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Latest NBA Draft Buzz Surrounding Davion Mitchell, RaiQuan Gray and More

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 23, 2021

Baylor guard Davion Mitchell (45) and Baylor guard Mark Vital (11) celebrate at the end of the championship game against Gonzaga in the men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 5, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Baylor won 86-70. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

After Cade Cunningham's Round of 32 exit from the NCAA tournament, USC's Evan Mobley was making plays on an Elite Eight run and Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs was creating memorable highlights all the way to the national championship game.

But the No. 1 overall discussion hasn't changed: Scouts still view Oklahoma State's Cunningham as the favorite.

"Cade. Book it," a scout texted on who'll go first.

While all it takes is one out-of-the-box thinker to win the lottery, it feels like Cunningham has been viewed as the top prospect for too long for scouts to change their minds this late.

Versatility and positional interchangeability should also allow him to avoid any questions about fit with whoever selects first.

Picks Nos. 2-4 will almost certainly be Mobley, Jalen Green and Suggs. There isn't an obvious consensus ranking of those three. I'd say Mobley has the edge over Suggs and Green if the team picking second can use a frontcourt upgrade.

Would the Minnesota Timberwolves consider taking Mobley and playing him at the 4 next to Karl-Anthony Towns? Would the Cleveland Cavaliers draft Mobley after trading for Jarrett Allen? Those particular teams would have interesting decisions to make.

          

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Debating Baylor's Davion Mitchell

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

After Baylor's national championship run, one of the biggest debates among scouts now focuses on Mitchell's upside.

Some suddenly see a starting NBA point guard worth taking in the top 10. Others have warned to pump the breaks and avoid buying into March Madness magic, particularly from a 22-year-old turning 23 before his rookie season.

For the most part, the national love he's receiving seems to be increasing. From asking around the league, teams hoping to get him in the teens should start focusing their attention on trading up or targeting a different player.

The buyers have been swayed by his blow-by explosiveness, improved creation flashes, shooting numbers and reputable defensive toughness. One scout expressed frustration, telling Bleacher Report he loved Mitchell as a sleeper in January and now the secret is out.

Skeptics question his age, late-blooming breakout and 65.7 free-throw percentage, a number some believe is more indicative of his shooting, considering he entered the season having made just 49 of 157 threes (31.2 percent).

One scout even mentioned Mitchell's "overrated defense" and suggested going back to watch recent film of him getting burned by Villanova's Justin Moore, Texas Tech's Mac McClung and West Virginia's Miles McBride.

History also tells us to be wary about putting extra stock (from a scouting perspective) into postseason performances. For me, Mitchell was No. 20 before the NCAA tournament, and he checks in at No. 18 afterward.

Scouts say Baylor is selling the feisty ball-handler as another Fred VanVleet, who entered the league at the same age Mitchell will.

I'm not as confident that Mitchell's shooting and playmaking translate to quality-starter levels at his particular position. I'm picturing more of a high-energy role player coaches can use on and off the ball. He'll be lower on my big boards and higher on B/R mock drafts.

         

Florida State's RaiQuan Gray Potential Riser to Watch

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Gray has hired an agent and sounds like a riser to keep tabs on during the predraft process. I've heard top-40 for the 22-year-old junior with an unconventional scouting report that never received much attention in the national draft discussion.

With an enormous frame (6'8", 260 lbs) that mirrors Paul Millsap's (6'7", 257 lbs), Gray received 48 pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions, shot 12-of-22 on drives past closeouts into runners and finishes and graded in the 96th percentile as a cutter.

He's intriguing for his power and agility facing the basket. Gray also has surprising wiggle off the dribble and strength for plowing through contact on drives. Buying in means seeing plus defense and versatility tied to his size, mobility and motor.

After three seasons, he's still a limited threat from three (8-of-30 this past season), but the possibility of Gray being one of the draft's hidden gems comes from the idea that he's an outlier who'll find other ways to make plays.

       

Mixed Reviews on Arizona State's Josh Christopher

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

A 5-star recruit, Christopher has a flashy game that hasn't generated the same level of national buzz as many other one-and-done freshmen. Scouts sound divided on how his season went and whether legitimate upside was masked by a poor college fit and a limited sample size of games (15) because of injury.

One scout mentioned Christopher would have looked much better if he didn't have to play off veteran shot-hunting guards Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr. Another scout described his game as "All sizzle, no steak."

At 6'5", 215 pounds, Christopher has an impressive physical profile and explosiveness for transition, where he graded in the 91st percentile and did most of his scoring.

He was far less effective in the half court (36 percentile). Scouts question his shot selection and hero jumpers in the mid-range (5-of-22). He also struggled off the ball, grading in the 35th percentile out of spot-ups, shooting 31 percent off the catch.

On the other hand, Christopher has dangerous burst and sharp creation skills from all three levels. He also shot 44 percent from three over his final seven games.

There will be teams that aren't interested or don't see a fit with his particular game. His NBA-ready timetable also figures to take longer, assuming his one-on-one play and pick-and-roll ball-handling aren't sharp enough for coaches to feature early on.

But he's also just 19 years old with standout positional tools, athleticism and a scoring skill set and mentality that mirrors Kevin Porter Jr.'s. Early guesses point to Christopher going somewhere in the 20s or 30s, where I believe he offers strong value for a patient team.

        

Figuring out LSU's Cameron Thomas

AJ Mast/Associated Press

Thomas has entered the draft after a historic statistical season. He joined Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Trae Young, Michael Beasley, RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Markelle Fultz as the only major-conference freshmen to average at least 22 points per game.

They were all top-five picks, and scouts see Thomas as a mid-to-late first-rounder, and some aren't fans at all.

Thomas is Oak Hill's all-time leading scorer, so his knack for getting buckets at LSU wasn't surprising. But he became one of five guards on record to average at least 17 shot attempts with an assist rate below 10 percent. "Gifted scorer, but he doesn't pass or defend at all," one scout said. Malik Monk is an NBA comparison I've heard used. Scouts have also expressed concern about his interest in putting up numbers versus winning.

They've talked about the importance of Thomas landing with a team that can offer the right role and tolerate his style and limitations.

At what point of the draft is it considered overthinking to pass on such a proven scoring prospect? When is it worth accepting his flaws and valuing his special ability for creating and hitting shots?

His predraft process and NBA journey should be one of the more fascinating storylines to follow from the 2021 class.

     

Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.