As the NCAA Tournament tips-off full blast Friday afternoon, here are a few players to keep tabs on in the next few days that are slotted to go either in the first or second round of the 2021 NBA Draft.
What do the Detroit Pistons need the most in this coming draft?
More athleticism on the perimeter with all -around upside? A shooting specialist who can hang on the defensive end too? Cade Cunningham? Yes, Yes, and YES!
All times below are eastern standard time.
Frosh point forward Cade Cunningham — OSU vs. Liberty, 6:25 p.m. Friday
Fade for Cade is what most of DDB is all about. And for good reason! Cade’s maturity, control and pace for a freshman at a power five school is rare. Remember how many folks said international phenom Luka Doncic wasn’t athletic enough to be an elite player in the NBA? Cade is getting similar criticism. He’s 6-foot-8 and blessed with a 7-foot wingspan. He moves and sees the floor like a point guard and small forward all in one. Think Lamar Odom, Brandon Roy, and yes, think Luke Doncic.
Senior wing Herbert Jones — Alabama vs Iona, 4 p.m. Saturday
Herb is an energetic, defensive-minded 6-foot-8 wing that has really come on during his senior season. In his first three seasons at Alabama, he was a poor outside shooter. This season, he’s a 39.2% shooter from deep (20-for-51). In almost all statistical categories, he’s topping his previous bests. Herb (22 years old) forecasts as an impactful energy player almost right away, and could be a solid 3&D contributor not too far down the road with some continued work behind the long line.
Here’s a monster dunk from Jones earlier this season:
Herb’s teammate John Petty, also a senior, is a high-volume sniper from downtown. His freshman season, he drilled 90 3-pointers on his way to 37% shooting. Petty’s junior season saw him shoot 44%, and now this season he’s back above 37%. Petty is 6-foot-5 and a potential second-round pick. He’s not a great athlete, but a full-effort player. His spot in the league will depend on his ability to play decent defense and shoot from the perimeter in the high-30s.
Soph. SG James Bouknight — UCONN vs. Maryland, 7:10 p.m. Saturday
James Bouknight (6-foot-5) of UCONN could be facing Herb Jones and Alabama in the second round on Monday if both teams win their first game. Anyway, hear me out — Bouknight is a clear top-12 pick but probably not a top-6 guy, so if the Pistons win too many games and/or get very unlucky with the ping-pong balls, perhaps Detroit is sitting at pick, say, number eight and are left to go with the shooting guard of the future in Bouknight? Best-case comparison, he is a mix of Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal. What do you think?
Here’s three clips of Bouknight (no. 2) scoring at all three levels and making it look too easy:
Frosh combo guard Jalen Suggs — Gonzaga vs. Norfolk St., 9:20 p.m. Saturday
Gonzaga is likely going to the Final Four with the cupcake of a bracket they were given. Their second-round game will be on Monday. Jalen Suggs, a consensus top-five pick, is a potential Pistons target. He projects as more of a shooting guard who, with good development, could be a good enough option as a long-term point guard. He’s going to give full effort on both sides of the court, and in my estimation, projects as a number two banana on a winning team. At 6-foot-4 he can be special, as he can contribute to winning without scoring. Though, he’s not a wingspan God — just a 6-foot-5 wingspan — so that’s maybe something that limits his ceiling? Detroit may be better served with the third pick to swing for the fences a bit more and select shooting guard Jalen Green or small forward Jonathan Kuminga.
This is an impressive four-play highlight package from Suggs — I love his shifty maneuverability on the perimeter to create space:
Gonzaga easily has two or three other NBA guys. One of those guys is junior Joel Ayayi, a pretty solid all-around Frenchman at 6-foot-5 who could very well solidify himself as a second-round option with a good tournament showing. Ayayi has improved massively from barely any playing time as a frosh to now back-to-back seasons as a steadying force on both ends who easily stuffs the stat sheet.
OTHER PROSPECTS TO NOTE
Evan Mobley, the 7-footer from USC, is playing at 4:30 on Saturday. If Detroit has the second pick in the draft, this kid may be too freakishly long and offensively talented to pass up. Can you imagine Isaiah Stewart and Mobley in the same front court in a few years?
Florida has a lot of talent, and they may have at least one guy who interests Detroit in the 2nd round — that’s Tre Mann, a 6-foot-5 sophomore combo guard who has broken out this season after really struggling as a freshman. They will be playing Friday just after Noon time.
Iowa 6-foot-6 sharp shooter — though, not just a shooter — Joe Wieskamp is a junior but very well may enter the draft. He’s gotten stronger and just flat out better each season in college. Joe’s teammate, plodding but offensively gifted big man Luke Garza, is also projected as a 2nd round pick. These guys will be playing Saturday at about 6:30pm.
Let us know what players you are keeping an eye on during the NCAA Tournament.