2021-22' Big 12 Conference Preview
Our round table goes over the NBA prospects you should keep an eye on in the Big 12 conference.
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter group think. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Nathan Grubel: Terrence Shannon Jr. Kansas deserves plenty of eyes on quite a few youngsters from day one including Christian Braun and Jalen Wilson, but Shannon was a favorite of mine going back to last year. The defensive-minded wing showed improvements on his jumper incrementally last year and remains one of the better rebounders for his size in this draft class. Look for him to have a big year at Texas Tech.
Tyler Rucker: Terrence Shannon Jr. GIVE ME ALL THE DEFENSE. This year is going to be a bit of a crapshoot when you're talking about notable NBA Draft prospects in the Big 12. I'm going to roll the dice with my guy Terrence Shannon Jr. An absolute slasher with elite defensive potential, it was a bit of a surprise when the 6'6" wing announced he would return to Texas Tech for another year. If he can show that the outside shot is coming around, then his stock should climb in a hurry.
Evan Wheeler: This probably will surprise some, but I'm going to say Baylor's Matthew Mayer is the best draft prospect in the Big 12 this year. I might be drinking the Kool-Aid too much, but Mayer showcased so many flashes as a pivotal sixth man of sorts for the defending National Champions a year ago. With Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler both now gone to the NBA, I expect Mayer to thrive in a much more featured role this season for the Bears. The 6'9" dual forward could be the catalyst for a repeat title run in Waco and push for the Big 12 Player of the Year in 2022.
Corey Tulaba: Unless someone unexpected explodes onto the scene, the Big 12 won’t have any big time draft prospects this season. Picking the best of the bunch during the pre-season cycle is going to probably end up a as shot in the dark, but I’m gonna rock with Terrence Shannon Jr. I love lefties and I see some Kelly Oubre in his game. Shannon is a bouncy athlete with some off the bounce shot creation ability. TSJ is a monster around the hoop and he plays both sides of the ball. Without McClung dribbling the air out of the ball this season, Shannon will have the chance to really shine in an expanded offensive role. Shannon may be penalized a bit by being an older prospect but versatile athletic swing wings that can space the floor will get a look from NBA teams.
Tyler Metcalf: Ochai Agbaji does and always will have a special place in my heart. I've had him rated as a draftable prospect since his freshman season and yet he continues to rip my heart out. I thought he showed meaningful and important improvements last season with his shooting, passing, and ball-handling. He's an excellent defender and NBA ready athlete. I'm already preparing myself to be hurt again, but Agbaji is my answer here.
Alex (Draft Film School): This is a down year for the Big 12 in terms of NBA Draft prospects but I'm going with Terrence Shannon Jr. He is a guy that I liked quite a bit last year and would have taken him in that 25-30 range. TSJ is one of the best POA defenders in the draft and had some flashes on the offensive end last year but was too inconsistent. He increased his 3P% by 10% last year (35.7%) on 3 attempts a game and will need to boost both the % and volume this season to solidify himself as a first round guy.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Terrence Shannon Jr. This is a tough one for me, but I'm ultimately going to go with Shannon Jr. over Ochai Agbaji here. His defense on the wing was stellar for Texas Tech last season; if he continues to build on the shooting uptick that he showed towards the end of last season, I think that he could really surprise some people this season.
2. Admittedly, one of the most satisfying parts of analyzing the draft is being able to look back and say “psh about time you guys took notice of him. I’ve been hyping him up for ages.” Who is the prospect that you are irrationally high on?
Nathan Grubel: Christian Braun. He started to get some traction last year in draft circles, particularly early on in the year. Ultimately, his game wasn't quite as versatile as initially thought and Braun underperformed on the defensive end. Still, a 6'6" guard who can dribble, pass, shoot and rebound should always have the attention of draft enthusiasts and I'm expecting him to be a rock for Jayhawk basketball this year.
Tyler Rucker: Jalen Wilson. You know I usually find myself frustrated whenever I watch Kansas Jayhawks products. It's something I'm going to try to see a therapist about. Jokes aside, Jalen Wilson continued to jump off the screen last year with some of the plays he made. The 6'8" forward seems to be someone who could take a big leap this year, especially if his offensive game can develop some consistency.
Evan Wheeler: My original answer to this would've been Baylor freshman Langston Love, but a recent ACL injury sadly has ended his season before it even got a chance to begin. So now I'm going to pivot and go with TCU sophomore Mike Miles. He had a stellar campaign for Team USA during this year's FIBA-Under 19 World Cup and has some of the most creative shot creation in the conference. Look for him to lead the way for an underrated Horned Frogs squad this season.
