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2021 NBA Draft Guide

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Pre/Post Draft Reading

Big 12 Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Before we dive in, just want to note that I didn’t get to every single player I wanted to. I had a few things pop up and also I throughly underestimated how long it would take me to collect my thoughts on 50 players. Any person I attach is someone whose work I respect and I would be honored to attach my name to. Just wanted to apologize for not getting to all 50 as I was hoping to.

Hello all, I hope you’ve had a wonderful day and you’re amped for the 2021 NBA Draft! I am VERY ready for the draft, it feels as though I’ve been encased in it for the past year when in reality it’s been rough two and a half months. While I have no intentions of passing myself off as an expert, I think I’ve really found a nice niche doing draft work this offseason, which I plan on continuing along with NBA coverage throughout the year.

I love the NBA because I love the monotony of 82 games, not for the repetition, but for the breaks and twists that occur throughout it. Watching Darius Bazley get 25% usage, Naji Marshall burst onto the scene, and Edmond Sumner blossom as a rotation player with ever growing confidence: This is why I watch basketball. Progression is an amazing thing to watch unfurl in real time.

Scouting prospects has been a breathtaking revelation for me. Unearthing the game of a player who you’ve never seen play before is rather amazing. I feel like I have a very solid and steady grasp of who NBA players are in the moment; I don’t have that with prospects, and that is both frustrating and awesome simultaneously which drives me to continue digging up more and understanding what makes someone tick and drive their game. Why does Deuce McBride struggle to get to the rim? What are Corey Kispert’s nuances as a shooter? What is mainstream consensus missing with Jaden Springer? These are just some of the questions that pop up for me and have driven me to compiling this draft guide.

I’m not PD Web, Mike Schmitz, or Sam Vecenie. I don’t want to pass myself off as a full time scout and those are three absurdly fantastic minds that I wouldn’t contemplate comparing myself to. However, I treated this draft like a full time job since the Pacers season ended, and combined with gathering intel and knowledge from others I respect and trust while diving into the draft class on top of my encompassing views of the NBA, I feel very comfortable with my evaluations and understanding of this draft class (barring some international prospects I was unable to watch tape of).

The biggest realization for me this year through watching basketball of all levels was the value of playmaking and ball handling. I used to view most basketball skills on a linear scale, with each nearly equal in terms of their value and teachability. THAT is just not the case. You can teach a player how to shoot and play defense, of course again, with variation based on case by case basis. However, a coaching staff and player development staff cannot really teach someone how to be a better ball handler or passer, and court vision is just not something that can be taught either.

Two great pieces that opened my eyes to the value of ballhandling and basketball feel were from Jake Rosen and Evan Zaucha. Jake on second side creation - http://jakeinthepaint.com/size-skill-and-smarts-franz-wager-has-the-juice/

Evan on developing feel in basketball as well as looking at teaching principles in practice - https://ezhoops.co/2021/01/04/feel-and-feel-accessories/

I recommend taking the time to read both, but for a TLDR explanation: Feel, vision, playmaking, and intangibles are things that come through reps and possibly some inherent ability as well. You can’t drill people into being a primary ball handler, otherwise everyone would do it. On second side creation: I interpret a lot of Jake’s piece in looking at how continuing a possession can in some ways be more valuable than finishing it. Finishing a possession with a shot is great, it of course depends on the shot, but point being, the ability to attack a bent floor/defense and create more advantages can oftentimes be more valuable than finishing a possession outright. Shooting is so so important, but the ability to keep the ball moving, find better gaps, and get to the rim just has so much value.

I think my board really shows that line of thought. I try my best to remove bias throughout this and be fair to each and every player while being realistic, because they deserve that.

I’d also add that I hate using numbers and ascribing them to people, but I genuinely did not have time or software to create a better way of viewing this draft class. I am hoping to change that up when I do this next year. That being said, the numbers are mostly fluid once you hit the mid lottery. Which leads into my next main point

Nuance and context are so important and that’s something I try to hammer home in how I cover basketball routinely. It matters just as much if not more with the draft. Having a player ranked in the 20s doesn’t mean I don’t think they couldn’t go lottery. For instance, there are situations and fits that make sense for a player to get drafted higher or lower. Drafting the best player available is important, but who that best player available is changes on who is drafting, what their opportunities will be, and how the front office/coaching staff of that organization collectively see that prospect. SO please keep that in mind, I think all players have real value and it varies upon role and team, but I certainly thing certain players have skills that are harder to find/teach and flaws that are difficult to mask.

The last thing I’ll add before we really dive into this: I am probably going to be wrong! I don’t care if I’m right frankly, I just love basketball. I’m going to learn a lot from this cycle and how I view the game will change. It’s all love, it’s all basketball, and man I just want every single prospect to succeed in this. So without further ado, let’s talk about the 2021 NBA Draft Class.

I kept it short on the Top 4, many fantastic writers and scouts have done them justice. I added a few of my own thoughts, but my main focus is the remainder of the draft.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 27 Oklahoma State at Oklahoma Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

1: Cade Cunnigham, Oklahoma State

Cade Cunningham is one of the most remarkable players I’ve watched outside of the NBA level. Everything about him on court is predicated by precision blended with calculated damage.

The biggest knock that is routinely repeated in regards to Cade is a lack of elite athleticism, which has some fairness when looking at a relatively good but not great first step. However, the new found propensity as a pull-up shooter in his lone college season has eschewed much of that concern as he has found a way to bend defenses even farther to his will.

Cade is unequivocally the best playmaker in this draft and leverages that with his size, excellent court vision, handle, and scoring gravity. He can take it to the rack, punish mismatches in the post with fantastic footwork, and abuse defenders for going over ball screens.

Add in that he was a very good defender against good competition with a massive creation load (2nd in usage in the Big 12). He flashes weakside rim protection as a back line roamer. He can hawk off-ball and has the size and strength to spend time on bigger wings.

Yes, he had more turnovers than assists at OSU: Good. Cade is daring with his passes. He wants to break a defense, not just move it. Young creators should be making mistakes and working through them, testing the limitations and barriers presented by the defense. It’s also worth noting that the best shooter in Stillwater outside Cade, was Avery Anderson who shot 32.8%. The floor spacing was just not there as a team.

You can try and poke holes in Cade’s game, but man that’s just fruitless. What Cade brings is the most all encompassing, cerebral skillset and playing ability in the draft class.

USC v Kansas Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

2: Evan Mobley, USC

No one has been done a disservice by the draft cycle quite like Evan Mobley. The bad faith narratives crafted around his ‘Want to’ and ‘Competitive fire’ are dishonest, frustrating, and just unfounded. Judging who a player is and their personal desires strictly off of body language is malpractice.

