard Chris Paul, whose summer camp Wells has worked at the past two years.
Wells has actually become a better 3-point shooter this season, particularly from the corner, than at any point in his career. He has also bought into the idea of sharing the spotlight with Trimble and Layman, perhaps better than he did with Seth Allen and Nick Faust his first two years. What’s holding him back right now is playing too fast, and making careless turnovers as a result.
Just like Layman will get a chance to showcase his skills against some of the top players in the country, Wells has the opportunity to prove whether he can be a shutdown defender. He struggled last week with Indiana freshman James Blackmon Jr. On Thursday, he will get a chance against Ohio State freshman D’Angelo Russell.
One scout told me recently that “Dez is playing better” and that he “may slide into the second round.” He also cautioned that “it’s still early."