2021 NBA Draft Class Prospects Watchlist by Zach Smith

The 2021 NBA Draft class has been underwhelming based on preseason expectations, especially the freshman (looking at you blue bloods). In this article I want to focus on some prospects that have shown out and surpassed projections in the early season. These players should be looked at for second round picks or undrafted free agent contracts.

M.J. Walker

The senior from FSU is coming into the new year as the leading scorer for the Florida State Seminoles. Through seven games, Walker is averaging 15.3 points on 37.8 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. He is doing that on two makes from behind the arch per game. Inside the three-point line, he has shown a sudden propensity for drawing fouls. After posting a free throw rate (FTr) of 0.332 during his junior year, that has risen to a dominant 0.536. That is great for a guard who takes more than half their shots from deep. Although he is not doing much in terms of creating his own shot in the midrange, he can get to the rim when necessary. He uses his 215 pound frame well to keep defenders on his hip and establish contact. Some more vertical burst would do him well, but Walker’s NBA role looks to be that of an off-ball shooter. Defensively, he is not the best at staying in front of his man. He does not possess superior lateral athleticism that would allow him to translate as a 3&D prospect. However after playing under Leonard Hamilton for four years, Walker has enough defensive principles drilled into him to last a lifetime. He knows how to play the help in the packline and uses his frame well to create good contact and even draw offensive fouls. Walker should get looks from teams in the late second round entering the 2021 draft.

Davion Mitchell

Mitchell’s perimeter is reminiscent of another undersized guard that wears #45 and shares his surname. Through eight games for the Baylor Bears, the transfer is putting up elite efficiency. He has put down 18 of his 32 three-point attempts, including four of five in a dominant win against Illinois. Shooting is not even the premier part of Mitchell’s game as he has been dominant in the pick and roll. He is decisive with his snake dribble, using rescreens, pacing, and a solid handle to get downhill. Mitchell is one of only five players across Division 1 hoops to average at least seven assists per game and shoot over 40 percent from deep. Another player on that list who has gotten some looks is Jason Preston from Ohio University. Mitchell’s offensive game can be summarized by his immaculate offensive rating of 132.7. On defense, Mitchell has an aggressive mentality. He is willing to guard down the lineup in switches and does so with surprising physicality. He has an impressive sense of urgency when it comes to his off-ball defense. He sets the tone by digging on the post and coming out the victor in many loose ball opportunities. When filtering to players with over 200 minutes played in 2020, he has the fifth highest steal percentage (4.8 percent). Mitchell is another player that could draw some looks as a second round prospect or on the Two-Way market.

Caleb Murphy

Murphy came into the 2020 season as the 85th best recruit according to 247Sports. Murphy has been a pleasant surprise in the American conference to those not associated with the South Florida basketball program. When asked about Murphy, a source close to the program said, “The young man is just beginning to show what he is capable of. He is mature beyond his years and has already become a leader in the locker room. His continued growth in every game is going to greatly benefit as he continues to help the team and make his teammates better.” He has earned his respect within the program and that is evident by the workload he has garnered as of late. In the last two games against Memphis and Wichita State, Murphy has put up 33 shot attempts. He has shown a propensity for creating his own shot as a slasher. Only 13.6 percent of his rim attempts are assisted, to go along with only 16.7 percent of his mid range shots being assisted. Murphy has struggled some from deep as he has yet to shoot with much volume from behind the arch. He has only taken 12 three-point attempts through eight games. Murphy has a fluidity and creativity to his game that is matched by his strength and willingness to take contact around the rim.

He offers up a unique vertical pop that does not require much time to load. Although he may not finish above the rim frequently (1 dunk on the season), he uses his bounce to finish amongst the trees with ease. Murphy may not get a ton of looks in the 2021 draft unless he increases his efficiency to be on par with his volume, but Murphy could fill in as the James Bouknight of the 2022 class.

Isaiah Adams

According to 247Sports, the 6-foot-5-inch freshman came into the season as the 342nd best prospect in the country. The Jacksonville native took over a spot in the UCF starting lineup after their loss to Michigan. In the three games he has started, he is averaging 13 points per game on 52 percent shooting to go along with five rebounds per game. Adams is a slashing guard on the skinnier side. He currently weighs in at 170 pounds, so some added weight would do him well. His most valuable asset is his length, as he boasts a 6-foot-11-inch wingspan. He shows that off on defense in passing lanes, as he is averaging two steals per game. On offense, Adams’ skillset is raw. He relies on others to create the majority of his shots. He does not have a crazy handle to create advantages, but relies on his athleticism and touch. His passing could also use some work as he only makes rather basic passing reads at the moment. Adams is a project with some trademark physical skills that can translate to the professional level as shown by players like Brandon Ingram. It would not be surprising to see Adams return to school for his sophomore year, but he should at least be on the watchlist of NBA teams.

*All statistics can be found on Basketball Reference and Barttorvik. Statistics are current through January 1st, 2020

*All videos in this post are strictly added to show performance of players and have no commercial intent of our oraganization whatsoever! All videos are directly taken from and editted by InStat Basketball! 

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