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2021 NBA Draft prospect stock watch heading into Final Four [UPDATE]

We go over players who helped or hurt their stock for the 2021 NBA Draft heading into the Final Four on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament.

UCLA Bruins guard Johnny Juzang reacts to a call during the first half against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a wild March Madness to say the least. We’ve had multiple double-digit seeds make it to the Sweet 16 — it was actually four teams. The Round of 16 has come and gone and the matchups are set for the Elite Eight on Monday and Tuesday. Because there have been so many darkhorse squads making it deep into the tournament, there are plenty of prospects helping their stock for the 2021 NBA Draft in the process. Here we’re going to go over some players who helped or hurt their stock after the Sweet 16 this past weekend.

Final Four Update

At this point, you’ve seen the prospects we’ve been going over so far in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve reached the Final Four and the two teams we all thought would be here are here: Gonzaga and Baylor. On top of those two powerhouses, we have UCLA and Houston. Each side has had a few players emerge as potential first-round picks in the 2021 NBA Draft. Let’s go over some of the big names really quick.

Gonzaga

Prospects to watch: Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, Drew Timme, Joel Ayayi

Suggs and Kispert are the class of this group. Both players are expected to be lottery picks in July. Suggs could go in the top 5. Timme and Ayayi are more likely to go later in the draft, though Timme has played lights out in this tourney run. He’s scored at least 22 points in each of the past three games entering the Final Four matchup vs. UCLA. Ayayi tested the draft waters last year, but returned after not hiring an agent.

Baylor

Prospects to watch: Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell

Both Butler and Mitchell could potentially go in the lottery in 2021. Butler’s stock has fallen off a bit but Mitchell has risen into the top 20 on ESPN’s top 100 prospects. Butler and Mitchell sort of syphon from each other’s value given they’re both point guards playing in the same back court. A solid showing against Houston in the Final Four followed by giving (most likely) Gonzaga a game in the Nat’l Championship could help boost their stock.

UCLA

Prospects to watch: Johnny Juzang

Juzang has emerged as a legit scorer and NBA prospect in this tournament. UCLA has come out of nowhere to make it to the Final Four from the First Four. Juzang doesn’t do much else other than fill it up. He scored 28 points against Michigan in the Elite Eight to help the Bruins advance. The sophomore has good size for a 2-guard at the next level at 6’6” and would really just need to develop his secondary skills to fit on a roster. If Juzang declares, I could see him being a late first-rounder or early second-round pick.

Houston

Prospects to watch: Quentin Grimes

Like UCLA, the Cougars aren’t really stacked with NBA-level talent like the Zags and Baylor. Grimes could end up playing his way into the draft pool. If the 2021 draft were to happen next week, Grimes would have a case to go in the second round. He’s not an incredibly efficient scorer right now, but can shoot from outside, which is a skill NBA teams will always covet.

Elite Eight: Stock Up

Johnny Juzang, UCLA

Juzang sort of tied a bow on his case to go in the first round in the 2021 NBA Draft after dropping 28 points on Michigan to advance to the Final Four on Tuesday. Juzang has carried the Bruins this far after barely making the NCAA Tournament and barely beating Michigan State in the First Four. We rarely see First Four to Final Four. Juzang can fill it up. If nothing else, he’ll have the chance to become a solid perimeter scorer at the next level. His size is perfect at 6’6” it really just comes down to can Juzang develop those secondary skills to become a complete player.

Everyone on, Gonzaga

This isn’t really surprising. Most people figured the Bulldogs would steam roll through this field and that’s exactly what they’re doing. If you read the above graf on Juzang, that’s pretty much why I said “tied a bow” on his tournament, because it’s likely over in the Final Four.

Jalen Sugg, Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi, Drew Timme should all go in the first round of the 2021 draft. Suggs and Kispert will be lottery picks and Suggs could go top 5. The brand of basketball Gonzaga played this season was on another level. It should make these four players have a much easier time transitioning into the NBA. Timme isn’t really on many draft boards but there’s a place for a 6’10” forward with his versatility. Ayayi might be the best rebounder on Gonzaga and is a 6’5” guard. If I’m an NBA GM, I’m trying to get my hands on one of these four guys this summer.