Now that that’s aside, Evan Mobley is the fairly clear cut second best player in this draft. I can understand some situations where a team might rather bet on Jalen Green for team building reasons, but I firmly see Mobley as having nearly the highest ceiling in this class.

He is part of the new wave of bigs coming into the league adapting to the last five years of modernization; he can handle and run the break like a wing, is coverage versatile on defense while solidifying the back line with stellar rim protector, and has fantastic touch on a variety of hooks and floaters, it’s pretty likely that he shoots and he more than has enough juice with his handle to attack a closeout. Mobley is a special prospect who would’ve had a real case for the first pick if he were in the 2020 draft.

One of the real concerns about Mobley is his strength and high base, leading to struggles as a post defender. That really doesn’t bother me. Will he be able to guard Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid straight up in the post? No, and there are few if any who can for more than a few possession stretches.

Simply put, if Mobley puts it all together, there are very few players currently in the NBA that could match his combination of size, feel, athleticism, and skill. Even if he doesn’t hit his higher outcomes, he is going to be a highly impactful player, but adding functional mass and strength will be huge for him.

Agua Caliente Clippers v G League Ignite Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

3: Jalen Green, G League Ignite

Jalen Green’s ability to generate separation and create space are on a level that no one can really compete with in this class. He is the quintessential highlight reel bucket getter who rattles the rim with ferocity. Some of the dunks this man pulled out in the G League were on another level of audacity.

The handle is kind of clunky right now and is a work in progress, which will be a swing skill of significance for him at the next level. My god the scoring gravity is going to be there, but can he leverage an improving handle into making more consistent and complex reads as a passer? That is the golden question.

While I understand the comps for him, often Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal, I get held up with those (and comps in general). He profiles and projects as a flexible two guard who could be one of the better scorers in the NBA. However, there’s just an inherent bias that’s come in regards to how that impacts winning. I don’t find that capable of being judged until we see someone at the NBA context frankly. I’m sure some disagree with that notion, and that’s fine, but I think we need to be careful with archetypical attribution.

At the moment, his off-ball defense is pretty poor, and the on-ball has flashes, but overall he’s coming in as a negative defender. But, he has excellent size and length despite a pretty slight frame. I’d bank on him finding his way as a defensive positive in due time.

I’m also very intrigued by how he can grow into his body and what that might mean for opponent foul rates. The moments of sheer brutality on rim runs with a more rounded out frame could lead to advantages as a free throw drawing maestro.

Baylor v Gonzaga Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

4: Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

Jalen Suggs just does everything on the court at an average or above level, which I mean as a compliment in the highest regard. In some ways, that’s been used to try and negate his case as one of the top prospects in the draft and I find that vexing. While I don’t think he has the requisite skills to be a lead ballhandler or shot creator in the NBA, he is going to be capable of being one of the best players on high level playoff teams who can carry out numerous roles well, and that means a great deal.

Who he is as a shooter is really going to matter at the next level. I think the shot is better than the sub 34% from this season based on past production before college. It’s worth noting as well that he was significantly better pulling up from three than at a standstill. He has things to improve in regards to shot preparation, but that pull-up sticking for him longterm fundamentally changes how he can impact a defense as mentioned earlier with Cade.

One of the things I remain consistently impressed with is his body control inside the arc. He’s not an excellent leaper, but he has guile in the paint with his ability to workshop a finish mid-possession or at the end of a drive that gets interrupted or a barrier is presented.

The defense isn’t quite what it’s been made out to be. He excels in ground coverage, but can disengage slightly when he’s not part of an action, with a sort wavy awareness rather than a consistent head on a swivel. The on-ball looks better than it is right now because he’s incredibly high effort and energy. The positioning needs work and he’s not an elite lateral athlete, but the tools are there for him to become one of the better guard defenders in the NBA.

Betting on a primary option is always a great idea, but that shouldn’t be a reason to fade Jalen Suggs, who is going to have one of the best careers in 2021 class barring injury. I hope teams recognize that he’s not a primary right now (I never want to say someone won’t be, outlier growth happens, I just doubt it personally) and don’t try to force him into a high usage ball dominant role. Second-side actions and bent defenses will be absolute money for Suggs as he operates out of pick and roll and finds his way as a creator at the next level.

NBL Rd 14 - Sth East Melbourne v Adelaide Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

5: Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers

Giddey is where I start to diverge a bit from consensus. He’s a passing genius in tandem with the audacity to throw some absolute crap at the wall, which I love in a young ballhandler. Quick aside, applaud young players for trying things even if it results in turnovers. Free flowing offense without capping your own ability is the way to go (with some restraint of course).

Giddey is 6’8, one of the younger players in the draft, and has absolutely incredible court vision and awareness.

I’m so high on him because I find the things that he needs to improve on things that he will improve on. The more he can leverage some of the swing skills, the greater his opportunities will be. He’s never seen the inside of a weight room until this past year in the NBL, which I find encouraging. Can a professional athletic training and strength & conditioning staff find some extra flexibility in Giddey to help unlock extra burst and power? He’s quite upright currently and has minimal bend in his lower boy.

He started off 2/20 from deep in the NBL but capped the year shooting 35% from three the remainder of the season with many self-created attempts. Can he develop that pull-up shooting to give himself even more room to operate?

Even if he doesn’t unearth more primary equity, he has a role on any NBA team as a 6’8 wing with fantastic instincts. I doubt he’ll ever be a very good defender, due to his athletic limitations and lack of elite length, but he has promising albeit inconsistent off-ball acumen. Being big and seeing the floor well makes it hard to be a bad defender and I think he’ll make his money as a helper.

I just don’t think you can go wrong betting on elite playmaking and trying to develop the rest of a player’s game.

SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Tennessee v Florida Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

6: Jaden Springer, Tennessee

Jaden Springer not being seen as a lottery pick by consensus is crazy to me. I’m not sure what the real knock is. He had a good and productive season and was pretty clearly the best prospect at Tennessee (no shade to Keon). He’s definitely not the 43.5% shooter he was, but the stroke is good on his jumper, there are flashes of off-the dribble shooting, and he’s a very good free throw shooter on high volume.

He played much of the year with an ankle injury and his burst and on-ball juice was hampered by that. Springer looked burstier and more fluid at the combine. I think that context is important, seeing how he operated this year even with that kind of barrier was impressive. He flashed so much as an interior presence, utilizing his strength and frame to craft angles and power his way to spots. I’m so encouraged by his overall feel and ability to find and make small passing windows, which is why I’m so high on him.

With a healthy ankle and encouragement with his jumper, I believe in Jaden Springer as a potential primary. 2.9 assists per game greatly misses and misreads his ability as a playmaker and with better spacing at the next level, I buy that jump as a possibility for him.

