The Returning Prospects Series, Part 3: The Top 59 Returning Prospects in College Basketball

Folks, we finally made it! It’s time to take a look at the Top 59 returning prospects in college basketball! First, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read the first two pieces in this series, which examine the criteria I used, and also touched on some great players who barely missed the cut for this list. You can read those pieces here:

PART ONE

PART TWO

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Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty! For each player, I list their name, height, class year, school, positional description, and age on draft night. Statistics are all courtesy of either Basketball Reference or Synergy.

1. Bennedict Mathurin, 6-7, Sophomore, Arizona, 3-And-D Wing, 20.

The “3-And-D” archetype has become one of the most sought-after in the NBA. It’s a malleable skillset that can fit within any system, and it’s harder to find than you might think. The label is thrown around rather liberally, and is often given to players that can only do one of the two aspects of it, or are just passable at both. Bennedict Mathurin, however, profiles to be a true 3-And-D player. At 6’7” with a positive wingspan, Mathurin hit a scorching 41.2% of his threes last season. His jumper looks beautiful and passes the eye test, as well. Catch-and-shoot players are incredibly valuable when paired with elite playmakers, and Mathurin can catch-and-shoot at an elite level; last season, he finished in the 97th percentile in college basketball on spot up, no dribble jumpers.

Mathurin’s bonus elite skill is his ability to produce as a cutter. On top of being one of college basketball’s premier shooters last season, Mathurin’s cutting numbers also cracked the upper echelon. Synergy ranked him in the 99th percentile on points-per-possession off of cuts last season. When players hug him on the perimeter, he’s able to go back-door on them. His size allows him to handle contact well at the rim, and he does a great job of elevating in traffic. Though the sample size here wasn’t enormous, this is a critical tool for Mathurin that makes him exceedingly difficult to defend off the ball.

Mathurin has also shown that he can do more than shoot out of a parked location, as he can pull-up and side-step to get to his shots, too. In the FIBA U19 games he played for the Canadian squad, Mathurin began to flash playmaking skills as well, navigating the pick and roll to get looks for himself and the screener, as well as other teammates.

Defensively, there is a lot to like based solely on his size, but Mathurin is also skilled. Mathurin slides his feet well laterally, and he uses his arms to make himself big while doing so. The end result is that players are often forced to settle for difficult mid-range shots when they try to attack against him. He stays disciplined while closing out on shooters. Mathurin should comfortably be able to cover NBA 2s and 3s out of the gate, and most 1s won’t torch him. He’s got a sturdy body, and players won’t be able to bully him out of the gate. Though he put up rather paltry block numbers last season, his size, quickness, and leaping ability make me wonder if there is perhaps upside for him as a weakside rim protector at some point. Still, that is not in his bag at this point in time.

Mathurin’s floor is the highest in this class, too. I’m not truly “concerned” about any areas of his game, because what he does well is so important in the modern NBA. Mathurin could simply replicate his performance from last season, and I’d still probably advocate for him to be a Top-20 pick. There are a few opportunities for Mathurin to expand his game though, and they largely come down to what he can do in a higher usage role with the ball in his hands. His performance in the pick-and-roll last season was only okay on limited repetitions, and we barely saw him operate in isolation. While we saw impressive flashes of him in these settings during the FIBA games, it would be nice to get an idea of what he can do across a larger sample size. If Mathurin can be deadly off the ball and a positive contributor on it, he goes from being a back-end lottery player to a Top 7 type of player. Without James Akinjo on the floor this season, he’ll have a larger responsibility to create offense for Arizona.

CONCLUSION: Bennedict Mathurin is ultimately a low-risk, high reward proposition. Both his defensive acumen and three point shooting ability will allow him to play NBA minutes right away. Beyond that, he has enough juice vertically and laterally to believe that athletically, he still has quite a bit more potential left in him. Mathurin should be a fantastic complimentary player, and if he adds to his bag off the dribble as a scorer and playmaker, then he could easily be one of the three best players on a great team.

2. Jaden Ivey, 6-4, Sophomore, Purdue, Athletic Guard, 20.

In the eyes of most, Jaden Ivey is the top returner in college basketball. I currently have him slotted second due to his shooting issues, but don’t get me wrong: there is still a lot to love here. Jaden Ivey improved significantly over the course of his first season at Purdue, and was one of the standouts for the USA squad during the FIBA U19 tournament. He has two high level skills at this point: his ability to run the pick and roll, and his defense.

Ivey is an absolute blur with the ball. He reminds me a bit of Tyrese Maxey at times, where he can catch the ball in a standstill, and if you blink, he’s already in the paint. His first step isn’t always consistent, but at times he’ll blow by defenders in an instant. He’s a great scorer out of the pick and roll because of his athleticism, but he also operates with a genuine savvy. Ivey makes use of hesitation to burn bigs, he can keep the guard defender on his hip with a hostage dribble, and he’s dynamite at the rim. Around the basket, Ivey can fly in and use his strong frame to finish with power, or he can contort himself around defenders with acrobatic finishes due to his outstanding body control. On top of all of this, Ivey also has solid vision while operating the P&R, with the ability to dish to roll men and spot up shooters. When he catches it on an island, he’s good going both right and left. He’s shown an improved ability to make passing reads as time has progressed, and he’s not a guy who will make questionable decisions. Jaden Ivey is the son of former WNBA player and Notre Dame women’s head coach Niele Ivey. You can absolutely tell that he is a coach’s kid in the way that he plays within himself and looks for others. The last thing I want to touch on regarding his offensive strengths is that Jaden Ivey may benefit from the NBA’s continuation rule more than any other player in this class. When he flies by, often times defenders will simply hack him to stop the play short, and the ensuing lay-up he sends home will be called back because he was fouled on the floor. That won’t be the case at the next level.

On the defensive side of the ball, Ivey is a menace. He has a ridiculous block rate for a guard (3.8%). His athleticism allows him to soar at the rim and stay with just about anybody laterally. Because he reads the game so well, he has strong anticipation abilities and can stay a step ahead of the offense. It’s not as exciting to talk about, but he also does a nice job of staying disciplined and not getting burned on closeouts, and he does a tremendous job of not fouling for someone who incites a heaping deal of havoc. His frame will also allow an easier transition to the NBA than most prospects, as he’s not going to get bullied. I see him as being able to handle 1s and 2s out of the gate, and eventually smaller 3s.

Like many players on this list, the swing skill for Ivey is his shooting ability. While he hit 72.6% of his free throws, Ivey was 25.8% from deep on 4.2 attempts from deep. Right now, his defenders play way off of him when he doesn’t have the ball. Ivey shoots confidently with a quick release, but the follow through is inconsistent. Sometimes you get the picture perfect “swan” release, other times he will pause his hand halfway through the shooting motion. There are also some smaller offensive concerns; occasionally he’ll get too locked in on a drive and force up a bad shot instead of kicking it out. I also worry about how many opportunities he will get given that he has two other high-level returning teammates, and Matt Painter’s offense is a bit too egalitarian for my tastes.

CONCLUSION: No one in this returning class can match Jaden Ivey’s combination of his ability to get to the rim and finish there at a high clip. His first step, athleticism, and rim finishing should allow him to contribute to an NBA offense even if the shot is never above average. Still, if the shot is below average, the offensive side of the ball is much messier, and it substantially hinders his ceiling. Defensively, Ivey is going to be a plus at the NBA level because of his combination of intellect and discipline paired with his dynamism. If the shot progresses to an average level, Ivey is probably the best returner because of what he can do with the ball in his hands, but I’m a bit bearish on that after we didn’t see a big jump in FIBA play. Still, Ivey projects to be a solid NBA contributor at worst, and a high-end starter if he can hit from the outside.

3. Taevion Kinsey, 6-5, Senior, Marshall, Explosive Scoring Guard, 22.

Taevion Kinsey jumps off the screen on film. If you just watched highlights of everyone on this list, Kinsey would probably be the top guy. Beyond the fact that you could compile a ridiculous highlight reel of his dunks, there is a lot to like within the nitty gritty of his game. Kinsey may be older, but he’s truly pro ready, and he has continued to add to his game, leaving me to believe there is still a sizeable amount of potential left.

The athleticism is the first thing you notice with Kinsey. He’s a great runner with long strides, he has ridiculous bounce, he functions as a lob threat at 6’5”, and he’s strong. He parlays his physical tools into his ability as an excellent positional rebounder, flying in to grab boards others at his position could never get. On offense, he does all of the things you’d expect a player with his physical profile to do; he bullies weaker defenders, blows by slower ones, and finishes well at the rim in the half court (62% per Synergy). When attacking, Kinsey has a nice sense of floor mapping, knowing where his defenders are, and which teammates are open. If you just looked at his counting numbers and saw his shot attempt numbers vs. his assists, you may get the impression he’s a selfish player, but that isn’t the case at all. Even when he doesn’t have the ball, he’ll often point out open teammates to the ballhandler. His shot has improved over time, and while he only took 2.1 threes per game last year, he connected at a 41.3% clip. There are other encouraging signs, though: Kinsey was 81.8% on his free throws, and finished in the 85th percentile per Synergy on catch-and-shoot jumpers. He was also in the 88th percentile for non-dribble jumpers on spot-up attempts. I believe he can truly shoot, and the transition to an off-ball role won’t be too difficult for him. Watching the film, the way teams covered him simply didn’t allow him to take that many threes. I wish I could see him take more, but this isn’t the case of a guy passing up open looks because he’s afraid to shoot. His cutting numbers were also ridiculous *because* of this; his tools allow him to roast defenders who hang on him, and he can finish with open dunks at the basket.

Kinsey’s tools and sense of the game carry over on the defensive side. He didn’t post wild block or steal figures, but he’s a strong positional defender and knows how to work within a team concept. His side-to-side movement is nice and he can get off the floor to contest. Players have a really hard time driving against him because of his agility and strength. He has a superior sense of knowing when he can cheat to help, and he recovers nicely.

My concerns still center a bit around the shooting, just because of how important it is in the modern game. He’s 33.5% from three and 71.8% from free throws over his career, so while there’s been improvement, it’s definitely more acceptable than exciting. If last year’s statistical jumpers were outliers and we see a regression, Kinsey is far less tantalizing as a prospect. I’d like to see improvement with regard to handling traps and double teams, as many of Kinsey’s turnovers come in those settings, as he can be flustered by quick pressure. I also worry a bit about his ability to get to the paint as consistently in the NBA, as he doesn’t always get as much burst out of his first step as you’d hope, and his handle can be basic. He’ll be well served to work on adding counter moves to his attacking package.

CONCLUSION: Taevion Kinsey is going to enter the league with an NBA-ready body, along with a mature game and respectable decision making ability. He’s comfortable on and off the ball and defends well. His leaping ability and rebounding will make him a big positive in smaller lineups. If the off-ball shooting numbers from last season hold or take another step forward on bigger volume, Kinsey could honestly find himself in the back-end lottery conversation. Should those improvements take place, Kinsey could be a valuable starter for a long time as a versatile wing who can work on or off the ball and provide defense. If the shot slides, he’s still a marvelous athlete and smart enough player that he’ll stick as a back end rotation guy. Ultimately, I’m betting on the shot being at least adequate.

4. Jaime Jaquez Jr., 6-6, Junior, UCLA, High Motor Pest, 21.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. plays the game of basketball with a hunter’s mentality. He’s always locked in mentally, he’s aggressive physically, and he’s ready to exploit any opening he can find. Jaquez was one of my favorite players to watch last season simply because his motor runs so high. The deeper you look, though, the more there is to like. He’s a great defender and offers a tremendous amount of versatility on offense.

