Davion Mitchell, Baylor
After helping guide Baylor on a torrid run to win the national title, Mitchell’s stock soared. His insane quickness and burst were on full display, as no collegiate defender could stay in front of him. The 6’2 combo guard used his lightning-fast speed, excellent shot and smart decision making in route to amazing efficiency, with the third highest true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage of power five guards. Yet, his draft stock has diminished in recent weeks, with concern over his analytic forecasts, measurements, poor free throw percentage, and older age. Mitchell shouldn’t be forgotten or dropped off lottery mock drafts, as he scored 14 points per game for the Bears, while shooting 51.5% from the field, 44.7% from three and adding 5.5 assists per game. Mitchell always seemed to be impactful in every game Baylor played. Whether it was flying by defenders to attack the rim, using his burst to generate easy transition chances, or knocking down countless threes, Mitchell made a difference. Plus, he is the best perimeter defender in the draft, and won the Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. He can defend either guard position and ruin the game for them. He is so physical, aggressive, and strong that he can eliminate an elite option of the opposing team. Mitchell averaged 1.9 steals per game, and often used those forced turnovers into breakaway chances at the rim. Besides his shortcomings, some of a potential mini slide for the top-ten talent is fit among lottery teams. From the Warriors first pick at 7, to their next pick at 14, no team needs a starting point guard. While they could all use Mitchell as a shooting guard or backup, teams would rather not use a lottery pick on a position who will be a backup for numerous years or playing out of position. No matter the reason that teams choose to pass on the diminutive but feisty national champion, it would be a massive mistake. Mitchell’s shooting, passing, defending and speed are all world class, and he will be one of the steals of this draft class.
Zaire Williams, Stanford
Williams came into Stanford as a consensus top 10 recruit and struggled to live up to the hype. And now on the eve of the draft he stands as a likely mid to late first round pick, and likely will offer great value to the team that selects him. The athletic freshman gets vastly underappreciated partly because of his field goal percentage being under 40 this season. However, the 6’8 forward demonstrated loads of potential with advanced shot creation, step-back jumpers, unlimited range and a great package of dribble moves. The former five-star recruit didn’t shoot to his ability but was able to showcase that he can bring immediate offense to an NBA squad. He can get to his spots with ease and is unfazed by tight defense. The 19-year-old has time to strengthen his 185-pound frame, giving even more to the idea that he can soon develop into a talented scorer at the next level. His talent for creating and making shots is undeniable, and the Cardinal forward makes shots that other players in the class, especially at his young age, can’t. With a beautiful, high release, he also has the shooting form to back up that his shooting percentage should go up when he doesn’t have to carry the full burden of the offense. With his athleticism, long arms, and mobility, he can also be a disruptive defender to almost every position. As versatility continues to gain importance, Williams fits the mold perfectly. He is a player that is easy to fall in love with when watching the best moments, and tougher to love when looking at his 10.7 points per game and 30 three-point percentage. Yet, with his size, bounce, speed, handles, shooting form, and crazy shot creation, he is certainly a player that is worth rolling the dice on. Williams could drop into the 20’s because of his flaws but could be worth a top-ten selection because of his talent.
Miles McBride, West Virginia
Already known as one of the best perimeter defenders in the draft, McBride is unheralded as an offensive initiator. He averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 41% from three and 81% from the charity stripe. A marksman from deep, McBride is one of the best shooters in the draft and can play both on and off the ball. He is adept at running the pick and roll and is confident throwing passes all over the court. In part because of his less than stellar athleticism, some might look past the 6’2 sophomore, as he didn’t get a green room invite. That is a mistake, as the Mountaineer has developed into one of the premier two-way prospects of the class. He shot 60% at the rim this season, showcasing his ability to elude taller defenders, as well as understanding when to get downhill. McBride’s biggest weakness is poor efficiency on two-point jumpers, but his great free throw percentage speaks to an almost certain rise on those shots moving forward. Able to generate looks for himself and others, all while playing within the flow of the offense, McBride can fit snugly onto any roster. In addition to his offensive contributions, McBride is a lockdown defender. He can easily defend both guard positions and is capable of completely disrupting the opposing team’s best player. He is always locked in, in the right position, and has very active hands with almost two steals per game this season. While younger, more athletic guards are being projected over the Ohio native, McBride is one of the safest picks in the draft. He is a fierce defender, a lethal shooter, a strong passer, and a very good decision maker. Throw in that he was a leader for West Virginia by his second season, and you have the recipe of a very good player, for a very low cost.
