That is just the tip of the iceberg of current NBA players who went undrafted — a lot of guys who were not selected go on to have quality careers in the league.
Who could join that group out of the 2021 NBA Draft class? Here are five names to watch:
• Austin Reaves, 6’6″ guard, Oklahoma. He signed a free agent deal with the Lakers and will likely play for them in Summer League. Reaves is a shot-creating guard who can use lateral quickness and ball-handling to create space — he has one of the best crossovers in this draft. Confident and aggressive, he attacks, gets in the lane, and can finish with either hand. He was the offense for the Sooners and had to take a lot of tough, contested shots, if he can dial that back and be more of a distributor and work off the ball more there is a role for him in the NBA. Also, he has to prove he can defend at the next level.
• Joel Ayayi, 6’5″ guard, Gonzaga. He has signed a two-way contract with the Lakers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He came to Gonzaga from France, and his parents are from Benin. He played three years for the Bulldogs, has a well-rounded game, and became a strong catch-and-shoot guy (38.9% from 3 last season). Good passer and could become a secondary shot creator running a little pick-and-roll. He’s not an elite athlete by NBA standards and the questions become can he get off his shot and defend at this next level. The craft is there, but can he hang physically?
• Aaron Henry, 6’6″ wing, Michigan State. He signed a two-way contract with the 76ers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Henry is a guy who made leaps under Tom Izzo, he comes in with an NBA frame (6’10” wingspan, 210 pounds) and NBA-level athleticism. His strength is as an on-ball defender who is both aggressive and switchable 1-4. He has potential as a 3&D player in the NBA, except he needs a 3-ball (29.6% from 3 last season). The jumper is a concern, and some scouts are not sold on consistent effort from him. Still, a good roll of the dice by the 76ers.
• Daishen Nix, 6’5″ point guard, G-League Ignite. He came to the Ignite as a high-level recruit and potential lottery pick, but struggled so much in the G-League bubble he fell all the way out of the draft. He still has fantastic size and strength for a point guard, and he is one of the best passers in this draft. Knows how to use different speeds. His shot needs a lot of work (38.4% overall in the G-League, 17.6% from 3), and he didn’t have the athleticism to create space for the Ignite. He struggled when under defensive pressure, leading to turnovers. Still, expect some team to give him a look at Summer League.
• Justin Champagnie, 6’7″ forward, Pittsburgh. He landed a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors. A high-energy hustle player, which made him a quality defender and a strong rebounder at the college level. He scored 18 points a game last season at Pitt, but he’s not a great shooter and that has to improve at the NBA level. Kind of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none guy, but a good two-way guy because if his skill level improves there’s a role for him in the league.