Wizards

Virginia's Jay Huff could be a versatile depth piece in the NBA

Wizards

The Washington Wizards are picking in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether they trade up, down or stay firm at No. 15, here is the latest in our series on draft prospects whom the Wizards could consider selecting.

2021 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Jay Huff

School/team: Virginia

Position: Power Forward

Age: 22

Height: 7'1

Weight: 240

Wingspan: 7'1

2020/21 stats: 25 G, 13.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 2.6 bpg, 58.5 FG% (5.1/8.7), 38.7 3PT% (1.2/3.0), 83.7 FT%

Player comparison: Matt Bonner

Projections: NBC Sports Washington N/A, Ringer N/A, NBADraft.net Undrafted, Bleacher Report Undrafted

5 things to know:

- Jay Huff is a lengthy, underrated athlete who has tremendous value for a pick-and-roll-heavy team. The 7-footer was the second-leading scorer on a talented Virginia roster that earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. His hands retrieving passes in the paint are superb and he is a lob threat with his height and athleticism. As his shot improved his senior season, so did his draft stock. 

- Huff's NBA role is likely as a pick-and-pop option on a smaller lineup. He became extremely solid in that role for the Cavaliers, especially when shooting at the top of the key. Averaging 38.7% from deep on 3.0 attempts per game, he actually was the fourth-best shooter on the roster. That's tremendous for a big-man prospect that could come in as a depth piece. However, in initiation and one-on-one situations Huff struggles to create and gain space.

 

- The athleticism of Huff is drastically underrated, especially compared to those in the second round and of the UDFA group. With those skills, Huff is a phenomenal rim runner and has highlight-reel play after highlight-reel play in his arsenal. What gives him huge potential is as a rim protector. Huff had 2.6 blocks per game last season and does a great job of not fouling while in the air. During his junior season, the 7-foot-1 player recorded 10 blocks against Duke, the second Cavalier to ever reach double-figures in a contest.

- One of the biggest criticisms of Huff is that he's not strong enough to play as a center, but not fast enough for the other positions. While the definitions of traditional basketball roles are dwindling, there is some merit to those concerns. With that said, Huff has shown he can change his physique. During his redshirted freshman season, Huff gained 30 pounds to be able to play the five at an ACC program. He could well do that again in an NBA program. 

- In the midst of the most difficult year for a college basketball player, Huff made it more complicated during the 2020-21 COVID-19 season. Huff and longtime girlfriend Lindsay Knights got married before the season. Unlike many other couples, the pandemic actually sped up their nuptials

Fit with Wizards:

There really isn't a player that possesses Huff's skills on the Wizards roster. Huff has the deep-ball shooting of Thomas Bryant and the rim-protection of Daniel Gafford. Both are areas of Washington's roster that needs to be addressed in their depth. 

Hiring Wes Unseld Jr. and his defensive acumen might also lend Huff to a system that prioritizes a player like him. Huff is a versatile defender that can more than hold his own against smaller guards. And when helping at the rim, he can provide the minutes that Gafford can't with his conditioning. However, if Huff has to slow down the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, there might not be a big role for him. 

Right now, the best Huff could do on an NBA roster is as a depth piece. For the Wizards, he won't be able to grow from that role much either with his skills right now. 

There isn't much money invested in the center or power forward position for Washington. Huff could certainly be a third guy in a Bryant-Gafford rotation that brings something a little bit different to the group as a whole. But, if that's the case, the Wizards would likely need a fourth big man to back up Bryant against the true centers in the league.