Corey Tulaba: I really really wanted to gush about Langston Love in this section. Your boy is super bummed about the knee injury he suffered during a pre-season scrimmage. Dude really popped in some of his Montverde Academy games. Instead I’ll shout out Mike Miles Jr. I was really impressed by Miles during the FIBA u19 tournament this summer. He’s a bit undersized but he’s got a strong build to help make up for it. I love his ability to operate in the P&R as a scorer and a playmaker and he’s shown at times that he can be a pest defensively. He’s a tough shot maker with a game that stylistically fits into the mold of an NBA guard. He needs to get better around the rim, if he shows improvements there and bumps up his efficiency he could see a sharp rise in his draft stock.
Tyler Metcalf: Jalen Wilson is such a good player. I didn't really understand why he didn't get more love last season, but I think the NBA is in his future. He needs to show more consistency, but Wilson will play an important role in Kansas's success this season.
Alex (Draft Film School): Kendall Brown. One word comes to mind when watching Kendall Brown: BOUNCY. While his overall offensive game is still very much under development, one area he excels is finishing and playing above the rim. He is also a very active on the defensive end and should be a high level STOCKS guy. Fun prospect with first round upside.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Jalen Wilson. He'll play a bigger role in the Kansas rotation this season, and he already proved himself as a sold all-around talent last year. This could be a big year for Wilson and the Jayhawks.
3. Unfortunately, there are two sides to that coin, and they do not have equal probabilities. Which prospect do you like but think has the most likely chance of failing to meet expectations?
Nathan Grubel: Matthew Mayer. I am admittedly a fan of what he brings to the table, and he gained A TON of attention during Baylor's impressive championship campaign last year as a 6'9" irrational confidence guy for the Bears off the bench. Is there an NBA starting caliber player in Mayer waiting to break out or will inefficiencies and age ultimately hold him back from being a first-round pick in the 2022 draft? I would like to bet on the boom, but in terms of his stock there's some bust potential there.
Tyler Rucker: Matthew Mayer. I'm sorry folks, I just haven't jumped on the hype train...YET. Mayer has some things that will have teams intrigued in a hurry. He's a dangerous outside shooter with great size at 6'9". I'm more surprised that his ability off the bounce and his defensive upside isn't getting more attention. He's going to get some serious touches this year for Baylor, but I'll need to see the consistency on both sides come around before I start to drink the Kool-Aid.
Evan Wheeler: I think Texas Tech swingman Terrence Shannon Jr. made the right call returning to school this year and believe he's going to have a big season for the Red Raiders. I'm just going against that he'll meet the hype and expectations many have placed on him going into the year.
Corey Tulaba: This was an easy one for me, the answer is Matthew Mayer. Mayer seems like the ultimate system guy that really benefited from all the attention the three headed monster of Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, and Macio Teague received on a nightly basis. I know my Draftdaq Podcast co-host Garbage Time Ghim was a big Mayer fan last draft cycle, but whenever he mentioned him I pretty much always bit my tongue and moved the conversation along because it didn’t feel like a conversation worth having. I think NBA guards will eat him alive defensively. Cade Cunningham’s eyes lit up every time he got Mayer switched onto him last season. In the wise words of the Sharks, “for those reasons, I’m out”.
Tyler Metcalf: Sorry Evan, but this is Matthew Mayer for me. I just don't get the appeal in terms of the NBA. He is an incredibly fun college player who can have huge scoring nights, but he is horribly inefficient, not a good passer, and awful on defense. Maybe the scoring becomes more consistent this season and that alone pushes him over the edge, but count me out.
Alex (Draft Film School): Matthew Mayer. I get the shooting and size combination is valuable, but I just worry about the defense a lot. I never really understood the hype as a first rounder and still don't. Worthy of a mid-late 2nd round pick? Sure. But don't see the upside with him to warrant a first round pick.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Matthew Mayer. Not to pile on here, but I have some concerns about him as well. The shine is always going to look brightest after a national title win, and that shine for Mayer hides his hideous offensive inefficiencies and complete lack of defensive presence.
4. The shiny new thing is always the most enticing to go after, but there is always a ton of value in older prospects. Based on their previous college seasons, which returning player are you most excited to watch and has the best NBA potential?
