While the Olympics might have most of the sporting world’s attention right now, stars on the hardcourt will be stepping up to a different kind of podium tonight. Normally held in June, the 2021 NBA Draft takes place tonight at 8:00pm on ABC and ESPN. And as has become the norm in recent years, Florida State should again be well represented.
With Scottie Barnes a sure-fire lottery pick and three other Seminoles hoping to hear their name called, we asked two of our resident hoops writers, Matt Minnick and Saiem Gilani to give us their best scouting reports.
Simple off the top — where will everybody end up?
Minnick: I’ll say he goes 5th. Will it be to the Orlando Magic? Very possibly, but don’t rule out them trying to package their two top 8 picks into a deal to move up to the top 3 and grab someone like Jalen Green.
Back in January, 5th would have seemed like a near impossibility for Barnes. In a draft that by anyone’s definition is loaded, it seemed he had too many question marks to truly crack the upper echelon of the lottery. However, over the second half the season he demonstrated a much improved free throw stroke (68% in ACC games...yes, that’s improved), and he was nearly flawless in the pre-draft circuit.
Now, where would I like Barnes to end up? That one is easy. Out west to Golden State. The Warriors, who pick 7th but have the assets to potentially move up, would be a dream fit for a guy like Barnes. Not only would he be able to learn and develop behind Draymond Green, but it’s a team that likes to play with pace and has plenty of shooters to open up space for Barnes to operate in while he works on improving his jumper.
Saiem: I feel like the lowest I expect Scottie to drop is the latest at 8th, just from a reasoning perspective but I have more reasons than not to believe he will not make it past 5. I could see him going higher, there’s some buzz on the net but not enough for me to buy it.
If only considering expected potential picks, love the idea of Scottie Barnes with the Raptors, I think it puts them back into a potential Eastern Conference contender role from a roster perspective with an interesting core. I also happen to think Barnes is on the Magic’s wish list. Fits a profile for their front office and I am sure he will be heavily featured there.
Minnick: Undrafted free agent. Walker significantly increased his three-point shooting prowess his senior year, knocking down 42.3% on the season and a scintillating 45.5% in league play after only shooting 36% in his junior campaign, and that was at least enough to get him on the NBA’s radar. Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite do enough of anything else to make up for the fact that he has just average positional size in the NBA. He’s a good, not elite defender. He doesn’t rebound well for his size or position, and though he did flash some improved playmaking ability this past season, he’s still not consistent enough in that department to be a big point guard like Terance Mann. All that said, three point shooting is one of the two most sought after skills in today’s game, so I expect he will at least be given a shot to prove himself in the Summer League and G-League if he wants to go that route.
Saiem: I have not heard much, but I expect he will spend some time in the summer league and G-League, but he is most likely to get paid playing abroad.
Saiem: RaiQuan Gray is a bit of a hard read given that he is likely to go in the 2nd round. It feels like the odds are in favor of New Orleans (4 second round picks) to be interested. Brooklyn (3), Detroit (3) and OKC (3) are also probable destinations. The sheer number of picks involved for some of these teams suggest that these 2nd round picks will be for sale. Based on some of my sources, there is interest in him from teams looking to buy one of these picks to get back into the second round. There are some front-courts that could use shoring up with a more defense-oriented option. I would be a little surprised to see him fall out of the draft altogether, he makes too much sense as an insurance option for Indiana at #54 and #60.
Minnick: I agree with Saiem that someone should take him late in the second round. Truthfully, I think scouts are missing the boat a bit with Gray. Yes, he’s heavy. But he has a tremendous basketball IQ and just finds ways to make winning plays. On top of that, he’s a quality playmaker—not just for his size, but in general—and he has the kind of size and quickness to be deployed situationally as a “Zion-stopper,” to slow down Julius Randle, or even against a bigger guard like Luka Doncic. If I worked in the front office of an organization like OKC, Chicago, San Antonio, Detroit, or Boston, I’d be pounding the table to take the big fella in the 35 to 45 range. But for whatever reason, it seems like Gray will fall to the 50s...or maybe even all the way out of the draft.
Saiem: Balsa, I am unsure on altogether. I see his primary route to getting drafted as a draft-and-stash late in the draft. His archetype in the modern NBA is not exceptionally hard to find in his current state. I think in either case, his near-term future is in a European league and his best basketball is ahead of him.
Minnick: Europe. Not that playing in Europe is a bad gig. There is some great basketball played over there and a guy like Koprivica can get paid really well in some of those leagues. But he just doesn’t have the skill set to be worth a draft pick currently. He flashed down the stretch of the season, particularly in that UNC game in the ACC Tournament Semifinals, but the NBA today asks its big men to do one of two things: stretch the floor, or protect the rim at an elite level. Koprivica doesn’t really do either.
Who has the highest ceiling out of the three?
