2021 NBA Draft Buzz: Sources Say Scottie Barnes Could Go Top 5

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJuly 16, 2021

Florida State's Scottie Barnes participates in the NBA Draft Combine at the Wintrust Arena Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Love for Scottie Barnes has snowballed to the point scouts and executives expect he's going in the top five of the NBA draft.

Sources tell Bleacher Report the Orlando Magic are a good possibility for Barnes at No. 5, and if not, the Oklahoma City Thunder would take him at No. 6. Rivals teams are assuming the Toronto Raptors will consider him at No. 4, especially if they have interest in bringing back Kyle Lowry (making Jalen Suggs less desirable). 

There is a belief Barnes has star potential, even if it's the unconventional type. Scouts see zero downside and only unique upside tied to his 6'8", 225-pound frame, 7'2¾" wingspan, ball-handling and passing for playmaking, and surefire defense.

And they talk about the likability factor. Barnes' energy, passion and unselfishness were evident during the season and easy to detect during interviews.

He's trending at the right time, like a year ago when interest in Patrick Williams felt contagious and gradually spread to the Chicago Bulls at No. 4 overall. Similarly, Barnes is now being viewed as one of the class' premier prospects, having seemingly broken free from the second tier that includes Connecticut's James Bouknight, Tennessee's Keon Johnson, Michigan's Franz Wagner, Australia's Josh Giddey, Texas' Kai Jones, Gonzaga's Corey Kispert, Arkansas' Moses Moody, Baylor's Davion Mitchell and Duke's Jalen Johnson.

Barnes going top five likely means Jonathan Kuminga could be available at No. 6. Teams ultimately see more bust potential with Kuminga, who only played 13 games, registered a 49.7 true shooting percentage (second lowest among projected first-round prospects) and doesn't possess standout intangibles or ancillary skills. 

As for pick Nos. 1-3, the assumption is still the Detroit Pistons will take Cade Cunningham, even if they entertain trade calls or smoke leaks out about interest in Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. Most seem to think Green will go second, given the value tied to creators and scoring wings, plus the high likelihood Green's elite athleticism, separation skills and shot-making translate. A hint of fear about drafting bigs early and Mobley's thin frame are reasons why scouts think he'll be available at No. 3. And for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he's simply the best-player-available answer.

Logic suggests Suggs will go fourth to the Raptors with 35-year-old Lowry entering free agency and Toronto coming off a 27-win season. But it also sounds like Barnes has become a hot enough name for the Raptors to think about. Otherwise, he's the new favorite at No. 5, either to Orlando or a team looking to trade up for someone rare and more exciting.


Late-lottery interest in Gonzaga's Corey Kispert

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Teams in the late-lottery range are contemplating Kispert.

There has been discussion asking how early is too early for a 22-year-old wing who doesn't create, particularly since there will be higher-upside freshmen and sophomores available. But teams have cited the success of Phoenix Suns' 2019 No. 11 pick Cameron Johnson as a way to justify taking a shooter like Kispert. 

Watching Johnson play a key role for Phoenix with his threes and decision-making is making it easier for lottery teams to look past Kispert's perceived lower ceiling and embrace his translatable strengths.

Teams feel confident that they know what they're going to get from the Gonzaga senior, and what they're getting will be valuable. The 6'7" forward shot 44.0 percent from three and 87.8 percent from the line while leading the nation in points per possession in transition, per Synergy Sports.

Based on conversations around the league, Kispert could wind up going top 10 in this draft.


Tennessee's Jaden Springer getting strong reviews

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

Multiple teams have expressed surprise with how explosive Springer looks in workouts.

He only dunked four times as a freshman while dealing with ankle problems. But Springer is now fully healed and 100 percent healthy. His 34.5-inch standing vertical tied for fifth highest at the combine. 

It's sounding like Springer is helping himself during the predraft process after a season of leaving scouts on the fence about his NBA position and upside as a scorer and playmaker. 

Springer so far has worked out for the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs. He still has eight teams left to visit. 


Quiet interest in North Carolina's Day'Ron Sharpe

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Teams began to wonder about Sharpe after he skipped the NBA combine. And now some are having a tough time getting him in for workouts. 

Teams are trying to figure out if Sharpe has a promise and where he'll wind up going. The mystery seems to be raising interest. 

Video via ESPN's Mike Schmitz surfaced showing Sharpe down 18 pounds and shooting an easy ball. Coveted mostly for his offensive rebounding and passing, Sharpe becoming quicker and more threatening from outside could be a significant development.


Teams split on Baylor's Davion Mitchell's ceiling

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Mitchell is widely considered one of the first names likely to be called once the top five or six prospects are off the board. But not every scout sees that upside. 

Mitchell worked out for the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday (per San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau), and prior to the workout, I'm told there were voices against taking the Baylor guard at No. 7.

Despite Mitchell's reputation for lockdown defense, skeptics don't buy the defensive upside for a player who measured 6'0" in socks. And there is some doubt surrounding his late breakout at 22 years old.

There is enough interest in Mitchell to keep him from slipping, however. But there is plenty of debate within front offices about whether he projects as a star lead guard or a Patrick Beverley-type role player.   


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