Lotto & Other 2021 Draft Thoughts
With the NBA Playoffs continuing to march on, it also means that Draft season continues to inch closer towards its finish line. As always, I personally love to take my time to evaluate the incoming class before the massive flurry of draft content gets rolling. That being said, I wanted to try to do something a little different this year...We've officially got 3 weeks until the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery, and until now we can only play the guessing game when it comes to who would land the number one overall selection in this year's draft. So personally, I don't like to get too caught up in the Mock Draft grind until I finally know the order of the potential chaos. But, as I said above, I wanted to try something different and fulfill our "desires" to talk about the draft as much as humanly possible.
Let's go ahead and call this one "Lotto Thoughts." Sure we aren't going to know the exact order until June 22nd, but that doesn't mean we can't bring up some interesting storylines to monitor and discuss moving forward. Below I'm going to run through each of the most interesting stories I believe that everyone should keep a close eye on, especially when it comes to lottery night.
THE FADE FOR CADE
Each year we have some "favorites" for the top selection in the NBA draft. As is tradition, each year a couple of teams have a higher chance at securing the 1st overall selection. This year, the top prize is Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham. A strong 6'8" playmaking floor general with superstar potential, Cunningham is going to be a potential franchise-altering selection. As of now, the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and Orlando Magic all have a 14.0% chance of landing the #1 overall pick. After that, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers both have an 11.5% chance. After that, things get a little more "interesting" so let's just stick with the top 5 contenders for now.
In some years, you might find that the number one overall pick could change depending on what a team's needs are. This year, it looks as if whoever lands #1 should take Cade and begin the celebrations. Cunningham is simply too special of a prospect and no front office will want to pass up a type of generational talent. You can make an argument for any team listed above that Cunningham could insert a serious surge forward for a franchise's rebuilding efforts. Houston, who is in dire need of some young building blocks moving forward, will be hoping that the roller coaster season they had will pay off come lottery night. But there are also some exciting teams to monitor. Take for example Detroit, who looked to hit a home run with their impressive haul from the 2020 NBA Draft. Even though the team drafted raw international prospect Killian Hayes last year with the 7th overall selection, Cunningham would still be a prospect that would be too juicy to pass up. Detroit would find themselves in a simple position...take the best player available and figure out everything else down the road. Orlando is another team that could be an intriguing landing spot for Cade. Sure, the team invested in Markelle Fultz with an extension, and they drafted Cole Anthony last year, but the Magic could just continue to add fascinating talents to their roster. Of course, any team could just look to move down a few spots and take a "godfather" offer in order to draft Cade, but it would seem as if that would be a very ballsy move for a front office.
While all of us will be glued to the television on lotto night to see who potentially lands the top prize which is Cade Cunningham, there's a potential unicorn in this class that is shaping up to be a fantastic "silver-medal" prize. USC big man Evan Mobley has everything you're looking for in a potential two-way big man. He's got a fantastic combination of size and mobility for a big man who is 7'0". Mobley is quick, running the floor in transition like a deer, and has scary upside as a defensive anchor in the NBA. As with most young bigs, Mobley will need to add some bulk to his frame, but his ability to move like a guard makes him a tantalizing prospect. While some of the teams towards the top of the draft might not be fortunate enough to land Cunningham, you better believe they will be foaming at the mouth to at least get Mobley. Remember, NBA organizations fall in LOVE quickly with bigs that have the ability to become a special asset in the modern NBA. For example, can we imagine how exciting a potential Oklahoma City Thunder pairing of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Evan Mobley might be in the P&R game? Or what happens if Detroit decides to pair 2020 rookie big man Isaiah Stewart with Mobley? Plenty of excitement, and Mobley could become a franchise building block for one of these rebuilding teams moving forward.
