The Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is set after the Gonzaga Bulldogs rolled past the USC Trojans and UCLA’s Cinderella run continued following a narrow victory over Michigan. This weekend will present players with the opportunity to cement their collegiate legacies and carve out a place in NCAA men’s basketball history. It also affords certain players the chance to improve their stock for this summer’s NBA Draft.
Many of the projected top picks picks watched their seasons come to an end in recent weeks, including presumptive No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham and USC center Evan Mobley, who could go No. 2. Nevertheless, there are some interesting prospects NBA front offices will likely be watching this weekend.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best NBA Draft prospects in this year’s Final Four.
5. Quentin Grimes, Houston
The Houston Cougars find themselves in the Final Four thanks mostly to a deep group of scorers and tremendous size and length on both sides of the floor.
But Grimes has real upside as an NBA Draft prospect.
The Texas native began his collegiate career at Kansas before transferring to Houston. He has made an impact in each of his last two seasons with the Cougars as a guy capable of scoring at all three levels and creating off the bounce.
Grimes is averaging 18.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season. He was less efficient in the midrange and around the basket, but shot a career-high 41.2 percent from beyond the arc on 8.3 attempts per game.
Grimes is unafraid to pull up off the dribble. He has pretty good size as a combo guard and displays athleticism on both ends of the floor. His defensive acumen and playmaking will be especially important against a high-powered Baylor offense.
4. Jared Butler, Baylor
Jared Butler is one of the headliners in a loaded Bears backcourt.
The junior guard has made a tremendous impact on both ends of the floor in each of his past two seasons. Butler is putting up 16.5 points per game on the season, also setting new career-high marks in assists (4.8) and steals.
Butler’s perimeter shooting is a vital component to Baylor’s offense. He has terrific range and is shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the arc on 6.1 attempts per game.
The most evident part of Butler’s game is his ability to work off ball screens and shoot off the dribble or find bigs diving to the rack. He also has sneaky athleticism and is not hesitant to use up-fakes to create space and capitalize on driving lanes to the bucket.
Butler swarms the ball with defensive pressure and plays the passing lanes on the defensive end of the floor. He has good length despite not having the biggest frame.
It speaks to Baylor’s talent that the Bears are still in the Final Four despite Butler mostly struggling to shoot the ball throughout the course of the tournament.
Still, Butler could improve his NBA Draft stock should he string together a couple big scoring games and help lead the Bears to a national title.
3. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
The Bulldogs are hard to guard because they move the ball and play at a terrific pace. It also helps to have one of the best shooters in the country.
Kispert is a sniper from beyond the arc. He has shot better than 43 percent from beyond the arc in each of the past two seasons, including a 45.3 percent clip on 6.4 attempts per game this season.
The senior forward is a surprisingly good rebounder despite generally lacking in size at the forward spot. He’s averaging 5.0 boards per contest, scrapping underneath the basket and fighting for loose balls.
One of Kispert’s best attributes might be his constant movement off the ball. He is often hunting the open spaces, whether coming off screens for jumpers or cutting to the rim off back-picks for easy buckets.
Do not sleep on Kispert’s quickness on the ball, either. He can take defenders off the bounce and finish in the lane via a variety of floaters.
Kispert might not have the upside of other prospects in this NBA Draft class. He sometimes gets caught in ball screens on the defensive end of the floor.
But Kispert has terrific fundamentals and relentlessly pursues the ball. His ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor and also slash to the cup are both appealing qualities.
2. Davion Mitchell, Baylor
If there is one player who has most defined Baylor’s run to the Final Four, it’s Mitchell.
The former Auburn transfer has seemingly made all the momentum plays for the Bears during the course of this tournament. Mitchell has been in double figures in every game and made countless plays for teammates getting into the lane off the dribble.
Mitchell has been even more impressive on the defensive end. He is averaging 2.0 steals during the tournament after posting that same average during the regular season. But the effort has been even more impressive. He doesn’t let ball handlers get any separation and constantly gets in their space.
There is plenty of upside on the offensive end. Mitchell is shooting 45.0 percent from deep on 4.5 attempts per game this season. He is even better taking defenders off the dribble and possesses blazing quickness in getting to his spot. That quickness allows Mitchell to get all the way to the rim or pull up for jumpers.
Mitchell could be a big riser in the coming months. He collapses defenses with his slashing ability and can shoot the ball from the perimeter. The defensive pressure and size could be a boon for a number of teams looking for an upgrade at the point guard position.
1. Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
Kispert and Drew Timme might put up the more prolific scoring numbers, but Suggs is unquestionably the most talented player on this Gonzaga team.
The freshman sensation does it all. Suggs is one of the best playmakers thanks to his ability to facilitate and tremendous court vision. He consistently spots open teammates cutting to the basket and gets the Bulldogs out in transition. He can also create his own shot off the dribble and finish through contact at the rim or score — like Kispert — by way of a mean arsenal of floaters.
Suggs had a virtuoso performance against USC. He consistently found the open space in the Trojans’ zone and put the Bulldogs in a position to score.
Suggs exhibited patience in the half court and also pushed the tempo when clearing the boards, finding teammates for easy baskets before the Trojans could get their defense set.
Although Suggs is not the best 3-point shooter, he can get hot from the perimeter, and his tremendous ball handling and ability to blow by defenders makes him an incredibly tough cover. Plus, Suggs has terrific size (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) for a point guard with his athleticism and vision.
Along with his raw talent, Suggs also displays good fundamentals as a guy who moves well without the ball and fills space and crashes the glass.
It would be a shock were Suggs to fall out of the top five in the 2021 NBA Draft this summer.