2021-22' SEC Conference Preview
Our round table goes over the NBA prospects you should keep an eye on in the SEC.
1. Ignore “consensus” boards and Twitter group think. Who is the best NBA prospect in this conference?
Evan Wheeler: This might be the hardest conference to decide who's the "best prospect" going into the 2021-2022 season. It feels like you can't go wrong with either Kentucky freshman in TyTy Washington or Daimion Collins. Alabama freshman JD Davison, Tennessee freshman Kennedy Chandler, and Auburn's duo of junior Allen Flanigan and freshman Jabari Smith would also be in the discussion for me. I think I'll go with a bit of a sleeper pick in Tennessee freshman Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. He's a 6'9" forward that can score at three levels, who already has an NBA body, and is a plus athlete that's just scratching the surface of his abilities as a shot-maker.
Tyler Metcalf: This is a three way tie for me between J.D. Davison, TyTy Washington, and Kennedy Chandler. They all do different things that I love and refuse to currently pick a favorite.
Nathan Grubel: JD Davison. Kentucky's pair of Daimion Collins and TyTy Washington could shine if the Wildcats rack up wins in a tough conference, but no single player brings more excitement to the court that Davison. The electric 6'3" guard oozes vibes similar to what Collin Sexton brought to Tuscaloosa and should energize everyone around him to help the Crimson Tide make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Nick Agar-Johnson: TyTy Washington. This class is low on point guard talent at the top, and I think that Washington has the best chance of anyone in this conference of claiming that top point guard spot. His shooting touch is impeccable, and his fast rise up the prospect rankings over the past year could bode well for him continuing to climb up the board in evaluator's minds.
Corey Tulaba: I’m gonna go out on a limb here and take JD Davison. Maybe I’m overthinking this by not just taking Jabari Smith (who really reminds me of a modern Taj Gibson), but fuck it, these are pre-season rankings and there’s something about Davison that makes me starry eyed about his upside. Dude is a walking poster. His combination of bounce and power reminds me of B-Diddy. I’m fully ready to ride this rollercoaster.
Garbage Time Ghim: Ty Ty Washington. This one is pretty easy for me on a couple of levels. Ty Ty has the perfect combination of great name, boring facial expressions, and would lean on the side of hooper in the basketball player vs hooper debate. I love his range, in-between game, is a savvy play maker, and I think he's just going to get better as the season progresses. I've also enjoyed his work off-ball as a spot up shooter and slasher. He's not physically imposing at all, but never seems to have any issues getting to his spots. I also love that Kentucky finally has some shooters and that should only give Ty Ty more options and freedom to create chaos. I also love that he's big enough to guard 2's as well.
Alex (Draft Film School): Am I the only Jabari Smith fan here? I think he has top 5 pick potential. There aren't any glaring holes in his game. Solid rim protector and can hold his own on the perimeter as well. On offense he is comfortable facing up and has shown some shot creation ability, although I think that part of his game will take the most time to fine tune. He should provide immediate impact as a catch & shoot guy at the 4 spot. While he is on the skinnier side for a traditional 4, it isn't something I am overly concerned about.
Tyler Rucker: Hey Alex! You're not the only Jabari Smith believer here. This is a guy I'm quickly getting AMPED about as a Draft prospect in this class. Smith has the potential to find himself in the conversation as a Top 5 selection in the 2022 Draft. He's going to be a fascinating talent to watch, especially if he can adjust to SEC play in a hurry. At 6'10" with some serious fluidity and offensive firepower, Jabari Smith could be a popular name QUICKLY, especially if he can prove some versatility on the defensive side of the ball.
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?
Evan Wheeler: The answer for me is without question Alabama's Jahvon Quinerly. With full control and lead now over Nate Oats' team in 2022, I imagine this will only extenuate my love for Qunierly's game. His slithery handle, slashing ability, and shot-making should be on full display in Tuscaloosa this year.
Tyler Metcalf: I am a huge fan of Eric Gaines. He might be the best defensive guard in the conference and plays with tremendous speed. He needs to start embracing that the incredible Louisiana food scene and show that he's at least willing to shoot, but there are very few things he does that I dislike.
Nathan Grubel: I'm going to be unoriginal and use Davison for this answer as well. I know he's not a returning player but he's projected late lottery currently per ESPN, and I think that's too low given the value he could bring to an NBA team. He's not the same prospect as Jalen Suggs from a talent perspective, but he could have a similar impact on his team from a leadership perspective. I'm planting my flag on Davison island and it may become one of those "I told you so" moments.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Jahvon Quinerly. He had a great season last year, and will have the keys to the offense firmly in his hands this season. I think that Quinerly is an underrated prospect heading into the season, and he'll have plenty of chances to prove that this year for Alabama.
