The 2021 NBA Draft is tomorrow night, as four different Longhorns will be waiting to see if all their hard work will be paid off with a defining announcement of their selection.
Kai Jones, Jericho Sims, Greg Brown, and Matt Coleman are a part of a talented Texas group that won the first Big 12 Men's Basketball title in school history last season but fell short in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Despite falling short of tournament expectations, all four have displayed skillsets that are worthy of filling out an NBA roster spot. So, what makes this the case?
Matt Coleman - Guard
Coleman was a leader for Texas the moment he stepped foot on the court under former head coach Shaka Smart. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Coleman was originally recruited by Smart to play at VCU from the time he was in middle school, but made the switch to Austin due to his loyalty to the former head coach.
It clearly paid dividends for the spunky young guard, who used all four years at Texas to steadily improve his game and floor intelligence. From his first year in 2017 onward, Coleman averaged at least 30 minutes per game each season.
Hefty playing time and responsibilities allowed Coleman to finish his Texas career third in school history for games started (128), third in assists (477), fourth in career minutes played (4,231), and 16th in total points scored (1,448).
During his senior year, he posted game averages of 13.2 points, four assists, and 1.2 steals while shooting a career-high 48.5 percent from the field. Coleman led the team in total steals the past two seasons and finished his Texas career as the only player in program history to lead the team in assists for four straight seasons.
Additionally, he was an All-Big 12 third-team selection for his junior and senior seasons. His averages of 24.5 points, 3.5 assists, and one steal earned him 2021 All-Big first-team tournament honors as Coleman was named the tournament's MVP.
The list truly does go on and on for a player like Coleman, who proved himself as one of the most productive point guards to have ever put on a Longhorn uniform.
Yet, his name doesn't appear on any respectable mock drafts. It seems likely at this point that Coleman will go undrafted, but anyone would be foolish to think that this means the end of his NBA aspirations.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard has still managed to receive real attention from NBA teams. Coleman had workouts with the Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Lakers during the pre-draft process.
These teams allowed Coleman to showcase his skills for a reason, which could lead to a potential spot on a summer league roster or time in the NBA G-League. Both routes would bolster Coleman's chances of eventually making an opening day roster should he go undrafted tomorrow night.
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The left-handed floor general has a crafty set of skills that would be perfect for any bench unit. He has discipline with the ball in his hands, plays hard on defense, and displayed polish in the pick-and-roll during his senior year. As a potential backup point guard, this is all a head coach could ask for.
However, Coleman's major scoring upside combined with these traits is what puts him at an advantage. He has blinding speed in the open floor that allows him to get easy transition layups or create mismatches before the defense can set up.
His quickness is best used while controlling the pace with the ball in his hands. Coleman's ability to slow down and speed back up again will freeze defenders or have them stumbling in an attempt to catch up. Once the defender is beaten off of the dribble, he's shown he can make the easy pass to an open man if the help defense comes to contest.
Spending four years at Texas was monumental in allowing Coleman to develop a productive jump-shot. He's shown real comfort with taking one-dribble step-backs when moving to his right in the mid-range and is more than capable of producing as a catch-and-shoot threat when needed.
Coleman put these skills and more on full display during Texas' win over North Carolina last season. He even topped it off with a game-winner on his signature step-back. Take a look.
Offensively, Coleman seems to make all the right plays. Whether it's an open look for himself or his teammates, he's keen on being patient and letting the play develop in front of him.
An obvious drawback when evaluating Coleman's draft stock is his size. He's not particularly bulky, which could put him at a huge disadvantage if he gets switched onto bigs at the NBA level. He has refined defensive instincts when defending other guards but could get out-classed by NBA point guards that have him beat in terms of height or wingspan.
His size is only a minor issue though, as his quick hands and feet will allow him to play passing lanes with success or get a swipe when defending on-ball. After all, we've seen guys of his size or smaller have flourishing success in the pros before.
Time will tell if Coleman will find a home on an NBA roster. It remains likely that he goes undrafted, meaning he'll have to play the waiting game before receiving the call the play in the summer league or sign as with a team as an undrafted free agent.
Regardless of where he ends up, Coleman clearly left his mark on the Texas basketball program and will be remembered by Longhorn Nation for years to come.
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