It feels beyond corny to list “determination” as a skill, but with Jaquez, it is. The man is a hustler, and is going to dive for anything resembling a loose ball. As Jon Rothstein once said, “With Jaime Jaquez, there are no 50/50 balls, only 90/10 balls.” He’s a menace on defense; digging into handles, bodying up, and making opposing teams pay for lazy passes. Defense and work ethic will absolutely be the things that gets him on the court early in his career; coaches will love this guy. His frame and ability to process the game could allow him to cover 2 through 4 once he gets acclimated to NBA strength and conditioning practices. On offense, Jaquez is a killer when it comes to mismatches. He has strong isolation numbers because he does a terrific job of punishing whatever weakness his defender presents. Even when intelligent defenders with athleticism cover him, Jaquez can wear them down because of his deep bag of counters. He has an innate sense for how the defender will react, and he leverages that at every turn. Jaquez also hit 39.4% from three, and flashed the ability to shoot off of movement such as screens and pops. Lastly, Jaquez shows acumen as a cutter. When there is an opening for him to flash to, or if his defender is being inattentive, Jaquez can make decisive moves to the basket and finish.

The biggest question facing Jaquez will likely be his athleticism. Will his quirky attacking game continue to work at the highest level despite an iffy first step? I’m not completely convinced. Jaquez was also another player who saw a big jump in his three point shooting percentage last season, but he’s a career 69.6% career free throw shooter at UCLA, leaving room for skepticism. To top it off, UCLA will have a crowded roster this season. Jaquez is talented and selfless, so I don’t worry about him not getting time or not fitting in, but I wonder if him fitting in could hurt his perception among evaluators.

CONCLUSION: Whatever Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s ceiling is, I think he will reach it. He’s too savvy and too hard-working not to get there. If he can shoot it like he did last season and add a wrinkle here or there, I like Jaquez as a first rounder. Players with his size, shooting, and defensive versatility are at a premium right now. In a situation where he doesn’t have the best year or fades into the background on a loaded team, I believe he will still be in the conversation because what he offers is so valuable. Look at how Matthew Mayer’s perception was prior to last year’s draft despite playing half as many minutes as Jaquez last year; if his team wins, people will still find usefulness in his skillset even if he doesn’t scream “star.” Jaquez could potentially be a starter or important rotation player on really good teams. At worst, I think he runs into game translation issues, and sticks on the back end of rosters because he’s still grimy, dependable, and malleable.

5. Marcus Bagley, 6-8, Sophomore, Arizona State, Shooting Forward, 20.

Marcus Bagley waned up and down boards during the 2020 draft cycle before ultimately deciding to go back to school for his sophomore season. While we don’t know for sure that this was the best decision, because we don’t know where he would have been drafted, I feel that he will undoubtedly be in a better situation this year. Last season, Bagley was often left calling for the ball, wide open, while ball dominant guards…well, dominated the ball. There are still some issues with Bagley’s game, but I think much of the concern may be overblown, and I’m buying his stock headed into year two at Arizona State.

Bagley’s primary appeal is the pairing of his shooting ability and size. His percentage isn’t eye-popping at 34.7% from three, but he took 6 a game, and the stroke is pretty. He’s already shown an impressive ability to pick and pop, which is a ready-made NBA skill for him. Bagley is a willing screener who moves his feet well and does a remarkable job of getting set pre-shot. There have been flashes of movement shooting from deep coming off screens. His length and bounce also allow him to do well at the rim. He has a professional frame, so he can absorb contact and finish against big defenders or shoot over the top of smaller ones. Bagley is a fluid mover, and should be able to cover the 3 and 4 defensively. I wouldn’t want him on 1s or 2s but he won’t get eaten alive like many other players his size would. He’s quick off the floor to contest shots. Though his assist numbers weren’t special, there were flashes of nice vision and zip. I’m also willing to give his lack of willingness to pass at times a hand waive for now given his situation, as we thought the same thing about Josh Christopher, and then in Summer League play, Christopher had as many assists in five games as he did in his entire college season. Players on Arizona State last year really felt the need to “get theirs” when they got the ball because of how it was being monopolized.

Bagley’s combine performance seemed to be the nail in the coffin this past draft cycle. A lot of “winners and losers” columns pegged him as a loser. Looking back…he actually wasn’t that bad. He didn’t do well on the lane agility drill, but he was solid everywhere else. I’m more concerned with game tape than drills for the most part, and I’m chalking it up to his injury issues and rust more than anything. I’m confident in his movement. My knock on Bagley right now is that he needs to use his size more to get to the basket. Synergy graded him out as “Very Good” at the rim; 61.5%. Still, here is how his half court shot selection is broken down: 71 jump shots, 6 runners, 13 shots around the basket, and 2 post ups. Bagley has a great skill, rim finishing, that he neglects to use consistently. He shot 38.7% from the field last year largely because he only took 2.8 2s per game vs. 6 3s. While the size and athleticism is there, the craft needs to improve. Bagley is going to get respect on the perimeter, and he has to figure out how to attack closeouts and counter resistance. His game would also go quiet for stretches, and I think his lack of aggressiveness played a part in that. I want to see him attack more.

CONCLUSION: At worst, Bagley is a 6’8” forward with a reliable three point shot who can hold his own on defense. That’s an enticing package that any NBA team would love to have. Whether that results in him being a starter or a back-end rotation player will come down to the little things in Bagley’s game. He’s a much easier cover defensively if you know he isn’t a threat to attack the basket. Still, I ultimately see Bagley as a safe floor player who can become a really important player on a winning team if he figures out how to get to the rim with consistency. The tools are there, it’s just a matter of making simple improvements and adding to his bag.

6. Keegan Murray, 6-8, Sophomore, Iowa, Small Ball Big, 21.

Keegan Murray has been an interesting case. He seemed to rocket up “way too early Big Board” type lists after a productive freshman season, but after people realized he wasn’t the age of most freshmen, the consensus cooled a little bit. While he will be 22 by the start of his first NBA season, there’s still an impressive set of skills here that warrant consideration.

Defense will be Murray’s meal ticket. At 6’8”, he moves ridiculously well, is strong, and is quick off the floor. Murray has pop both laterally and vertically, which is rare. Murray does an exceptional job of staying in his stance. He stays with quicker guards, and he can’t be punished by traditional big men. His switchability will be intriguing to a lot of NBA organizations. Murray averaged a preposterous 3.9 blocks and 2.6 steals per 100 possessions. While Murray causes chaos at every turn, he’s still fundamentally sound; he’s not going to open himself up to easy backdoor passes or get burned stat-chasing. When he does find himself beat, Murray’s mobility and length allow him to recover. Murray knows where to position himself and does a satisfactory job of monitoring both his man and the ball. Offensively, the game is simple right now but there could be some upside. Right now Murray is best as a cutter. The timing and awareness that make him a great defender carry over to his offense, where he’s a devastating cutter. Murray is strong around the basket and good on post-ups (63.6% at basket, 54.5% on post-ups per Synergy). His sturdy body allows him to finish in crowded spaces. Murray’s a smooth mover, and he’s comfortable putting the ball on the floor to attack. He has two major upside areas: screening, and shooting. With regard to screening, he didn’t get to operate much in that capacity within Iowa’s offense, but it feels like an area where he would excel due to his quickness, physicality, and vertical lift as a lob threat. Pertaining to shooting, Murray was 29.6% from three last year, but the shot looks nice and he hit 75.5% of his free throws.

The issue with the shot, however, is HOW Murray misses. Occasionally the shot comes out really flat, like a line-drive, and he misses side-to-side, which is concerning. It’s also relatively easy to read him as an attacker, as he tries to go left far more often than right. We have also yet to see him in a higher usage role, as he was 6th on Iowa in shot attempts last season. In a bigger role this year, we should get a sense as to if he’s actually this productive, or if he’s just a fantastic energy guy who gives 18 awesome minutes each game.

CONCLUSION: I’m a believer in Keegan Murray because of his defense, athleticism, and ability to process the game. Even if he’s a subpar three point shooter, his defensive versatility and production will buy him opportunities. He’s also a smart offensive player, and we haven’t got to see him in a pick-and-roll style system that may be beneficial to him. His rim protection and possible touch make him really intriguing as a smallball big who can play in a switching scheme. I’m confident that he’ll succeed in his increased playing time next season for Iowa. His age gives me pause with regard to the shot, and if we don’t see a leap this season, I’ll probably have to drop him down quite a bit. Still, I think Murray’s defense makes him at least a future NBA rotation player with starter upside.

7. Efe Abogidi, 6-10, Sophomore, Washington State, Potential Switchable Stretch Big, 20.

Efe Abogidi might be my favorite type of returner: he had a productive freshman season, but he’s still oozing with potential. Ranking him this high does present a bit of a gamble, as there are still some real concerns that we will get to later. But, if Efe Abogidi can build on the flashes he displayed during his first year at Washington State, he could end up being ranked too low on this list.

Let’s start with the positives. Abogidi posted respectable counting numbers for a freshman big: 8.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 0.7 SPG. He was solid around the basket, and per Synergy, was in the 97th percentile of eligible players for points per possession on post-ups. Abogidi also showed promise as a shooter: he hit 81.1% of his free throws, and while he was only 27.3% from three, he took two a game, and the shot looks gorgeous. I feel confident that he will continue to build upon the jumper. Abogidi competes on the glass, and he has tremendous defensive instincts, which are noticeable in his steal numbers. He’s limber and quick, allowing him to provide rim protection with quick leaps off the floor. At times he fouls too much, but in general he does a nice job of staying vertical for rim contests. While he was primarily utilized in drop coverage on screens, he did well on possessions where he was switched onto smaller defenders because of his agility and footwork. When he’s found out of position, he has the tools and awareness to recover in short order. As the season progressed, he also began to do a better job of finishing with authority rather than leaving it up to chance.

My biggest frustration with Abogidi partially centers around his frame; he’s really thin all over right now. He’s going to need to get bigger to handle NBA physicality, because at times, he doesn’t seem interested in engaging physically at the college level. Abogidi’s screen setting is downright bad, and at times, it’s abhorrent. He rarely puts his body into it, instead opting to mildly inconvenience the defender by sort of getting in their way. I didn’t catch it as much in games when I was watching more casually, but when you just watch him possession after possession, it will drive you up a wall. Screening is a critical component to the offensive schemes of most NBA teams, and he’s going to have to get better at it. Putting on size should increase his confidence and willingness to set quality picks. There are some other, smaller issues. While he is good about passing out of the post when pressure comes, he throws some inaccurate kick outs. His offensive awareness is behind his defensive awareness. He also didn’t have any of his best performances against high level competition, and his game goes quite for stretches.

CONCLUSION: There are two primary reasons I’m buying Abogidi stock. The first is that if he hits, he’s a wonderful modern big who can protect the rim, switch on defense, and stretch the floor on offense. The second is that his defensive acumen displays a level of game processing that leads me to buy into the possibility of his improvement. I’m generally lower on bigs who struggle with passing, but with Abogidi, I think he understands the game well enough that I’m not writing him off on that front. For him, it’s simply a matter of building on the tools he has and turning the flashes into consistent sources of light. I think he can do it. Any time a player is described as “raw” but they already contribute in a positive manner, they have my attention.

8. Terrence Shannon Jr., 6-5, Junior, Texas Tech, Athletic Wing, 21.

Terrence Shannon Jr. is another player who flirted with the draft process for some time before ultimately heading back to Texas Tech. This year, he’ll find himself in a new system, as his previous coach Chris Beard left for Texas. Offensively, Shannon was used in a strange role at times that made him difficult to evaluate, and he has a clear path that could easily find him in the draft mix.

Shannon’s athleticism is what jumps off the page when you watch him. He has absurd lift and is an elite rim finisher, converting 66.7% of his half court shots around the basket according to Synergy. He’s well built and can handle getting bumped by bigs in mid air. No one intimidates Shannon, and he uses that fearlessness to get the free throw line consistently. He also has a knack for finding holes in the defense off the ball and making cuts for easy buckets. Shannon’s build and footwork make him an awesome point of attack defender both in isolation and the pick-and-roll. It’s difficult to get clean looks against him. Shannon makes himself skinny around screens. His strength prevents bigger players from feasting on him, and he can move with just about anybody. There’s 1 through smaller 4 defensive potential here.

