5 players to watch at the 2021 NBA Draft Combine

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June 21st, 2021

Starting Monday, nearly 70 players will convene at the week-long NBA Draft Combine in an effort to improve their stock before July's NBA Draft.

A number of notable names from college basketball, international play, and the G League will take part in the event, which will feature team interviews, five-on-five scrimmages, shooting drills, and strength and agility testing.

Expected top overall pick Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State, Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs, and Michigan forward Franz Wagner declined invites. However, 20 of the top 30 NBA prospects will participate in the combine, which should carry a greater influence on the draft this year, after the COVID-19 pandemic complicated NBA scouting activities.

With a talented lineup headed to Chicago, let's examine five potential first-round picks or future draft steals to watch for at the 2021 NBA Draft Combine.

5. Ayo Dosunmu, guard, Illinois

After he withdrew his name from the 2020 NBA Draft, Dosunmu enjoyed an impressive junior campaign, in which he averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists.

In February, he became the third player in Illini history to record a triple-double, when he tallied 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists in a 75–60 win against Wisconsin. 

Later that month, he add another triple-double (19 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in a victory over Minnesota.

Dosunmu won the Bob Cousy Award, as the top point guard in the country, but there is stiff competition at his position in this draft class.

Dosunmu's athleticism, size (6'5", 200 pounds), and experience make him an enticing prospect, but to break into the first round, he'll need to display more consistency with his shot and better decision making at the combine.

4. Roko Prkacin, forward, Cibona (Premijer Liga, Croatia)

Projected lottery picks Josh Giddey of Australia and Alperen Sengun of Turkey will skip the combine, which leaves Prkacin and Ariel Hukporti (Lithuania) to step into the spotlight for the international contingent. 

Prkacin is the more intriguing competitor, who may emerge as a late first-round draft pick, depending on his combine performance.

The 6'9" forward got his start in the youth system of Cibona, a professional club in Croatia.

Prkacin averaged 13.3 points, 6.8 points, and 1.6 assists last season for Cibona. He can play point forward, take his man off the dribble, and attack the basket, but needs to improve his mid-range and outside shooting.

The Croatian stud could become a late first-round pick or fall somewhere to the middle of the second round, once executives are able to better compare him to his G League and college counterparts at the combine.

3. Davion Mitchell, guard, Baylor

As a key member of Baylor's national championship team this season, Mitchell experienced a huge bump in his draft stock.

The 6'2", 205-pound guard will likely hear his name called as a lottery pick next month and will provide a double-dose of defense and superb shot making at the next level.

During the 2020-2021 season, Mitchell saw his three-point percentage soar from 32.4% to 44.7%. He ranked third on the team in points (14 per game) but led the Bears in assists (5.5) and averaged just shy of two steals per game.

His most concerning weaknesses are his free-throw shooting (64.1%) and rebounding, but his tenacity on defense, mixed with his smooth three-point shot, makes him a top-end prospect.

Mock drafts list Mitchell anywhere from the seventh overall pick to 13th, and the combine could make the difference in just how high this two-way sensation can climb.

2. Jalen Green, guard, Ignite (G League)

Ranked the top high school shooting guard in the 2020 class and the No. 1 overall prospect by ESPN, Green declined offers from a number of elite college programs to compete on the inaugural G League Ignite roster last season.

The 6'6", 180-pound shooting guard averaged a team-high 17.9 points, along with 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, through 15 games during the 2020-2021 season, which was shortened because of the pandemic.

Despite limited game action, the 19-year-old from Fresno, California is projected as a top-five selection, and some mock drafts list him as the No. 3 overall prospect.

The former MVP of the 2018 FIBA U-17 World Cup is a skilled shot creator who could use improvement as a passer and on defense. 

The combine will give Green a chance to showcase any development on that front and provide many fans a first glimpse at this future lottery pick.

1. Evan Mobley, center, USC

A number of mock drafts forecast USC freshman center Evan Mobley as the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft.

The 7-footer posted 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.9 blocks in his lone season with the Trojans, who went on a surprise run to the Elite Eight in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Mobley averaged three blocks per game in the Big Dance, the second most, behind fellow combine participant Neemias Queta (3.2) of Utah State.

Mobley punctuated his brief college career by collecting Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year, and was also named a consensus second-team All-American.

There isn't much Mobley does wrong at his position, but he'll need to add some more muscle to his frame, and a three-point shot would make him all the more dangerous.

While the lottery draw Tuesday may ultimately determine where Mobley comes off the board, based on team need, his combine performance could do enough to convince any franchise with the second overall pick to take their chances on this high-upside center.