He is also perhaps the best perimeter defender in this draft while being nearly the youngest player. His strength and tenacity at the point of attack are absurd and he’s attentive off-ball with room to improve and great length.

Springer is certainly more of a combo guard coming into the NBA, but he’s got a compact and low handle that I believe will help him unlock more moving forward. I just don’t know how you don’t bet on Jaden Springer. If he falls to the late 20’s like projected, there will be 20ish teams pondering why they passed on Springer in a few years.

SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Arkansas v LSU Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

7: Moses Moody, Arkansas

Moses Moody is considered THE 3 and D prospect of the 2021 draft class, which I get. He’s an excellent shooter and defender. However, I find that that belittles his potential as 3 and D is just the floor for him and the known commodity coming into the league.

It’s important to note right now that he’s not an above the rim finisher and overall a poor finisher with a mechanical, but functional handle. I’m not entirely sure how much is there for him to improve as a finisher, but he was a free throw machine at Arkansas (9th in free throw attempts at the D1 level) which was able to mitigate some of those woes.

He’s a good pull-up shooter from mid-range and a willing off the dribble shooter from 3. I think Moody can and will quicken his release at the next level, while improving his footwork as well. He has good shot preparation, but I would love to see him clean up some of his off-ball movement to flow into his shots. Moody isn’t the tightest coming off screens and finding any extra time to get an open window would be great at the next level for him.

Moody is a very solid if not flashy defender. I think there’s still quite a bit to clean up, but he slides well laterally and knows how to use his supreme length to keep his opponent in front of him. I’m interested to see how he fills out as well and if he can strengthen his base to improve his versatility guarding some bigger wings. He actually navigates screens fairly well which is so difficult for someone with arms that long. Filling multiple roles defensively matters, and on top of the shooting, it’s hard to envision any scenarios in which Moses Moody isn’t on the floor.

That’s why I find him so intriguing, I think the idea of Moody is that he’s this kind of bland prospect who has the ideal build for a guy who rounds out a lineup and that’s why he’s oft mocked later in the lottery. My thing with Moody is that I look at his current skillset more as a raised up blank canvas. While I’ve routinely hit on how difficult it is to develop playmaking, I think Moody has some untapped potential there. His gravity is going to grow at the next level as his self-creation improves off the bounce.

As he manufactures more of those angles, there’s room for Moody to find modes to playmake. He was a solid passer at Arkansas, but I’d really love to see him attack the defense more and maybe even force some more tough passes. He will almost always choose the safe pass, which is fine, but there’s something there if he’s encouraged to open that part of his game up and capitalizes.

That’s not to say that I think he’s going to run an offense, but the ability to shoot from behind screens and run a pick and roll opens the opportunity to create easier and more open passing windows. Moses Moody has much more upside than he’s given credit for and is not just a 3 and D wing. I think finding the right situation and coaching staff that envisions developing him into a second-side creator and is patient won’t regret it.

Auburn v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

8: Sharife Cooper, Auburn

I’m consistently baffled at Sharife Cooper’s lack of buzz and low stock in mock drafts. We are way overthinking his NBA stock collectively, focusing more on his weaknesses than paying attention to his strengths. Cooper is calculated chaos on the court, a paint touch savant.

He will be one of the shortest players of the NBA, he’s not currently a threat from deep, and those are the two real concerns with him. He’s also the second best overall playmaker in the draft, just behind Cade and alongside Josh Giddey in the same tier. He has very good but not quite elite touch inside the paint, with craft on floaters and an insane propensity for getting to the rim where he draws fouls at an absurd rate; he was 16th in free throw attempts in the SEC while playing only 11 games.

Sharife commands all 4,700 feet on the court, slicing his way to anywhere he desires, carving the defense to pieces with both audacious and precise passes. He’s an excellent lob passer, can hit either corner cross court with ambidexterity, and routinely crafts new passing angles that few can with his stellar court vision.

As is a common theme for the players being bet on as primary options, the pull-up shooting will be so significant. Sharife’s shot was ugly at Auburn with this awkward lean into it. During the pre-draft process, it appears that he’s reworked his upper body motion and cut out some of the oddness of it. Even while struggling, shooting just ~23% from 3, he still took nearly 5 per game which is a massive plus for me. He has excellent touch indicators both with his ability to finish and passing accuracy on top of the positive free throw shooting; he’s going to become a more consistent shooter and without shying away from shots, I expect that he’s going to be just fine.

Sean Derenthal and Mike Gribanov, two excellent scouts, did a great podcast over on The Stepien that outlined the cases for and against Sharife Cooper better than anyone has this cycle.

If I were a team, I would not be interested in missing out on Cooper. Even if he doesn’t hit his higher outcomes, he brings one of the 4 or 5 most elite skills in this draft. I would really like to see a late lottery team (cough cough Pacers) swing on Sharife and take a stab at outlier. If he were 2 or 3 inches taller, he would be a lock to go top 10; a team that is trying to hit higher levels that is consistently in the playoffs has a chance at one of the players who could return the best value in the draft. Don’t overthink it.

Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

9: Franz Wagner, Michigan

Franz Wagner brings versatility in many ways to whichever team he gets drafted by. Lineup versatility through his combination of size, length, and mobility. Offensive versatility via his shooting, playmaking, and court mapping. And defensive versatility with the ability to play multiple roles and excelling with his exact aggression and ground coverage.

I think many people see Franz from afar and think he’s not much of an athlete, and I get it, he’s lanky and not the fastest guy on court by a longshot. It’s important to look at him through different lenses. He might be the best lateral athlete in the draft at his size. The ability to slide East/West use both his hands and feet to keep offensive players contained is ridiculously impressive. I believe in Franz as an All-Defense level player at the NBA level. He probably won’t record a ton of blocks in the box score, but he more than he’s an exceptional weakside rim protector utilizing his length and verticality to alter shots. His ability to even chase off of screens at his size is absurd and he has remarkable recovery skills.

I’m not worried about his shot, but I’m definitely curious about his willingness. He shot well throughout his upbringing in Germany and was fine at Michigan on average to slightly low volume while being very good at the line. Questions have arisen about whether he was himself unwilling to shoot and passed out of open looks or if that was due to Michigan’s offense. I can’t answer that because I simply don’t know, but I imagine we’ll have an answer to that relatively early on in his NBA career.

I think there’s something there potentially as a movement shooter potentially; adding versatility to his spacing ability raises his stock even more in my eyes.

Wagner is also not just a connective wing, he can legitimately run some pick and roll which is really intriguing at his size. I don’t think that will be a steady part of his diet early, but if he fills out his skill repertoire, I believe there’s more that could come around in time.

Franz Wagner has such a fun intersection of athleticism, skill, and intangibles that lead me to believe in him as a longterm plus starter in the NBA.

