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2021 GBB NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Brandon Boston Jr.

BJ looks the part but has had none of the production to back it up at this point.

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NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next month, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2021 NBA Draft. This year we will be breaking it up in to three sections - five to likely trade up for, five potentially available right around pick #17 where Memphis is slotted to pick, and five that surely will be there or perhaps the Grizzlies could even trade back and still select. But now, let’s talk about some 2nd round prospects as well.

Brandon Boston Jr., Guard, Kentucky

  • 6’7”, 185 pounds (6’11” wingspan), 19-years-old from Norcross, Georgia
  • Freshman season with Kentucky - 30.4 minutes per game, 11.5 points per game on 35.5% shooting (30% from beyond the arc, 78.5% from the free throw line), 4.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals
  • ADVANCED STAT OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon) - Usage (23.0%)
  • AWARDS AND ACCOLADES - McDonalds All-American (2020), Jordan Brand Classic (2020), California Mr. Basketball (2020)
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS - 39th Overall (Tankathon), 41st (ESPN), 2nd round (CBS Sports), 2nd round (The Athletic)

Alright, let me qualify some of the more difficult things I’m going to say with the positives first. BJ Boston is tremendously talented and possesses both the size and skillset to be an impactful wing scorer in the NBA — he wasn’t getting comps to Brandon Ingram and Kevin Durant after his illustrious high school basketball career for no reason. Also, despite John Calipari’s (mistaken) reputation for creating a pro factory at Kentucky, Boston would be far from the first prospect to criminally underachieve at Kentucky before showcasing their true potential in the NBA.

However, I cannot for the life of me understand why Boston has committed to the 2021 NBA Draft with a signed agent instead of returning to school for at least one more year. Okay, that’s not exactly true; he wants a paycheck that even college with its new NIL opportunities can’t offer. But the reality is that he so vastly underachieved during his one year in college that his draft stock has tanked from a potential top-5 pick to the middle of the second round.

In recent memory, there’s no other prospect I can think of that had such a steep fall from poor performance during their lone year of college.

What’s so frustrating to me — and granted, I’m not his family and don’t have access to all the circumstances of his family situation — is that I think he’s likely to cost himself money by entering the draft instead of coming back next year. He’s extremely raw and needs to improve his physical strength, two things that another year of development in college would help. Massive improvement as a sophomore would have vaulted him back into lottery consideration, and he would make much more money over his rookie contract than he will now. He also won’t have a clear role on any team that selects him in the second round.

Yet I am not B.J. Boston.

As you can probably guess, I’m not particularly high on Boston. I’ve hardly ever encountered a more frustrating prospect; the long, athletic wing scorer archetype is not only the Grizzlies’ biggest area of need, but also just my favorite type of player period. I want to love him, but he won’t let me. He should be a lottery pick, but he’s simply created too many unfortunate questions about himself. Not participating in 5-on-5 scrimmages at the draft combine in Chicago only makes those questions all the more glaring.

But as pressing as those questions may be, man does he look the part.

What He Does Well/What He Needs to Work On

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Normally, I would split these sections up, but it’s almost impossible to talk about the good of BJ Boston without the bad.

Like I said earlier, Boston wasn’t getting comps to Brandon Ingram for no reason. In both AAU and at high school power Sierra Canyon, he was a spectacular three-level scorer with borderline unlimited range. He averaged 19.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a senior, regularly filling it up against some of the best high school teams in the country.

ESPN NBA Draft analyst Mike Schmitz did a superb job of breaking down how Boston’s footwork and fluidity at 6’7 empowered him to be one of the best high school scorers in the country.

However, his freshman season was Kentucky was ... a mixed bag to say the least. He had games like he did in March against South Carolina in which he scored 21 points on 7-13 shooting and 6-10 shooting from three. And then he would have games like he did in Kentucky’s very next game in which he put up an egg in a one-point loss to Mississippi State.

If you looked up inconsistency in the dictionary, BJ Boston during this past season could have served as a fitting picture.

As a whole, he just generally wasn't effective. When your calling card is that you’re an impactful three-level scorer, but you’re shooting 35% from the field and 30% from three, well, you don’t have much impact on the basketball court. As his 6’7” frame with a 6’11” wingspan would suggest, he was quite solid defensively but not enough so to overcome his offensive woes (more on this in a minute).

Offensively, he has to improve his ball-handling, which will help him in getting to his preferred spots, and he also just simply has to shoot the ball much better to have value in the pace-and-space NBA.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

You could make the argument that Boston’s offensive game suffered due to a lackluster supporting cast that couldn’t provide him clean looks or easy driving lanes. After all, him not living up to expectations was far from the only reason that Kentucky went a horrific 9-16 last year. He could very well benefit from having NBA spacing and NBA-level teammates as a shot-creator.

However, history would not appear to be kind to him in this regard. Go ahead, come up with a single above-average NBA player that was objectively terrible efficiency-wise during their lone year in college, while also not being extremely productive (so take Anthony Edwards out of this thought experiment). You won’t come up with anyone.

If you can't effectively put the ball in the hoop in college — even at 18! — you’re probably not going to do so in the best league in the world.

Cam Reddish, who was also a high school scoring phenom with All-Star comps that struggled badly during his one season in college, could soon buck that trend, but outside of a few superb games in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, he has generally been terrible offensively so far into his NBA career. He has, of course, proven to be an occasionally useful rotation player because of his borderline-elite defense. But while Boston may be solid defensively in the NBA, he doesn’t project to be good enough on that end to offset his offensive woes if they’re anything like they were in college.

All things considered, his overall outlook doesn’t look great.

The Fit With the Grizzlies

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In their playoff series against the Utah Jazz, the Memphis Grizzlies’ desperate need for a three-level shot creator became quickly apparent, especially within the second unit. Dillon Brooks was fantastic, but I’ll just be real in saying that the overall state of your offense isn’t in great shape when Brooks is having to average 25 points per game. They need help in that way, and it should be their top priority in evaluating draft prospects.

Brandon Boston Jr. very much looks the part, even if his overall ability to fill that role seem fairly doubtful at this point. But here’s the the bright side to his disappointing freshman season: expectations are much lower than they once were, and no one is going to expect him to be “the guy” from day one of his NBA career. He will greatly benefit from a team with a strong developmental culture that will give him opportunities to maximize his potential, while also not throwing him into the fire.

That’s the Memphis Grizzlies.

To be sure, you’re not going to land many home runs with the 51st pick, and Boston almost certainly won’t be there due to his perceived upside. But if the Grizzlies want to use a future second or two to move into the 40s to take him, I won’t hate it at all. It would be a home-run swing, and they can afford to do that at this point.

Boston has been through a lot over the last year, with a difficult year at Kentucky as well as the tragic car accident death of one of his closet friends and future NBA draft selection Terrence Clarke likely weighing on him. But he still has plenty of time to write an amazing story for his basketball career that is not defined by a difficult beginning.

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