The Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is underway after the Gonzaga Bulldogs defeated the USC Trojans and the UCLA Cinderella advanced after a narrow victory over Michigan. This weekend offers players a chance to reaffirm their college legend and take their place in the history of NCAA men’s basketball. It also gives some players a chance to improve their chances for this summer’s NBA draft.
Several of the expected top players have ended their seasons in recent weeks, including presumptive first-round pick Cade Cunningham and USC center Evan Mobley, who could become the second-round pick. However, there are a few interesting prospects that NBA front offices are likely to observe this weekend.
Let’s take a look at some of the top NBA Draft prospects in this year’s Final Four.
5. Quentin Grimes, Houston
The Houston Cougars reached the Final Four in large part thanks to a great scoring group and tremendous size and length on both sides of the ball.
But Grimes has real potential as an NBA prospect.
The Texan began his college career at Kansas before transferring to Houston. In each of his last two seasons with the Cougars, he has excelled as a player who can score at all three levels and create a rebounding effect.
Grimes is averaging 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season. He was less effective from mid-range and around the basket, but shot a career-high 41.2% from beyond the arc on 8.3 attempts per game.
Grimes isn’t afraid to stand up. He has good size as a versatile guard and is athletic on both ends of the floor. His defensive skills and positional play will be especially important against Baylor’s strong offense.
4. Jared Butler, Baylor
Jared Butler is one of the key players in the Bears’ backcourt.
The junior guard has impressed on both sides of the ball over the past two seasons. Butler is scoring a record 16.5 points per game and is also setting new records in assists (4.8) and steals.
Butler’s outside shot is a key part of Baylor’s offense. He has a fantastic range and shoots 40.4% from beyond the arc with 6.1 attempts per game.
The most obvious part of Butler’s game is his ability to get around screens and shoot from the dribble or find great divers to jump into the rack. He also has athletic ability and doesn’t hesitate to use his guile to create space and exploit paths to the basket.
Butler runs the ball with defensive pressure and plays the passing lanes on the defensive side of the ball. He has good length, although he doesn’t have the largest frame.
It’s a testament to Baylor’s talent that the Bears are still in the Final Four, even though Butler had more trouble scoring the ball than anything else during the tournament.
Still, Butler could improve his NBA draft stock if he plays a few big games and helps the Bears win a national title.
3. Cory Kispert, Gonzaga
The Bulldogs are difficult to guard because they move the ball around at an incredible pace. It also helps to have one of the best shooters in the country.
Kispert is an expert shooter beyond the arc. He shot over 43 percent beyond the arc in each of the last two seasons, including 45.3 percent on 6.4 attempts per game this season.
The senior forward is a surprisingly good rebounder, although he is generally not big enough for the forward position. He averages 5 points a game, shoots under the basket and fights for balls.
Perhaps one of Kispert’s best qualities is his constant movement on the ball. He often hunts in open space, whether rebounding off screens to jump or cutting to the edge of the backcourt to score easy baskets.
And don’t be fooled by Kispert’s speed on the ball. He is able to keep defenders off of jump shots and finish in the lane with several floaters.
Kispert may not have any other prospects in this NBA draft class. Sometimes he gets caught on the defensive side of the ball with balls on the screen.
But Kispert has excellent fundamentals and is relentless in his pursuit of the ball. His ability to shoot from anywhere on the field, as well as his slash to the head, are attractive qualities.
2. Davion Mitchell, Baylor
If there’s one player who had the biggest impact on Baylor’s win in the Final Four, it was Mitchell.
The former Auburn transfer seems to have given the Bears the boost they needed in this tournament. Mitchell was good for double figures every game and played his teammates into the lane with his dribbles.
Mitchell was even more impressive on the defensive side. During the tournament, he averaged 2.0 steals, after already reaching that mark during the regular season. But the effort was even more impressive. He pushes the ball handlers aside and constantly invades their space.
There are many advantages on the offensive side. Mitchell is shooting 45.0% from deep this season, with 4.5 attempts per game. He is even better at holding off defenders off the dribble and has lightning fast speed to get to his spot. This speed allows Mitchell to get close to the rim or make jump shots.
Mitchell might get a big erection in the next few months. He destroys defenses with his cutting ability and can shoot the ball from the perimeter. Defensive pressure and size could be an asset for some teams looking to upgrade the point guard position.
1. Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
Kispert and Drew Timme could score more, but Suggs is by far the most talented player on this Gonzaga team.
Freshman year is everything. Suggs is one of the best playmakers in the game, thanks to his ability to facilitate play and his great vision from distance. He consistently sees open teammates driving to the basket and shoots the Bulldogs in the conversion. He can also make his own shot from the dribble and finish at the rim, or, like Kispert, score with an average arsenal of floaters.
Suggs was masterful against USC. He continually found open space in the Trojans’ zone and put the Bulldogs in scoring position.
Suggs showed patience in the half and also drove the pace as he crossed the boards and found teammates for easy baskets before the Trojans could establish their defense.
Suggs isn’t the best three-point shooter, but he can strike out from the outside edge, and his incredible ball handling and ability to rush defenders make him an incredibly difficult cover. Suggs also has fantastic length for a point guard with his athletic ability and vision (6-foot-3, 90 pounds).
In addition to his raw talent, Suggs also shows good fundamentals as a guy who moves well without the ball, fills space and breaks the glass.
It would be a shock if Suggs wasn’t in the top-five of the 2021 NBA Draft this summer.
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