Right now, Shannon’s biggest issue is going to be figuring out an NBA role on offense. At Texas Tech, he was utilized in strange ways, often running the baseline from side to side in the dunker spots. It’s hard to imagine an NBA team utilizing a 6’5” guy that way. Shannon isn’t the fastest decision maker, and that shows up in two ways. First, he’ll occasionally catch a pass on the perimeter and then bring the offense to a halt while he figures out what he wants to do. Second, when his drives get cut off, he finds himself stranded, and then he’ll take long pauses after picking up the ball. This allows the defense plenty of time to recover while his man smothers him. Occasionally he’ll force some bad midrange looks early in the clock.

CONCLUSION: Much of Terrance Shannon Jr.’s draft stock will come down to two things: what does he looks like in a new system, and can he shoot threes consistently? Shannon improved to 35.7% from three on 3 attempts per game last year. If he can see another mini-leap there, he’ll be in business. Right now, it might be too easy to ignore him off the ball, and his decision making is not good enough that an NBA team would want him operating with it. If he can knock down threes and make defenders pay when they get close to him while also being a defensive menace, there’s a chance Shannon could start at the 2 in the NBA. But, if this year goes poorly or the three point percentage drops, it’s hard to see him being more than a reserve or fringe player. There is a wide range of outcomes, and much of it is tied to his shooting. If it’s there, he’s representative of much of what is valuable in the NBA.

9. Jabari Walker, 6-8, Sophomore, Colorado, Forward with Shooting Touch, 19.

On January 14th, Jabari Walker appeared to have his breakout game, going for 23 points and 11 rebounds against Cal. He would follow it up with a solid 11 point, 8 rebound game against Stanford. Then, he largely went quiet until the NCAA tournament, where he exploded for 24 points against Georgetown, going 5 for 5 from long range. The next game, he scored 0 points. Jabari Walker was the toughest evaluation on this list for me. He has incredible moments and stretches, but a lack of consistency and some bizarre habits leave him here.

The first thing on Jabari Walker’s stat sheet that will catch your eye is his three point percentage: an incomprehensible 52.3% last season. Though he only took 1.7/game, the shot looks smooth and clean. He does a dynamite job of getting set and squared the basket, and the ball comes out of his hand soft as a feather. While he’s not a high burst athlete (more on that later), he’s very coordinated with favorable body control. You see this the most on his drives, where he’s patient, composed, and doesn’t get knocked off balance. Walker is a good screener, and already provides value as a pop threat. He gets out in transition and his ability to deal with contact and changes of pace allow him to thrive in those scenarios. On the defensive side, Walker does an excellent job of staying engaged. You’ll rarely catch him napping, he knows where his man and the ball are at any given time, and he provides reliable help. He also does a great job carving out space for rebounds, and averaged 12.2 boards per 40 minutes.

I mentioned consistency, and that’s my biggest worry with Walker. He had these big scoring explosions, but it’s hard to imagine that if he was an honest to goodness 52.3% three point shooter, he wouldn’t have been given more playing time. Though he has size, he currently doesn’t have much of a post game at all and can’t make smaller defenders pay down low. Walker is also inconsistent on the defensive side of the ball with regard to his movement and speed. Occasionally he looks up to snuff laterally, other times he feels slow. Too often he will have his arms super close to his sides and move as if he’s wearing a tuxedo as opposed to getting wide and sliding. There is also a troubling lack of discipline at times. Walker gets really overzealous, particularly with closeouts and position battles in the post. This leads to him getting blown by, and is also why he ends up in foul trouble; he averaged an appalling 6.0 fouls per 40 minutes. If he’s going to get an increased role this season, he can’t get himself benched due to his fouling issues on a night-in, night-out basis. Walker has zero vertical lift, which leads to him getting stuffed and swatted in traffic. There was a play in the previously mentioned Cal game where he had a wide open breakaway and barely managed to dunk the ball. At 6’8”, that’s troubling. His lack of lift and inconsistent mobility give me worries about who exactly he will be guarding at the NBA level, despite his willigness.

CONCLUSION: Even if his shot doesn’t fall at the same clip as it did last season, I do believe in Jabari Walker’s touch. His rebounding is another skill that should translate because he does an admirable job of getting positioning. As far as the athletic concerns, I think some of them (like his lift) are purely conditioning related. He’s never going to be LeBron James, but I don’t think he’s a lost cause either. Walker is going to be placed into a much bigger role this season, and he’s going to have to reign in his fouling. His motor runs high, and I think if he gets the fouling under control, everything else should progress. The energy with which he plays is also why I think he can improve his fitness levels and speed; he feels like a hard worker. Jabari Walker could be an NBA starter if the shot stays consistent at a high level and he can stay out of foul trouble on defense. If that doesn’t happen, he may not be an NBA player at all.

10. Matthew Mayer, 6-9, Senior, Baylor, Versatile Forward, 22.

Matthew Mayer was a “star in his role” for Baylor during their national title run this past season, and this year, he may get a chance to be an actual star for the Bears. Mayer might not be the highest ceiling player in this draft, but he’s already really strong in a lot of important areas. Mayer is great from deep, outstanding at the rim, and can be a pesky defender.

Mayer’s bread is going to be buttered by his range. He is currently a career 36% three point shooter, but that number has gone up in each of his three seasons, and he was at 39.5% last year. At his size, that stands out. The release is a high one, which makes it difficult block. He’s also able to hit them from anywhere along three point line and is dangerous off relocation. The beautiful thing about Mayer’s game is that he’s also terrific at attacking closeouts, so if you come in hot, he’ll burn you. Mayer is quirky off the bounce and knows how to use rhythm to get to the hoop. Mayer has an array of quick rip-through attacks and herky-jerky stuff. He posted a tremendous 70% field goal percentage at the rim in the half court, per Synergy. When he gets the basket, he can rise through contact, and he’s ambidextrous as a finisher. His dribbling craft is also why at 6’9”, nearly 10% of his offensive possessions actually came as a pick-and-roll ballhandler (Synergy). On defense, Mayer’s lateral agility and quick hands make him a terror. He also has anticipation skills to disrupt passing lanes. His arms aren’t super long, so he’s not going to be a smallball 5, but 3s and 4s should be easy covers for him, and he’ll hold his own against smaller players too.

The biggest drawback for Mayer is going to be his age and lack of upside. He’ll turn 23 shortly after draft night, and there isn’t a path to stardom for him. Offensively, he’s not the best or most willing passer. We’ve also yet to see him as a focal point or high usage player, so he’ll have to deal with defenses paying a lot more attention to him this season. Defensively, Mayer can be both over-eager and inattentive. He’ll gamble for steals when he shouldn’t, and other times he’ll get caught napping. This was an issue with him playing 15 minutes a game, and stepping into a bigger role, he’ll need to reel that in with regularity.

CONCLUSION: There were times during the 2020 draft cycle where Mayer was floated as a potential first round guy. I can’t quite get there, but I think he’s interesting, and we should get a much better picture of what he is this season. Mayer has yet to start a college game, and while Baylor’s teams have been really talented, that makes it hard to project Mayer as an NBA starter. Players like Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams didn’t start in college, but they also weren’t 22 heading into their senior season without a start; they were one-and-dones. I see Mayer in a role similar to what he did at Baylor; a guy who comes in off the bench, mucks it up defensively, and provides spacing on offense with the ability to attack when given the opportunity.

11. Johnny Juzang, 6-6, Junior, UCLA, Scoring Threat, 21.

In the aftermath of the NCAA tournament, it briefly felt like Johnny Juzang may have played himself into the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. However, as weeks went by, it felt as if team dug deeper into the film and started to sour on him. After a rough performance at the NBA combine, it appeared he would likely be a second round selection, and it was possible he may not have been drafted at all. Juzang then opted to return to a loaded UCLA squad for his junior season.

I believe that Johnny Juzang’s shooting ability is a legitimate NBA skill. He is fantastic off the catch with an amazing, lightning quick release. The real icing on the cake is his range- Juzang can hit them from deep behind the three point line. There’s movement upside too, as he was good coming off of screens. He’s also superb off the dribble, and can make tough shots. Juzang put up a super efficient 1.129 points per possession on pick and roll plays as a ball handler last year, making him one of the most lethal scoring threats out of the P&R in college basketball. Juzang owns a nice floater to thwart bigs when attacking.

The other side of the ball is where things get dicey. Where Juzang struggled at the combine was on defense, and with regard to athleticism and pace. Juzang is slow footed, and he can be inattentive, which allows opposing teams to pick him apart. Offensive pacing is a problem too, as he struggled to hang when competing against fellow NBA level competitors. UCLA’s offense moved at a snail’s pace in the half court last season, and the up-and-down game seemed trickier for him. Juzang also dribbles too much at times and forces some bad looks. He doesn’t have a quick first step. Lastly, he’s far worse going left than right.

CONCLUSION: There are two paths for Juzang to click as an NBA player. The first is that he continues to hit from deep and hits an even higher percentage this year. At a certain point, being a high level bomber who can make deep tough ones off of movement is going to be enough to compensate for defense. The second option is one that I feel many have somewhat foolishly written off, and that’s simply tightening up his athleticism. There are a lot of high level trainers now who can work wonders, and with the NIL money coming in, Juzang will have a chance to invest in his body in a way he previously would not have been able to. If the shooting and defense take even a small step forward, I think he’s at least a back up in the NBA. If not, he may be more of a fringe guy initially.

12. Kofi Cockburn, 7-0, Junior, Illinois, Bruising Big Man, 22.

The center position has become heavily saturated in recent years. There are always plenty of players on the market who can set screens, dunk, rebound, and block shots. As a result, I don’t value the center position as much as I do wings or forwards. Still, I am placing Kofi Cockburn this high on the list because he can do those aforementioned things really well.

Cockburn is a monster around the rim, converting an obscene 78.6% of his half court shots there, per Synergy, which puts him in the 99th percentile of all college players. His large, strong frame allows him to go up strong. The post game is another area where his strength flourishes, as he can bully just about anybody on the block. He will never lose a position battle. Additionally, Cockburn gets off the floor really well for a player his size, making him a true lob threat. Those same tools make him uncontainable on the glass, averaging 14 rebounds per 40 minutes last season. He’s deadly in the pick and roll on offense, and occasionally sneaks in a cheeky slip screen for an easy bucket. Cockburn’s block numbers aren’t gaudy, but he’s a tremendous drop coverage defender because of his size and leaping ability. He does a marvelous job of using his foot work and positioning to force tough mid-range shots. On a similar note, Cockburn does a first-class job of remaining vertical on contests and staying out of foul trouble.

Cockburn is great at what he’s great at, but his flaws are pretty significant. The first thing that people will point to is that Cockburn is not a threat to stretch the floor, and that’s true, but I don’t think he needs to do that to be effective. I’m far more worried about his free throw shooting and his passing. Cockburn was respectable at the line as a freshman, hitting 67.7% on 5.3 attempts per game. His sophomore season, that number nosedived to 53.3% on 7 attempts per game. The nature of his game is going to lead to him being fouled a lot, so he has to be productive as a foul shooter. If not, he could become unplayable. With regard to his passing, Cockburn isn’t very skilled in that area, but he’s also not all that willing to dish it. Being surrounded by shooters like Jacob Grandison, Trent Frazier, and Adam Miller, you may have assumed he dished an assist or two per game just by virtue of hitting one of his perimeter guys for an open look after a double team came. Instead, Cockburn posted *wait for it* 5 total assists last season. Illinois didn’t have any long COVID pauses either, they played 31 games, and he had 5 total assists. This season, without Ayo Dosunmu and Adam Miller, he’ll likely face even more doubles, and his ability to pass out of them will be critical. A final small thing is that on the defensive end, you can beat him with post moves if you’re patient and keep working to counter him.

