The college basketball season has come to a close after a dominant performance by the Baylor Bears in the March Madness championship game. Players will still climb up and down 2021 NBA Draft boards through the combine and meetings with teams, but by now scouts have a solid idea of who the best players available are. Instead of looking at the top lottery prospects, it’s time to discover a few of the NBA Draft’s hidden gems.
2021 NBA Draft Hidden Gems
Backcourt Diamonds in the Rough
A name popular outside of college basketball is Juhann Begarin from France. The 18-year-old guard is electrifying the LNB Pro B league at Paris Basketball with his elite athleticism and scoring talent. He’s averaging 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists per game in that league this season. He’s a lot more of a scorer than a playmaker, however. His quickness allows him to thrive in transition and his skill makes him an iso option. Lastly, his 7-foot wingspan will allow him to possibly become an elite defender. Begarin is the definition of a diamond in the rough as he’s going to take a couple of years to develop, but if done properly, his second-round projection will turn out to be a steal.
Max Abmas showed the world what he’s capable of during March Madness. After leading the NCAA in scoring, he continued to drain buckets during the tournament in Oral Roberts’ memorable run. His role in the league is already looking set – a sparkplug and sharpshooter off the bench. The only issue with Abmas is his NBA shape, as he’ll need to bulk up to succeed professionally. With that being said, his March Madness performances shot him up 2021 NBA Draft big boards.
RJ Nembhard from Texas Christian University (TCU) is another fringe diamond in the rough. Besides being a natural scorer and one who seems to thrive in crunch time, Nembhard also has the frame to become a very solid defender and rebounder as a guard. While consistently raising his scoring averages as his years in college went on, Nembhard also adopted more ball-handling duties. TCU isn’t quite known for their basketball program, but they recently produced Desmond Bane who’s enjoying a very solid rookie year this season, and Nembhard may be next.
Panning for Gold in the Frontcourt
Charles Bassey remains a very overlooked prospect. Playing for Western Kentucky this season, he put up averages of 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. This came on 30 minutes on the floor, and most impressively, he keeps his fouls in check (only 2.4 per game). He doesn’t receive the attention he deserves mostly due to the size of the program he played for, but Bassey consistently dominated the competition. He loses some allure in the modern NBA as he’s not super quick with his feet nor does he project to spread the floor, but Bassey can surely turn into a defensive and rebounding menace with a strong game in the post.
Kofi Cockburn is another collegiate center that’s already built for success in the NBA. Watching him in college for Illinois seemed like an anomaly, as he was always the biggest and strongest on the court. Cockburn used this to his advantage to a tune of 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He also had a strong field goal percentage of over 65 percent as he dominated the inside. He stands at 7-feet-0 and weighs in at 285 pounds. This gives him more or less the exact build as Joel Embiid. Cockburn, of course, is not nearly as skilled or talented as Embiid. He is, however, going to find a very solid niche in the league.
Isaiah Todd didn’t necessarily turn heads during the G-League Bubble with the G-League Ignite, but the talent and skill are definitely there. He already has ideal power forward size and fits the mold of the modern four as he has a silky-smooth jumper allowing him to stretch the floor. He’s also far more mobile than his size may suggest, showing that there’s plenty of potential to still be unlocked in his offensive game. Todd is currently hovering around the second-round territory. A solid combine, however, is all it takes to move him into the first-round discussion. He has the talent to be a consistent double-digit scorer in the league.
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