Saiem: This is a bit of an unfair question, Scottie Barnes is the obvious answer. Barnes measured in at 6’8 with shoes, a standing reach of 9’0”, and a 36” standing vertical leap (3rd at the Combine). He is most likely to require the highest ceiling. As a basketball player, he’s got one main concern that I think he is more than capable of addressing, his shooting. I have no doubts he will become a more than competent threat from distance. Putting it all together in the most effective assortment of threats and taking on a lead scoring role is more my concern. I think the better question is who is most likely to exceed the expectations of their draft pick, and the easy answer there is RaiQuan. Some team is going to thank their lucky stars they have a swiss army knife of a player on the roster shortly.
Minnick: As Saiem said, the clear answer is Barnes. He gave a pretty good answer on why, and I even liked his “better question,” so I’ll toss one out there of my own: who has the higher ceiling, Scottie Barnes, or last year’s 4th overall selection, Patrick Williams? For my money, give me P-Dub. Williams is already a good spot-up shooter, stroking it at 39% from deep in his rookie season. And while Barnes is longer and sure to be an impact defender, Williams’ physical gifts combined with his relentless effort make him a pretty unique player. Barnes is the better playmaker, but that’s an area where Williams is underrated, in my opinion.
And here’s the real kicker. Barnes will turn 20 three weeks before Williams celebrates the big 2-0.
How does each player project? Pick a current player that resembles their game.
Minnick: Barnes = a taller, longer Draymond. Both play with a fiery edge, both are gifted passers and playmakers, both are ridiculously long, and neither one can shoot all that well.
For Gray, give me a below-the-rim Zion. Neither guy will ever be svelte, no matter how much Keto they try. Both are quick off the ground (Zion just gets waaaaaayyyy higher after the initial burst) and both guys blow by surprised defenders with their first step. Both can create for others and both gobble up defensive rebounds outside of their area. Zion was a 29% shooter from 3 this past season, while Gray was 27%. Although it’s worth noting that Gray’s free throw stroke over the last 12 months is better than anything Zion has ever shown, and FT shooting is often a sign of potential three-point shooting.
For M.J., give me Wayne Ellington. 6’4, thicker frame, shoots 40%+ from three but doesn’t fill the box score much beyond that. I do think Walker could be a better defender than Ellington, but he has to be able to prove he can defend at a high level consistently. Malik Monk could be another example, although Walker might be slightly less athletic than Monk.
Koprivica...hmmm. How about Jakob Poeltl, of the Spurs? (He went to Utah, if that jogs your memory). Poeltl probably has a few more moves around the basket, but he’s also 25. He’s not a threat from three at all, he’s a pretty good rebounder, and he is very good but not elite as a rim protector (6th in the league last year with a 5.7% block rate).
Saiem: Barnes, I find it hard to find a comparison for — thinking 6’8” point guards lends to Ben Simmons but they are not the same. He is less accomplished as a passer and less demonstrably established as a lead scorer, though the holes in Scottie’s game look like they are on the way to being filled. I also like the comparison of a more freakishly athletic Kyle Anderson for him. His personality is ebullient and I imagine it is going to be the force engine that turns around a franchise. I’m guessing everyone will say RaiQuan is a poor man’s Draymond Green and I tend to buy it. There are only a few players that are close to his mold in the league and that feels like too good of a value opportunity to pass up. They are different players and could progress altogether differently. While his results at FSU were inconsistent from distance, I could see Turk becoming a better shooter. I also do not see him being able to control the game at the level that Green does as a secondary creator at this moment. I see more Arvydas than Domantas Sabonis in Balsa Koprivica, so perhaps early career Marc Gasol would be a comp. MJ Walker, maybe Avery Bradley, maybe Danny Green?
How does 2022 look for the NBA Draft?
Minnick: Matt Cleveland seems to have all the qualities of a one-and-done wing prospect, as long as he can stay healthy and shoot the three with at least some success. Jalen Warley could join him, but since he doesn’t have elite positional size he would really have to showcase some advanced playmaking and perimeter defending skills. Seems like more of a two or three year college guy. Speaking of perimeter defense, I know that Polite will be quite old, but I think he’d be a phenomenal pick in the 35-50 range. The dude can stroke it from three, locks guys down on the outside, and flat out gets after it on the court. NBA folks need to worry less about age with guys outside the lottery. After pick 15 or so it’s all a crap shoot. Why not take someone who makes you and the locker room better. Guys like Malcolm Brogdon, Fred VanVleet, and Joe Ingles. Who cares if you only get them for 5-6 years of their prime? That’s 5-6 years of him making winning basketball plays for your likely playoff team.
Beyond that, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a guy like Caleb Mills or Cam’Ron Fletcher to explode onto some draft boards if everything clicked. Fletcher has the positional size and elite athleticism that will grab scouts’ attention, while Mills is in the Lou Williams “bucket-getter” mold.
Saiem: I’ve seen a few mocks with Mathew Cleveland in the late lottery. The name I have been personally planting in the minds of front office folks for over a year now is Anthony Polite. People tell me that he will be the oldest player in his draft. If I am a smart GM (which I would be, my phone line is still somehow open), why would I not use a very late first round pick on a guy that I am sure can play a starting perimeter defensive role in the NBA. A controlled salary contract for a starter during almost the entirety of his NBA prime is just good business.