CONCLUSION: Cockburn definitely has flaws, but I think the strengths do more than enough to outweigh them. Teams that play in a drop will get a player who will be ready to defend in their scheme out of the gate, feasts on the glass, and gets easy buckets inside. He needs polish, but Cockburn’s fitness levels over time have shown that he’s willing to put in the work. He’ll be the focal point of Illinois’ offense this season, and I think he’ll do a wonderful job. To me, he was draftable last season. This year, he’ll have a massive opportunity to expand upon his resume as the top guy on a team with solid expectations. I see Cockburn likely as a good back-up, and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play a few years in the league at the very least.

13. Will Richardson, 6-5, Senior, Oregon, Combo Guard, 22.

It feels like there have been a bevy of Oregon upperclassmen who have generated draft buzz in recent years, and Will Richardson is on deck. With size, shooting, and the ability to finish at the rim, Richardson is an enticing combo guard who can make a dent this season if he can play like his best self more consistently.

Richardson’s best strength right now is his rim finishing; he was a preposterous 70.4% around the basket last season per Synergy, placing him in the 98th percentile of all qualifying college players, despite the fact that he’s a guard. He has great coordination and a solid enough frame to both slither around defenders and absorb contact. Additionally, Richardson is a floor spacer, hitting 39.6% of his threes over the course of his college career. He can put it on the floor too, and does a wonderful job of both scoring and distributing out of the pick and roll. This makes him a true combo guard who can operate with or without the ball, and not just an oversized guy who likes to dribble. Richardson is also decisive with the ball. The NBA requires quick decision making, and Richardson isn’t a guy who is going to stop the ball because he needs to think about what he will do next.

Consistency is an issue that’s plagued Richardson over his career. If you look at his game logs, his counting numbers waiver up and down drastically over various stretches. It’s going to be tough for him to earn a coach’s trust if you never know what you’re going to get out of him. He’s also had turnover issues, which makes things trickier for him. His handle isn’t the tightest and he loses control of the ball at times. This could make him more of a “two who can run pick and rolls sometimes” rather than a true combo guard. Richardson’s ability to read the floor is also more basic than spectacular. Lastly, his athleticism is worrisome. He needs screens to separate on offense, and his movement on defense isn’t the most impressive. This rears it’s head the most in transition, where he puts up poor numbers because players can catch up to him easily and his loose handle is exploitable in chaotic scenarios.

CONCLUSION: As one of the older players in the mix, Richardson doesn’t have a big margin for error. This season at Oregon, he’ll be taking on a bigger role, and how he responds will make or break his draft stock. If Richardson merely tightens up his handle, his on and off ball abilities make him a really enticing player who could run the one or two off the bench. Otherwise, he’ll have to work on making athletic improvements or become a 44% level three point shooter. Regardless, Richardson needs to be more consistent in order to gain the trust of NBA organizations.

14. Julian Champagnie, 6-8, Junior, St. John’s, Big Wing, 20.

Julian Champagnie made a giant jump in his second season at St. John’s, drastically improving as a shooter and leading the Big East in scoring. Champagnie hit 37.7% of his threes on 6.4 attempts per game, grabbed 7.4 boards per game, and averaged 2.4 total stocks (steals +blocks) per game. Given those counting numbers and his size, you’d assume he was in first round consideration last year, but that was on the case. Athleticism concerns that showed up on film were verified at the draft combine, and Julian Champagnie headed back to school while his twin brother signed with the Raptors as an undrafted free agent.

Champagnie’s comfort from deep is a massive plus. He’s also an 83.7% career free throw shooter, so the percentage jump from three felt real. His best shot to stick as a pro is likely to continue working on his three point shooting. There’s a lot of pick and pop upside due to his frame. While he can nail jumpers off of spot ups, he has a smooth game off the bounce as well, and can do work in the mid range when forced. His length allows him to hit tough shots when smothered. He lives at the line, too, and doesn’t shy away from contact. Similar to Moses Moody last year, his general length leads to people getting tangled up in his limbs, so he gets to the stripe without egregious foul-baiting. Still, his willingness to deal with physicality is an awesome trait, and it shows up in his rebounding numbers too. Champagnie does a nice job of clearing space and mixing it up on the glass.

The athleticism issues are real, and they mostly deal with his slow footedness. Champagnie struggles to get open against better athletes, and tough shot-making will only get tougher at the NBA level. He’s a poor rim finisher for someone with his size, too, which makes you wonder how meaningful him being 6’8” really is on the offensive end. Defensively, he’s able to make a few sneaky plays per game because of his tools, but it’s hard to see that working at the NBA level. He gets cooked by quicker players. Offensively, he gets tunnel vision and doesn’t make plays for others. He’s also way more comfortable going left than right, and you better believe that coaches will have that in their scouting reports this season.

CONCLUSION: Julian Champagnie is in a similar spot to Johnny Juzang, where he has two clear paths: either work really hard on developing athletically, or get the three point percentage up to specialist levels. Right now, despite his rebounding, Champagnie is a bit of a 3-4 tweener, where his strength will be below the level of many 4s, and he’s too slow footed for NBA 3s. In an NBA where offenses are forcing more switches, his lack of quickness will be targeted. I’m still really interested in Champagnie because his improvement from his first to second season was staggering. We’ve seen him put in a lot of work on his shot, and I would imagine having a brother in an NBA system will be of great help and give him new insights. If it all clicks, Champagnie could be a rotation player as a modern forward.

15. Ochai Agbaji, 6-6, Senior, Kansas, 3-And-D Wing, 22.

Ochai Agbaji is the type of older prospect I can talk myself into because he’s steadily improved his game every year at Kansas.

The biggest testament to Agbaji’s work ethic is his three point shooting. As a freshman, he hit 30.7% on 3.4/game. As a junior, he was 37.7% on 6.9/game. Nice! Agbaji is also impressive in *how* he’s hitting them, doing a great job of getting set before he catches the ball, and showing movement upside. His first step allows him to burn sloppy closeouts. He’s also reeled in his handle and passing over time, making fewer mistakes. Last season, there were times where he threw accurate cross-court passes to open teammates that he never would have made two years ago. His burst makes him a plus cutter and lob threat. Agbaji does impressive work leaking out into transition. His tools and evolving game processing make him a defender who can feast on errors.

Still, Agbaji’s offensive game is a bit simple. The biggest issue is his finishing. He’s way worse at the rim than you’d expect given his tools. Agbaji doesn’t get to the line as much as you’d hope for someone who drives consistently, seeming a bit contact averse. His free throw percentage is still uninspiring despite his improvements from three (68.9% last season). He doesn’t have much to offer as a pick and roll player either because he’ll pull up for iffy shots too often. Though he has continued improving, he’ll be 22 on draft night, and there are always going to be tantalizing athletes on the wing, so his margin for error is slim.

CONCLUSION: Agbaji faces the most common predicament for NBA hopefuls: his ability to hit threes is going to tip the scales. For me, though, I’d accept Agbaji if he just holds the line for last season’s percentage. The most interesting development he can make is improving his craft around the basket. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be a plus finisher. If he can finish, he’ll have a place as a rotation player. I don’t see starter upside because his decision making still isn’t quite there. He’ll likely get opportunities on the margins even if this year doesn’t go as well as he hopes because he plays such an important position and is a great athlete.

16. Mark Williams, 6-10, Sophomore, Duke, Dunk-And-D Big, 20.

Mark Williams started his freshman season with a whimper, but he finished it with a bang. He averaged 16.7 PPG and 7.8 RPG in Duke’s final six games of the season. While those performances may have been a bit of an outlier, there are enough consistencies in Williams game that make him a real NBA prospect.

Williams is built like a tank. He’s physically strong, and he has great vertical pop to boot. I love the way he plays within himself on offense; he never takes a bad shot, and solely tries to score around the rim. He has touch around the bask. There’s a real post game here (1.147 points per possession, according to Synergy), and Williams can read doubles and kick out to avoid getting stripped. He has good hands and rarely fumbles lobs. Defensively, he recovers well and does a solid job of reading when to help. The way he gets off the floor is a problem for opposing players trying to convert around the rim. He has a real nose for the ball on the glass.

I don’t think Williams’ touch around the basket can extend out very far. He was bad free throw shooter (53.7%), and I get the sense that he just is what he is on that side of the floor. I really believe there is value in that still, because he’s super efficient and productive, but there’s not much potential on that side. Defensively, he’s not the best laterally, and will probably be limited to playing in drop coverage. His closeouts look shaky. He struggles on pump fakes, but that’s not uncommon for young bigs. I have some opportunity concerns, as he’s playing in a loaded front court and will have the highly experienced and talented Theo John breathing down his neck. He needs to start this season how he finished the last one.

CONCLUSION: The “roll, dunk, and block shots” big man isn’t hard to find. Still, I think Williams’ unique blend of strength, leaping ability, and awareness make him an enticing player. If he can be even 75% of what he was to finish the season, I’m still interested. You know what you’re getting with Williams, and the way he plays within himself will be appealing to coaches. There’s a chance Williams could become a starter if he can get better laterally, but I think he’s more likely to be a reliable back-up big man.

17. Donta Scott, 6-7, Junior, Maryland, Forward, 21.

Donta Scott is an interesting player with a unique combination of skill, size, and production. With Aaron Wiggins gone, he’ll have a chance to be a leader for Maryland in his junior season.

Donta Scott profiles as a forward with a thick frame who can shoot threes. Scott was 43.8% from deep last year, and he competes hard on the glass. Scott also has some juice with the ball in his hands, doing a nice job in isolation (1.107 points-per-possession) and as a pick and roll ball handler (1.237 pointer-per-possession). He’s a ready-made pick-and-pop shooter from deep. His feel for the game took a nice jump. Scott’s body also works in his favor around the basket, and his bounce paired with a nice second-jump ability make him a deadly finisher. Averages of .7 steals and .8 blocks per game paint a solid picture of his defense- he’s got solid instincts as a rim protector and can read passing lanes.

My concern with Scott is primarily the legitimacy of his jumper. Scott was a sub-70% free throw shooter last year, and his volume of 3.6 threes per game is respectable but not emphatic. On defense, he looks heavy at times, and I worry about his ability to cover at the NBA level. Still, early reports from training camp are that he has slimmed down, which I find encouraging.

CONCLUSION: Donta Scott’s shooting and ballhandling at 6’7” are impressive, and should the three point percentage hold, he’s going to get an NBA opportunity. I’m still a tad indecisive because I want to see the “new look” Donta Scott. If he improves laterally and can still maintain his strength, he’ll be slotted far too low. If he just loses mass but doesn’t get much quicker, I’m not sure what the point will be. He’s perhaps the biggest “wait and see” player at the top of this board.

18. Jermaine Samuels, 6-7, Super Senior, Villanova, Modern Wing, 23.

This is probably as high as you’ll see Jermaine Samuels on any similar list, but the reasoning for me is simple: I believe Jermaine Samuels will be an NBA player. I don’t think he’ll sniff an All-NBA team, I don’t even think he’ll be a fringe All-Star, but I think he will be a player in a rotation for a long time.

