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Sweet 16 Preview: NBA Draft 2021 Prospect Watch

March Madness continues, and Kings fans have some great opportunities to check out prospects who may be in the Kings range for the 2021 NBA Draft.

The Madness was in full force last week as the NCAA Tournament saw some major upsets; the Sweet Sixteen features five squads at 8 seeds or lower, including the Loyola Chicago vs. Oregon State match-up we all totally saw coming. Unfortunately for NBA Draft fans, the tournament also saw the departure of presumptive top selection Cade Cunningham (but thank goodness we’ll never have to watch him with that Oklahoma State squad again), and other potential lottery picks like James Bouknight (UConn), Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer (Tennessee), Kai Jones (Texas), and Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois).

Thankfully, the Sweet 16 offers up the chance to check out six players I consider lottery talents, including many who may be in the vaunted pick 8-14 range that the Sacramento Kings seem determined to draft in. Let’s check out the top prospect match-ups for this weekend.

All stats come from Synergy Sports, sports-reference.com, Tankathon.com, or hoop-math.com.

Franz Wagner vs. Scottie Barnes

Michigan vs. Florida State, Sunday, March 28, 2 p.m., CBS

The marquee match-up for Kings fans offers a chance to check out two versatile forwards who might be in Sacramento’s range come draft night. Franz Wagner (6’8, 205 lbs, 19 Years Old at Draft [YOAD]) was clutch for Michigan in their 86-78 win over LSU on Monday, scoring 9 of his 15 points in the final 4:30 of the game. While Wagner has never been a high-volume scorer (he’s had more than 15 field goal attempts only ONCE this season), everything about his game is scalable at the next level - he’s a more-than-capable shooter, a great passer, and a high-instinct, gritty defender.

Scottie Barnes (6’9, 225 lbs, 19 YOAD), meanwhile, has not had an explosive tournament run. After scoring 49 points on 70% shooting in Florida State’s three games prior to the tournament, Barnes had just four field goal attempts combined (and made all four of them) in their wins over UNC Greensboro and Colorado. That’s not to say he didn’t make an impact - against Colorado, he was instrumental in breaking down the Buffaloes defense with his excellent passing vision, which led to 5 assists.

And as always, Barnes is a dude who makes his living as a dynamic defensive tank - there’s a reason why he’s been our buddy Will Griffith’s favorite non-Cade prospect this season. Even if there are serious red flags about his offensive role at the next level, just watch him play defense against the Wolverines; for a Sacramento squad already blessed with talented guard scorers, Barnes’ defensive intensity and versatility could be a game-changer.

Hopefully we’ll see these two face off repeatedly on Sunday - we could be debating these two as potential future Kings for months to come.

Evan Mobley and USC against Oregon

Sunday, March 28 vs. Oregon, 6:45 p.m., TBS

Evan Mobley (7’0, 210 lbs, 20 YOAD) had himself an excellent first weekend. He was the best player on the floor in both of USC’s wins against Drake and Kansas, even if the blowout win against Kansas limited the Trojans’ need for him as a scorer. Hat tip to his brother Isaiah Mobley, who had 17 points and hit 4 of 5 from deep with some real eye-popping step-backs; Isaiah should be a priority two-way option player if he chooses to leave USC this summer (some team should just hire the whole Mobley family).

While some will worry about Evan’s lower usage on offense, Mobley’s got all the offensive tools you want in a modern NBA center and should be immediately ready (with some weight training, of course) for a higher offensive workload at the next level. And his value on defense is damn obvious - he’s not the strongest dude for his size, but he’s so insanely mobile and long that he makes insane defensive plays on the regular. Just look at this shot from the Drake win.

The Trojans will face a Pac-12 rival in Oregon, and Ducks guard Chris Duarte (6’6, 190 lbs, 24 YOAD) deserves real attention from draft fans. He’s averaging 17 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists (on 53% shooting and 43% from deep) this year for the Ducks, and had 23 points and 7 assists in Oregon’s win over Iowa. He’s a crafty three-level scorer who has earned real consideration in the late 1st/early 2nd round; he’ll be ready to contribute pretty quickly at the next level.

USC won the lone matchup between these squads this year, and if I’m honest, I’m going to be FULLY cheering for the Trojans on Sunday. Give me Gonzaga vs. USC in the Elite Eight, Evan Mobley vs. Jalen Suggs, and shoot it right into my eyeballs.