Corey Tulaba: I guess I have to go with Scotty Pippen Jr. I’m not irrational enough to have him at the top of my board, but it shocked me that the only real internet hype that he really got last draft cycle was of the TMZ variety. He made huge strides in his efficiency as a scorer and playmaker as a sophomore and there’s a good chance he leads the conference in scoring this season. If he makes another developmental jump, he may finally generate the buzz he deserves.
Garbage Time Ghim: I get a lot of crap on the internet for agreeing with my co-host Corey way too much, but we're just smart human beings. Would anyone crucify a married couple for having similar tastes? That was a strange thing to say but I know I have everyone's attention now. I love Scotty Pippen Jr.'s game. I feel like he's really blossoming since he left Sierra Canyon. I think he's a sneaky athlete, not that he's going to be committing unspeakable acts on other men in the air, but he's not some flat-footed non-jumper either. I like his shooting and it looks like he's starting to spread his wings as a playmaker as well.
Alex (Draft Film School): Kennedy Chandler is my guy. I am irrationally high on him and just love his game. He can push the ball in transition, is probably one of the best PNR operators for this guard class (at least for incoming freshman), and he can shoot. The concern with him is the size and there is no denying that he is small which limits his defensive potential and could lead to issues around the basket. I am just fully buying into his combination of speed, poise, and IQ.
Tyler Rucker: Kennedy Chandler. I might be falling in love with Kennedy and it's scary. I'll be locked in on Tennessee games just because of the electric point guard. At first, you think he might be this thin point guard that's a bit on the smaller size, and then he just explodes with his quickness and burst. He's got the ability to shift gears like a sports car and he can get up if needed. The shot is simple and he's got a beautiful stroke from outside. I'm a big fan already.
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?
Evan Wheeler: I'm going to pick Alabama freshman JD Davison here for no other reason than I think he'll be extremely hyped going into the year and it might reach a fever pitch if he shows flashes of what many believe he can grow into as a prospect. He's a dazzling athlete that might end up being the most entertaining player to watch in the SEC this season. I just don't know if he'll live up to that hype in year one, but I also wouldn't bet against it by any means.
Tyler Metcalf: The hype and following that has followed Oscar Tshiebwe is something I've never understood. West Virginia got significantly better once he transferred and it wasn't a coincidence. He may give Kentucky a physical interior presence, but unfortunately, I think he'd have to show a complete transformation as a player to receive any draft consideration.
Nathan Grubel: Daimion Collins. I know for a fact Collins already has plenty of fans amongst draft enthusiasts because he could very well be the best athlete in the 2022 draft. However, how much skill does Collins actually possess? How will his athleticism translate to helping Kentucky win basketball games this year? Can he rebound and protect the rim at a high level? Does he have more in his game other than solely finishing lobs and getting garbage buckets? I'll be curious to monitor his growth this year and will happily adjust my thoughts on him with proper evidence.
Nick Agar-Johnson: JD Davison is tons of fun and is incredibly talented, but I think that the hype for him has gotten a bit out of control. I think that Quinerly will get a lot of the shine for Alabama this season; Davison could have a decent year and still fail to live up to the preseason hype.
Corey Tulaba: I’m trying to be very cautious in my Kennedy Chandler assessment early on. I love Chandler’s blazing open court speed, his feel as a passer in the P&R, and his underrated bounce; but he looks awfully small on the court. If you’ve followed my unrelenting Davion propaganda, you know that isn’t a deal breaker for me, but Chandler feels smaller than his listed height. I don’t think his height will necessarily hurt his production this season, but it’s something I worry about when projecting him as a high-level NBA prospect at a fully loaded position.
Garbage Time Ghim: Damion Collins. I haven't been this iffy about a guy with the name Collins since Mardy Collins was the starting Point Guard for the Knicks. I understand why people love him. The guy can get up, he's a pretty smooth looking athlete, has decent size, likes to block shots. Seems like Calipari has had about 146 of these guys. I'm just not as high on his development. I saw him take some threes in the Blue vs White scrimmage and it didn't look terrible but it didn't really excite me either. I'm not trying to put him down, I just don't think I'm as high on him as everyone else so far. As always, I hope he proves me wrong.
Alex (Draft Film School): Oscar Tshiebwe. I am not a fan of slow footed bigs who lack versatile offensive games. I think he can be helpful to Kentucky, but I also do not think it was a coincidence that West Virginia really started to hit their stride last season after his departure.
Tyler Rucker: JD Davison. The hype has simply started to get a little crazy and I think there are a lot more questions to his game than others might think. Davison has freakish athleticism, but I always like to spread caution when an athletic monster now suddenly is playing against a more "leveled" playing field. I still think Davison has multiple levels to his game to figure out and he's going to need to show the outside shot is coming along.
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?
Evan Wheeler: Another question where you could answer a multitude of players, but I'll go with Arkansas sophomore Davonte Davis. I think he's probably the best pro prospect on Eric Musselman's team this season. He should be the main ignitor for the Razorbacks offense in 2022 and really thrives in the open floor as a transition scorer. Davis also has some of the craftiest shot-making in the conference for my money, and if he can show more consistency as a playmaker, as well as improve on his 15.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc from last year, I'd expect him to start showing up on draft boards more frequently.
