The bright lights are set to shine in Brooklyn on Thursday night.
With the best prospective basketball talents in attendance for the 2021 NBA Draft, teams get an opportunity to alter the trajectory of their franchise by selecting elite talent to build around or role pieces to elevate themselves into contention.
One player hoping to help a team take that next step is former Gators guard and presumptive first-round pick Tre Mann. As a result, Florida prepares for its first selection during the Mike White era, with Mann being the only Gator picked since Erik Muprhy in 2013 and the first taken in the round one since Bradley Beal in 2012.
With the action commencing tonight at 8 p.m., AllGators takes a last-minute deep-dive on three potential landing spots for the now-former Florida star to end the drought of Gators in the draft.
Suiting up at the collegiate level for the past two seasons, Mann proved his worth as one of the most talented shot creators in college basketball during his sophomore campaign.
Despite playing in a tumultuous 2020 season — filled with COVID-19 concerns and teammate Keyontae Johnson’s medical emergency in the fourth game of the year — Mann overcame adversity to seize the opportunity to raise his draft stock.
Benefitting from the departure of incumbent point guard Andrew Nembhard to Gonzaga following the 2019-20 season, Mann saw himself take over a substantial role in the Florida offensive attack.
Accounting for 16 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, Mann operated as the major catalyst for Florida’s success last season.
Equipped with a multifaceted skill set as a scorer, Mann showcased impressive range from beyond the arc as well as uncanny body control and touch to finish around the rim.
As a result, Mann goes into Thursday night as a projected late first-rounder for teams looking to add a new era combo guard to their roster. Of the teams in contention, three stick out as possible landing spots for the former Gators star: The Knicks, 76ers and Suns.
Round 1, Pick 21: New York Knicks
The Knicks made an unexpected playoff run in 2020-21, putting together a year they hope to kickstart their return to prominence in the NBA landscape.
However, being handled by Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, the Knicks — as many expected — lacked the much-needed true scorer to make considerable noise from the Eastern Conference.
With three picks in the first round, NY will be looking to secure an automatic shooter and playmaking guard that can complement young stars Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett and operate in tandem with last year's first-round pick Immanuel Quickley.
Two strengths of Mann’s game.
While Mann would certainly fit in the Knicks scheme — and has been expressed as his desired destination — the 21st pick may be too early for general manager Scott Perry to pull the trigger and the 32nd pick likely being too late.
Round 1, Pick 28: Philadelphia 76ers
Currently, the 76ers are one of the hardest teams to follow from a personnel standpoint in the NBA.
With their 2020-21 season low lighted by Ben Simmons' inability to score the basketball away from the rim, Philadelphia has begun to look elsewhere for a modern era point guard to enter the mix.
Picking at 28, the 76ers are presented with the opportunity to get a player that not only knows how to score the basketball but would fit on the squad whether Simmons stays or goes.
Giving them a true shot-creating point guard to provide relief and change of pace from Ben Simmons, Mann presents the versatility to operate alongside Simmons in the backcourt.
With Mann standing at 6-foot-5, Doc Rivers would get the opportunity to be creative with him in the lineup. Possessing the talent and frame to command reps at point while allowing Simmons to slide down to the wing — where he can attack the basket off the catch — or can play two-guard while Simmons facilitates, similar to his role in Florida’s offense in 2020, Mann could be the missing piece in Darryl Morey’s rebuild.
As of right now, it looks as if Simmons will remain in Philly for the time being, with the 76ers requiring a hefty price tag for him to be moved. However, on a draft night that has already teased the possibility of the unexpected, anything is on the table.
Either way, I believe Mann to be a great addition to the city of Brotherly Love. In fact, it’s my favorite spot for him.
Round 1, Pick 29: Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are fresh off a near-championship season that consisted of their highest win total since 2009-10. Anchored down by point guard Chris Paul, the Suns made an impressive run at the title but came up just short in the end.
Playing the most games in his career, Paul would seemingly burn out down the stretch, directly correlated to the lack of ball-handling depth that Monty Williams had on his bench.
While Cameron Payne sufficed — and even over-performed at points — his skillset fails to provide the scoring prowess the Suns desperately searched for but couldn’t find in their upsetting four-straight losses to Milwaukee.
As a result, Mann makes sense as a prominent scoring option for the Suns to return for another chance at Finals glory, whether it comes as Paul’s backup or as a starter if Paul chooses to head elsewhere this offseason.
In either case, pairing Mann alongside Devin Booker creates an efficient duo in the backcourt that can benefit from the attention the other draws offensively.
All in all, if there were one team I had to lock in as Mann’s landing spot, Phoenix would be my pick.