The Unstoppable Zags vs. Creighton

Sunday, March 28 vs. Creighton, 11:10 a.m., CBS

The Gonzaga death machine rolls on, drumming poor Norfolk State 98-55 and then dooming Oklahoma 87-71. Jalen Suggs (6’4, 205 lbs, 19 YOAD) had a quiet night against Norfolk with just 6 points, 2 assists, and 4 boards in 18 minutes, but bounced back against Oklahoma with 16 points and 3 assists on 5 of 13 shooting. While it certainly won’t keep him out of my top 5, it should be noted that Suggs is in a major slump from deep - since the beginning of February, he’s shot just 29% from deep (11 of 38) in 11 games. He may not be as automatic a shooter as his early season numbers indicated. But even when he’s not shooting well, Suggs makes a difference in every game by keeping the top-ranked Zag's offense going and being a near-lockdown defender.

More than anything, the fact that Gonzaga has rolled to easy wins in both tournament games despite non-game-breaking contests from their star initiator just highlights their insane depth. Drew Timme, handlebar mustache king, had 30 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists against Oklahoma and deserves real 2nd round consideration whenever he decides to go pro.

Meanwhile, sniper Corey Kispert (6’7, 220 lbs, 22 YOAD) continues his insane shooting season. He had 23 points on 6 of 9 from deep against Norfolk, and 16 points on 4 of 8 from deep against Oklahoma. Kispert has a ton of draft fans—both experts and armchair scouts—but while his shooting ability is an absolute elite skill and makes him a high-floor player at the next level, I’m not sure I’ll have him as high as some on my KingsCentric big board. Kispert is an elite catch-and-shoot player (86th percentile for such shots, per Synergy) and he’s elite at moving around the court to find open shots, but nearly half of those C&S shots are considered “unguarded” by Synergy. He very much enjoys taking advantage of Gonzaga’s depth, system, and talent to get open shots - and that’s no real criticism, since his insane gravity opens up everything for the Zags. But while he’s a solid player across the dribble-pass-defend spectrum (as you have to be to star at Gonzaga), I definitely think he’s going to be a more limited player at the next level - still with an elite skill, but a lower ceiling than some of the wings and forwards in Sacramento's range. I’d be aiming for more homerun swings if I was the Kings. Still, he very much deserves to be in the debate over the next few months.

Gonzaga will almost certainly roll through Creighton, and hopefully we’ll get the Gonzaga/USC match-up that us armchair draft scouts are begging for.

Moses Moody and Arkansas vs. Oral Roberts

Saturday, March 27, 3:25 p.m., TBS

Moses Moody (6’6, 205 lbs, 19 YOAD) and Arkansas won a nailbiter against Texas Tech on Sunday, even as I was swearing at my TV about Eric Mussleman not running plays for his best player. Moody had 15 points and 6 rebounds on 6 of 11 shooting against the Red Raiders, and was his usual, disruptive defensive self. He’s going to be an excellent 3-and-D player at the next level.

Even as I grit my teeth about Arkansas not utilizing their best scorer, Moody showcases enough as both an off-ball shooter AND on-ball creator to keep him as my favorite prospect outside of the top 5. Here’s hoping Arkansas keeps this run going - and gets Moody the ball a bit more.

Other Matchups:

  • Oregon State vs. Loyola Chicago, Saturday, March 27, 10:40 a.m., CBS
  • Baylor vs. Villanova, Saturday, Saturday, March 27, 2:15 p.m., CBS (check out Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell!)
  • Houston vs. Syracuse, Saturday, Saturday, March 27, 6:55 p.m., TBS
  • Alabama vs. UCLA, Sunday, March 28, 4:15 p.m., TBS

An early congrats to Adam Site, JT Bets, and gg ez - early leaders in the 1st Annual Kings Herald Bracket challenge, who all are in the top 97th percentile for bracket success!

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Haidan
March 27, 2021 11:18 am

I really like Christian Bishop on Creighton. High I.Q, Athletic, good Shooter and Passer. I think Kispert on the Kings would mesh perfect especially if we get rid of either Barnes or Buddy.

BestHyperboleEver
March 27, 2021 11:30 am
Reply to  Haidan

Any chance you meant Ballock? Bishop is pretty much a non-shooter and not much of a passer who gets all his points assisted at the rim.

Last edited 4 months ago by BestHyperboleEver
OG_Aggie
March 27, 2021 11:32 am

Go PAC 12!

kings4ever
March 27, 2021 12:33 pm

Moody looks pretty good, though I wish he were two inches taller with 2-4 inches more of wing span (TWSS).

I haven’t scouted the NCAA but the only guys to catch my eye are Mobley and Kuminga.

Until other guys stand out from a SAC point of view, it is not a Top 5 draft in my mind, it is a Top 2.