TEAMS OF INTRIGUE
Toronto Raptors (Projected 7th overall)
Each year, there seems to be a team in the Draft Lottery that you don't expect to be there the following year. This year, it looks as if we potentially may have two. The Toronto Raptors are the first team that has my attention this year in the Lottery, as I'm fascinated to see the direction that the organization decides to go with their selection. Toronto had a bit of a disappointing year, especially with the team having to play their "home games" in Tampa Bay. While this team had a nightmare of a year, an early lottery selection could end up being a welcoming "reward." Toronto has plenty of talent on their roster, and it will be interesting to see what type of player they target. Kyle Lowry is set to become a free agent this summer, so the Raptors could look to officially part ways and target a new potential franchise point guard. I expect that Davion Mitchell (Baylor) could be a popular match for Toronto when it comes to mock draft season. Toronto definitely has plenty of pieces on the wings already in Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, so it would make some sense to add to their backcourt.
Golden State Warriors (Projected 6th and 14th)
This is going to be one of the top teams to keep an eye on this year when it comes to the Lottery. As of now, the Warriors are projected to have two selections in the lottery at 6th and 14th overall. The 6th pick is definitely going to get all of the attention due to some potential trade protections with the Minnesota Timberwolves (more on that below). With the Warriors showing some serious fight this year, and the hopeful return of a HEALTHY Klay Thompson, the Warriors could do some serious damage with this draft class. Make no mistake, it's a massive year for Golden State and General Manager Bob Myers. The Warriors need to hit on both of these selections. I'm not saying they need to hit a home run and draft a potential rookie of the year candidate, but they need to hit a pair of doubles. This could be a class in which Myers and the Dubs Front Office targets some very specific type of players. Like I stated above when it came to the Toronto Raptors, this is hopefully the last time the Warriors will be selecting so high in the NBA Draft, so you also want to make sure to target a potential building block type of player for the franchise moving forward. I'm sure the Dubs will try to add an intriguing long-term type of prospect at 6, someone they can continue to develop but a type of player who can make an impact early on for this team moving forward. While I'll dream of a player like Florida State versatile forward Scottie Barnes playing in a lineup with Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry, I'm not sure if that's the type of direction the Warriors would want right away. Barnes is basically a Draymond Green clone, with more athleticism and length. Still, they might prefer a high basketball IQ talent like Barnes who could turn into a scary type of player in the NBA if his offensive game comes around. At 14, I believe the Warriors could find themselves in a sensational position to add a prospect who could come in and provide immediate depth. It's early, but a player like Baylor guard Jared Butler would be an exciting fit for the Warriors. Butler is a bit undersized but does a lot of work on both sides of the floor that the Dubs have shown a history of coveting. That 14th selection is also going to be a popular place in which the Dubs could see a prospect "slide" come draft night. All in all, with a full offseason of development for James Wiseman and getting back Klay, Warriors fans should realize this team could be in a fantastic position if the lottery standings don't throw too many curveballs at them.
Sacramento Kings (Projected 9th)
Okay fine...I'll bite. I'm actually thrilled to see what the Sacramento Kings do this year in the NBA Draft. While there are going to be a lot of questions about this team moving forward, I was a big fan of what first-year GM Monte McNair did in the draft last year. McNair was able to add a "sliding" Tyrese Haliburton last year, and the pick proved to be an absolute steal moving forward. With De'Aaron Fox signed for the long term, the Kings look to potentially have their backcourt of the future. After that, things get a little more interesting. As of now, the Kings are slated to be selecting 9th in the NBA Draft and obviously, this organization is hoping for some magic on Lottery night. Sacramento finds itself with a 20.3% chance to climb into the Top 4, and a 4.5% chance to pick 1st overall. Still, there are some intriguing names I'd love to see end up on the Kings moving forward. One of those top prospects that comes to mind is Scottie Barnes. The idea of De'Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Scottie Barnes all sharing the floor at the same time is enough to make draft fanatics foam at the mouth. That would be a trio of some fantastic playmaking and overall basketball IQ. Former early draft selection Marvin Bagley III has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career with the Kings, so it will be interesting to see if the team continues to move forward or they simply try to move on from Bagley. Richaun Holmes is also expected to become a free agent and don't be surprised if he has a hot market around the NBA. Sacramento also has a pair of big contracts on their roster in Harrison Barnes ($20.2 m) and Buddy Hield ($22.9m) who could both turn into potential trade candidates if the Kings can find a suitor.