Jermaine Samuels is Villanova basketball distilled into one man. He has sterling instincts, he’s smart, his motor is always running, and he rarely makes mistakes. Samuels is a mismatch monster; that is, on offense, he punishes them, and on defense, it is exceedingly hard to create them against him. He has a genuine post game to work smaller players, and has no problem blowing past bigs and converting at the cup. There has been steady improvement in his free throw shooting, and last season he hit 37.1% from deep, so he’s a shooting threat now as well. In limited possessions, his craftiness has shown itself in the pick and roll as a ballhandler, thanks to his court vision and excellent passing. Similarly, he’s shown pick and pop upside as a screener due to his strength and ability to hit shots after relocating. His best offensive work right now comes as a cutter, where he uses his savvy to find openings in the defense. Defensively, I think Samuels will be able to cover 2-4 in the NBA. He does an awesome job of getting into a stance and preventing dribblers from getting past him. He’s attentive off the ball, to boot. Positional rebounding is a massive plus for Samuels; even when matched against traditional bigs, Samuels does a great job of boxing them out, and then soaring for rebounds. You’re not leaving anything on the table by playing small with him.

The chief concerns with Samuels are his age and athleticism. He’ll turn 24 early in his rookie season, which isn’t ideal. If he doesn’t stick right out of the gate, he’ll find himself between a rock and a hard place. Athletically, he’s not bad by any means, but he doesn’t give you the impression that he can get so much better in any one area because he’s so impressive physically. Much of his potential appears to have already been realized. Lastly, while I am bought into his shooting, it is worth noting that his career percentage from three is only 31.6%. Though I’m inclined to buy his shot due to his form and consistent improvement at the charity stripe, there’s still a kernel of doubt.

CONCLUSION: Despite his age, I think Jermaine Samuels will catch on as an NBA player if he can build upon what he did last season. Given that he has consistently improved year over year, I believe he will do so yet again. On top of that, Villanova will be one of the best teams in college basketball this season, giving him a higher level of visibility. Samuels has the ability to provide NBA teams with optionality and versatility on both sides of the court, he plays exceptionally hard, and he doesn’t have mental lapses. I’m betting that front offices and coaching staffs will find value in that, even if his ceiling isn’t as exciting as other prospects.

19. Jordan Hall, 6-8, Sophomore, St. Joseph’s, Point Forward, 20.

Jordan Hall flew under the radar last year, playing for a St. Joseph’s team that limped to a 5-15 record after multiple COVID pauses. Despite the record, there is a lot to like. Hall was an intriguing stat-sheet stuffer who averaged 10.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 5.6 APG as a 6’8” point forward who hit 35.1% from deep. Does he have your attention now?

I love how Jordan Hall uses his length on offense. He does a nice job of getting off tough-to-block shots, keeping the ball away from defenders, and finishing over smaller players in the post. He’s a playmaker in transition who does a great job of finding open teammates. There is a fluidity and rhythm to his game in the half court that more than covers for a lack of burst. Hall uses footwork and timing to beat defenders and generate open looks, finding a pleasant balance between patience and decisiveness. He’s shown the ability to shoot off the dribble, which compliments his pick and roll game well. His passing vision accentuates everything he does and keeps the defense on their toes.

The swing skill here is going to be Hall’s rim finishing. Obviously, his three point shot is critical, but I think he can shoot, and I expect a step up there. My concern is with his strength and ability to convert at the rim as a point-forward type. Hall was a disappointing 46.2% at the rim in the half-court last season. While he didn’t have ideal spacing, it wasn’t Oklahoma State level bad. Right now, Hall is really thin, which makes him easy to knock off balance. The benefit to the point forward is that they can use their size more than the traditional point guard; Hall can’t do that right now. Additionally, I have some questions about how valuable he is as an off-ball player. His spot up numbers were concerning, and if he can’t play without the ball, I’m not sure an NBA team is going to want him to be the guy with it.

CONCLUSION: Hopefully, we’ll get to see St. Joseph’s have a more normal season this year. That alone would give us a much clearer insight into what Jordan Hall can offer. I’m fascinated by his skillset and how many things he can do right now. He has to develop his body and an off-ball game to be a surefire NBA player, though. I’m assured Hall because of his tools and savvy. There’s a chance Hall could start in the NBA if he leverages his size, because dribble-pass-shoot players are valuable. If he can’t finish around the basket, though, he’s probably more of a reserve or fringe player.

20. Isaiah Mobley, 6-9, Junior, USC, Switchable Big, 22.

Isaiah Mobley was a player I was firmly interested in during the 2020 draft process, but in the ensuing months, I’m feeling more mixed in my evaluation. This year, free of his younger brother Evan’s shadow, we’ll get to see Mobley play with more responsibility, and we should get a clearer idea of who he is as a player.

The first word that comes to mind for me with Isaiah Mobley is “skilled.” Mobley is selfless with excellent floor vision and passing for his size. Last season he hit 43.6% of his three point attempts, and is good off the catch. I feel pretty comfortable with him putting it on the floor. He was used a lot as a spacer, and he has feel for when to cut. On defense, his mobility and length make him difficult to get passed and score around. Additionally, he’s a smart player on that side more than just a collection of tools. He provides rim protection and can nab steals.

Similar to his brother, Isaiah Mobley isn’t the strongest right now. As a result, he can’t offer much as a post player, screener, or roll man. His body is easy to manipulate around the basket, and at 22, he doesn’t have as much time to correct this as younger players do. Occasionally he’ll be too upright on defense, which allows better athletes to get by him. Stronger players can get through him. He has been an abysmal free throw shooter (career 53.6%), and his three point volume has been low, so I wonder if the shooting is real.

CONCLUSION: An increased role for Mobley at USC should give us a clearer picture of who he really is this year. If he can hit his same percentage from deep on higher volume and add some bulk, I’d definitely be interested in him as a back-up big man. His game is theoretically well-suited for the playoffs, outside of his free throw struggles. If the shooting dips, his age and strength issues become far more of a turnoff.

21. Lester Quinones, 6-5, Junior, Memphis, Shooting Wing/King of Short Shorts, 21.

Lester Quinones is a favorite of mine, and I think he has a real chance to showcase “specialist” level shooting with Memphis given their roster construction. Quinones hit 40% from deep last season. He flashes a quick release, and does a great job of finding openings on the perimeter. As a bonus, he also did a nice job as a pick-and-roll operator last season. He’s a fantastic positional rebounder, averaging 5.8/game, and fights like crazy for the ball. He does a nice job in a team concept defensively. As a one-on-one defender, he can get shaken. Quinones struggled as a finisher, too, likely due to his lack of high-end athleticism and boney figure. Still, Quinones understands his own game exceptionally well. It’s easiest for me to imagine him thriving as a “star in his role” for Memphis out of the non-Bates/Duren players, and getting himself on the radar.

22. Jahvon Quinerly, 6-1, Redshirt Junior, Alabama, Sweet-Shooting Point, 23.

I absolutely adore the bounce back season that Jahvon Quinerly had at Alabama. Quinerly was a highly-touted recruit who stumbled out of the gates at Villanova, transferred and took a redshirt, and last season, he looked like a whole new player. Quinerly was one of the best jump shooters in college hoops, knocking down 43.3% of his threes, and scoring an absurd 1.339 points per possession on catch-and-shoot looks. He can hit threes from way behind the line, and he can do so off the dribble, to boot. Quinerly is comfortable attacking and can explode or decelerate, but could stand to improve his touch around the rim. He does a great job of using his footwork and handle to keep defenders off-balance and he excels at punishing switches. Quinerly has a strong knack for knowing where his shooters are, and when they are being given too much space. Offensively, he needs to reel things in a bit. Quinerly can get too adventurous with his passes and force some bad ones. He’s shown the ability to use fake passes to bend the defense, and I’d like to see that more consistently. Defensively, he’s going to struggle. Size alone will limit him at 6’1”, but he needs to be more tuned in, too. He doesn’t provide meaningful help off the ball. He’ll cheat at inopportune times and cause rotations to be sent into a tizzy. Age plays a factor too, as he’ll be 23 on draft night, which lessens the excitement of his breakout season. I think Quinerly’s dynamism as a shooter and ability to play with and without the ball make him a real prospect. He probably tops out as a back-up because of the defensive warts, and he needs to build upon his decision making. Still, I’d rather swing on a guy who has shown ridiculous ability and needs to be more controlled than a player who hasn’t proven they can cut the mustard.

23. Darius Days, 6-7, Senior, LSU, Big Shooter, 22.

Darius Days is an intriguing “boom or bust” type of swing. The pairing of his physical profile and skillset is similar to Donta Scott, and with a chance to do more offensively for LSU this season, it’s possible his draft stock explodes. He’s hyper-efficient. Synergy ranked Days in the 96th percentile for half court jump shots, and the 93rd percentile for non-post-ups around the basket in the half court. He hit 40% of his threes last season, showing flashes as a pick and pop threat who can relocate well. Days also hit some from deep range, which is encouraging for the NBA transition. His size and finishing touch make him a real roll threat. Days has some lift, and is a threat to grab offensive rebounds and put them back for an easy two points. His rebounding as a whole is a positive because he uses his body so well to control the boards. He’s always doing something offensively, moving and screening instead of just standing in the corner. Defense will determine where he ends up. He doesn’t have enough lift or rim protection instincts to function as a smallball five. While he has a nice first step on offense, it doesn’t help him much on defense when he has to be more reactive. He doesn’t recover well when beat, and his response in that situation is usually fouling. Days has averaged 5.5 fouls per 40 minutes over his college career. At 22, it’s hard to imagine him suddenly becoming good on that side of the floor. Lastly, Days doesn’t offer much as a passer or creator. He interests me because he is so polished on the offensive side of the ball. Headed into this season, he would be best served to almost entirely focus on improving his defensive game. Reeling in the fouls, making strides laterally, and maintaining his three point shooting would make him an appealing proposition for front offices. Days could catch on as a rotational forward if the defense gets there or his shooting goes up another level. Otherwise, he’s in a tough position.

24. Hyunjung Lee, 6-6, Junior, Davidson, Efficiency King, 21.

Hyungjung Lee is very good at putting the ball in the basket, period. His shooting splits last season: 50.8% from the field, 44.2% from three, and 90% from the free throw line. Lee boasts a beautiful shot, and he can hit in a myriad of ways: off the dribble, spotting up, or flying around off ball screens. Lee is a coordinated athlete; he’s great once he gets going downhill, he’s smooth, and he has remarkable control of his body. He’s unafraid of contact and converted an amazing 67.6% of his attempts around the basket per Synergy. Defensively, he does a reliable job of avoiding screens, but he’s not the best laterally and he’s thin. I worry about his offensive translation to the NBA due to his subpar first step, and the fact that he hates driving right. Teams may be able to smother him, and he could struggle with the strength, length, and speed of NBA defenders coming out of the Atlantic-10 conference. At times, his decision making can be slow, resulting in defenses recovering. Still, Lee’s ability to score makes him an interesting option come draft night. He already plays in a largely off-ball role, so his playstyle adjustment wouldn’t be as massive as many other prospects. Even if his defense isn’t up to snuff, it may not hold him back given his shooting ability.

25. Allen Flanigan, 6-6, Junior, Auburn, Attacking wing, 21.

Allen Flanigan was getting a lot of love, but I have him down here for two reasons. First, he will at the very least miss a chunk of the season due to an Achilles injury. The second is that I’m still just not totally sold on him as a shooter. Let’s start with the positives, though; Flanigan is an athlete who uses his tools to his advantage. He does an amazing job of attacking and maneuvering at full speed while maintaining control and avoiding charges. Last season, he converted 70.7% of his field goal attempts at the rim in the half court. Flanigan loves contact, gets to the line a lot, and hit his free throws at a 77.6% clip last season. He’s a talented rebounder for his size. His pick and roll game is solid, and he’s best when straight up attacking or looking for the roll man. His handle can be a bit loose, and that allows players to poke it away from him when the court is crowded. His attacking footwork can be strange at times, and he’ll take a lot of steps to get where he needs to go. Defensively, he’s not always locked in, and occasionally lets himself get beat way too easily. When he’s in tune, though, he’s good. The reason I’m lower on the jumper is mechanical; his body is almost entirely sideways-facing when he shoots. There have been plenty of players who made it who had non-conventional shooting motions, but this is one of the strangest I’ve encountered. He’ll also take some wild ones for someone who shoots his percentage (33.8%). Whether he returns to Auburn for another year or goes pro, I hope things work out for him health-wise. It’s a shame we might see less of him this year, as I had seen some analysts project him as a first round pick prior to the injury.