Even a guy like Cade Cunningham, what are we going to do with him? Can he play SF? He is obviously talented but I dont care to tank for him, he would be more of a trade chip than immediate upgrade to our roster.

Cunningham also looks to be average athletically, is he going to get away with that in the pros like Luka did?

Ziaire Williams has the athletic profile of a good player but his stats are disconcerting (37% FGs).

Zaire has a nice arc on his shot though. Maybe his horrible effeciency could enable us to get a good player at 10-14 range.

Ziarie could be one of those sleeper picks like Paul George, when he went #10 back in the day from Fresno State. I knew he had the “it” factor and kind of get that vibe with Williams.

BestHyperboleEver
March 27, 2021 2:20 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

I’m not sure what you mean by “what are we going to do with” Cade Cunningham. He’s 6’7-6’8 with good length, high BBIQ, and can score on 3 levels. Why wouldn’t he be able to play SF and why wouldn’t he be an immediate upgrade? He isn’t an elite athlete, but he’s plenty athletic to let his skill and BBIQ levels play. There are plenty of guys in the top tiers of the NBA with Cunningham level athleticism or lower.

Want-to-be-gm
March 27, 2021 4:24 pm

Yeah when someone starts wondering what position a player will play I just yawn and move on. So many mistakes have been made in the past by trying to fit a player into some out of date positional prototype. I obviously can’t possibly know what kind of player Cade Cunningham will be in the NBA but his success or failure won’t be because of some positional fit. I do kind of wonder if his upside can be any higher than Lonzo Ball who I see some similarities with. Thats not to say there isn’t any differences in their games.

BestHyperboleEver
March 27, 2021 5:12 pm
Reply to  Want-to-be-gm

The big difference, clearly, is that Cade is a much more accomplished shooter and scorer with clean, repeatable, versatile mechanics. Ball’s shot basically precluded him from shooting under any pressure or having a pull-up game. Cade’s doesn’t have that limitation. Ball with Cade’s mechanics and shooting ability would be an exceptionally good player.

Want-to-be-gm
March 27, 2021 5:38 pm

We’ll see who becomes the better player. This Cade Cunningham thing is starting to smell a little like Markell Fultz. Fultz was so universally accepted as the top pick and my eyes kept telling me something different. It’s not that I didn’t think Fultz was going to be a good player but I remember thinking when Boston made the trade with Philly, that the 76ers got fleeced in that trade.

I’d also be careful about some of these draft reports. Somehow Kispert is being couched as a one dimensional spot up shooter but my eyes are telling me something different. To me, he is a highly intelligent defender, moves his feet well, and is always in the right position. Kispert may seam like a one-dimensional player, but I believe he is one of the more well-rounded players in this draft. You’ll notice, that when they compare him to another NBA player its always another white player, which tells me some of these people who write these articles are trapped in a stereotype mindset.

I also wonder if these writers have ever seen some of these guys play. I mean who the hell has seen Kuminga play. I sure haven’t and several others I haven’t seen play. I do know Jalen Green well, one of the top 5 northern cal. high school players (Jason Kidd, Todd Lichti, Aaron Gordon, Ryan Anderson) I’ve seen. I read he needs to improve his handles, he does?, he was a fabulous ball handler when we played against him. Great vision, great character, tremendous work ethic, so if you read anything else, he’s one player I do know. They also say he doesn’t have a left hand. BS – I’ve personally watched him at out gym work on his left hand for hours at a time and I thought in high school he was so impressive because of his ability to use both hands. I would just say watch and comment on what you really do see and don’t let the reports corrupt your mind. I think many of these advanced scouts who really do know their stuff are not so forthcoming with it.

It will be interesting to see if Oral Roberts can hold on. I don’t think so.

OG_Aggie
March 27, 2021 2:24 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

Although I’m over whining about Luka, the lesson learned is if The Guy is sitting there for you to draft, you don’t overthink it and worry about position issues. You take The Guy and figure it out later.

kings4ever
March 27, 2021 1:09 pm

You would not know it from the tone and tenor of this site, with traumatized fans who can seemingly not get over Vlade and Vivek and Luka and the firing of idealized coaches, but this is the BEST time to be a SAC Kings fan in half of a decade plus.  

We will be .500 in a couple of weeks, April 8th by my estimation. I am almost always right, and will be right again, hence give or take a few days on my target date. 😉

We have a legit superstar since never, Fox the far better a player and leader than bloated Boogie ever was, unless you want to say C-Webb was a superstar, but in his prime his D was underwhelming and scoring effeciency sporadic.  

