Texas Longhorns basketball is once again being well-represented in the 2021 NBA Draft. A talented burnt orange team from last season boasted quality NBA potential, as Texas could possibly be seeing three or more former players get selected in the same draft since 2011.
Now labeled as former Longhorns, center Kai Jones, guard Matt Coleman, forward Jericho Sims, and forward Greg Brown all have a chance to make their presence felt on the NBA hardwood. Draft night on July 29 will certainly represent a life-changing moment for these guys and many others.
So, what about their overall game has brought them to this stage? And how will each of their unique skill sets allow them to last?
Throughout the next week here at LonghornsCountry.com, we'll continue to take a look into the strengths and weaknesses of these Texas draft prospects. We've already reviewed the draft stock of Kai Jones.
Now it's Jericho Sims' turn. Let's jump right into it.
Jericho Sims - Power Forward/Center
Sims was dependable from the start during his four years as a Longhorn. Under former head coach Shaka Smart, he appeared in 119 games for Texas with 77 starts.
Maintaining all four years of college eligibility is probably what helped Sims develop into the beast that he is today. Despite being a freakish athlete, he used the full time in college to harness his overall technique and feel for the game, especially on defense.
You can just see it through the way he plays. Sims does a lot of the dirty work that breeds toughness and he's committed to the work he's put in.
Listed as a power-forward according to multiple platforms, Sims plays more like a true center with a rim-protecting mindset than his former front-court partner Jones. Both are superior athletes, but Sims uses his stronger frame and body control to drive his success as a big man.
At 6-foot-10 and 245, he's technically slightly undersized for an NBA center. This will quickly be ignored though, as NBA GMs will come to realize that Sims somehow plays bigger than his size -- which is crazy for someone who is basically a seven-footer.
He used this size to maximize possessions and scoring opportunities for his teammates through rebounding, as he led Texas in rebounds the past two seasons with a combined average of 7.7 boards per game.
Sims' stats in 2021 (9.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks), were respectable and are exactly what is to be expected from an athletic center that lives in the paint. His numbers might have been more eye-popping if not for having to share a front-court with two potential first-rounders in Jones and Brown.
Despite showing experience as a four-year senior with proven ability to develop, Sims' hasn't been a name widely talked about amongst NBA draft experts as some might expect -- until recently.
Sims single-handily boosted his draft stock after a historical showcase at the NBA Combine in Chicago last month. According to ESPN draft analyst Jonathon Givony, he tied the second-highest max vertical leap ever recorded at the combine with a 44.5-inch vert, tying Detroit Pistons guard Hamidou Diallo's jump in 2017.
Sims was able to out-perform other top prospects at the combine with his insane athleticism alone. The Minneapolis native also recorded the best standing vertical leap of this years' combine with 37 inches. His 7-foot-3 wingspan was the second-longest amongst all participants.
Sure, Sims can use his length and jumping ability to crush the competition during standard drills and physique tests. But how would this transition to the hardwood with a number of NBA scouts watching?
As a matter of fact, very smoothly. During 2v2 drills, he displayed monstrous force around the rim, patience in the pick-and-roll, and effortless leaping ability. Take a look.
Sims has NBA talent, but it's unlikely he'll get selected in the first round. