The NBA recently announced that the draft will be pushed back to October 15, giving players the entirety of the summer to work on their game. Unfortunately, it leaves a small window between the end of the season and the draft for teams to hold workouts for the prospects, making the draft process more hectic for all involved. There has also been no word from the NBA on a potential combine taking place prior to the draft.
As we await the NBA Draft’s arrival in the fall, let’s take a look at the five best draft prospects from the mid-majors. To make it more interesting and clear out the obvious, there are two restrictions before getting into this list: Obi Toppin and Gonzaga players have been omitted from being mentioned. It’s clear where most of them stand in this year’s draft (1st round, generally) and they have received much more media attention than most of the following players with regards to their draft status.
Malachi Flynn, San Diego State
Malachi Flynn began his collegiate career at Washington State and after two years with the program, took his talents to the transfer portal where he ultimately landed with the Aztecs. Flynn led the program in scoring, assists, and steals per game this past season. He has the capability to consistently hit shots from NBA range and converted a solid 37.3 percent of his attempts from deep. He has a knack for finishing at the rim and shows plenty of athleticism when driving to the rack. He was also an efficient 85.7 percent from the line.
His craftiness in the lane and ability to knock down deep shots gives him the Steph Curry and Trae Young archetype we have seen become so successful in today’s NBA. Of course, these types of players do not always translate and size can always be a concern when taking the step to the next level. It will be something to keep an eye on as to whether Flynn can continue his rim finishing abilities against the much larger bigs the league has to offer. I’d slot the Tacoma native somewhere into the early to mid-second round.
Derrick Alston Jr., Boise State
Another Mountain West Conference player makes our list in Derrick Alston Jr., son of former NBA player and current Westchester Knicks head coach Derrick Alston. At a lanky 6’9”, Alston was a handful at all levels for opposing defense all season. He averaged 17.3 points along with 5.2 rebounds per game. The junior knocked down a respectable 33.5 percent of his shots from the perimeter, something that makes him somewhat of a three-level scorer. An 80 percent clip from the charity stripe shows potential upside in his shooting stroke for the future.
Alston has incredible dribbling and driving abilities for a player his size. Combine that with his potential from around the arc and he can become a matchup nightmare if he realizes that potential at the next level. Areas for concern can come from his thin 188 lb. frame and hitting just 41.3 percent from the field this past season, a number that is lower for a prospect from a mid-major conference. Given his frame and surprising quickness, Alston could certainly go somewhere in the middle of the second round.
Grant Riller, College of Charleston
Grant Riller was been an absolute showman for the CAA over his four seasons with Charleston and is now primed to take his two straight seasons of 21.9 points per game to the next level. There is a ton to like about Riller’s game as he does just about everything when he steps onto the court. Once backcourt mate and current NBA player Joe Chealey graduated after the 2018 season, all eyes turned to Riller to take a bit of a leap. Since then, he’s put together a two-season stat line of 21.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. He was a solid 81.8 percent from the line over his last two seasons.
Riller has great patience on his attack to the rim and a quick, high release that can translate beautifully to the next level. His 6’3”, 190 lbs. build gives him good enough size at his position to be able to handle the defense of bigger guards and avoid being a defensive liability. He’s solid at creating his own shot and sometimes looks like he seeks contact when he gets to the rim, often scoring over taller defenders. The lack of competition that the CAA has may skew these stats a bit, but watching his highlights make his game look not too far off NBA speed. We could see Riller go somewhere in the middle of the second round as well.
Yoeli Childs, BYU
BYU had an incredibly high-powered offense this past season that was centered around Yoeli Childs, one of the best big men in the country. Childs’s senior season got off to a bumpy start after he was suspended for nine games due to “not submitting appropriate paperwork and receiving impermissible expenses when he was working with an agent while testing his NBA draft process.” In the remaining 19 games he was allowed to play, Childs put up a gaudy 22.2 points and nine rebounds per game. He converted a career high 57.4 percent of his shots from the field and shot an unreal 22-for-45 from the arc. Although he struggled from the line with a clip of just over 50 percent, his ability to stretch the floor at the four or five spot makes him a great prospect for today’s five-out NBA style.
The South Jordan, Utah native has a comparable play-style to former Gonzaga big Rui Hachimura. Childs will certainly not wow you with athleticism or flashy play but his IQ is quickly noticeable on the court in his rebound positioning, kick-out passing, and backdoor cuts against a lazy defense. His consistent range and finishing in the post and around the rim creates a nightmare for his matchups on a nightly basis. The free throw shooting is a bit of an eyesore, but he did shoot just over 70 percent the season before, showing that the potential at the line is there. Childs feels the most NBA ready out of this list but is only likely to go in the late second round or undrafted.
Nathan Knight, William & Mary
Our last prospect is another two-time All-CAA First Team member who also had two seasons of 20+ points per game. Nathan Knight manned the paint for the Tribe for the last four seasons, starting in 95 of his 125 appearances. He had 23 double doubles in his 32 games last season, good for second in the nation behind Notre Dame’s John Mooney. Across the last two seasons, Knight averaged 20.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. The forward took home CAA Player of the Year along with CAA Defensive Player of the Year in his final season with in Williamsburg.
Knight has a surprising ability to run in the open floor that will excite most scouts. His aggression at the rim and in the post makes him a tough matchup at 6’10” and 253 lbs. Knight does lack a reliable outside game which may hinder his offensive production, but his timely blocking and shot contests may be enough value for him to get swooped up in the back end of the second round by a team needing a defensive presence on the block.