Franchises are built at the top of the draft, but championships are won later on when teams can find a hidden gem or two in the late-first or second rounds.
As impressive as the top of the 2021 NBA Draft is with Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley, the back-end of the class has some talent as well. Here are five players you may have heard about in college who have a good chance at becoming quality NBA contributors.
Joshua Primo: SG/SF, Alabama
Primo is one of the late risers in this draft process thanks to his size and shot-making on the wing. He played in a limited role during his freshman season at Alabama and, at just 18 years old, there's a ton of untapped potential here. Primo impressed at the NBA Combine with his shooting and flashed a bit of playmaking that could ultimately take his game to the next level.
If there's a team that can afford to give Primo time to develop and fill out his thin frame, they might find themselves a go-to scoring option on an extremely affordable rookie deal.
Trey Murphy: SF/PF, Virginia
When it comes to 3-and-D prospects, there isn't a player that fits the definition for that role more than Murphy. He's a lengthy small forward who shot 50-40-90 in his lone season at Virginia and gave the Cavaliers some much-needed defensive versatility at 6-foot-9.
Big, long wings who can guard multiple positions and knock down threes at a high clip are one of the most valuable commodities in the NBA. That simple fact may make Murphy go in the middle of the first round, but if he falls, the team that grabs him is going to get an immediate contributor at a premium position.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: PF/C, Villanova
Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson, Eric Paschall, Josh Hart. All quality NBA players taken at various points of their respective drafts, but the common denominator? They all played for Jay Wright at Villanova. Villanova players can shoot, defend and are fundamentally sound prospects that are almost always ready for NBA minutes right away.
Robinson Earl fits that bill as well, and he could become a valuable two-way player if he can prove an ability to guard centers and/or wings. He didn't shoot as well from three last season (28%) as his clean shooting stroke should have produced, but he's a steady offensive player who can rebound and pass well out of the high post. He could be a pick-and-pop big or spot up on the wings in an NBA offense. At the very least, the team that drafts Robinson-Earl is getting a guy who knows how to play.
Isaiah Todd: PF/C, G-League Ignite
Similar to Primo, Todd is a raw, high upside prospect with an enticing ceiling considering his size and skill. He has a pretty jumper already, as he shot 36% from three in the G-League this year. Speaking of the G-League, Todd was arguably the third-best player on the Ignite behind Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. If you put any stock in playing against pros rather than amateurs, then there's optimism for Todd being more ready to contribute early on.
He has some questions to answer on the defensive side of the ball, as he struggles to slide with smaller wings or bang with traditional bigs, but some fine-tuning at the next level could go a long way in his development. Todd has the athletic tools and shooting stroke to become a productive NBA player, it's just a matter of situation for him.
Joe Wieskamp: SF/SG, Iowa
Wieskamp did a lot for his draft stock during 5-on-5 play at the NBA Combine, where he shot the lights out and flashed the offensive skill set teams are looking for in today's NBA. He shot over 46% on his threes last season at Iowa and projects as a more valuable NBA player than his star teammate Luka Garza.
Everyone needs more shooting, so Wieskamp is going to get a shot at the next level. The key for him will be holding his own on the defensive end of the floor. Wieskamp has good size and positioning, but that only gets you so far against NBA athletes.