Guards can run an offense and centers can dominate on the interior, but the versatility and length of wing players can always rule the day. The best player of this generation is a 6’9 wing who just happens to do it all. Kevin Durant is one of the most talented scorers of all-time and he does it as a wing player. Kawhi Leonard sets the tone on both ends of the floor from the wing. You will always have guards and centers who can steal the spotlight and put on a show, but the massive two-way pressure that is placed on wing players is something that is extremely difficult to replace. This year’s class has a boatload of talented wings who can transform a team’s offense and/or elevate a team’s defensive intensity with their length and athleticism. Here are ten guys who have the capability of doing this and you should keep an eye on when Draft Night rolls around on July 29.
1. Scottie Barnes, 6-8 225 Florida State Seminoles 20.0
Barnes was a highly touted recruit coming out of Montverde Academy and after an impressive debut season for the Seminoles, he has solidified his status as a lottery selection in the upcoming draft. Patrick Williams was selected 4th overall last season despite never starting a game in college. Barnes is in a similar situation because he did not crack the starting lineup after the first seven games of the season and his work off the bench earned him ACC Sixth Man of the Year (an award Williams also achieved the year prior).
Barnes plays like a point forward and the comparisons to Draymond Green are spot on. He stands at 6’9, 227 pounds, with a massive 7’3 wingspan, and the defensive intensity and emotion he plays with is something we always see from Green when he is on the court. I believe Barnes has more potential to dominate offensively than Green ever did, but there is no doubting that he will earn minutes and make a name for himself on the opposite end of the floor. Barnes potentially has the highest floor of any player in this draft and it has him rising up the board from a probable lottery pick to a potential 5th overall selection in the upcoming draft. The Magic are in desperate need of an impact player and given the fact that they have two picks in the top-10, they could be looking at Barnes to fill a void defensively and then ultimately find more of an offensive playmaker with their second lottery pick at #9.
2. Franz Wagner, 6-9 220 Michigan Wolverines 19.9
Wagner is another young wing player who did wonders for his draft stock this past season. He scored in double-figures after starting all 27 games as a freshman, but he shined noticeably brighter in his sophomore campaign in Ann Arbor. His versatility and three-level scoring ability sets him apart and his experience both professionally in Germany and collegiately at Michigan are welcoming signs for an organization looking for a player who can provide an impact immediately after stepping onto the court as a rookie.
You can tell Wagner completely understands the game and his physical tools are just a bonus to his outstanding basketball IQ. He has great length to disrupt defensively and rise up on jumpers and with a smooth shooting stroke and efficient free-throw shooting, all signs point to immediate success at the next level. The Pacers could use an instant impact player late in the lottery and with limited depth on the wing, this could be a match made in heaven for Rick Carlisle and Franz Wagner on draft night.
3. Isaiah Todd,6-10 220 G-League Ignite 19.8
There is potentially no one who benefitted more from committing to the G-League this season than Isaiah Todd. Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga were going to be top draft selections regardless of where they played out of high school and Daishen Nix played well, but did not improve his stock nearly as much as Todd. The 6’10 forward was hardly seen on mock drafts throughout most of the G-League season, but as time went on, he continued to rise and now finds himself in the first round of our latest mock.
Todd proved that his arsenal of shot-creating moves is more than capable of working against stiffer competition and his athleticism for a player of his size is a hot commodity. He is still only 19 years old and played alongside two of the top players in this draft while putting up similar stats on an impressive 43/36/82 shooting split in fifteen games off the bench. He will play a similar role right away in the NBA, but when Todd reaches his peak potential, he has a chance to be one of the steals of this draft and teams should be wary of passing on this guy as the night goes on.
4. Greg Brown, 6-8 205 Texas Longhorns 19.9
Speaking of dramatic shifts in draft stock, Greg Brown is trending in a much different direction than Isaiah Todd. The freakishly athletic Brown stood out for the Longhorns as a potential mid-late first round pick, but a sluggish performance at the NBA combine is seeing his stock plummet well out of the first round. Not all teams could judge Brown as harshly as scouts have in recent weeks, so he still has the potential to sneak into the late first round thanks to his physical tools and modern NBA style of play.
Brown can attack the rim like few others can and rise up for emphatic slams both off the dribble and off the ball coming in for alley-oops. While he is not the greatest three-point shooter, he still can threaten opposing teams with this ability which could unlock his slashing ability and lead to some exciting dunks and a potential Dunk Contest championship. If he is going to use this three-point shooting threat to his full advantage, he does need to improve on finding the open man and his overall passing accuracy when he takes the ball to the tin. There are reasonable doubts in Brown’s game and NBA Combine performances, but there is no questioning his raw, athletic ability and his potential to be something truly special.
5. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6-9 240 Villanova Wildcats 20.7
Another loser at the NBA Draft Combine was this former Villanova star. Robinson-Earl is listed as a power forward, but measuring in at 6’7 with only a 6’9 wingspan decimated his draft stock more than his college film ever could. It was easy to fall in love with his smooth mid-range shooting stroke and undying hustle, but everything he ever did now has an asterisk next to it due to his small stature that may never translate to the next level. There seems to always be a place for Jay Wright’s finest in the NBA, so it will not be surprising if Robinson-Earl carves out a spot for himself at the next level, but teams are far more tentative than they were before the combine, and it could potentially lead to a noticeable slide on July 29.
6. JT Thor, 6-10 205 Auburn Tigers 18.9
Not only does JT Thor have one of the best names in the country, but he also has one of the fastest rising draft stocks of any player coming out this year. The lengthy 6’10 forward started to shine as the collegiate season went on and an impressive 7’3 wingspan measured at the combine proved why he is skyrocketing up mock drafts and draft boards around the league. Thor currently sits at the 40th overall pick in our mock draft, but he could sneak his way into the late first round and no one would bat an eye. Thor translates as a modern stretch-four who should make more of an impact in a few years, rather than immediately as a rookie. I would look for a team like the Rockets to pick him up with one of their two selections in the late first round, or for another rebuilding team to snatch him up early in the second round.
7. EJ Onu, 6-11 240 Shawnee State Bears 22.0
Onu is a relatively unheard of guy who has the potential to make everybody regret not knowing his name. He stands at 6’11 but what really stands out is his 7’8 wingspan and incredible rim-protecting ability. He totaled 529 career blocks in four years at Shawnee State and his timing matched with his tremendous athleticism are the major reasons why. Despite his unorthodox frame, Onu has great control over his body and moves exceedingly well laterally.
A late growth spurt and lack of basketball experience led to Onu choosing Shawnee State, but he had plenty of opportunities to transfer into the NCAA, but chose to stay and win a national championship with the Bears. He turns 22 immediately after the draft, which is fairly old for a player who projects to be a bit of a project, but his skill and size warrants enough attention for a team to give him a chance early in the second round or at the very least at some point before the draft comes to an end. I don’t believe this guy should go undrafted, but if he does, he will be able to choose the perfect situation for himself because all 30 teams should be offering him a contract if he falls out of the top 60.
8. Kessler Edwards, 6-8 205 Pepperdine Waves 22.0
Edwards is an intriguing 3-and-D wing who is one of the more NBA ready players on this list. He should be able to step right into the league and hold his own on the defensive end while spreading the floor and knocking down threes on the other end. He shot close to 40% for his career from beyond the arc and dramatically improved his free throw shooting from 69% to 88% from his freshman year to his junior year. While the WCC does not boast the deepest conference in the nation, Edwards still elevated the Waves from a team that combined for 15 wins in the two seasons before his arrival, to a team that won at least 15 games in every season he played. He projects to be a standout role player early in his career with the potential to carve out a long, impactful career for himself with sustained success.
9. Raiquan Gray, 6-8 270 Florida State Seminoles 22.1
The swiss army knife for the Seminoles could easily find himself in a similar role for a team at the NBA level. The 6’8, 260 pound point forward took on a massive role for Leonard Hamilton’s squad and asserted himself as a player who always made his presence felt. Whether it was initiating the offense, crashing the offensive glass, posting up smaller defenders, or becoming an absolute pest on the defensive end, Gray did anything and everything to help his team win. His versatility is unmatched in this year’s draft, and he combines this with admirable leadership and a relentless high-motor. While his talent may not match some of the other players as the draft goes on, his intangible traits could see a team give him a chance and I would be very surprised if they end up regretting it.
10. Chris Smith, 6-9 215 UCLA Bruins 21.6
The former Bruin had an incredible junior season that came to an abrupt end in 2020, but he was still recognized as a 1st Team All-Pac-12 member and the conference’s Most Improved Player. This landed him on the preseason Wooden Award Watch List, but a torn ACL eight games into the season ended his UCLA career in heartbreaking fashion. The Bruins ended up going to the Final Four after Jalen Suggs drilled a half-court shot to end their season in overtime, and who knows what would have happened if Smith was able to lead his team on this unforgettable March Madness run.
Smith has all of the tools and athleticism to move on to the NBA and if he never injured himself, he could easily be in the first-round discussion. His three-point shooting improved each season in college, and he got off to a fast start shooting 10-20 from distance before his injury. If he is able to come back looking anything like he did at the end of his UCLA career, he will be a steal and a crucial part of any team’s success at the next level.