NBA draft analyst Matt Babcock provides notes on prospects that he has recently evaluated at games attended in person, in preparation for the 2021 NBA Draft.
To state the obvious, 2020 was a rough year, and although the dark clouds have lingered over us longer than expected, it’s a new year and there is reason to have hope that brighter days are ahead in the near future. Of course, we are not out of the woods quite yet, but luckily from a work standpoint our Babcock Hoops’ staff is spread out and we are able to cover a lot of ground to effectively evaluate prospects while continuing to practice social distancing and necessary safety precautions. As our group sets out to evaluate prospects for the 2021 NBA Draft, I have decided to start this new draft notebook series to keep everyone up to date with our in person scouting.
After the 2020 NBA Draft, our group decided to hold off from attending any games until the new year. Instead, we spent a ton of time watching film during the early part of the season, getting a lay of the land before we started to hit the road. Today is January 12th and I’ve been busy the last week or so attending games. Here are some of the noteworthy players that I’ve seen:
Game: USC @ Arizona State
Game Stats: 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 blocks
Comments: At 7’0”, Mobley is incredibly fluid as an athlete and possesses an extremely high skill level for a player his size. In this specific game, Mobley showed his ability to utilize his length, athleticism, and coordination to effectively block shots. He swatted away an impressive 6 shots in total. I believe he has the potential to be an elite rim protector. Mobley also knocked down a three, putting his smooth shooting mechanics on display. On another possession, when facing up on the perimeter he effectively put the ball on the floor to execute a draw and kick, hitting his teammate for a wide-open three — not something that is typically seen from a player with his size. Mobley certainly needs to add some more physical strength as he gets knocked off of his spots routinely, however, Evan Mobley is a top-notch prospect nonetheless. I think he will and should be in the conversation as a potential number one pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
School: Arizona State
Game: USC @ Arizona State
Game Stats: 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists
Comments: This was certainly not one of Josh Christopher’s better games. Lucky for me, I already know his game well from covering him at various high school events in the past. At 6’5” and 215 pounds, Christopher is a big, physical, and explosive guard. He tends to pre-determine shots and has a quick trigger, but he does have a knack to create and hit tough shots — extremely valuable skills if he can learn to pick and choose his spots better. He is currently shooting 86% from the free-throw line, which indicates to me that he has a pretty good stroke. Also, keep in mind, his bad habits are probably magnified in Arizona State’s offense, as they do not have a true point guard and their ball movement is not great. On the defensive end, Christopher still has a ways to go to maximize his potential, but I think his physical tools and overall toughness give him some legitimate upside on this side of the ball. I’d like to see Christopher produce consistently and improve throughout the year, but at this point, I see him as a potential late lottery or mid-first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
School: Arizona State
Game: USC @ Arizona State
Game Stats: 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks
Comments: This was my first time seeing Marcus Bagley play in person. Based on the film I watched of him early in the season I had him pegged more as a big wing, but the more I get to know him the more I see a modern, stretch four that is versatile. He has a solid, strong frame and seems to be pretty athletic. He brings a lot of intangibles to the table and makes a lot of winning type plays — which is great! He isn’t afraid of contact, he’s switchable on defense, he draws charges, and he’s a terrific rebounder. Although his offensive game is pretty simple, I think his size and athleticism should allow him to be an effective straight-line driver and finisher in transition. Most importantly, Marcus Bagley can really shoot the ball from outside! Considering all of the little things he does, combined with an ability to stretch the floor, he’s a valuable commodity in my book. Although it’s early in the process, I see Bagley as a likely late first-round or early second-round option in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Game: Oregon @ Colorado
Game Stats: 27 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks
Comments: I went into this game, suspecting that I had made a mistake not including Chris Duarte in our first big board of the season, and boy was I right — he really impressed me! With good size at 6’6”, Duarte is a very well-rounded player without any glaring weaknesses. He is a terrific and versatile shooter, as he can shoot off the catch with range or off the dribble. His basketball IQ also seems to be very high on both ends of the ball. Most importantly, the kid is tough, he competes and clearly takes basketball seriously — which I love! On one play, Duarte dribbled into traffic and turned the ball over, rather than pouting and complaining that he was fouled (which most players in college do). He instead busted his butt and hustled back to make a trailing block in transition. He has translatable tools and skills, but when it’s all said and done, I like the kid’s whole shtick and think he will be successful. I’m still working to sort out at what range I think he fits into the draft, but I am confident in saying I think he should be drafted and believe he will play in the NBA.
School: Utah State
Game: Utah State @ Air Force
Game Stats: 15 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals
Comments: I’ve watched Neemias Queta since his freshman year. The first time I saw him was at a home game in Logan, Utah to see his Utah State Aggies play the Northern Iowa Panthers. I was there mainly to see AJ Green and Sam Merrill. I didn't know much about Queta but I had heard his name before because he is from Portugal and our director of international scouting, Jason Filippi, had casually mentioned him to me. During the warmups for that game, Queta caught my eye, as he was seamlessly throwing down impressive windmill dunks. Once the game started, he was a deer in the headlights — I thought he had a ways to go. Last year, I saw him again— in fairness to him, he was coming off of an injury— but I was not impressed. His decision-making and composure seemed to be far behind. Truth be told, I drove down to the Air Force Academy to see him play recently with pretty low expectations. However, to my surprise, I felt like I was watching an entirely new player. His motor can certainly still be increased a lot, but his decision-making, leadership, and effectiveness were undeniable. He did a little bit of everything you’d want from a true center. Although players in Queta’s mold have generally lost a lot of their overall market value, if he continues to play close to how I saw him play the other day, I think he just might have a shot. We are definitely going to keep tracking him.
Other players worth mentioning: Derrick Alston, Jr. (Boise State), Isaiah Mobley (USC), Eugene Omoruyi (Oregon), Marcus Williams (Wyoming), and McKinley Wright IV (Colorado).