Oklahoma City Thunder (Projected 4th and 18th) (*update now 16th as well from BOS)
It was an absolute shocker that the Thunder won their last game of the year, a result that ended up "hurting" their overall draft selection when it comes to the Draft Lottery. Because of the win, the Thunder saw their chances at landing the 1st overall selection drop from 52.1% to 45.1%. Still, the goal is obvious...move up in the standings and hopefully land a Top-2 selection come Lotto night. If Sam Presti and the Thunder organization are fortunate to see their positioning move up, the targets will be obvious in Cade Cunningham or Evan Mobley. But, if the Thunder aren't fortunate enough to be picking that early, there are still some oozing prospects when it comes to potential superstars. A pair of G-Leaguers will get plenty of attention within the Top 5 of this class. Jonathan Kuminga is a versatile wing with an NBA-ready frame and he will be one of the youngest players in this entire class (turns 19-years-old in October). His teammate Jalen Green is also another player who could see himself even sneak up above USC big man Evan Mobley. Green is oozing with superstar potential, especially with his ability as a bucket getter at the NBA level. Green still has plenty of fine-tuning when it comes to the rest of his game, but he could have some of the biggest upside. With franchise guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the roster, it would be a bit of a surprise if the Thunder looked to add a talent like Jalen Suggs to the fold, but Suggs has the potential to be a fantastic backcourt running mate. If Presti and the Front Office are convinced that Suggs and SGA could complement each other (dreams of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum) then maybe the Thunder decide to invest in Suggs early on. Still, it would seem as if the Thunder in that position would most likely target some young wings with scary upside like Kuminga or Green.
It's also important to remember that Sam Presti basically traded for every potential draft pick that he could get his hands on. That means that the Thunder aren't only going to be selecting 4th in this class, but they also have selections all over the board. That means the Thunder could "swing-for-the-fences" at 4, with the idea of adding some more strategic pieces later on in the draft. As of now, the Thunder are also projected to be selecting 18th, 35th, 36th, and 55th in this class. Usually, when a Front Office has that many selections in one draft, they might look to move some of the later picks when it comes to a lack of open roster space. This Thunder team is so young and early in their "re-building" process that they may just look to throw a multiple number of darts at the board and hope to find a couple of pieces moving forward for the future. My bet would be that the FO swings for a star early and then add some intriguing developmental assets. 18th overall is going to be some good real estate to have, especially if the Thunder might look to add to their frontcourt. Although they could easily be off the board before 18, a big-man prospect like Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky), Kai Jones (Texas), or Usman Garuba (Real Madrid) could find a way to slip through the cracks on draft night.
Houston Rockets (Projected 1st, 23rd, 24th)
Houston we have liftoff. Yes, the Rockets had themselves a heck of a year, especially when it came to dealing with the James Harden fiasco. It was a tough year, but it looks as if the Rockets could potentially find themselves in the driver's seat for a quick boost forward when it comes to their re-build. Yes, that boost would most likely start with landing the 1st overall selection in the Lottery and drafting Cade Cunningham. But Houston still is setting itself up to add some good pieces in this class. The Rockets are also projected as of now to have the 23rd and 24th selections in this class. This class is setting up to have some names toward the late first that could prove to become some fascinating additions to a roster. Remember, this Rockets team is fresh off hitting the "reset" button, so they could simply just look to add the BPA route and figure out additional moves down the road. Houston found itself a great piece moving forward in free-agent addition Christian Wood. There's also a number of veterans on the roster to monitor moving forward. John Wall will be on the books for $44.3m this year, and he will have a potential Player Option in 2022-23. While it would be a bit of a surprise to see the Rockets find a suitor for Wall and his contract, crazier things have happened in the NBA (like the Westbrook for Wall trade). From there, it will be interesting to see if Houston looks to move veteran wing Eric Gordon, who is due $18.2m this year and is under contract until 2024.
