With the Big XII Tournament out of the way, it's not a bad time to start thinking the NBA draft and which Bears might be here next year and which ones might not. I'll probably do an updated version of this post in June once we're closer to the draft (June 23, 2022). It's a bit strange to be thinking about Baylor as a major producer of NBA talent, capable of churning out a couple of one-and-done guys this year. There are currently 9 active Baylor players in the NBA. That number is likely to grow in the coming seasons. I'll also comment that while it's very instinctive for fans to selfishly want our best players to stay with our favorite team, Scott Drew has shown time and again his ability to replace and replenish talent to keep this program among the nation's best. As such, we should be fully supportive of all these guys who aspire to play at the next level. They will be missed once they're gone, but we'll remember fondly their time in Waco as well as continue to cheer them on in the pros.
Kendall Brown; 6'8" 200 lbs.; True Freshman; Small Forward.
Kendall was voted the Big XII Preseason Freshman of the Year. He has always been viewed by most as a strong candidate to go one-and-done and go pro following this season. He has done nothing this year to change that. If anything, his play this year has bolstered his draft stock. Kendall is long, strong, and freakishly athletic. He can dominate in transition or in the halfcourt as a cutter. His ability to seemingly levitate makes him a spectacular dunker. He has also showed decent ability as a slasher. Kendall has all the tools to be a good defender and should improve on that end over time. The thing that has been perhaps most impressive recently is his 3P shooting. On the season he is nearly 39% from deep. It's a small sample size because he only attempts 1.1 three-pointers per game on the year. Over his last 5 games he is 6/9 (67%) from deep. Still, if he can continue to improve his perimeter shooting, ball handling, and defensive prowess, he could become one of the best players in this draft class. The fact that he brings all of these things to bear at his age, should have NBA GMs salivating at the possibility of drafting this guy. Kendall's Big XII ranks this season:
- 4th in 2P%.
- 7th in Win Shares.
- 11th in Box +/-.
- Top 20 in Rebounding, Assists, Player Efficiency Rating, and Defensive Rating.
Kendall is already a very good player and has tremendous upside. He will absolutely be a 1st Round draft pick. The only question is how high he could go. The answer to that question will become clearer between now and the draft. At this point though tankathon.com has him in the lottery while Bleacher Report, CBS, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN all have him going in the 15-18 range. In short: He is almost certainly going to go pro following this season.
Jeremy Sochan; 6'9" 230 lbs.; True Freshman; Power Forward.
On October 22, 2021, national college basketball reporter Jon Rothstein tweeted out a simple message: "Jeremy Sochan. Buy Stock Now." For those that ignored that message, they can surely ignore it no longer. Jeremy has been named Big XII All-Freshman as well as winning the Big XII Sixth Man of the Year award. In Bleacher Report's November Mock Draft, Jeremy wasn't even mentioned. The same is true of CBS and ESPN. Sports Illustrated's November Mock Draft had Jeremy as the 30th Pick Overall. Now all 4 sites' Mock Drafts have Jeremy going in the 1st Round. Jeremy has shown great versatility. He can be a catch-and-shoot guy. He can finish at the rim. He can hit midrange fade-aways. He can drive to score or to kick it to a teammate. He has been excellent defensively. He is probably best characterized as a PF although he has gotten extensive run as a small-ball center following Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua's injury. He also has the athleticism and skill to be used as a SF. He can switch 1-5 on defense. Jeremy's Big XII ranks this season:
- 10th in Rebounding.
- 13th in Player Efficiency Rating.
- 11th in Win Shares per 40 Minutes.
- 10th in Box +/-.
- 4th in Defensive Rating.
- 10th in Steal%.
- 6th in Block%.
For Jeremy to be generating so much buzz as an NBA prospect despite having started just 1 game this year, is remarkable. He is averaging 14.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per 40 minutes on 48% from the field. At his age, Jeremy has significant upside and should be the envy of many pro teams. If he decides to come back, it'll likely be to show off more production as a starter next year and also to improve his 3P shooting (he is 29% from deep this season). Still, if he is projected as a Top-20 Pick, he should forgo his remaining eligibility. In short: He is very likely to go pro following this season.
Matthew Mayer; 6'8" 220 lbs.; True Senior; Small Forward.