Tyler Metcalf: Alabama is going to put up a ton of points and Keon Ellis will be a big reason why. Ellis is primed for a breakout season given what should be a more significant role. Ellis is a knockdown shooter and high energy defender who should benefit greatly from Alabama's playstyle and surrounding talent. Also wanted to give a shoutout to Scottie Pippen Jr who should play himself into a top-60 grade once we get to draft time.
Nathan Grubel: Keon Ellis. Last year the 6'6" Alabama wing shot 50% from the field and 38.9% from three, bringing scoring punch and defensive toughness to the table. He has great size for his position and two-way wings who can shoot are all the rage in today's NBA. Currently listed at 63 in ESPN's preseason top 100, I'd expect that ranking to take a jump once the games start being played. Consider me intrigued.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Rocket Watts. The long-range shooting is unquestionably an issue, but Watts fell from 50% from 2-point range as a freshman to just 38.3% from inside the arc in his second year. He should fit in much better at Mississippi State this season, and he will form one of the most interesting backcourts in the country with Iverson Molinar.
Corey Tulaba: I’m hoping that Allen Flanigan has a smooth recovery process from the Achilles injury so that he can get back out on the court to do Allen Flanigan things. Despite having one of the most fun players to watch last season in Sharife Cooper, Auburn was a super tough watch for me. Flanigan was a bright spot in those dark moments. Dude is built like a brick shit house with NBA level physical tools; if he comes back this year with a more nuanced off the bounce game, it wouldn’t shock me if he finds himself as a top 20 guy. Also he’s a lefty and I have a major lefty bias.
Garbage Time Ghim: At this point, people are gonna confuse me for J. Kyle Mann with all the Kentucky talk but I'm intrigued by Kellan Grady. I'm excited to see how he fits in with this team as more of a secondary option after being the main guy at Davidson. Depending on how the season goes for him at Kentucky, he might be an intriguing prospect to look at in the 2nd round or as an un-drafted guy. My only concern with his shooting is his low free throw shooting numbers, he only shot 68% from the line last year on 3 attempts per game.
Alex (Draft Film School): With Adam Miller unfortunately out for the season, I am going with Kellen Grady. The Davidson transfer should pair well with incoming freshman Ty Ty Washington to give the Wildcats the top backcourt in the SEC (Alabama would like a word). Grady will be taking a step up in competition (and most likely a step down in terms of usage), but think he will provide Kentucky some much needed ball handling, playmaking, and shooting.
Tyler Rucker: Allen Flanigan. I'm intrigued with Flanigan because of the flashes he showed last year. After a rough freshman season, Flanigan exploded and took a massive leap as a sophomore. He's a strong built lefty with some wiggle to his game and he can explode above the rim. The game needs to slow down a bit this year, and if it can, his name could heat up in Draft circles in a hurry.
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?
Evan Wheeler: Alabama taking on the star freshman duo of Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren at Memphis on December 12 definitely catches my eye.
Tyler Metcalf: TyTy Washington vs Kennedy Chandler. Both are excellent shooters and that head-to-head matchup should be a promising indicator of how both could translate to the NBA.
Nathan Grubel: Alabama and Kentucky will be a bloodbath for a number of reasons, most notably Davison against Kentucky freshman guard TyTy Washington. Most commonly viewed as the next best pure PG in this 2022 draft class, Washington's game couldn't be more opposite than Davison. While JD's attack is all about speed and intensity, TyTy is much more deliberate in his approach, and has a better command over changing speeds inside the arc. He also possesses one of the best floaters I've seen from a draft prospect in my time evaluating to boot. I'll be excited to watch those two do battle against each other in the SEC this year.
Nick Agar-Johnson: Alabama vs. Kentucky. Kentucky is obviously a perennial blue-chip prospect factory, and Alabama has a really intriguing crew as well with JD Davison, Jahvon Quinerly, and Keon Ellis among other top talents.
Corey Tulaba: Kentucky Vs Duke to open the season under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in a game loaded with NBA prospects. The game is right in my backyard and it may be too hard to pass up not scouting this bad boy in person.
Garbage Time Ghim: I really believe in Scotty Pippen Jr., I'd like to see him go up against the Kentucky guards and see what goes down. It's a boring answer, but I promise you, it's going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Alex (Draft Film School): Kentucky vs Tennessee play twice this year and can't wait for Kennedy Chandler vs Ty Ty Washington. Plus there are a bunch of other prospects to keep an eye on as well (i.e. Damion Collins, Kellan Grady, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, and more!)
Tyler Rucker: Bama and Kentucky. The "Bloodbath of Backcourts". I just thought of that nickname and I want royalties.