26. Kerwin Walton, 6-5, Sophomore, North Carolina, Promising Shooter, 20.

One of my sleeper players, Kerwin Walton flashed specialist potential last season at North Carolina, where he canned 42% of his triples on 4.8 attempts/game while only playing 21 minutes per night. Walton is a certified bomber. Beyond that, he performed well with the ball, too. He makes accurate, smart passes and doesn’t try to do too much. Walton absorbs contact as a driver, but I wish he was more consistent as a finisher. He’s solid as a defender now, but he’s sturdy, and I think he has room to become a true 3-and-D player. The path for Walton is simple: keep draining threes for a talented UNC squad, clean up his finishing, and work on defensive polish. If he does that, he’s in the conversation.

27. Kadary Richmond, 6-5, Seton Hall, Sophomore, Long Athletic Guard, 20.

Trying to evaluate Kadary Richmond was a real “judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree” dilemma this past season. He was stuck on a Syracuse team where the style of play seemed antithetical to his skillset. The offense moved slowly, and defensively, he was parked atop a 2-3 zone. Still, there were impressive moments, particularly on D. Richmond is great at using his length on defense, poking balls in passing lanes and disrupting ballhandlers. It’s not just his tools, either; he’s a step ahead mentally, reading the defense and anticipating passes. He’s a legitimate playmaker on that side of the court, generating 1.6 steals in 21 minutes per game. Offensively, Richmond is unselfish. He does his best work in transition, where he displays finishing craft and has a nice sense of the court. He owns a solid handle that doesn’t get away from him. I like the way that he finds sharp angles to deliver the ball to his teammates, and he knows the right type of pass to throw at all times. Right now, he’s best as a pick and roll player. Though his limbs look wiry, I don’t think he’s weak, and he can show power at times. Right now, my concern is what he can do offensively in the half court that will work in the NBA. He isn’t a threat off the ball, and while he shot 33% from deep, it was on less than one attempt per game. Teams ignore him when he stands on the perimeter, and that can’t be the case regardless of whether he’s a 1 or 2. He also didn’t do well at the rim in the half court despite his physical gifts, and he doesn’t have the floater game to compensate. While he has specialist upside as a defender, he needs to figure out what it is that he does on offense when the pace slows down. If he can, there’s a lot of intrigue to be had, but if not, he won’t be playable at the next level.

28. Ron Harper Jr., 6-6, Senior, Rutgers, Versatile Forward, 22.

Ron Harper Jr. has championship DNA, as he is the son of former Chicago Bull and three-time NBA Champion Bill Wennington. I’m just kidding, he’s Ron Harper’s son, I just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention. Harper appeals to me because of his savvy. He doesn’t make questionable decisions, and he’s always getting himself into the right spots. Harper is a physically strong finisher who is good around the rim. It’s hard to deter him once he has a head of steam. He’s a trustworthy initiator, so he can grab rebounds and run the break. Harper did a great job as the ballhandler in pick and roll settings, and has upside to be a pop screener because of his off-the-catch shooting prowess and body type. His dribble game is herky-jerky, in a positive way. He exploits cutting opportunities. Defensively, he’s smart. He positioning himself well, he’s powerful, and he stays balanced when he slides. His length helps him to recover when he does get beat. Harper’s biggest challenge at the next level will be shooting consistency and athleticism. At Rutgers, he’s faced several long cold stretches that have hindered his three point percentage. He also doesn’t have a specialty skill, and as much as I love his defense, I’m not sure that his athleticism is potent enough to allow that to be his calling card at the next level. Harper doesn’t have a high ceiling, but if he can hit threes and become quick enough, he could carve out a rotational spot for years to come.

29. Christian Braun, 6-6, Junior, Kansas, Shooting Wing, 21.

Christian Braun had a down sophomore season at Kansas, but I believe he has the requisite tools to bounce back with authority this season. Like many others, three point shooting will swing it for him. Braun was a 44% three shooter as a freshman, but his percentage dropped to 34% as a sophomore, though he did launch them at a high rate. Frankly, that won’t cut it. Still, his form is outstanding, his release looks gorgeous, and defenses respect his shot. He’s also more than a shooter, as he has dribbling craft that allows him to attack closeouts. He’ll take what the defense gives him. Braun’s also a solid decision maker and does a nice job of finding others. Defensively, he moves well side-to-side. He doesn’t get burned or bullied. Braun understands the team concept well and will pick off lazy passes or help for strips. He struggled as a rim finisher and loves to go left. Still, if the shot isn’t there, none of this matters. But if it is, Braun could be a shooting specialist with good size and far better defense/athleticism than most who fit that profile.

30. E.J. Liddell, 6-7, Junior, Ohio State, Small Ball Big, 21.

E.J. Liddell has an awesome game for college basketball, it’s just going to be a matter of tightening up the loose ends that could make him viable in the NBA. Liddell has a powerful frame and good shooting touch. As a result, he’s a nightmare screener; will he roll to the rim like a freight train, or pop for a three, where he hit 33.8% last year? It makes him a tough cover. Liddell also has real court vision and is a skilled passer, so he’ll make help defenders pay for abandoning their man. Every few games, you’ll get a “my goodness, how did he find that opening?” read from him. Defensively, Liddell does a nice jump of holding his ground. He won’t be pushed around or bullied, even by bigger players. This year, Liddell will need to prove that he can handle the smaller, quicker players, though. Most of the concerns around his game center around what he’ll be able to do laterally, as he can be slow to slide, and he doesn’t have the best recovery traits. I also worry about his offense in the NBA, as he doesn’t have a ton of burst, and is more of a force than a crafty scorer in traffic. Movement and footwork will be things to keep an eye on for Liddell.

31. Azuolas Tubelis, 6-11, Sophomore, Arizona, Potential Stretch Big, 20.

Arizona has produced a few notable bigs in recent years, and Azuolas Tubelis is hoping to be the next to make the NBA. Tubelis has a gorgeous looking shot from deep. He has respectable speed and lift for a player his size, and he gathers with intensity in the dunker spot before flying up for finishes. He’s got a soft touch around the cup, and he clears out space like a maniac on the block. His play in the FIBA games for Lithuania over the summer saw him display an improved ability to read opposing offenses and protect the rim. Tubelis works really hard on the glass. I also adore his motor. There’s a real mean streak to his game. He’ll throw down dunks and then chest bump players on the opposing team before running back down the court. He has that Joakim Noah, “you love him if he’s on your team, you hate him if you’re playing against him” factor that I think is great for chemistry. Offensively, he could be more in-tune to defenders on the block. He’ll put it on the floor unnecessarily or gets stripped at times. He’s probably not going to be a switchable defender, so he needs to protect the rim like he did at the FIBA games this coming college season. His three point shooting is also still theoretical, as he was only a 31% three point shooter this past year. If he can get it up to the 35-37% range and improve his rim protection, I think an NBA squad will come calling.

32. Osun Osunniyi, 6-10, Senior, St. Bonaventure, Shot Blocking Specialist, 23.

Typically I’d be scared off by someone who will be 24 by the start of their rookie season, but with Osun Osunniyi, that’s less so the case. Osunniyi is a late bloomer who didn’t start playing basketball until 8th grade, and didn’t start for his varsity team until he was a senior. It’s all about the defense with Osunniyi, who swats everything. He put up 2.9 blocks per game last season. Perhaps even more impressively, Osunniyi is solid on switches, and he does an amazing job of staying out of foul trouble for someone with his activity metrics. There is a really impressive level of poise and discipline to his coverage. Osunniyi does a great job of high pointing rebounds. Offensively, Osunniyi is basically limited to finishing around the basket, though he has good touch there. Due to the nature of the Bonnies’ offense, Osunniyi also has developed as a passer. I have some reservations about his NBA translation due to his frame, as I could see him getting pushed around and struggling with the physicality of the game. Plus, at 24 when the season starts, he’s not going to have as much time to adapt as many others.

33. Jaylin Williams, 6-8, Junior, Auburn, Efficient Defensive Forward, 21.

Jaylin Williams is probably my favorite deep cut player who is rarely mentioned in draft circles. He incites chaos on defense. His length and burst allow him to act as a rim protector (1.4 BPG last year) and he reads passing lanes for steals. Williams does a great job of staying big, and he’s ridiculously light on his feet for someone listed at 230 pounds. Offensively, there’s a lot to like too. Williams is ridiculous around the basket, grading out in the 99th percentile on Synergy for non-post ups around the rim and shooting 82.2% there. He finishes with both touch and authority on rolls and put-backs. Williams also hit threes last season (34% on 3.5/game) giving him floor stretching potential. His work as a pop-man on screens was supreme, and hit footspeed makes him a slip threat. I love the craft that Williams plays with. He can attack sloppy closeouts, and he does an amazing job of using fake passes to make his life easier. There are flashes of intelligent passing, too boot. Still, at times, Williams can force it too much. His handle can be iffy, and he’ll try to make plays that aren’t there when he thinks he has the advantage. His free throw numbers are rough (63%) and the eye test on the jumper doesn’t grade out well. Auburn is going to be a talented team, particularly in the front court, which could make getting opportunities difficult. Still, I love the intellect and motor that Williams plays with, and he does it at a position of value.

34. Javonte Perkins, 6-6, Super Senior, Saint Louis, Scoring Wing, Unable to find age, Likely 23 on draft day based on graduation year.

Javonte Perkins has the look of a modern wing. He’s got respectable length, and he can score at all three levels. His role at Saint Louis forced him to take some tough shots last season, and I think he may actually profile better in a setting where he has less responsibility. His spot up numbers are fantastic, particularly when unguarded, so while his 37.6% from three on 4.8/game sounds more strong than it does amazing, I have faith that with less defensive attention devoted to him, he may actually be better than the numbers indicate. Perkins sees the floor well and does a nice job of finding teammates when he’s smothered. Defensively, he competes and is good for the occasional steal, but he’s not a lockdown guy. He’ll be held back by his age and the fact that he’s pretty average athletically compared to other prospects. Still, if I’m going to take a chance on an older prospect, I’m inclined to do it on one like Perkins, who is a knockdown shooter that put up 17.1 PPG in a solid conference.

35. Adam Flagler, 6-3, Redshirt Junior, Baylor, Sharpshooter, 22.

Adam Flagler was a crucial role player for Baylor’s National Championship squad, and this year, he’ll be a more featured piece. His per-minute numbers were ridiculous. Flagler hit a 43.4% from three on almost 4 per night, living up to the reputation he built at Presbyterian. He’s got a beautiful shot with a quick trigger. Flagler also does a suitable job of making himself as big as he can on defense, and boasts a solid passing game. Unfortunately, size is going to be an issue for him. His creation ability isn’t high enough to play the point, and he’s undersized for a two guard, which makes him a tricky positional fit. At the end of the day, he’s such a reliable shooter that if he posts a similar percentage on even higher volume, he may be impossible to ignore.

36. Andrew Nembhard, 6-5, Senior, Gonzaga, Big Initiator, 22.

Every year, there will be bigger guards who can dribble and pass a little bit, and there will be scouts and analysts tripping all over themselves in a rush to proclaim them a “real, big point guard.” Well, Andrew Nembhard is an ACTUAL real, big point guard. He plays with a wonderful view of the court, he’s selfless, and he rarely makes mistakes. Nembhard is one of the most trustworthy players on this list in that regard. Plus, his positional size is a massive positive on the defensive side of the court. His sense of floor mapping does him well as a pick and roll scorer, too, allowing him to finish well at the rim through timing and trickery. There are three things working against him: his age, athleticism, and shooting. He can’t change his age (Shabazz Muhammad tried this years ago to no avail). Athletically, I’m not sure how much more juice there is to squeeze, as he’s 22 and has exclusively played for high level programs. So, yet again, we have another player who’s fate will be tied to what they do behind the arc. He’s a career 32.6% shooter, and that may not be palatable to NBA teams given his age and athleticism. Gonzaga is always loaded, though, and he’ll again have an ideal spacing situation. With Ayayi and Suggs out of the way, too, he’ll get a lot more reps with the ball in his hand, and he could have a breakout campaign that allows teams to look passed the shooting.