Let's say that the Rockets fall to the 2nd overall slot after the Lottery. Houston would most likely look to add a franchise-altering big like USC's Evan Mobley, who would slot in right next to Christian Wood. From there, the Rockets could look at a number of intriguing backcourt additions with their remaining first-round selections. Tre Mann (Florida), Sharife Cooper (Auburn), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois), or Jaden Springer (Tennesee) could all be players that potentially find themselves still on the board at 23rd. If the Rockets also wanted to add some additional depth on the wings, they could be intrigued by players such as Chris Duarte (Oregon), Trey Murphy III (Virginia), or maybe a raw prospect with upside in Joshua Primo (Alabama). At the end of the day, Houston is going to find itself in a good position to add some intriguing pieces to the roster. The most important factor here is making sure that at the absolute worst case, the Rockets find themselves still picking in the Top 3.
WATCH OUT FOR PROTECTIONS
There's going to be a point in which some betting site is going to have a prop bet over how many times the word "protections" is said on Lottery night. Jokes aside, there are two major ones that you need to keep your eye on. The most notable one is going to be the Minnesota/Golden State situation. This pick was traded in the D'Angelo Russell trade, and it will go to the Minnesota Timberwolves if it ends up in the Top 3. As of now, the pick is slotted 6th overall, meaning it would head to the Golden State Warriors. Obviously, both fan bases will be watching with extreme anticipation. It's a monster of a developing situation especially for Golden State, who have dreams of potentially adding an early lottery selection to their roster and running back a determined 2021-22 roster with a healthy Klay Thompson. For Timberwolves fans, the dream is simple. Get some lottery night magic and add another strong piece to the puzzle. As of now, there's a 37.2% chance that the pick ends up in the Top 4 and a 9.0% chance of it being the 1st overall selection.
The other protection that is going to be worthy of your attention on Lottery night is the trade between the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic. This was from this year's trade deadline move which saw the Chicago Bulls give up their first-round selection in a move for Nikola Vucevic. As of now, the pick is slated in the 8th overall slot. Orlando has protections of 1-4 on the pick, similar to the GSW/MIN deal. If the Bulls have some magic (no pun intended) happen on lottery night, they will get to keep the selection, only if it lands in the top 4. Otherwise, Orlando finds themselves in an intriguing position to have potentially two Top-10 selections in this year's class.
WHO CLIMBS? WHO FALLS?
Every draft class has someone fall or "slip" through the cracks. It's just a fact. Last year saw Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton fall out of the Top 10 before the Sacramento Kings selected him with the 12th selection. Even Deni Avdija fell to the 9th pick after most projected Avdija to be a Top 6 selection. So who is it going to be this year? Well, with every draft class I like to express extreme caution in letting that potential candidate develop. We are going to have a lot of things to discuss and dissect moving forward. Intel is going to start coming in on a number of players, and we are finally going to have more of a traditional pre-draft process compared to last year. But for fun, let's talk about some players who could potentially climb or fall in this class. Now, I'm not saying I'm a fortune teller, but there are some storylines with some prospects that deserve attention moving forward.
Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
The former Duke forward is going to be one of the more polarizing prospects to keep an eye on throughout the pre-draft process. After a year filled with some impressive performances, Jalen Johnson surprised some folks around the basketball world with his decision to withdraw from the College Basketball season after 13 games. You can argue whether or not Johnson was right when it came to his decision, but the most important factor we have to consider here is how it will be viewed in Front Offices. Johnson will be someone that teams are going to want to spend plenty of time with when it comes to interviews and meetings. He's going to have to answer some questions and he's definitely a prospect who can either climb or fall depending on how he performs in the pre-draft process. At 6'9" 220 pounds with an intriguing combination of playmaking and defensive upside, I'm still betting that teams will have Johnson high on their boards. The intel and interview process will be crucial for Johnson's draft stock, and he's someone who could benefit from a solid pre-draft performance.