UNC Greensboro v Florida State Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

10: Scottie Barnes, Florida State

Scottie Barnes is a distributor of immaculate vibes and defensive rotations. Just a breathtakingly fun prospect to watch. I gravitated to Florida State early on in the process because of how much I enjoyed watching Scottie play basketball.

I also find him to be one of the more confounding prospects in the draft. Barnes is a fantastic defender, but I also think his defense has been misconstrued. I don’t really believe in him as a switchable defender, at least not early on. He’s so good at using his wingspan, but I don’t think he has the quickness to consistently switch out on guards. That isn’t a knock in my opinion, more so just trying to bring grounded realism to how we’re talking about a prospect. Switchability is cool, but I think it gets thrown around too much without context. Athleticism is so so different at the NBA level and it’s easy to misinterpret why things happen on the defensive end as the NBA finals taught us.

All that being said, Barnes is just about the best defensive prospect in this class. He’s an excellent communicator, his intensity is unforgiving to opponents, he reads the court and plays incredibly well, and he’s just going to make so many positive plays just by getting himself in the right place and the right time. He’s so good.

I’m interested to see how he looks as a rim protector at the NBA level, because that could greatly impact his ability to play at the 5 in smaller lineups. I think he can alter shots with his length, but he really needs to load up to get any height and he can’t jump particularly well off his backfoot. I know he tested very well with his vertical at P3, but that vertical just never functionally shows up on tape for me.

Offensively, he’s a quick decision maker with a good handle for his size, but not much burst, so I don’t really see him as a creator. However, I do think he could run some PnR in certain situations. I’d love to see his playmaking get utilized as a DHO operator, short roll playmaker, and a fulcrum from the elbows or free throw line.

The question is just how he’s scoring. I really think he has significant barriers as a scorer in the NBA. He shot very well at the rim with FSU, but it’s important to note that he was regularly guarded by players 4-5 inches shorter than him and would really rely on this two footed floater/runner in the lane that I don’t think will fall with the same regularity when guarded by like-sized defenders or against better help defense at the rim. His touch is just really iffy right now, I think he gets to a place where he shoots close to league average on catch and shoots, but I’m just not sure what happens with the in between game (13/48 between the arc and 3 feet).

All of this is to say that despite his limitations, he is one of the best prospects in the draft and I think he’s going to have a fantastic career. Finding the right spot and fit is not going to be easy and my hope is that organizations view him more as a frontcourt player with playmaking instincts rather than a wing with creation upside.

Duke v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

11: Jalen Johnson, Duke

If you haven’t already listened, I did a deep dive on Jalen Johnson with Pro Insight’s Aneesh Namburi that I fully recommend. We talked about Johnson’s time at Duke, some of his pre-college sample, and what his ideal role and fit is in the NBA: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jalen-johnson-deep-dive-with-aneesh-namburi/id1476566116?i=1000529010261

Johnson’s range is all over the place headed into the draft, but I see him as a pretty clear lottery talent. The jumper is certainly a work in progress and has been since he was playing prep. The handle combined with the passing vision at his size is honestly too much to pass up. The handle is really functional and overall pretty good for his size.

I’d really like to see him get more opportunities to play against slower opponents and abuse those mismatches. He’s much more of a 4/5 than a 34 to me, his hips are pretty still and he’s not awesome laterally which makes it harder for him out on the perimeter. His technique isn’t great and his defense is overall a rough spot right now, but I don’t quite see the switchable forward that’s often advertised. Rather, I see a frontcourt player with some shot blocking instincts and very good positional strength who I’d love to see roam backline, alter rim attempts, play some small ball 5 in time, and take on match ups with bigger wings.

He MAY switch with time, but again, it’s about being realistic. I personally don’t see him as someone switching onto many guards, but in the future, perhaps he’s able to develop more flexibility and with improved positioning, he can defend out on the perimeter more.

I’m so interested to see how teams try to utilize his playmaking at the next level. He’s fantastic passing out of the post, while not being a great post up player. Johnson is also a very quality transition playmaker. I hope to see a coaching staff get creative and try to get him the ball on the move (Like we’ve seen Milwaukee finallys start to do with Giannis) as that’s when I’ve felt he looks best as a decision maker and creator.

Ultimately, the ability to create offense is going to come down to his scoring gravity. He has solid touch around the rim, but developing an in between game and his jumper in entirety will impact how much we see him utilize that playmaking.

Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Porter Binks

12: James Bouknight, UCONN

I am quite literally out of words for James Bouknight, so read my profile here: https://www.indycornrows.com/2021/6/8/22451227/james-bouknight-and-the-art-of-off-ball-movement

G League Ignite v Delaware Blue Coats Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

13: Jonathan Kuminga, G League Ignite

I’ve been lower on Kuminga throughout the process and that’s starting to become the consensus now. That’s not meant at all as a slight, more so just a reality check. Kuminga came over to the United States to play basketball when he was 15, reclassed from the 2021 recruiting class so he could play in 2020 for GLI, and is still slated to be a first round pick. He’s had some impressive highs, with some absurd prep games against top notch competition, and started very well with Ignite. However, a great deal of the inefficiencies in his game showed through as the season wore on.

His feel for the game is just really poor right now, and that narrows some of his pathways in the NBA or at least makes them harder. Many have said he has a poor motor or doesn’t play hard and I largely disagree, there are moments where he’s inattentive off-ball or misses something due to not processing the game quickly. Kuminga creates incredible amounts of space, but often isn’t great at capitalizing it due to the same dilemma. However, his willingness to still create offense and take shots is encouraging, because most players who shot that poorly would get gun shy.

I still believe in Kuminga as a potential high level player in the league, but more as a play finisher or someone who can create on the second side, but he’s a decent ways from being effective in doing either in the NBA. I really want to see his defense become more consistent as well, as that end will be huge for his longterm development and keeping him on the floor to rep out his offense. The right fit and a team that has a plan for his development seems like it will be key for him as he gets to the league. If he can even just get consistency in his shot both in and outside the arc, that’ll open up so much more for him.

Spain Vs Iran Friendly Basket Match Ahead of Tokyo2021 Photo by Borja B. Hojas/Getty Images

14: Usman Garuba, Real Madrid

Usman Garuba is just absolute joy on the basketball court. Garuba is right up there with Scottie Barnes and Franz Wagner as the best defensive prospects in this draft, and as far as the ability to lockdown an opponent on the perimeter, Usman takes the top slot.

He is a relly particular archetype in how he projects, because he’s more of a wing defender than a rim protector and currently positionless in some regards on offense, because he lacks much of an offensive skillset.

Usman Garuba just punishes ballhandlers on the perimeter.

