Undrafted NBA Free Agents 2021: Rumors and Predictions for Biggest Names

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJuly 31, 2021

Duke forward Matthew Hurt (21) passes the ball in front of Louisville guard David Johnson (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

There are a lot of talented college basketball players across the country. Plus, there are exciting players across the international ranks. And these days, some players go straight from high school to the G League, many of whom have NBA potential.

So not every strong prospect is going to get taken during the NBA draft, which has only two rounds totaling 60 picks. But even undrafted players get an opportunity to have success in the league.

For those players who didn't get selected during the 2021 NBA draft on Thursday night, they've been looking for chances to sign on with a team. Some will sign either a free-agent contract, a two-way contract or an Exhibit 10 deal, while others will get invitations to play for a team in the NBA summer league.

Don't expect a ton of two-way contracts to be handed out this year, though. According to ESPN's Jonathan Givony, it appears teams are being "more judicious," potentially waiting to see how a player looks during the summer league before making a bigger commitment.

It hasn't taken long for some notable players who didn't get picked on draft night to get opportunities.

Daishen Nix was once committed to play at UCLA, but he instead opted to play for the G League Ignite after high school. He averaged 8.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 15 games this past season. Yet the 19-year-old point guard went undrafted.

NBA reporter Adam Zagoria shared that Nix will be playing in the summer league for the Philadelphia 76ers. So this will be an opportunity for him to further prove that he's deserving of an NBA roster spot.

Another notable name that didn't come off the draft board on Thursday was Matthew Hurt, who was the leading scorer in the ACC this past season while playing at Duke. The 21-year-old forward was a first-team All-ACC selection who averaged 18.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 24 games for the Blue Devils.

Not only has Hurt found an NBA team, but he's signed a two-way deal as he'll be joining the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. That means Hurt could have a better chance to stick with the team, as it can send him back and forth between the NBA G League.

Gonzaga guard Joel Ajayi signed a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Michigan State forward Aaron Henry signed a two-way contract with the 76ers, according to Wojnarowski. It was a bit of surprise that neither of those players got taken during the draft, but they'll still have opportunities to prove themselves.

Many of the top undrafted players have found NBA teams to join, but there could still be some signing deals or getting invites in the days to come.



So which of these undrafted free agents are going to have the most success? Will any of them make an impact in the NBA, if not in the 2021-22 season then potentially in the future?

Henry likely has the most potential of all of them, and don't be surprised if he makes his way into the 76ers' rotation at some point during the upcoming season. The former Michigan State standout continued to improve throughout his three college years, and that experience should help in the next stage of his career.

Ajayi may have a hard time getting playing time with the Lakers, so it's most likely that he'll be heading to the G League. But maybe he could have an opportunity to become a contributor within the next few years. Expect the same thing from Hurt in Houston.

As for Nix, he's going to have to impress during the summer league to get a two-way contract. That may not happen with Philadelphia, but there should be some team willing to give him that offer at the end of the summer. Still, expect him to be returning to the G League and spending some considerable time there as he continues to develop.