Josh Giddey, G, Adelaide 36ers (NBL)
It's a popular development in draft circles throughout recent years. International prospects have some time to creep up draft boards due to the length of their season and the fact that it sometimes goes beyond the NBA regular season. Josh Giddey has impressed throughout the year with his play, but his best stretch of action came at a time of the year in which NBA scouts were able to get some more time to see him first hand. At 6'8" with a jaw-dropping combination of playmaking and court vision, Giddey has the potential to thrive in the modern NBA with his skillset. Like Johnson (above), teams and Front Offices will be intrigued to sit down and spend some time with the 18-year-old guard. Giddey is another prospect who could even improve his stock more with some strong pre-draft workouts, especially if he can show improvements with his outside shot.
Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
This is quickly becoming the most important prospect to keep an eye on throughout the pre-draft process in my opinion. I'm a HUGE believer in buying as much Scottie Barnes stock as I can get my hands on. There are too many tools in the treasure chest to not be drooling over his ability as an NBA prospect. At 6'9" with a reported 7'2" wingspan, Barnes has the versatility on both sides that teams dream of. The only problem is an outside shot that needs some work. If Barnes can showcase that his outside shot is coming along in some pre-draft workouts, I believe he can set flames to his draft stock. It's the only thing holding him back from being a Top 5 pick in this class. That being said, I still think a Front Office will be convinced of the tools that Barnes has at his disposal already. He projects to be a player who can guard multiple positions at a high level and his basketball IQ jumps off the page. The offensive projection will be something that gets debated in the FO, but Barnes has vastly underrated playmaking ability and gets downhill with bad intentions. Some organization is going to be all-in on this kid.
Kai Jones, F/C, Texas
This is where we get a bit interesting. When you get out of the Top 5 in this class, I believe there's a number of prospects who could jump up boards with a strong pre-draft process. Each year, NBA teams look for the next athletic big man with serious upside. Texas big man Kai Jones is extremely raw, but the tools jump on tape and leave you dreaming of what he could become if the assets all come together. At 6'11" with a freakish combination of mobility and athleticism, Jones will get your attention in a hurry when you throw on his film. But with most raw bigs, teams will try to convince themselves if he can become a more consistent threat moving forward. There's also potential for Jones to become a floor-spacing asset, which is always a skill that NBA teams will continue to covet in high regard for incoming big-men prospects. Jones will have plenty of teams looking to bring him in for workouts, as they will want to see if the upside is real despite only averaging 8.8 PTS and 4.8 REB for the Longhorns this year.
MYSTERY OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 5
One of the developing plots when it comes to this Draft class is the amount of uncertainty when you get out of the Top 5. There will always be talent evaluators and draft fans who have a variety of opinions, but this is what you need to know. The Top 5 is going to feature some sort of combination including Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State), Evan Mobley (USC), Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), Jalen Green (G-League Ignite), and Jonathan Kuminga (G-League Ignite). After that, things will start to get a bit chaotic. As with every draft class, the selections are going to end up coming down to overall "fit". Sure, it's always an extremely preferable idea that organizations look to draft the Best Player Available "BPA" in every draft class. But, this year could feature teams having a number of specific draft players with a wide range. Let's talk about some names that are intriguing outside of the Top 5.
Franz Wagner, F, Michigan
The former Michigan Wolverine versatile forward has quickly become a favorite in draft circles. The only question is, where does Franz Wagner's range start when it comes to Draft night? Some scouts and evaluators may have had a bad taste in their mouths after Wagner's final game in the NCAA tournament. But that's usually when NBA personnel will go back and re-evaluate the tape from the season, in which Franz showed plenty of promise. Wagner has the tools to become a versatile weapon at the NBA level. He's got great size at 6'9" and he has serious upside on the defensive side of the ball. He's quickly becoming someone that you should pay attention to when it comes to his pre-draft process. If there's a common trend in which teams picking higher are trying to get Franz to come in for workouts, then Wagner could be seen as a hot commodity around the league. He's going to be a prospect that could see his stock swing in either direction depending on feedback and overall intel.
Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas (Turkey)
As CEO of the Alperen Sengun fan club, I've been watching this one closely throughout the NBA season and Early "Draft Season." Sengun has continued to intrigue NBA teams with his skillset despite his lack of elite athleticism. Sengun beats his opponents with his impressive combination of feel, vision, and anticipation. He's going to draw plenty of Nikola Jokic comparisons just because of how his game is molded to the Denver Nuggets superstar. Still, plenty of teams are going to want to get Sengun into their facility to see what all of the hype is about. It's just a common development, especially when it comes to international prospects that have put up such impressive numbers. Sengun was playing at a lower competition level than most international prospects, but his production was simply too eye-opening to ignore. If NBA evaluators like what they see throughout the pre-draft process and the intel comes back strong, don't be surprised if Sengun starts to rise up boards in a hurry (again).
Moses Moody, G, Arkansas
This is where I find myself a bit confused and it's quickly becoming a prospect I'm excited to circle around and do a deeper dive into the film. Arkansas wing Moses Moody was an intriguing talent this year, that was even discussed as a potential Top 10 selection throughout the year. Now, it seems as if the stock has cooled off a bit in draft circles when it comes to Moody. It's one of those situations in which while the NCAA tournament can help a prospect climb draft boards in a hurry, it can also do the opposite. Moody went on to average 13.0 PTS in the NCAA tournament but ended up shooting 32.7% from the field and 17.6% from 3. Obviously, you can understand why some teams might be a little cautious about Moody moving forward, but I do believe that teams will still be enticed by what Moody showed throughout the rest of the regular season. He's another name to pay close attention to throughout the pre-draft process. If Moody can have himself some strong workouts and show teams that he's the player from the regular season, he could find his stock on the way back up in a hurry. If not, the 6'6" sharpshooter could become some intriguing value for a team picking later in the first round.
Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn
Another name that is becoming fascinating when it comes to prospects in this class is Auburn floor general Sharife Cooper. Now Cooper wasn't ruled eligible until during the regular season, so he only finished the year with 12 games of action. Still, he put up some eye-opening stats including 20.2 PTS, 4.3 REB, and 8.1 AST. Cooper is such an interesting evaluation because you have to weigh both the good and the bad as much as any prospect in this class. He's listed "generously" at 6'1" 180 pounds but he plays like a giant and isn't afraid to attack the basket. Still, Cooper has some questions moving forward when it comes to his outside shooting, as he finished the year 22.8% from deep. While numbers like that can scare away plenty of Front Offices, the playmaking potential is so sensational that you quickly start to convince yourself that he could become some intriguing value at some point in this class. The problem is where do you pencil him in? He's another prospect that could make up some serious ground on draft boards with a strong pre-draft process, especially if he shows some shooting improvements from outside during workouts. It should be mentioned that Cooper also finished the year shooting 82.5% from the line, which usually is a sign that his shooting can develop down the line. If Cooper can convince teams that he can become a threat from outside, and teams are convinced he can lock in defensively as well, he could rise on boards.
POTENTIAL PROSPECTS WHO COULD HEAT UP
Felt it was also important to mention some prospects that I'm convinced have a great shot to "shoot up" draft boards throughout the pre-draft process. As always, there are some prospects that surprise as a "hot commodity" in draft circles. Take for example last year when the positive intel starting flowing in when it came to Florida State forward Patrick Williams. Many thought that Williams would be locked in as high as the 7th overall selection before the Chicago Bulls shocked the world and selected Williams 4th overall. Now I'm not saying that the names I'm going to mention below are going to have a similar meteoric rise that Williams had last year, but I believe these prospects could see their stock rise favorably from now until draft night.