Matt is a real headscratcher when it comes to projecting him as a pro player. There is no doubt that he possesses the size, athleticism, and skill to be a next level guy. He dipped his toes in the water last year before ultimately coming back to Baylor this season. The idea a year ago was that a team would probably take a chance on him due to his measurables and his flashes of scoring ability despite him having never started a game in college. Matt's thought process (as articulated in the 1st episode of ESPN+'s Our Time docuseries), was that he would come back this season, start, and earn his way into the 1st Round and perhaps into the Lottery. Instead, Matt's scoring efficiency has declined sharply. Matt's offensive season:
- FG% is down more than 18% year-to-year.
- 2P% is down more than 14% year-to-year.
- 3P% is down more than 22% year-to-year.
- He is 3/18 (16%) over the last 5 games from deep.
- TS% is down more than 14% year-to-year.
- eFG% is down more than 17% year-to-year.
The flip side of this equation is Matt's massive improvement in other areas of the game, most notably on defense. Before taking a glance at his statistical improvement on defense, I'll point out that Matt has grown as a passer and ball handler. His Turnover% is down more than 43% year-to-year (his TO% of 8.0 is currently the best in the Big XII among qualified players). Then, on the defensive end of the floor, he has transformed himself from a guy who was frequently out of control and out of position to being arguably one of the most impactful defenders in the Big XII. Matt's defensive season:
- 6th in the League in DReb%.
- 8th in the League in Steal%.
- 5th in the League in Block%.
- 3rd in the League in Defensive Rating.
- 10th in the League in Defensive Win Shares.
- 2nd in the League in Defensive Box +/-.
Additionally, Evan Miyakawa (his website for great college basketball analytics is evanmiya.com) ranks Matt as the 8th most valuable defender in the nation (as measured by Defensive Bayesian Performance Rating). Matt is no longer a spring chicken and his scoring regression doesn't help things either. Matt has the skillset to be a good NBA player and he should be associated with a lot of upside. At this point, I suspect most NBA front offices look at Matt as a 2nd Round caliber prospect. I wouldn't be shocked if Matt sneaks into the 1st Round, especially if he performs well in the Big Dance and in the pre-draft activities. In short: He is likely to go pro following this season.
James Akinjo; 6'1" 190 lbs.; True Senior; Point Guard.
James is an incredibly balanced and versatile guard. He is a 3-level scorer. Driving to the basket, he is highly effective at changing pace to gain an advantage over defenders and his ability to finish with a soft kiss high off the glass is as good as I've seen this year. We've seen him hit clutch pullup mid-range shots. He is a gifted 3P shooter who can break out a step-back when needed. James has improved his overall scoring efficiency this year.
- FG% is a career-high and up nearly 3% year-to-year.
- 2P% is a career-high and up more than 21% year-to-year.
- FT% is a career-high and up approximately 1% year-to-year.
James is also an elite passer and defender. ESPN Analyst Fran Fraschilla likens him to a Kyle Lowry type guard. That is a high compliment. James was named First Team All-Big XII this year. This distinction being earned just a year after he was First Team All-Pac-12 at Arizona. Other than Kansas's Ochai Agbaji, a strong argument could be made that James was the 2nd most valuable player in the conference this season. James's Big XII ranks this season:
- 8th in Scoring.
- 1st in Assists.
- 1st in Steals.
- 2nd in FT%.
- 9th in Win Shares.
- 6th in Defensive Win Shares.
- 6th in Points Produced per Game.
The only factors limiting James's draft stock are his size and his age. Still, there are few college guards that are so gifted as scorers, facilitators, and defenders. James also has the ability to control the tempo of the game and is incredibly clutch. At this point, I look at James as a mid-2nd Round prospect. He could play his way higher if he performs well in the NCAA Tournament. In short: It is about as likely as not that he goes pro following this season.
Adam Flagler; 6'3" 180 lbs.; Redshirt Junior; Shooting Guard.
Adam is a deep range sharpshooter. He can also put the ball on the floor and create off the dribble whether it's a pullup mid-range jumper or an acrobatic layup. Adam has also grown significantly as a passer this season. His Assist% is up more than 85% year-to-year. He is a slightly above-average defender and rebounder. Adam also undeniably possesses a high basketball-IQ. He has the offensive skill as well as the intangibles to be a successful player at the next level. He is about valuable as any player in the Big XII offensively. His Big XII offensive ranks this season:
- 9th in Scoring.
- 10th in Assists.
- 11th in FG%.
- 2nd in 3P%.
- 8th in TS%.
- 4th in 3PFGs.
- 7th in Offensive Win Shares.
- 5th in Offensive Box +/-.
- 8th in Offensive Rating.
- 10th in Points Produced per Game.