37. Jaylin Williams, 6-10, Sophomore, Arkansas, Potential Switchable Stretch Big, 19.

I’m seeing double here, four Jaylin Williams’s! This is, indeed, the second Jaylin Williams on the list, and he’s another sleeper of sorts (though a few real draft heads have already picked up on him). He won’t turn 20 until shortly after the draft. Williams has stretch big potential, with great touch and a soft jumper. He has solid ball skills, and uses fakes well down low. Williams is really intriguing as a defender, too. He’s super light on his feet, quick to rotate, and does a marvelous job laterally. He’ll need to get stronger, but that’s not a big deal to me, he’s 19, and I think that will happen in time. He could improve his grip strength, as he’s prone to getting the ball knocked out of his hands. There’s also a general need for polish. Sometimes he will completely turn his back to the basket to find someone to box out before a rebound instead of having the court mapped in his head. There are paint looks that he will let go up uncontested. Offensively, he’ll be left wide open and be hesitant to take the shot. He could stand to be more decisive. Still, even in limited minutes as an 18 year old playing in the SEC, he was a good player, and there’s a ton of promise based on the tools he’s shown.

38. Collin Gillespie, 6-3, Super Senior, Villanova, Traditional PG, 22.

It was big news in the college basketball world when Collin Gillespie announced his return to Villanova. Selfishly, I was excited too, even though I’m not a Villanova fan, because I love watching him play basketball. Gillespie is a good three point shooter, both off the catch and off the dribble, 37.3% over his college career. He generated an impressive 1.45 points per possession on no-dribble jumpers last season. His assist-to-turnover ratio the last two seasons has been stellar, and you can put your trust in him to run the offense smoothly. On defense, he’s engaged, fiery, and intense. He’ll probably be limited to covering ones in the NBA. Gillespie is only okay athletically, and he’s coming off of a season ending injury. He’s a low ceiling proposition, but his shooting, decision making, and solid defense will keep him in the mix with another strong season if his recovery stays smooth.

39. Wendell Moore Jr., 6-5, Junior, Duke, Intriguing wing, 20.

Wendell Moore is a great playmaker for his size. He struggled out of the gate this past year, but as the season progressed, he improved, and often orchestrated Duke’s offense. He’s strong when attacking and a quality athlete. Moore is a good positional rebounder. I like him a lot on defense; he has long arms, he slides well, can handle the physicality of bigger players, and rotates quickly. His success will boil down to his shot. He went from 21% from three as a freshman to 30% last year. If he has another jump in him, he’d fit the 3-And-D profile to a tee. Plus, he’s younger than you would think. Without a reliable three ball, though, I can’t buy him as an NBA guy. His initiating skills just aren’t at that level, and he can easily be ignored without the ball. Last year’s improvement, particularly as the season went along, is leading me to keep the book open on him for now.

40. Armando Bacot, 6-10, Junior, North Carolina, Athletic Big, 22.

Last season, North Carolina was loaded with bigs, and while Armando Bacot had a nice season, I think it clouded our collective vision with regard to his NBA potential. This year, he’ll see more time as a traditional center on both sides, which is where he’s meant to be. Bacot will also benefit from transfers Brady Manek and Dawson Garcia, who will stretch out the floor and give him more room in the paint on offense. Even with a crowded front court, Bacot was 53.2% on post-ups, and 66.4% on non-post-ups around the basket, both fantastic numbers. He’s strong on the block and has real lift. There’s also upside to him as a roller on screens, something we didn’t see often out of UNC this past year, but may start to see more frequently with a new coach. Defensively, Bacot is active. He rebounds well, has strength to handle bigs, and can stay with quicker defenders. His motor runs high, and there’s a maturity to his game. The lack of a face-up game will be the biggest knock on Bacot, and it’s a fair one. But I think with improved spacing, there’s a chance he has a dynamite season and lands a spot on an NBA roster, either as a second round pick or undrafted free agent.

41. Dawson Garcia, 6-11, Sophomore, North Carolina, Stretch Big, 20.

Dawson Garcia has a beautiful, sophisticated offensive game. He has feather soft touch around the basket and a real, true three point jumper. Garcia was one of the best shooters his size in his age group last year, going 35.6% from three on 2.7/game. The kicker is that Garcia actually has a really nice handle, and can attack lazy closeouts as well as traditional bigs off the bounce when he’s on the perimeter. Garcia’s game gives bigs problems, and it results in him getting to the line a lot. He does a nice job of cutting off the ball. His performance at the G League Elite Camp helped get him more on the radar. His issues will largely come on the defensive side of the ball. At the moment, he’s the dreaded 4/5 tweener. He doesn’t have reliable lateral footspeed. This was most troubling when players like Julian Champagnie, who is knocked for not being a great athlete, was able to burn him when their teams faced off. Garcia has also yet to show any real rim protection skills. Last season he played the 4 next to Theo John, and he’ll play the 4 again this season next to Armando Bacot. He’ll also have Brady Manek breathing down his neck, and I think that’s more troublesome than some people are giving credence to. On the boards, he needs to get better at sealing off opposing players. Garcia’s offense is so perfect for the modern game, but he needs to be able to find a place where he can hold his own on defense. If he does, this ranking will be foolishly low.

42. Walker Kessler, 7-1, Sophomore, Auburn, Defensive Big Man, 20.

Walker Kessler was one of the many notable big men on North Carolina this past season. He was the odd man out most of the time, averaging a mere 8.8 minutes per game despite his prior billing as a Top-20 incoming recruit. It would be easy to assume then, that he struggled, but he didn’t! Kessler came in and played with loads of energy and was productive in his minutes. It’s hard to blame him for transferring out, as I imagine it had to have been frustrating. Kessler was best on defense, generating steals and blocks at a high clip. He ended the season with a 3.3% steal percentage and 10.7% block percentage, which is obscene. At 7’1”, he has long arms and has shown impressive moments of verticality. Rebounding is a strength of his- he uses his length well to patrol the lane and grab misses. I also like how Kessler runs- he has a natural stride and moves like a smaller player. The biggest challenge facing Kessler will be how he adjusts to a bigger role. It would be next to impossible to match his per-minute totals from last season, but it would be nice if he can build upon what he has shown. He needs to get better at the charity stripe, and he’s not a threat to stretch the floor right now. Kessler took three jump shots all of last season. His post-game is disappointing, partially due to his lack of power. When he gets caught on screens, he struggles to recover. While he moves fluidly, he hasn’t projected the agility to be more than a drop defender at this point. Like many young bigs, he also struggled with fouls, but that may have been a result of his minutes situation. If I was him, I too would’ve tried to come in like a house of fire and been active to try and earn more minutes. I don’t think he’ll reinvent the wheel, but if his defensive metrics continue to impress, I can see him catching on in the NBA.

43. Josiah Jordan-James, 6-6, Junior, Tennessee, Defensive Wing, 21.

A highly touted recruit in the 2019 class, Josiah Jordan-James had a promising freshman season. Last year, a rough combination of regression, a clogged spacing situation, and a crowded roster put a dent in his NBA chances. I’m not selling all of my stock, though. Josiah Jordan-James is one of the best athletes on this list. He’s a defensive playmaker who averaged 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game last season. I love that his stature and attentiveness allow him to play defense on and off the ball , as well as protect the rim. Jordan-James also boasts pretty good court vision, and he’s selfless offensively. For him, much of it will (get your drink ready) come down to his outside shooting. He went from 36.7% as a freshman to 30.8% as a sophomore. He’ll need to get back to that initial figure while keeping the volume steady or increasing it. Additionally, he struggled at the rim, which is really disappointing given his physical profile. Ultimately, Jordan-James is a great athlete who “gets it,” he just needs to polish up his scoring ability.

44. Landers Nolley II, 6-7, Redshirt Junior, Memphis, Shooter, 22.

Much of what I said about Lester Quinones can be applied to Landers Nolley II as well. Nolley was a sniper last season, hitting 38.7% of his threes on 6 per game. He’s got a nice release, and he’s golden off of movement. There’s a chance he could explode as an off-ball option around with Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren added to an already strong team. I’m a little lower on Nolley than Quinones because Nolley is even thinner than Quinones is, and his defense is worse. He can’t get to the rim as well, and doesn’t have much to his game outside of his shooting. Still, the shooting is really, really good, and that may be enough.

45. Mike Miles, 6-1, Sophomore, TCU, Scoring Point Guard, 19.

Mike Miles is one of the higher upside players in this range. He’s not quick, he’s sudden. He can shoot threes off the bounce with a snappy release, and showcased some interesting catch and shoot skills playing next to RJ Nembhard last season. When he’s played tight off the ball, he’s able to burn defenders with cuts. I love how comfortable he is playing a complimentary role; there doesn’t appear to be any ego to him. He flashed some impressive reads during the FIBA U19s, but he does need to see others more consistently. Better passing is probably the biggest thing for him; his 3.1 to 2.6 assist-to-turnover numbers are going to be a deterrent. His assist numbers will probably always be lower than they should be because he plays for TCU (sorry, had to say it), but the turnovers need to be controlled. Miles is solid in a lot of places right now, but if he cleans up his distribution skills and finds one other area to take a leap, he’ll be in consideration.

46. Tyson Etienne, 6-2, Junior, Wichita St., Long Range Bomber, 22.

If you like gunners, Tyson Etienne is your guy. Etienne hit a ridiculous 39.2% from deep on 7.5/game, and some of those were from hilariously far behind where the NBA three point line would be. He’s good off the catch, but what makes him special is his handle. Etienne has a bag full of dribble moves and an ability to burst in any direction at any time that make him an exceptionally difficult cover. He was forced to play the 2 last season, but will be moved to the 1 this year. His assist-to-turnover ratio was over 2-to-1 last season, and he’ll be able to cover players more his size that way too. Defense still isn’t a strength for him, as he can be stiff at times and doesn’t always make himself wide. The elephant in the room with Etienne is his scoring inside the arc; it’s really bad right now. He doesn’t have a floater at all, and was a meager 43.5% on shots around the basket. He has lift and a solid frame, so I think he could theoretically get better there, but it’s a problem right now. The shooting will be how he butters his bread regardless of where he ends up, but this season he’ll need to show he can run an offense and work on his finishing craft if he wants to be taken in the draft.

47. Kevin Obanor, 6-8, Senior, Texas Tech, Stretch Big, 23.

Obanor has two really big strengths: he can score, and he can rebound. Obanor gets buckets at all three levels, and his lights-out shooting off the catch will make him an outstanding pick and pop player. He isn’t bulky, but he deals well with physicality; he screens with intent, finishes through contact, and throws his body around to get boards. He’s played his whole college career at Oral Roberts, so transferring to Texas Tech will see him face a much higher level of competition consistently, which could be a challenge. Defensively he does an okay job of moving his feet, but he’s not exceptionally strong, so he’s probably a guy that just covers opposing fours for the most part. Obanor is 23, so the clock is ticking, but a productive season in a major conference will put him on the map as a floor spacer who offers something on the glass.