He can play any PnR coverage outside of one that asks him to drop as a defender. He can technically do it, but he’s really just not that level of rim protector. He can get blocks with his length and timing in helpside, but I doubt he’ll be asked to be a primary rim protector ever in the NBA

If I had to bet on one player not named Evan Mobley to make multiple All-Defense teams from this class, it’d be Usman. His length and ability to leverage it is uncanny.

The swing skill for Usman? Any semblance of offense.

The shot has shown signs of life but is largely a work in progress. He started to take a greater volume of threes later in the EuroLeague season which is a positive considering he’s had some issues with shot willingness. He can operate out of the dunker’s spot and is a smart ball mover and passer which leads me to believe there is some utility in the future operating in DHO’s, but I’d largely say the jump shot will be determinant for him in order to keep an offense properly spaced.

Baylor v Gonzaga Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

15: Jared Butler, Baylor

There have been few better nuggets of good news than Jared Butler being cleared to play in the NBA. With potential heart issues fortunately put to rest, Jared Butler is a potential lottery pick in the draft. While Davion Mitchell stole headlines during Baylor’s tournament run, and rightfully so, I see Butler as the better prospect.

While he’s more of a combo guard than a true one or two, Butler brings one of the most valuable skills in the NBA day one, his pull-up shooting. Butler’s ability to gun from deep off movement, pulling himself, and from deep range allow him to bend a defense in a way that his handle and burst can’t routinely.

He sees the floor incredibly well and flows to his spots, doing an excellent job of relocating off the ball, which is so valuable as he can warp the floor with or without the ball in his hands.

He has a pretty compact and low dribble which allows him to get downhill off of his gravty as a shooter. He’s not often making proactive passes, but butler is phenomenal at taking what the defense gives him, excelling with these little floatery lobs that are so well placed for his roll man, and he excels at hitting the corners once he touches the paint as well.

Butler isn’t the biggest defender nor does he have a ton of length, but he’s excellent at using his chest to bump off drivers and is physical at the point of attack. Butler is going to help a team potentially as a starter, but regardless of is he’s the first guard off the bench or starting next to a wing intiator, he has the juice to carry an offense for some stretches of a game.

UCLA v Gonzaga Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

16: Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

Corey Kispert is someone I’ve really had to come around on in the process, I think I got way too caught up with him being an older prospect and trying to pick nits in his game. Kispert is an elite shooting prospect and a deserving lottery selection who I’d be surprised to see slip out of it entirely.

Kispert can hit shots coming off screens, relocation, catch and shoot from NBA range, one dribble side steps or pull-ups, and over 40% from deep at that. My only gripe, which is a very minimal gripe, is that he’s pretty rigid in his shot and has to be square to shoot, and the very best shooters in the NBA are capable of hitting some more contorted looks. However, that’s part of the point. Kispert is still a prospect! He’s not in the NBA yet and while he is a four year college player, that is soemthing that could develop over time. Even without it, he’s going to be one of the very best shooters in the NBA.

He’s a good team defeder, especially on interior rotations, although he lacks great length and can give a little more ground than you’d like at the POA. Overall, he should be a neutral defender at the NBA level especially in the proper roles.

I would say though that I’m a little less encouraged by his ability to attack closeouts than others, which is why he’s a bit lower for me. He can finish at the rim, but getting there from the closeout is the question. His handle is functional, but he tries to just power drive through every defender which worked at Gonzag, probably not in the NBA. Kispert moves the ball well too, finding the open man and quickly which is vital for modern offenses.

Turkey v Sweden - FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Qualifiers Photo by Mehmet Eser/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

17: Alperen Sengun, Beskitas (Turkey)

I really struggle with Alperen Sengun. I don’t want to just sound all “Good for him” and patronizing. He is one of the most skilled young bigs I’ve seen in regards to his post footwork and interior scoring.

I’m not sure how he translates to the NBA. The Turkish League was hit pretty hard by COVID resulting in a loss of talent, and he was so rough defensively when trying to vie how it translates to the NBA. He actually is very good at tagging from the weak side, but the problem is that he’s not quick enough in the slightest to closeout. He can’t be relied on as a primary rim protector either unless some outlier bounce gets imported into his lower body. Sengun is capable of blocking shots to be sure, but it’s always off of a running start or when he has an opportunity to load up. That’s the issue with translation, when put in pick and roll as the 5, he’s not going to be able to load up or get a running start to impact shots at the rim and he lacks elite length to alter consistently as well.

I do think there are ways to try and play around with Sengun on defense, maybe trying to hedge and recover with another big or forward on the floor who can rim protect. I’d also worry about that because he’s pretty slow laterally and isn’t particularly flexible either, really plodding with his feet on defense and often hunching/leaning in his stance. Or a team could believe in their ability to develop him athletically and cover the weakside as a tagger. I personally don’t see that, but I also don’t think we can just discount what an incredible prospect he is. I think a team like Memphis with Jaren Jackson Jr. or a team with a similar build could try to implement Sengun.

The only other worry would be the playmaking. I think he is a solid playmaker, but not quite the playmaker that he’s been made out to be. For reference, I’ve often seen him compared to Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Vucevic. Sabonis was just a better playmaker with better court vision when he was at Gonzaga, and while Vucevic has grown as a playmaker and DHO operator in the league, it’s worth noting that he’s been able to hang defensively more in drop because he’s a legit 7 feet with solid positioning. That’s just not something I think Sengun can replicate at 6’9.

I do think that Sengun will be a good shooter with time though which adds value to his skillset, but he just didn’t flex much of that in Turkey and my hope is that he hits a place of taking multiple per game his rookie season. I really love watching Alperen Sengun play basketball, but I just think it’s important to be fair about his fit in the league. There is an avenue where he could return much higher value than the 17th pick in the draft, but man so much stuff that is difficult to foresee and predict has to happen for that to be reality.

The last thing I’d add is that I could see him providing real value as a hypercharged backup, sort of in the same vain as Montrezl Harrell. Again that’s not a slight, Harrell is a fantastic player, he just has limitations, and I think I see Sengun in that same way, although with the added upside of potetential improvements as a shooter and passer.

Stanford v USC Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

18: Ziaire Williams, Stanford

Ziaire Williams deserves the benefit of context when speaking on his freshman year at Stanford. He and his teammates had to live out of hotels for part of the season due to COVID-19 protocols and he was also in a biking accident that resulted in a knee injury, missing time due to that. He came into the year widely hyped as the 6th ranked recruit by RSCI and struggled, but understandably.

His shot LOOKS good, but man it just didn’t fall this year from deep. He has a nice handle for his size and is excellent at getting just enough space to use his high release point to make his shot borderline uncontestable. He operated well from the mid-range, but really struggled to gain downhill advantages out of pick and roll or from a standstill.