Adam is an indispensable part of Baylor's offense this season. The problem is that the Bears have been so balanced offensively that Adam's scoring is closer to 12 PPG than it is to 20 PPG. As such, there doesn't seem to be a lot buzz around Adam's name as a draft prospect right now. Of course, a strong run in the NCAA tournament can change that but at this point, Adam likely projects as a fringe late 2nd Round prospect and his age does him no favors. In short: It is more likely than not that he does not go pro following this season.
Flo Thamba; 6'10" 240 lbs.; True Senior; Center.
Flo is an old school big man. He is an excellent screener and rebounder as well as an above-average rim protector and finisher in the paint. This season he is 2nd in the Big XII in Block % and 8th in the nation in OReb%. His durability is another characteristic that should be attractive to NBA people. He has started 61 consecutive games for Baylor. Flo has also been playing his best basketball recently. Over his first 24 games: 4.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 1.0 BPG on 53% from the field and 58% from the FT line. Over his last 8 games (all following Jon's injury): 10.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 1.3 BPG on 53% from the field and 63% from the FT line. The problem for Flo is that he is currently missing that one differentiator. The modern NBA center is expected to be freakish in something: size/strength, athleticism, shooting range, playmaking ability, etc. Flo is a well-rounded fundamentally sound big man, but it is hard to imagine that he will be drafted higher than late in the 2nd Round (and even that might be a stretch given his age). If he is going to go pro, it will likely be through starting in either international or G-Leauge play. In short: He is unlikely to go pro following this season.
Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua; 6'8" 240 lbs.; Redshirt Junior; Power Forward.
Everyday Jon combines the intangibles of a glue guy with the size, athleticism, and skill of an NBA player. That's a dangerous combination that pro scouts and front offices should fawn over. Jon's age and now injury history might dampen the excitement that a prospect like Jon would otherwise inspire. Still, Jon displays great toughness, effort, and an infectious positive attitude. Add those attributes to his ability to switch 1-5 defensively and guard both the perimeter and the paint. Offensively, Jon is a much improved player this year. He has always had the ability to finish at the rim, including as a recipient of lobs. The thing that lifts his scoring prowess above those of similarly sized players is his shooting touch. He can shoot it from the elbow on a short roll. The thing that he has added this season is a willingness to attempt an occasional three-pointer. In his first 60 games of D1 basketball, he was 0/3 from beyond the arc. In 25 games this season, he is 6/13 (46%) from deep. If he can continue to grow his confidence in that perimeter shot, it will help his floor spacing ability and lift his draft stock even higher. But for his season-ending injury, I suspect he would've been graded as a potential 2nd Round pick. With his injury, I expect that NBA teams will be cautious with him. In short: He is unlikely to go pro following this season.
LJ Cryer; 6'1" 180 lbs.; True Sophomore; Shooting Guard.
When healthy, this dude is a walking bucket. For an undersized guard, he is a dangerous 3-level scorer. Last season, as a freshman, LJ only played 10 minutes per game and averaged fewer than 3 shots per game. He has taken full advantage this year of his increased role in the offense, averaging nearly 26 MPG and almost 10 field goal attempts per game coming off the bench. His scoring efficiency has jumped significantly.
- FG% is up more than 24% year-to-year.
- 3P% is up more than 28% year-to-year.
- TS% is up more than 16% year-to-year.
- eFG% is up more than 16% year-to-year.
- Points per 40 minutes is up more than 54% year-to-year.
Beyond his scoring, LJ shows above-average ball handling and athleticism. While not necessarily weaknesses, his passing and defensive ability do little to boost his draft stock. This, combined with his injury history and his size leaves him with considerable work to do if he wants to be drafted into the NBA. In short: He is extremely unlikely to go pro following this season.
Sochan and Brown are gone. If one of them were to return it'd most likely be Sochan. Each will be taken in the middle of the 1st Round, neither in the Lottery.
Matt is also gone. He will be taken in 2nd Round.
Akinjo and Flagler declare for the draft while maintaining their eligibility, but ultimately withdraw and come back.
Thamba, Everyday Jon, and Cryer all come back. I would not be totally shocked to see LJ explore the transfer portal (especially if Akinjo and Flagler are back). A healthy LJ would be a starter for a lot of high-major programs and would likely have a reduced role next year given the projected guard depth.
Next season's starters: James Akinjo, Adam Flagler, Keyonte George, Transfer Forward, Flo Thamba.
Next season's rotational players: LJ Cryer, Langston Love, Dale Bonner, Jordan Turner, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua.
Next season's deep-bench players: Zach Loveday and Austin Sacks.
Next season's redshirts: Dillon Hunter and Joshua Ojianwuna.