C-Webb could have been a superstar if he had Holmes push shot. 🙂

We have a rookie having a better season than the last time we had an official ROY in Tyreke. Two Tys with ROY credentials, ha, I just realized that. 

Tyreke put up 20-5-5 to the detriment of his tea,m and teammates, selfish more than selfless. Haliburton is the opposite, more effecient as a shooter (61% TS% vs 53%) and a passer in regards to ASST:TO. (3.125 vs 1.9). Huge difference and foretelling of the way Tyreke’s career played out. 

Anyway, we have Barnes and Holmes having career years, Buddy trying to salvage his season with a new position and posting his best month aligned with his norms (45% / 42%). And the calvary is on the way.

The sun is shining through the clouds. 

McGenius has undercut the worst tendencies of the coach, his reliance on vets without the vim and vigor to move the needle. This year it was CoJo and Bjelica gumming up the works, the year prior it was Ariza; Dedmon and Bazemore to lesser extent, who Walton granted too long of a leash while yanking the pups at first sign of a malfeasance.  

When Ty and Holmes went down we were pathetic. We were a team that could not withstand injury. The “next man up” philosophy was kind of irrelevant when next man was Ramsay or Jabari Parker. 

Now McGenius has given this coach options and chance to prove his mettle.  

We have about 10 candidates for 4-5 openings in the second unit.

May the best man (men) win! 

Suppose the GM did not get us talent in form of Silva, Davis and Wright, or exile the scrubs, and implement his “value buyer” strategy? What kind of impression does that make on a good to ocassionally great player like Richaun Holmes, with the doomers clammering he is all but gone?  

No bench, no hope, and no starting center worth a damn if your bench is trash. Why would Holmes want to be a part of a two-bit shit organization? 

Holmes wants to be a part of a serious team with serious aspirations, actions not words, not a joke with “get worse to get better” pipedreams.  

You want to retain Holmes? Then maybe don’t gut your roster for a 2025 protected pick and other dubious assets like ORL did.  

We won a crazy game in BOS in which our bench got 12 points 1 assist and 9 rebounds in which four players (CoJo, Whiteside, James, Bjelica) played a combined 60 minutes. Your team is a joke when this is what you trot out as a second unit. And I say that as someone who endorses Whiteside. 

The problem is two-fold yet likely remedied. One, you need to exclude players from the second unit who suck, and two, you need to have more quality options at your disposal. The moves at the trade deadline have enabled both. 

Davis and Silva will get their chance. They have to prove more capable than Jefferies and Metu. Again, let the best man win! 

And God grant the wisdom and strength to the coach to discern the victor. The coach needs wisdom and strength then I suspect we will see Guy, Jefferies, Metu, Wright and maybe Silva. It is a judgment call to be made by a man with poor judgement, hence the hope for divine intervention.

Wright will be inserted and I hope it does not come at expense of Guy. It is a travesty how his talent has been ignored, his potential has discounted. Does the next JJ Reddick not appeal to Fluke? His vision is no further or broad than the tip of his nose….but ultimately just one more obstacle to overcome.  

Earlier I asserted the biggest problem on this team was Buddy. I stand by this. Guy could have and can still help to remedy. We are on the outside looking in on the playoffs bc Buddy was 53% TS% not too long ago instead of 60% TS%, his real potential, feeding of Fox and Ty and limiting the hero ball misadventures. 

Now Buddy has – count ‘em – four dudes in Guy, Wright, Fox and Ty to set him up if the coach gains his wits about him. There is NO reason for Buddy to be taking bad shots anymore. How many set up men do you need?!

If this vision comes to fruition our 4-man core (Fox, Ty, Holmes, Barnes) expands to a 6-man core that includes Buudy and Wright. This is what to look for. Can Wright and Buddy cement themselves as keepers? Any other players who want to make their case to be add to the core are free to do so as well. 

It is a good time to be a Kings fan.

The talent is there, the pieces are starting to fit, and the doomers are going to have a hard time making their case, though they will try with all the doom and gloom they can muster.

The doomers are secretly worried, they know they are in trouble, and every win like the 140 point outburst on the second of a back-to-back, makes their assertions more fallacious and sad.  

Being stuck in the past is sad. It is not the past. It is NOW. Fox is a 30 PPG, and Ty is having a better rookie year than Fox. Life is good when you have a 30 PPG superstar, a ROY better than Reke, and potential role players eager to emerge, and a GM who doesn’t suck. This is the state of the Kings, not the foolishness pushed by those misguided by old disappoinment and ancient hurts. 