Elite Eight: Stock Down

Franz Wagner, Michigan

We saw the glaring issues in Wagner’s game against UCLA. He may not turn into an efficient scorer at the next level. Wagner was 1-of-10 from the floor and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc Tuesday in the loss to the Bruins. UCLA played well defensively despite having a clear size disadvantage in the game. This was the type of spot you’d like to see Wagner step up and lead the Wolverines to the Final Four, not bow out to an 11-seed. Wagner may not be able to become a good enough 3-point shooter and would really get by on his passing ability in the NBA and size/versatility. Maybe Wagner isn’t a top 10 pick and is closer to a top 20 choice.

Moses Moody, Arkansas

Moody, like Wagner, didn’t really show up for his team in the Elite Eight and it led to an exit before the Final Four. Arkansas fell behind early to Baylor and couldn’t dig itself out of the hole. Moody only had 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field and 0-of-4 from beyond the arc. Moody is still young and athletic, so there isn’t too much to be concerned about. The Razorbacks made it far and Moody fits the mold of a two-guard in the NBA. I guess the issue is there are a lot of those types of players in this year’s draft class. Moody has youth on his side but also has a lot of developing to do.

Sweet 16: Stock Up

Evan Mobley, USC

We’re getting to the point where Mobley can’t improve his stock any more. That’s basically saying there may be an argument for Mobley to go No. 1 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft over OK State guard Cade Cunningham. Cunningham didn’t have a great tournament, and while he has a ton of upside, there were some red flags. Mobley is looking like the full package. He’s essentially a 7-footer who can do everything. Mobley will be able to play multiple positions, defend pretty much everyone, score and pass.

Davion Mitchell, Baylor

Baylor’s offense struggled a bit against Villanova in their matchup on Saturday. Jared Butler — the other top prospect on the Bears — had an off shooting night. Mitchell stepped up with 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor. He’s scored in double figures in each of his three games this tournament. Mitchell looks like the type of player who won’t have issues scoring at the next level and his passing ability is good enough when his shot isn’t falling. Mitchell could play himself into the lottery range of the draft — most places have him in the 15-25 range in terms of rankings.

Franz Wagner, Michigan

We’ve seen how players who are big and versatile have panned out in the NBA. Luka Doncic in 2018-19 went a bit overlooked and he’s on track to be a generational talent. In the 2020 NBA Draft, LaMelo Ball was considered the best player overall and he dropped to third overall. Both Doncic and Ball have size but are playing guard positions. Wagner is doing that already in college and is putting up stupid performances this tourney. In the Sweet 16 vs. Florida State on Sunday, the Wolverines dominated behind 13-10-5 from Wagner. He shot poorly from outside in the game, but was 37 percent from beyond the arc this season. Wagner should go in the top 10. Perhaps if Michigan wins a National Championship, Wagner will jump up into the top 5 conversation.

Sweet 16: Stock Down

Scottie Barnes, Florida State

Barnes is expected to be a lottery pick in the 2021 draft. He didn’t help himself lock up that positioning during the NCAA Tournament. Barnes only scored a total of 18 points over three games. He wasn’t very involved when he was on the court and wasn’t much of a factor. This is sort of nitpicking a bit because Barnes is rated more on his athleticism and size than the type of production he shows as a freshman coming off the bench. Barnes is more of a project than anything else and maybe this showing in the tourney turns some teams off of him once the summer rolls around.

Johnny Juzang, UCLA

We’re sort of nitpicking again here. Juzang had an OK game in the Bruins’ OT win over Alabama in the Sweet 16. He shot 5-of-18 from the floor and 1-of-6 from beyond the arc, finishing with 13 points, 1 assist and 5 fouls. It wasn’t the most inspiring performance, not like what we saw from Juzang the previous two games. UCLA could have easily blown that game and let ‘Bama get through, then we’d be talking about how Juzang didn’t really do anything in the second half. We’ll see how UCLA does against one of the best teams in the nation in Michigan on Tuesday.