48. Buddy Boeheim, 6-6, Senior, Syracuse, Shooter, 22.

I noted it with Kadary Richmond earlier, but evaluating Syracuse players is a pain. Buddy Boeheim’s chance at the NBA comes via shooting specialization, plain and simple. He hit 38.3% from deep on 8/game last season, and he has good size. Boeheim can hit them off the catch, off the dribble, and off movement. He’s not a rim finisher, but he has a nice runner package that he can use when attacking closeouts. The man is a microwave and a menace when he gets cooking. Still, an NBA adjustment would be daunting. Right now he gets to play in a 2-3 zone, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him defending NBA wings one-on-one. I also worry about his ability to gain separation in the NBA. He also has a really long leash at Syracuse and will occasionally jack up some questionable shots early in the shot clock, which might not go over as well with pro teammates. Still, when you shoot that well, you can leave a lot of other things on the table. It’s all about 3 point percentage and volume for Buddy Boeheim.

49. Drew Timme, 6-10, Junior, Gonzaga, Post-Up Big Man, 21.

Drew Timme is immensely talented, he’s just talented in a way that NBA evaluators aren’t totally interested in at this point in time. He owns an outstanding post repertoire, he sets meaningful screens, and he’s a phenomenal passer with tremendous vision. The conversation with Timme, still, is largely about what he can’t do. Timme is a subpar athlete, and his poor footspeed was on full display in the National Championship game as Baylor’s guards consistently punished him. Right now, he gets killed in space by quicker athletes. Timme will need to get better with his feet to have a chance to stay on an NBA court. I’m also not optimistic about him becoming a floor spacer, because his spot up numbers have been underwhelming thus far. Timme could be served to work on his defensive positioning, too. He’ll never be an elite athlete, but if he can learn how to lay traps and force mistakes with where he puts himself, that could be an easier avenue to improved defense. I wouldn’t take Timme if the draft were tomorrow, but he’s so skilled that I don’t feel comfortable writing him off yet.

50. Max Abmas, 6-1, Junior, Oral Roberts, Scorer, 21.

Max Abmas flew up draft boards during the 2021 Draft Cycle after Oral Roberts took the nation by surprise and made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Chad Ford even listed him as a Top 30 guy at one point. I’ve always been more dubious. Abmas is an incredible scorer, certainly. Last season, he put up 24.6 PPG on 47.8/43.3/89.0 shooting splits. He averaged an absurd 1.506 points per possession on catch-and-shoot jumpers. He’s totally content without the ball, and will backdoor defenders that try to hang onto him. It’s everything else that I’m worried about. His listed height of 6’1” is…suspect. He’s going to have an awful time defensively because he lacks length and doesn’t have the best feet on that side of the court. His passing vision is also really far away from where it should be. As encouraging as his tournament performances were, I still can’t see him getting it done consistently against NBA length, strength, and speed. He had a rough outing at the combine, and performed poorly in scrimmages there when surrounded by other NBA prospects.

51. Eric Ayala, 6-5, Senior, Maryland, Scoring Guard, 23.

Similar to Donta Scott, Eric Ayala will get more reps in Maryland’s offense this season following the departure of Aaron Wiggins. Last season, Ayala put up over 15 PPG, so he’s comfortable scoring and taking on responsibility. Ayala is a really good finisher at the basket and uses some neat change-of-pace moves to get there. When the pressure comes, he’s totally content taking contact at the basket. He’s a smart cutter, and he does a fantastic job of leading the pick and roll. His floor vision is solid for a wing. Right now, he’s an okay three point shooter, hitting 33.6% for his career on 4.7/game. Given his age, he has to do better than this season. Defensively, he can tune out at times. He has a bad tendency to shrink up when he gets stuck on offense, and he’ll force some bad looks even when he’s smothered.

52. Keve Aluma, 6-9, Redshirt Senior, Virginia Tech, Smallball Big, 23.

Keve Aluma is another late bloomer. After two pedestrian seasons at Wofford, he followed his coach to Virginia Tech. After redshirting for a year, he looked like a completely different player in his junior season. Aluma put up over 15 points and almost 8 rebounds per game, blowing his numbers at Wofford out of the water despite the massive step up in competition. Aluma has a thick, sturdy build. He’s got lift off the floor and shrugs off contact. His screens are always rock solid, and he’s tricky to cover because he’s a great roller and also a threat to shoot (35.1% from three last season). He’ll move the ball decisively, and can fire off some fast passes. His motor is always running, and he never hangs his head after a mistake. Defensively, he positions himself well, and I think he can switch up or down comfortably for a player his size. At times, he can be too upright on that side of the floor, and he’ll occasionally get himself out of position by gambling. I do worry about if the shot is actually as good as the numbers indicate, as he’ll still launch an occasional moonball or bad miss, and he’d never even made free throws at a high clip prior to this year. Still, given the overall production increase, I think he made real improvements. Given his age, he probably needs to take another step forward this year to warrant consideration, but I love what I saw last year and think he may have it in him.

53. Liam Robbins, 7-0, Senior, Vanderbilt, 3-And-D Big, 22.

Liam Robbins fits the Brook Lopez archetype as a player who can patrol the lane in drop coverage on defense and stretch the floor on offense. He swatted an obscene 2.7 shots per game last season. Robbins has decent quickness and is pretty limber for his size. While his defensive stance and footwork can leave a bit to be desired, he showed big improvement from where he was at Drake to his most recent season at Minnesota. He’ll again be at a new school this year. Robbins has a legitimate post game with touch. The touch extends to his passing, too, which is nice trait to have given that he ends up at the top of the key quite a bit because of his shooting. Robbins is good off the pop, and has increased his 3 point percentage each season (32.7% last year). Given his size, he’s a disappointing rebounder. His body is thin, and he can get pushed around, so he has a hard time maintaining inside position. He limits his own minutes due to foul trouble. Like many high block totals types of players, he’ll occasionally completely sell out for a block and get cooked because he abandoned his man. Robbins could generate significant interest if he can pack on some mass and continue to improve his outside shooting.

54. Keon Ellis, 6-6, Senior, Alabama, Prototypical Wing, 22.

This is something of a homerun swing. Ellis played two years at Florida SouthWestern State College, a community college, before making the leap to Alabama. As a junior, he only played 17.5 minutes per game, but I loved what I saw. Ellis is an awesome athlete with exceptional vertical pop. He hit threes at a 38.9% clip, and he used his tools to perform well inside the arc. Ellis has a strong arsenal of attacking moves and a good sense of where defenders will come from. He made an impact defensively, too, with 2.5 steals and 1 block per 40 minutes of play. Ultimately, he’ll have to prove that he can stay productive in a bigger role. His minutes have been low, so he’ll really need to show out as a senior. One obstacle will be limiting his fouling, as he’ll have to be a bit less aggressive to stay on the floor for longer stretches. He’s also limited going left and would be well served to work on that aspect of his game.

55. Zach Edey, 7-4, Sophomore, Purdue, Large Individual, 20.

At 7’4”, Zach Edey is a tower of a man. He obviously blocks shots like crazy and can clean up on the glass. I’m mostly intrigued because while I think his mere size gives him a shot to be an NBA player, he actually has really nice touch. He was 71.4% from the line last season, and I think there may be a chance he could stretch the floor at some point. Cardio and fouling will always be an issue at his size. He needs to add a passing element to his game, as teams can overwhelm him with doubles right now. As the season progressed, he started to do a better job of firing quick kick out passes to the perimeter. Teams will hound him because of his size, so he has to get stronger with the ball. I think his skill gives him a real shot to be more than a novelty/cult figure type, and perhaps have a meaningful NBA career as a reserve center.

56. Trayce Jackson-Davis, 6-9, Junior, Indiana, Paint Big, 22.

Trayce Jackson-Davis has been an ultra-productive college player, and he posted 19.1 PPG and 9.0 RPG last season at Indiana. Still, the way he goes about producing has never excited me in terms of NBA translation. Jackson-Davis is a beast of a rebounder and he draws fouls like a madman. He’s unbothered by contact, so he sets potent screens and finishes strong. Around the basket, he has soft touch and finesse when using his left hand. His rim protection instincts are good, and he provides solid weakside help. I ultimately worry about him because right now, he’s a post-up player who can only use one hand. His free throw numbers are just okay, he has posted dreadful jumper numbers, and he’s been inefficient as a roll-man. So how exactly is a 6’9” player with those flaws going to score in the NBA? I’m not sure. He’s not super athletic, so unless he can make enormous strides as a shooter, he’s basically a smallball 5 who doesn’t really provide you with any sort of tactical advantage that usually accompanies going small.

57. Scotty Pippen Jr., 6-2, Junior, Vanderbilt, Scoring Point Guard, 21.

Scotty Pippen Jr. is crafty, plain and simple. He has a bag full of counters, a great spin-move in the paint, and knows where defenders are at all times. His handle is strong, which compliments his dynamic pick and roll game. He’s also good off the catch, which shows he should have a relatively smooth transition to being a more tertiary option as a pro. Pippen loves getting fouled and is a reliable free throw shooter. The biggest battle he’ll face is dealing with higher caliber athletes. He doesn’t have a blinding first step, so he has a hard time roasting bigs on switches. He also had turnover issues, but I think part of that is playing for Vanderbilt, and feeling like he needed to force the issue to remain competitive. He’s a clever defender, but I worry about him being able to contain NBA players. Finishing at the rim was a struggle, and against NBA length and athleticism, that wouldn’t be any easier. Lastly, he missed time due to a hip issue, and we’ve seen hip issues do a number to basketball players in the last decade.

58. Caleb Love, 6-4, Sophomore, North Carolina, Athletic Point Guard, 20.

The general expectation headed into last season was that Caleb Love would be the latest one-and-done UNC point guard. Instead, Love struggled mightily. He ended the season with horrid shooting percentage of 31.6% from the field and he averaged over 3 turnovers per game. Love generally seemed overwhelmed, and in games when he performed well, he still started to bite off more than he could chew. Regardless of that, there’s a reason he was a Top-20 recruit. Love is a tremendous athlete. He’s got lift, he displays craft getting to lay-ups through traffic, and his shot looks good based on the eye-test. He’ll also have improved spacing this year with less Walker Kessler, Garrison Brooks, and Day’Ron Sharpe, and more Brady Manek and Dawson Garcia. Regardless of his teammates, Love will need to have a “prove it” season as a point guard. I’m unsure if he can work off-ball given his shooting woes, so much of his pro prospects will be tied to his playmaking. Despite a rough first year, I think Love is a prime breakout candidate in a revamped UNC system.

59. Marcus Carr, 6-2, Redshirt Senior, Texas, Aggressive Offensive Point Guard, 23.

Marcus Carr made some noise during the pre-draft process this past cycle before opting to return to school. Carr’s assist numbers have gone up and down, but he makes good reads as a ballhandler, and has nice start-stop-start attacks. He lives at the free throw line and coverts his attempts there. Carr struggles with making more complex reads and difficult passes. He has a hard time at the rim because he doesn’t have a lot of vertical bounce. He’s shown flashes of being able to use his hesitations and interior passes to get himself and teammates better looks around the basket, he just needs to do it more consistently. There is a frustrating tendency to lose the ball in traffic that he needs to clean up. Carr also launches a lot of threes (6.5/game last season) for someone who doesn’t hit them that consistently (33.6% career percentage). This season, he’ll be playing at Texas in a crowded guard situation with Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones, and Devin Askew. I do wonder if a smaller role would be beneficial so he wouldn’t have to take on so many things at once, but I also worry that he may get lost in the shuffle. The name of the game for Carr is consistency. When you watch his best games, he feels like he could stick, but he doesn’t play that way all the time.

Well, that does it! College basketball season is about a month away, and some international leagues have already begun play. Let’s get this draft cycle going! Again, if you enjoyed this series, please consider subscribing (it’s free!) and following me on Twitter (@BaumBoards, also free). I do this work as a labor of love in my free time. That said, if you feel so compelled, you can kick me a few bucks on Venmo, where my name is @MaxwellBaumbach.