I personally view him more as a connective wing due to his good ball movement and some of the quality passing reads he made this season, with room to grow as a creator off of that. However, I’m not going into his career with those expectations. The heights he’s going to have to hit with his brand of game make it so difficult to command the ball at high levels of usage. That being said, it’s worth noting how different htis year looks for him if he just shoots 34 or 35 percent from three. Maybe it opens up more for him on the perimeter or getting downhill and his gravity allows him to leverage more, but that’s not what happened. He’s still really slight right now and perhaps adding more functional strength unlcoks some things that he struggled to showcase in college.

One of the things that I think doesn’t get quite enough shine about Ziaire; I actually quite like his defense. He’s fairly quick laterally and he holds up well guarding smaller wings at the POA. The off-ball defense is fairly average and something I’d love to see him more locked into, but I was fairly impressed with his defense this season despite the on-court struggles he dealt with.

Baylor v Gonzaga Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

19: Davion Mitchell, Baylor

Davion Mitchell was the 2nd guard of the dynamic duo that powered the Baylor Bears to the national title. Consensus is much higher on Davion, and I still believe in him as a prospect, but I’m just wary of the shooting jump from him. Going from practically a non-shooter to shooting ~45% on high volume with a ton of self-created looks is impressive, but coupled with his relative struggles as a free throw shooter, I’m not really sure what to make of his shooting improvement.

I would definitely not expect him to shoot at that level in the NBA, but what level is he hitting at then? Is he still shooting well off the dribble? I know those are a lot of hypotheticals, but I just don’t have an awesome answer. I still think Davion warrants a lottery pick or right around there (I didn’t do tiers, but there are kind of tiers in my head). It’s just important to note that the shooting really opened up his game for him.

Davion is fantastic at creating off drives with a brilliantly quick first step, however his dribble is a little erratic when he gets downhill, the extra gravity and space created from his shooting threat really opened up his playmaking. He amkes some quality reads particularly out of pick and roll, but I still see him as more of a secondary guard than a lead ballhandler. That doesn’t knock him down, just worth noting! That shooting bump is something that really helps him expand the floor and create wider passing windows. So, the shooting, passing, and ballhandling are all kind of in conjunction and impacted by one another.

He also is one of the better defensive guards in this draft, excelling with his lateral quickness, sheer power at the POA, and good recovery skills and instincts. It’s a little harder to gauge his off-ball defense because Baylor runs no middle which is finnicky with getting a gauge at someone playing man up, but I’d say Davion si an all around plus for a guard defensively. At the next level he’ll mostly be a one position defender thoughjust due to relative size and length.

Tennessee v Oregon State Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

20: Keon Johnson, Tennessee

Sean Derenthal from The Stepien with a fantastic break down of Keon Johnson’s game

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/keon-johnson/id1185892602?i=1000519533985

Texas v Texas Tech Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

21: Kai Jones, Texas

Hoop Intellect with the exceptional break down of Kai Jones and his NBA fit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2ytR6lyLNI&t=561s&ab_channel=HoopIntellect

Oregon State v Oregon Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

22: Chris Duarte, Oregon

Chris Duarte scouting report from NBA Draft Junkies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nJHUkIcUjE&ab_channel=NBADRAFTJUNKIES

West Virginia v Iowa State

23: Miles ‘Deuce’ McBride, West Virginia

For 25 minutes of unsolicited talk solely on Deuce McBride, I was on the wonderful PD Web’s ‘Let’s Watch Film’ series where we talk through Deuce’s game against Baylor during the Big 12 Championship.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 Atlantic 10 Tournament - Davidson vs VCU Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

24: Nah’Shon ‘Bones’ Hyland, VCU

A scouting report from Adam Spinella over at The Box and One

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHWnO1sZyDc&ab_channel=AdamSpinella

SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Tennessee v Florida Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

25: Tre Mann, Florida

Here’s a conversation I had with Liberty Ballers’ Daniel Olinger on Tre Mann, his NBA potential and all things encompassing his game.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/sixers-draft-all-things-tre-mann-terrence-shannon-jr/id1133744544?i=1000528448318

Arizona v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

26: Josh Cristopher, Arizona State

This was simply one of the very best film analysis and scouting pieces I’ve read all year from @bowser2bowser

https://www.peachtreehoops.com/2021/7/20/22582461/2021-nba-draft-scouting-report-josh-christopher-video-analysis-breakdown-fit-with-atlanta-hawks

Pepperdine University vs Gonzaga University Set Number: X163512

27: Kessler Edwards, Pepperdine

PD Web and Aneesh Namburi with an in depth break down of Kessler Edwards’ game

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLHoqu3vyew&t=69s&ab_channel=PD

Duke v North Carolina Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

28: Day’Ron Sharpe, UNC

The Prep2Pro Pod with Ben Pfeifer, Max Carlin, and PD Web

https://open.spotify.com/episode/6D7FZfDstbCUUjvmdBitX2?si=lGg95rDfRFil9345HDPEpA&dl_branch=1

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 10 Virginia at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

29: Trey Murphy III, Virginia

Hoop Intellect on Trey Murphy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4n6wR13HWE&t=551s&ab_channel=HoopIntellect

Aneesh Namburi and Sean Derenthal on The Stepien pod

https://podcasts.apple.com/cl/podcast/trey-murphy-kessler-edwards-joe-wieskamp-aneesh-namburi/id1185892602?i=1000530127254

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

30: Josh Primo, Alabama

Joel Lorenzi from PeachTree Hoops on Josh Primo’s upside

https://www.peachtreehoops.com/2021/7/14/22569196/2021-nba-draft-scouting-report-joshua-primo-analysis-video-highlights-fit-with-atlanta-hawks

2nd Round

Fort Myers Tip-Off Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

31: JT Thor, Auburn

Sean Derenthal and Mike Gribanov on Sharife Cooper and JT Thor

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/sharife-cooper-and-jt-thor-with-mike-gribanov/id1185892602?i=1000527468380

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-St. Bonaventure at Louisiana State Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

32: Cameron Thomas, LSU

On this podcast, I’m joined by Evan Zuacha, Scott Levine, and Henry Ward to discuss Cameron Thomas and Alperen Sengun in-depth.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/alperen-sengun-cam-thomas-and-contextual-drafting/id1487497433?i=1000529585465

Syndication: USA TODAY Scott Utterback/Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

33: Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky

I understand why scouts are high on Isaiah Jackson, I’m just not quite there in terms of my evaluation. He flashed some interesting stuff when facing up offensively, but I don’t really know how I feel about his touch outside the restricted area and whether or not he’ll be able to leverage face-up mismatches on slower bigs.

That brings up another thing, he’s just not really a big right now while being forced at the 5 offensively. He’s pretty slight and of course has room to grow but I just don’t know how he sees the court for extended stretches early. The shot blocking and timing is awesome mixed with the ability to get out and defend on the perimeter, but I also am just a bit worried how foul prone he’ll be at the next level.