Nathan Grubel: Jalen Wilson. The versatile shooting forward out of Kansas made a name for himself last year along with Braun because of his ability to score from all over the floor. Unfortunately he wasn't as consistent in conference play and because of that he elected to return to school. Now Wilson is primed to re-emerge in draft circles and I for one will be watching closely to see if he adds any defensive wrinkles to his resume.
Tyler Rucker: Christian Braun. Yeah...I'm doubling down on Kansas Jayhawks players after venting about my frustration over the years. I might need a doctor. Ever since Braun got some minutes as a freshman, I've been intrigued about the long term potential. He's not the sexiest prospect, but he's got a beautiful stroke from outside and he knows how to do a lot of the little things on the court. The 6'6" junior should take another step forward for the Jayhawks this year, and I'm hoping he becomes a sleeper and I look like a genius.
Evan Wheeler: I'm intrigued to see what Oral Roberts transfer Kevin Obanor will do this year at Texas Tech. While Shannon Jr. will dominate much of the headlines, Obanor might end up being the more versatile and highly touted draft prospect of the two by the end of the season.
Corey Tulaba: I don’t know if Ochai Agbaji has the most NBA potential, but I see the skeleton of a successful NBA role player. Agbaji really upped his three point volume as a junior, hoisting up nearly seven a game; the shot looks pure (so did Ben McLemore’s for what it’s worth) and hitting on 38% of those shots is a dynamite clip. Agbaji has trended up each year but the Jayhawks haven’t had the best track record lately of developing successful NBA guards. It feels like the last great guard Kansas put in the league was Kirk Hinrich (reader beware, I will always work Kirk Hinrich into my writing when I see some daylight). Agbaji has to get more efficient everywhere else, but if he figures that stuff out, he’s worth a flier in the late first round.
Tyler Metcalf: Adam Flagler could be primed for a massive year with the departures of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and Macio Teague and the injury to Langston Love. If Flagler can carry over his +40% three-point shooting and quality defense to this season while playing a more prominent role, it would feel weird if he wasn't a common name that was brought up come draft time.
Alex (Draft Film School): Ochai Agbaji. I was pretty surprised there wasn't more demand for him in last years draft. He has great size and athleticism and is one of the best defenders at his position in the country. He has also improved on the offensive end each year at Kansas including the 3pt shot both in terms of accuracy and volume. I can see his play warranting a late first round pick in the 2022 draft, especially with what seems to be a weaker guard class compared to last year.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Ochai Agbaji. His defense and athleticism are already NBA-ready, and he's shown flashes of serious upside on the offensive end. If he can turn those flashes into something more sustainable, this might finally be the year that he lives up to his talent and earns himself a first-round grade on draft night.
5. Whether it’s Anthony Edwards dropping 37 points against Michigan State or Austin Rivers ripping the heart out of UNC fans or De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball, fans are provided with mesmerizing matchups and performances every season. Which matchup, whether team vs. team, player vs. player, or player vs. team, are you most looking forward to?
Nathan Grubel: Baylor and Kansas. Without a doubt, this is one of the best rivalries in college basketball thanks to Scott Drew's most recent success with the Bears. The Jayhawks have been Big 12 favorites for as long as I can remember except the conference now comes down to a war with Waco's best. Mayer against Wilson is a top matchup to watch for along with Baylor's newest freshman Langston Love. This should absolutely be a fireworks show offensively for both teams.
Tyler Rucker: Baylor vs Kansas. This is quickly becoming the rivalry to keep an eye on throughout every college season. Kansas might not have the star power that they've had in previous years, but there's plenty of gritty prospects on their roster. Baylor will have some sleepers to keep an eye on as well. It should be a classic bar fight between the two teams.
Evan Wheeler: Baylor vs. Texas Tech on January 11 in Waco has all of my attention.
Corey Tulaba: Gonna be honest, none of these matchups make me tingly downstairs. This can certainly change during the course of the season if a prospect really comes on out of nowhere, but when looking at the Big 12 through the lens of the NBA Draft, the conference kind of bores me. I'll sleep perfectly content at night knowing that I can catch up on anything I missed on a replay.
Tyler Metcalf: The matchup of Baylor vs Texas. I am a huge fan of Adam Flagler and Kendall Brown, and even though I'm a skeptic, Mayer is fully capable of putting on a show. How they matchup against Marcus Carr, Courtney Ramey, and their athletic forwards will be a treat.
Alex (Draft Film School): Baylor vs Kansas. They play twice and are the deepest teams in terms of draft prospects in the Big 12.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Baylor vs. Texas Tech. Two top-tier teams, with my favorite prospect in this conference on one squad playing against last year's title winners. This should be a fun one.