Chris Duarte, G, Oregon
Each time I flip on the Chris Duarte tape, I'm convinced there's going to be plenty of fans in NBA circles. Duarte has good size at 6'6" and he's a seasoned collegiate basketball player with the production to back it up. The draft is famous for having a history of upperclassmen being overlooked when it comes to the draft. While only a sophomore, Duarte will be 24-years-old by the night of the draft, so teams will wonder how much upside is left in the tank. The more important factor that teams should be considering is that the former Oregon Duck product has the ability to come in and help a team out from day 1. Duarte is a bucket-getting machine that can hit tough shots from all over the floor. Still, Duarte should have plenty of teams picking towards the second half of the first round lining up to add him to their rotation. It wouldn't surprise me if Duarte has a red hot pre-draft process, and starts to get the attention of teams picking in the late teens, especially if there's a potential playoff contender in there that is looking for some added offensive firepower.
Jared Butler, G, Baylor
Like Duarte (above), Jared Butler is another player that continues to please me when I watch him on tape. Personally, I was very high on Butler as a potential 2020 Draft Prospect. I thought he was trending towards becoming an absolute steal of a value pick for a team at the end of the first round last year. But Butler decided to return to Baylor for another year of development and his numbers climbed across the board. NBA scouts and evaluators were curious whether or not the combo guard could add some consistency from deep this year and he showed he can become a threat from deep in a hurry. Butler finished the year shooting 41.6% from deep this year, compared to 38.1% from 3 in 2019-20. Butler is one of those players that is simply going to make your team better on both sides of the floor. He made serious strides in his game on the offensive side of the ball this year, but people forget what a defensive weapon he can be as well. Keep an eye on Butler throughout the draft process as he's sure to have plenty of fans in Front Offices around the league.
Trey Murphy III, G, Virginia
This is quickly becoming one of my draft crushes for this year ladies and gentlemen. I will buy all of the Trey Murphy III stock I can get my hands on at this point. Now look, it's easy to fall in love with a potential "draft crush" that could be positioned to go somewhere in the lottery. I pride myself on trying to find that next diamond in the rough, or someone that could see his stock soar throughout the pre-draft process. I'm a firm believer that the former Virginia product could climb boards in a hurry. The reason? Every team in the NBA is ALWAYS hunting for a potential 3-and-D prospect. The great thing about Murphy is he has the skillset to impact both of those areas at an elite rate. TM3 will be one of the best shooters in this class. He's got a smooth simple form and can shoot it from everywhere on the floor. At 6'9" with serious length, Murphy finished the year shooting 43.3% from deep. He's also got a great understanding of how to use his length and quickness on the defensive side of the ball to be a disruptive presence. There are going to be plenty of playoff contenders that would love to add a prospect with his specific skillset and it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up a first-round selection in this class.
Aaron Henry, G, Michigan State
Here's another potential 3-and-D prospect that teams are going to be smitten with. The former Michigan State product is arguably one of the best wing defenders in this class. At 6'6" 210 pounds, there have even been some rumors that Henry has a 6'10" wingspan. Henry looked like a potential value selection for the 2020 class before deciding to return to Michigan State for his junior year. While his outside shot has yet to come around on a more consistent level (29.6%), Henry still has plenty of untapped potential as an offensive weapon. If an NBA team is convinced that they can unlock the offensive game on a more respectable level, then they will be more enticed when it comes to his ability as a defensive threat early on. Pencil in Henry as another wing who could start to climb throughout the pre-draft process if he can demonstrate improvements on his outside shot in pre-draft workouts.
Joshua Primo, G, Alabama
This one deserves some special attention and it's a name that some of you out there might not be familiar with as of now. Joshua Primo is a young combo guard who spent his freshman year with the Crimson Tide last year. He's still got a long way to go in terms of developing his game, but the flashes of upside are flat-out scary. Primo is currently testing the waters and has kept his options open to return for another year, but he's a name that could heat up in a hurry if he decides to keep his name in. Primo won't turn 19-years-old until December, so NBA teams might be smitten with the idea of drafting Primo at a position they wouldn't have been able to if Primo decided to return for another year. Write down Primo as a name to monitor as we progress throughout the pre-draft process. He could start to see his stock heat up with some workouts, especially if he eventually decides to keep his name in this class.