San Antonio Spurs Top 5 Preseason NCAA Prospects: Wings
Bennedict Mathurin is one of the few returning college players to make it to the list, and probably to the delight of Sean Elliott, he happens to be an Arizona Wildcat. He isn't the most explosive athlete to be featured here, but his deceiving strength and decent length at 6'6" more than make up for that minor complaint.
He lands on the list of top wings in his draft class, though, because of the skill he brings to the table. There's a good chance that he'll end up being the best perimeter shooter in the draft (after shooting 42% from three and 85% from the free-throw line in his freshman season), and can hit those shots off the dribble or the catch. He has solid fundamentals on defense, can finish through contact, has a knack for getting to the free-throw line, and won't turn 20 until after draft day.
As an athlete, Peyton Watson is more or less everything one would want in a young wing player. He's long, quick on his feet, plays with good physicality for his current size, and has great verticality. As he continues to add weight to his frame, I think there's another level that can be unlocked.
When it comes to Watson's shooting, decision-making, passing, and ability to put the ball on the floor, he's good but not great. In this way, he has boom-or-bust potential in the upcoming draft. He joins a UCLA team that will surely be looking to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and their success or failure there could dramatically alter his draft stock.
If he can carve out a role for himself by finding a skill that he can reliably go to in tough game situations, he could easily be a lottery guy.
The Dallas, TX native Harrison Ingram had a very impressive offer sheet going into college but ultimately chose to play for Jerod Haase at Stanford. While the Cardinals haven't seen a ton of success in the past few seasons, Ingram has good reason to bet on himself and play for a team where he can be the go-to guy. He isn't the best shooter on this list quite yet but does lots of other things very well.
For being 6'8" and 230 pounds, he's incredibly comfortable putting the ball on the floor and plays with a slower, methodical pace that reminds me a bit of Luka Doncic. He has a high IQ for his age on both ends of the floor, has shown a few flashes of elite shot creation that is rare for someone of his size, makes plays for others, and is a smart rebounder. He's the type of player that can always find ways to be impactful on the court, and I can envision the Spurs being very attracted to that kind of versatility.
AJ Griffin is a name that Spurs fans will absolutely have to keep an eye on throughout the season. He'll be one of the younger entrants in the 2022 draft and won't turn 19 until late August of 2022. With that in mind, though, he'll be coming into college having one of the most NBA-ready bodies of any player in his draft class regardless of position. He currently stands at around 6'6" to 6'7" and weighs 222 pounds.
While he's still very raw coming into college, it's undeniable that he has an astronomically high ceiling if his motor remains consistent and he can continue to develop his skills. While his shooting numbers didn't jump off the page after his junior season, when he played as a guard during his freshman season in high school (before gaining weight), he shot 80% from the free-throw line and an astounding 46% from three on a high volume.
Even if he doesn't return to that efficiency this year, his comfort with putting the ball on the floor, confidence to shoot off the dribble, and ability to score near the rim with ease make me confident that his skill will come with time. I would not be surprised in the least to see him selected in the top five of next year's draft when it's all said and done.
At about 6'10" and 220 pounds, Patrick Baldwin Jr. is the tallest wing player to be featured on this list and will likely be a competitor for best shooter of all players on this list. He's absurdly confident shooting in a wide variety of situations whether they be off the catch, off movement, off the dribble, off screens, etc. In terms of perimeter upside, I doubt there's a better player on this list.
Outside of his shooting, he moves with the ball like a guard, is consistently becoming more athletic, has a high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor, and has shown flashes of some high-level passing during games. He will be my most anticipated prospect going into the college basketball season (perhaps outside of the final player on this list) and a player that I don't have any major complaints about for the time being.