Updated: Oct 9, 2021
NBA teams look for one primary trait in the draft each year: potential. College freshmen in the past like Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson showed in their one season that they had the potential to be professional superstars. Teams are more than willing to draft young players that are still developing, hopeful that they will blossom under the right coaching.
Every draft, there are older players that have plenty of experience but perhaps are lacking in potential. Throughout draft history, teams have become wary of selecting seniors early, as some have already reached their so-called "ceiling" of skill. Players like Steve Nash and Tim Duncan are Hall of Famers, and guess what? Both spent all four years at college. This isn't to say that the seniors in this list will reach the Hall, but they are more than capable of making their mark on the league. With that being said, here are four seniors in this year's draft that can make an impact in the pros.
Desmond Bane, G, TCU
Bane's primary strength is 3-point shooting, boasting a 44% clip from behind the arc. If he's left open, the TCU combo guard makes defenses pay. He most likely will do most of his scoring in the pros off screens and mismatches, but his ability to spot up anywhere is lethal. Bane keeps defenders on their toes, utilizing various ball fakes and jab-steps before driving to the rim for easy finishes. Although he can't jump out of the gym, his soft touch around the basket more than makes up for it.
His defensive impact is slightly limited by his 6'5" wingspan, but he can stick around with most players thanks to his quick hands and basketball IQ. Additionally, he can set up teammates off the pick-and-roll with ease. Bane's well-rounded skillset should earn him a selection in the second round by a team looking for an impactful rotation player.
Killian Tillie, F, Gonzaga
Tillie is an intriguing prospect whose skillset fits well in today's NBA. At 6'10", his shooting touch both around the rim and behind the arc is fantastic. In his senior season, Tillie shot 40% from 3-point range and 53% overall from the field. His physical build is not ideal for a big man, as he has below-average length and speed.
Tillie's lack of mobility can be partially attributed to an extensive injury history. During his tenure at Gonzaga, he suffered a torn ligament in his foot, knee surgery, a stress fracture in his ankle, several sprained ankles, a broken finger, and a hip pointer. However, his shooting is reminiscent of Davis Bertans and he shows flashes of Jokić-level passing when he's on his game. Though he isn't a surefire rim protector, he moves well laterally, allowing him to guard big men in the paint. With the right team, Tillie could become another beneficiary of the league's 3-point movement.
Grant Riller, G, College of Charleston
Grant Riller is a hard player to evaluate for many. While he averaged just under 22 points per game in his last two seasons at Charleston, it was against fairly weak competition. From his junior to senior season, his assists went down while his turnovers rose, raising questions about how his playmaking will translate to the NBA. At this point in his development, he is a liability on defense but has shown flashes of solid play.
Many concerns about Riller parallel those about Damian Lillard in his senior year at mid-major Weber State. Both players' turnover-to-assist ratios were concerning, leading scouts to wonder what they can offer other than scoring. While Riller's ceiling is most likely closer to sixth man than MVP, it's an interesting comparison. Teams looking for instant scoring off the bench will likely keep their eyes on the 6'3" guard in the second round.
Cassius Winston, G, Michigan State
Winston established his legacy at Michigan State as a floor general who makes his teammates better, and that is the role he should play in the NBA. He is a crafty point guard who could be remembered as the best shooter in the entire 2020 draft class. In his senior year, he shot 43% from deep and in the 90th percentile off screens and off the dribble. However, what is most impressive about his game is his playmaking ability. Winston was the heart and soul of the Spartans roster in his three years as a starter, setting his teammates up with open passes and lobs to the rim.
His frame at 6'1" and 185 pounds isn't spectacular, and his lack of explosiveness will prevent him from finishing around the rim efficiently. Still, his role is as a shot-creator and playmaker, not as a guard that will drive to the rim often. Winston should immediately fit in as a backup point guard for a team like the Lakers or Sixers. Many mock drafts have had teams taking Winston as early as the late-first round. When he arrives in the NBA, his leadership should take center stage as he works his way up a professional rotation.