With the 2021 NBA Draft under two months away, many Michigan fans are eager to see where Franz Wagner lands. The consensus appears to be that he will be drafted in the middle of the first round. Other NBA hopefuls, including Isaiah Livers, Mike Smith, and Chaundee Brown, are simply hoping to see their names called.
Both Hunter Dickinson and Devante Jones have their names in the draft but both retain the option to pull themselves out, which is expected at this point. Assuming they both return to Ann Arbor, let’s look at the potential NBA Draft candidates for 2022.
Potential Lottery Picks
Caleb Houstan, SF
Houstan comes to Ann Arbor this year as quiet as you will ever see a five-star prospect. Many forget that he is the 12th overall prospect in the 2021 class and has played at a loaded Montverde Academy for the last few years. He also steps into the perfect position with a Michigan team with established guards and centers that desperately need three-point shooting to complement them. Houstan has the tools to explode onto the scene as a freshman and enter the lottery pick conversation after just one year.
Potential Late-1st Rounders
Hunter Dickinson, C
Assuming he comes back to Michigan for the 2021 campaign, it would be stunning to see Dickinson stay for any more than two years in Ann Arbor. While not the prototypical NBA center by the modern standard, there’s only so much he can improve. It is virtually unheard of for a college center to stay for all four years and then be drafted highly. This is a situation where he needs to find the time where his stock is the highest. Dickinson has proven an offensive prowess and an ability to protect the rim. He’ll look to add a jump shot and some more athleticism in his second season.
Moussa Diabate, PF
While Dickinson may not be the stereotypical NBA big man, Diabate is. He is an athletic, rim-running big man who is a bit raw but has all the tools for the next level. He might even be a lottery pick if he can find a similar workload to Houstan. With competition upfront in Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns Jr, and Terrence Williams, I expect Diabate’s minutes to be somewhat limited. I would still be surprised if he decided to come back for his sophomore season based solely on how well-regarded he is in the eyes of NBA scouts.
Potential 2nd Rounders
Devante Jones, PG
Jones’s name is currently entered in the draft but he is expected to pull out at some point. Jones appears hellbent on getting to the NBA by any means necessary and who can blame him? Should he end up in Ann Arbor, he would most likely test the NBA waters again next year and hope to sneak in near the end of the draft. Devante has the size and athleticism to be a useful guard in the NBA but he is a bit raw and needs to prove himself against non-Sun Belt competition. How well Jones performs in the Big Ten this year will go a long way towards determining his professional opportunities.
Eli Brooks, SG
Including Brooks here may be a bit of a stretch as he is widely expected to go undrafted and potentially head overseas. I will never discredit what an offseason with Camp Sanderson can do as well as another year of tutelage under Juwan Howard. Eli has all the leadership qualities a coach could ever ask for and is an excellent perimeter defender. His best bet will be to become a more consistent three-point shooter and prove his usefulness in the NBA as a ‘3 and D’ type of player. It’s safe to say I’m rooting for him despite the unlikeliness that he will ever be drafted.