Jackson is still an intriguing defensive prospect with upside on the offensive end, I just am not as high on him as others. Worth noting that Kentucky guys tend to have something untapped that we don’t see in Lexington that flashes at the next level, so I could well be wrong!

Hoop Intellect’s video on Jackson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6fqEhLWi_I&t=374s&ab_channel=HoopIntellect

Michigan State v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

34: Aaron Henry, Michigan State

CT Fazio and PD Web on Aaron Henry

Virginia v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

35: David Johnson, Louisville

Henry Ward and PD Web on David Johnson

Baylor v Gonzaga Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

36: Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga

I love Joel Ayayi’s game a great deal. He’s a bit of a tweener between the 2 and 3 and just more of a small wing, but I don’t see that as a negative. He’s a player who could come in and provide lineup flexibility, bridging the gaps on a roster.

That’s what he did at Gonzaga! Finding lanes to fill in transition, hitting every team with an absolute beautifully timed baseline cut. He really made an art of it and sold out to tip toe and explode at the right moment.

He grew each year as a shooter, took some off the dribble shots but mostly was a release valve in catch and shoot. Or he would bail a possession coming up for a DHO with Drew Timme where he showed the ability to get to the paint with craft in his floater and the vision to work with his roll man and find a seam for a quick shovel pass.

Ayayi is sort of a mystery box to me in some ways; I wanted to see more from him at Gonzaga, but he was the fifth man on that offense largely. Does he have more to provide in secondaey actions in the NBA? Can he run some pick and roll? Can he develop as a movement shooter? I think there’s framework for him to run a little pick and roll in some situations and growth as a shooter can definitely come with more volume. He already has the floor of a positive offensive player if the shot carries, but the scaffolding is there to expand his offensive versatility.

Regardless, Ayayi comes in with a connective tissue mentality, finding ways to impact the game with decision making both on and off ball. The defense is very good off the ball as well, but I’m interested to see how he holds up more at the point of attack with his frame. This whle tier of fun wings could shake out any way for me depending on the day, and Ayayi could definitely have the best career of the three.

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

37: Herb Jones, Alabama

Adam Spinella on Herb Jones via The Box and One

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhhlb-NvQC4&ab_channel=AdamSpinella

Villanova v Butler Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

38: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova

The Upside Swings Podcast on JRE and other wings (Henry, Jones, Primo, Thor)

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rising-wings-in-the-2021-draft/id1561566975?i=1000526128790

Drexel v Illinois Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

39: Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

Adam Spinella at The Box and One on Ayo Dosunmu

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg_LnSFY5tw&ab_channel=AdamSpinella

Syracuse v Houston Photo by Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

40: Quentin Grimes, Houston

The Box and One on Quentin Grimes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWgf2GyQ0t4&ab_channel=AdamSpinella

Arkansas v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

41: BJ Boston, Kentucky

Hoop Intellect on BJ Boston https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob-VsRNsHh4&ab_channel=HoopIntellect

Ohio v Virginia Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

42: Sam Hauser, Virginia

Sam Hauser may well be the best shooter in the draft. He shot a career 43.9% from 3 on over 700 attempts in his career and is coming off a 50/42/89.6 season, which is bonkers.

I contemplated putting Hauser over Wieskamp, but I think Wieskamp just moves slightly better on court and has the added length to help him be closer to neutral as a defender. That being said, Hauser is a better shooter righ now in pretty much every way, while having more craft inside the arc with ability to attack mismatches if he gets them. His release is quicker, his handle is a little tighter, and his ability to hit off a screen is fantastic.

It all comes down to the ability to stick on court defensively. It’s not that he’s a bad defender; Hauser is solid positionally. The problem is the foot speed and lack of length to make up for the choppy feet. It’s more than possible that Hauser is able to hang on fours defensively as a bench option while providing offensive versatility and spacing, but I just have him lower than Wieskamp for now because I trust in Joe more to find his way defensively. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Hauser ends up sticking for quite some time in the league and he’s more than worth the bet.

By the time I got done writing this excerpt on Hauser, I realized that it didn’t really make sense to have him over Wieskamp. He’s the better shooter, he’s more versatile, everything with Wieskamp is about projecting out to the next level and banking on improvement, which is fine. But, I just think Hauser makes a bit more sense higher.

Gonzaga v Oklahoma Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

43: Austin Reaves, Oklahoma

Reaves is such a funky prospect. Originally more of a role player and off guard at Wichita State, Reaves transferred to Oklahoma and was given much more offensive responsibility in Norman. For reference, he took 102 3s this past season, and nearly 75% of them were pull-ups or self-created. He only shot 30.5% but that context is important in deciphering how difficult his shot diet was.

Reaves collectively shot 45.1% at WSU and then 27.7% in his two seasons at OU; 34.7% altogether while hitting 84.4% of his career free throws. Point being, he is a better shooter than the percentages showed the past two seasons, which is especially important when pointing out that his role in the NBA will be vastly different.

He is an absolute master of a foul grifter getting to the line almost 7 times per game while canning 86.5% of his looks. I don’t think he’s going to get to the line at the same level in the NBA, but that is encouraging for the added skill of having that craft to generate free points. Even if it might not correlate directly with a new role in the league, I love when players come in with that extra part of their game. Maybe it only shows up once every game or so, but it matters and means something for future devlopment in my opinion.

While he doesn’t have elite measureables or athleticism, Reaves plays with a real physicality on defense and utilizes angles well. He’s not a stocks getter, but I think he has the strength and intuition to play at the POA on guards and wings who aren’t super shifty. If he can just stay around neutral, he’ll get the opportunities to use his size and vision to create a little in pick and roll, which was quite literally the entire Oklahoma offense last season. While he definitely won’t be tasked with as much self-creation in the NBA, there’s something there as an off the bench wing.

Accompanying pod from Chucking Darts and Sean Derenthal https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tre-mann-austin-reaves-with-chuck-of-chucking-darts/id1185892602?i=1000529783982

Ohio v Buffalo Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

44: Jason Preston, Ohio

Jason preston is one of my favorite players to look at philosophically in this draft. He brings an incredible level of feel and playmaking while lacking consistency as a shooter off the dribble and relatively inconsistent shot preparation from outside overall.

He sees the court so so well and is just a genius level playmaker while scoring with craft inside the arc. He solves problems on court with a variety of passes, especially the bounce pocket pass to a the roller, and as he gets stronger, I think some of the cross court passes will become a little tighter from him with more snap and velocity. Preston has good size and length without being a particularly great defender right now and lacking in top end athleticism.