Joshua Primo, Alabama
The youngest player in the draft, the statistics don’t tell the story for Primo. The 18-year-old Canadian guard has a bright future with his 6’6 frame, defensive instincts and shooting. He only averaged eight points per game, but never saw the minutes other prospects do because of Alabama’s stacked starting lineup. While teams will have to gamble that the frame, athletic ability and shooting pan out, the ceiling for Primo is sky high. He already showed a nice three-point shot, averaging over 38% in his only collegiate season. His size allows him to play the shooting guard or small forward spot on offense, while defending positions 1-3. Primo showed a feel for driving and finishing, using patience and bounce to avoid would be shot blockers. It is always risky taking a player who averaged under ten points a game, especially as he did not add value as a passer, with under one assist per contest. Primo however, has the feel and size to force scouts and general managers to look past the numbers. Maybe just throw the stats out the window, and watch a player who could blossom into, at a minimum, one of the NBA’s best 3-And-D players. He will be able to immediately contribute, despite his youth, as a defender and a catch-and-shoot player. Given the time to build his offensive repertoire and strengthen his skinny frame, Primo could have a wide impact on both ends of the court. On the defensive end, he should be able to limit the opposition’s best player, while hitting threes, creating chances for himself and generating easy baskets in transition. Few players are an enigma quite like Primo, but the young and talented Crimson Tide guard is worth throwing out the current stats for and focusing on what he can become in the future.
Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky
The 6’11 big man from Nigeria was a constant force on both ends of the court for the Hilltoppers. The powerful junior averaged 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. Bassey, a former top high school prospect, was top five nationally in both rebounds and blocks. As shooting continues to have great importance in the NBA, Bassey also showcased touch farther away from the rim, hitting over 40% of hit two-point jumpers and 75% of his free throws. Matched with a stellar 77.5% around the rim, and Bassey shows offensive promise. The Western Kentucky star has phenomenal size, strength, and touch near the rim, able to use post moves, patience, and length to get the shot he wants, while also having the timing and drive to grab almost three offensive boards per game. With a great interior game, defensive timing, size, rebounding and a developing jump shot, there is so much to love about what Bassey can immediately bring to an NBA team. Yet Bassey has often been mocked in the second round, well below Kentucky freshman Isaiah Jackson, who put up worse stats in almost every major category. Centers have become less and less valuable with shooting and versatility becoming major topics for NBA teams, but big men who can defend the rim, haul in boards, and contribute offensively are still critical. For a player that was so successful both in high school and college, while combining tremendous numbers with insane physical prowess, it is curious as to why he is being passed up for so many other players.
Nah'Shon Hyland, VCU
The lanky 6’3 combo guard stuffed the stat sheet for the Rams in his Sophomore season, piling up 19.5 points, 4.7 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Hyland is a dynamic player, with his high scoring average coming on solid efficiency, and is a lights out shooter. His 37.1 three-point percentage doesn’t speak to his deep range, smooth release, and off-the-dribble pull-up game. After shooting over 43% his freshman season, Hyland should be closer to those numbers in the NBA without being the focus of defenses. Also a tremendous free throw shooter at over 86% and converting over 63% of his chances at the rim, Hyland is a natural scorer from every area of the court. The team who drafts the VCU standout is getting a true bucket-getter, capable of creating both easy transition chances and half court opportunities for himself and his teammates. He might have to bulk up to be a disruptive defender the way he was in college, but his defensive instincts are there, along with quick hands and long arms. Despite all of his impressive stats and athleticism, Hyland does not have the hype that other major program stars have. Even after his two excellent seasons at VCU, the lack of exposure, the weaker competition, and his smaller, skinnier stature may leave teams skeptical. However, they really should look past his frame and school and focus on what he produced on the court. He generates great looks, can make every shot, and focuses his attention on getting layups and threes. Hyland should also be a great three-point shooter in the NBA, as well as a solid defender. Hyland will never be a team’s first option, or an MVP caliber superstar, but the Atlantic 10 Men’s Player of the Year is going to make one team incredibly happy they selected the gifted scorer.