Rivals Roundtable: Recruiting misdirection, hot team, NBA playoffs
Is there a big name prospect out there whose recruitment is being misread? Which team could be making a run in the 2021 team rankings? Who do national analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald like to win the NBA Championship? A look in this week’s Rivals Roundtable.
1. What big-name recruit could pull off a big surprise with his commitment?
Bossi: Jaden Hardy, the top shooting guard in the land, has his Futurecast currently sitting at 100% in favor of Kentucky. I haven’t yet made a prediction for the five-star scoring machine from Henderson (Nev.) Coronado, but if I were to make one today I don’t think I would be picking the Wildcats like everybody else has.
His older brother Amauri Hardy is now at Oregon and the Ducks aren’t to be taken lightly. The other school that I would have a close eye on, though, is UCLA. I’m not ruling out Kentucky by any means here, but Hardy is far from a done deal like many have thought and at some point professional options could also factor in.
Evans: No one has a great pulse on Pat Baldwin and while he may still pick Duke, a commitment that practically everyone expects, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he goes against the grain. Baldwin fluctuates between being ready to commit and holding off until as long as the spring. He has practically gone silent with the coaching industry, which has left his finalists grasping for any type of accurate information with the top-ranked prospect in the 2021 class.
Kentucky dearly needs a perimeter shot-maker that Baldwin is the definition of; not many have recruited him as hard as Georgetown or North Carolina; lastly, don’t think he won’t pick Milwaukee. He is close to his father and rest of his family, which means that the Horizon League program’s inclusion on his final list is more than just window dressing.
McDonald: I’ll go with JD Davison here because I really have no idea which direction he might go. Alabama and Auburn are fighting like crazy to keep him home and I have received information that would lead me to favor each school. LSU is also seen is a serious player in his recruitment. Given that he’s one of the top point guards in the class, I also wouldn’t be surprised if he entertained the G League option if it comes up. He’s very unpredictable at this point.
2. Which team ranked outside the top 10 for the 2021 class is most intriguing? Is it because of who it has or who it may get?
Bossi: With a commitment from four-star in-state forward Dontrez Styles, North Carolina currently sits at No. 37 in the team rankings. Roy Williams and the Heels are potentially in position to go on a big run, though. They are right in the thick of it for five-stars Patrick Baldwin Jr., Chet Holmgren, Caleb Houstan and Hunter Sallis, to name a few. In state shooting guard D’Marco Dunn is certainly in play and then top 40 forward Trey Kaufman is swinging by campus this weekend even though he can’t meet with coaches. With just one or two breaks in the right direction, UNC could end up with a monster class.
Evans: I’ll grab Tennessee. The Vols, like we have spoken about often here, are no longer ‘just’ a development only program but also one that has become one of the goliaths along the recruiting trail. That’s what happens whenever you land a five-star prospect for three years running. The latest was Kennedy Chandler, who committed earlier this summer.
They may be losing a bit of ground with Jabari Smith and missed on Paolo Banchero, but they also may be the leader for four-star center Ryan Mutombo and are the team to beat for one of my personal favorites in the 2021 class, Jahmai Mashack. Tennessee sits 22nd in the team rankings, but that is going to change fairly quick with a potential three-man class.
McDonald: I’m going with Colorado here. It’s not often you see the Buffalos ranked among the top 15 classes in the country with multiple four-star prospects committed by the end of July. It’s a testament to the job Tad Boyle and his staff have done in recent years in Boulder. It will be interesting to see if they can capitalize on some early recruiting momentum and add to this strong start.
3. Who do you like to win the NBA title and what member of that team do you remember scouting?
Bossi: I have been debating between the Celtics, Clippers and the Lakers and I have settled on the Lake Show. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are just too good of a duo. What really trips me out, though, is that at some point in the next few weeks we are going to see Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and J.R. Smith take the floor together for the first time since they were teammates on the East Squad during the 2004 McDonald’s All-American Game in Oklahoma City.
Along with 2007, the class of 2004 is my favorite that I’ve covered during 20 years in the business. To see three guys like that finally linking up and still being pieces of a potential championship team when they are in their mid 30’s gets me all kinds of nostalgic.
Evans: Am I crazy for saying the Miami Heat? They are going to have to stay healthy for the remainder of the playoffs, but whenever you have a complete alpha in Jimmy Butler, savvy vets in Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, and shot-makers along the lines of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, there are very little matchups that the Heat won’t have issues with on the defensive end while causing headaches on the offensive side of the floor.
Speaking of Herro, I remember seeing him as an eighth grader and my first impression was that this kid was a bit different. Super athlete Derrick Jones was just that; what you see now is what he was as a sophomore coming up out of the Philly area.
Oh, I didn’t even mention Bam Adebayo. Funny that many are surprised at just how great of a passer and defender he has become because that was always the two facets of his game that I valued the most. Adebayo has always had a special humility about him in which he was more about getting the job done on the floor compared to the extra-curriculars off the court. How fun it is now to see all three flourish in the NBA and to have the chance to potentially collect a ring.
McDonald: The Lakers are going to win because they have the best player in the game. I also think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can play a role in helping them win it all here, and he’s somebody I’ve been tracking since I first started with Rivals.com exactly 11 years ago on Labor Day weekend.
For being such a highly ranked prospect, his recruitment never really took off the way you would have expected as no blue bloods were involved. It was clear Mark Fox and his new staff at Georgia at the time were locked in on making him their first signature recruit, but had to fend off Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Tennessee and a few other programs in the ACC and SEC. Once Mark Richt signed two of his very close friends, Nick Marshall and Kenarious Gates, to football scholarships, it was only a matter of time before he ended up picking the Bulldogs.