Could the recent moves and non-moves backfire? Could Holmes walk for nothing? Of course, we are dealing in probabilities not certainties; that is the fun, the intrigue, the reason to stay tuned. But the best and wisest course of action was to follow in footsteps of the 32-11 Jazz template (Fox is our Mitchell), not OKC (or 76er ) template.

This is what McGenius is doing!

Fans operating under a false paradigm it needed to be torn to the ground to built back up are short-sighted. 5 out of 6 wins are the latest evidence of their misassessment.  

Chances are good it only gets better from here. What is not to love when Bagley, Joseph and Bjelica are out of the rotation, Fox and Ty are chomping at the bit and ferocious, and the calvary is revving their engines?  It does not get sweeter than this, reminiscent of the hey-day and outset of J-Will, C-Webb, B-Jax and the audaciousness of unbridled aspiration and the capability to see it through. 

This is the dot on the map, the beacon of hope, the light amidst the fog.  

NorCalKingsFan
March 27, 2021 1:25 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

I might not be as high on this team’s chances as you are but I like your optimism K4E

Adamsite
Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
March 27, 2021 3:14 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

I find it interesting that you are so down on Nemanja, including calling him a scrub, but are so high on guys like Silva. I mean, Pat Riley (a GM known for his talent acquisition and development) just took on more salary to get Nemanja and gave up Silva in the process. Color me confused, but your logic doesn’t necessarily line up with NBA reality.

andy_sims
March 27, 2021 6:59 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

My guess is that they are basing it on Bjelicas dismal performance and poor conditioning since the season began. If he can manage something like his career average, he may be able to help Miami in limited use this postseason, but if I’m thinking about the Sacramento Kings, I’d much rather have Silva at this moment. He’s still hungry, and Bjelica just seemed indifferent.

NorCalKingsFan
March 27, 2021 1:15 pm

I’ve watched quite a bit of Florida St this year and while Barnes can disappear on offense sometimes, he always makes his presence felt throughout the game, usually on defense or in transition. His offense is based on passing, he can take over on offense sometimes without scoring or taking any shots. He’s very intriguing to me, reminds me of a skinny Draymond.

Also from Florida St, I like Raiquan Gray as a late 2nd round pick. He’s like a smaller J. Randle with a less consistent shot but better defense and he is an absolute bowling ball of a playmaker.

BestHyperboleEver
March 27, 2021 2:51 pm
Reply to  NorCalKingsFan

The thing I like about a guy like Barnes is that he has NBA-level aspects to his game (Defense and passing/awareness) to lean on in the early years as he develops the other aspects of his game.

NorCalKingsFan
March 27, 2021 3:06 pm

I completely agree, I think he’ll be able translate his game effectively while developing or finding a way to score efficiently (slashing/corner 3s).

There are times watching the team struggle on offense that makes me wonder why his team doesn’t search him out more, but he never presses or forces the play so unless the opportunity is there, he moves the ball and it can seem strange for the team’s best player to be so deferential (which doesn’t bother me at all on a team with Fox and Hali) to more offensive-minded teammates.

Want2win
March 27, 2021 2:41 pm

I like Franz Wagner and Moody… trade buddy or Barnes..resign Holmes put Bagley on second string

fox
haliburton
moody or wagner
barnes
holmes

Want-to-be-gm
March 27, 2021 4:03 pm

I am surprised even now Ethan Thompson still does not appear on any draft boards even in the second round. I remember my brother playing against his dad Stevie Thompson when Stevie was at Crenshaw High School. At the time Stevie was the most explosive high school player I had ever seen. He ended up playing power forward at 6′ 4 1/2″ at Syracuse.

Ethan is not exceptionally fast, doesn’t have the same explosiveness as his father and is not particularly long. What he does have is a high basketball IQ, very capable handling the ball, able to create his own shot, a very good shooter both mid range and long range, and very smart defensive player and just a great feel for the game. Mistakes are often made by being over infatuated with length and jumping ability but give me someone with skill and basketball mentality and I’ll take my chances. Ethan Thompson has been and continues to be my sleeper pick in the second round or as a UFA. He may not be that much of a sleeper after what he’s done in the tournament so far.

itsjabby
March 27, 2021 6:17 pm

I like this Will Griffith guy in the first pic.

andy_sims
March 27, 2021 6:54 pm

The well is going to need to be pretty dry before I can live with drafting Mo Wagner’s little brother.

That school hasn’t produced a decent big since Chris Webber, and he was being paid a fortune.

NickS
March 28, 2021 3:24 pm

Franz is looking good so far in this game. 6’9” forward who can shoot and facilitate a little bit.

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