Frankly, I don’t care much about the weaknesses. He’s probably going to need a ball screen everytime he wants to create an advantage, I don’t really see that as a hindrance. Even if he never develops into a starting caliber player, he could become one of the better back up gaurds in the league and I find that incredibly valuable. We’ve seen the importance of good back up play throughout rosters, and especially at lead guard. Betting on outlier playmaking and feel is a good idea especially when factoring in Preston’s tremendous growth curve over the past few years.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 30 Maui Invitational - Texas v Davidson Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

45: Greg Brown III, Texas

I honestly have no idea what to make of Greg Brown.

He was the 8th ranked recruit by RSCI headed into this year and he really struggled at Texas, but had some incredibly bright flashes.

The feel just isn’t there right now, but there’s a base there as a bouncy weakside rim protector who can hit threes.

Just going off priors and potential, I think it’s pretty clear that Brown is a draft worthy player even if I don’t have a strong positive take.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 13 Big Ten Tournament - Illinois v Iowa Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

46: Joe Wieskamp, Iowa

Wieskamp had a phenomenal combine and played really well at the in that setting. I have questions about the quickness of his release and his ability to attack a closeout, but in terms of looking at someone who will be a positive shooter with versatility from day one, look no further than Wieskamp.

His defense will be vital for him sticking long term in the NBA. He rose a bit up draft boards after he ended up with a significantly plus wingspan (6’11) at the combine, which indicates that if he can improve his positioning, he can become a neutral team defender. He was not a good defender at Iowa to be completely blunt, but you buy the shooting and bank on building up everything else.

BASKET EUROMILLIONS LEAGUE D8 ANTWERP GIANTS VS MONS HAINAUT Photo by JASPER JACOBS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

47: Vrenz Bleijenbergh, Antwerp

Vrenz is such an interesting prospect to me. I certainly am not as high on him as others, but he does things that are enticing.

You wouldn’t expect it from a 6’11 forward, but he moves incredibly well off-ball, which I’m a huge fan of. He sells his cuts and is a quick accelerator which helps him gain an extra half-step into actions or his advantages. The weird part about his archetype and the way he plays is how important it is for him to become an asbolutley dope shooter, which I’m not sure of. He shot sub 34% this past year and under 68% at the rim, but shot confidence is not a problem for him which is encouraging.

If he’s going to get the full command of his gravity, it’s going to depend on his ability to hit shots off of movement and with consistency. He’s awesome from the corners when aquared up, only shoots 30% above the break, and has very little in between the arc and the rim while also finishing very poorly at the rim especially given his size.

However, he has some really great playmaking chops, I’ve seen comps to Aleksej Pokusevski and I think that undersells just how wild Poku was on tape before the NBA. Vrenz does some very out of bounds stuff in game; Poku plays basketball like it’s GTA. Vrenz’ best moments come when he’s on the perimeter off an action and finds open windows in a shuffling defense, which again hints to the importance of his shot becoming more versatile and viable to open up his ability to manipulate his court vision.

The defense is pretty rough right now, he’s not bringing much as a rim protector which isn’t a problem, but the off-ball defense overall is pretty boom or bust, and more of the latter. There’s just not a lot of avenues where I see him as an impactful on-ball defender either because his hips are so high and the slight frame.

Vrenz is definitely worth the gamble late in the draft, but I’m curious how teams view him and how he fits their roster moving forward, because it feels like a specific plan would be necessary to develop his skillset.

Austin Spurs v G League Ignite Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

48: Isaiah Todd, G League Ignite

Todd really struggled with Ignite, looking largely like a fish out of water defensively. I’m curious how the next crop of Ignite talent fairs, particularly the big(s) that come in. I think Todd was hurt in some ways due to the difficulty of adapting to NBA level offenses on defense.

That being said, the shot is legit. Teams are always looking for a stretch 4/5 who can hit capably off the catch, on pick and pops, and rim run. He’s a surprisingly good screener consdiering a high base and slight frame currently, and the ability in pick and pop is probably his best NBA skill.

I still believe in Isaiah Todd as an NBA player while noting the difficult growth curve he faced last season. There’s interesting framework there and if he can add some tools in the drive game off the catch, he’s cooking with grease.

Colorado v Florida State Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

49: RaiQuan Gray, Florida State

RaiQuan Gray is but a consistent jumpshot and a few shed pounds away from unlocking his unique skillset. I am very much so not a calipers an dbody fat% obsessed person, but to see Gray come in to the combine out of shape was a tough look, because he needed the bump.

If he can lighten a little bit, can he be more mobile on defense, and get separation with more ease? That’s essential for his role. He has this absurd power drive game in tandem with pretty solid touch on floaters and the occasional rim rattle.

He’s just got such an interesting conglomeration of skill, power, and vision that make me want to bet on him, because getting weird can be really good. While the shooting didn’t improve, he took a massive leap this last year as a finisher (10% better on 2 pointers) from his Sophomore season. I believe there’s an average distance shooter in there somewhere and whether it’s via a 2nd round pick, or a two-way contract, I’d love to see him get an opportunity to develop.

Texas v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

50: Jericho Sims, Texas

Well Laz, I can assure you that Jericho Sims is THE ‘jumpy-jump guy’ in the 21 draft.

Sims is one of the players who routinely popped for me without specifically watching him, as I was always focused on Kai Jones, Greg Brown III, or another Big 12 prospect. That was my mistake, as going back through and honing in on Sims was eye opening.

He’s going to be coverage versatile at the next level, capable of playing drop, hedging, and can come up closer in centerfield. Sims will earn his money offensively corralling offensive boards, living in the dunker spot, and as a lob threat in the screen and roll game.

The only thing that majorly holds back his game for me is the free throw shooting. He shot below 60% the past two seasons and tiped out at exactly 60% his sophomore year. If he’s going to see an expanded role in the NBA, improving at the line is a must. It’s not catastrophic to him becoming part of a rotation, but it would certainly help, as he really just does not have any self-creation tools, which on it’s own isn’t a problem, but if teams decide they can just foul him and bail themselves out at the end of a possession, that’s a barrier to more court time.

2nd Round/UDFA

Neemias Queta, Utah State

Isaiah Livers, Michigan

Justin Champagnie, Pittsburgh

Santi Aldama, Loyola (Maryland)

Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton

Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky

Scottie Lewis, Florida

John Petty Jr., Alabama

Marcus Garrett, Kansas

Romeo Weems, DePaul

Yves Pons, Tennessee

Mark Vital, Baylor

Thank you all for working with me throughout the draft proces and encouraging my work. I truly enjoyed the experience and have plans to get started much earlier on the next class. Again, I apologize for not getting to every prospect like I was hoping to, I have a tendency to get a bit wordy as you all are well aware Thank you all again and enjoy the draft!

Shoot me any questions, comments, or thoughts on this or anything during the draft tonight!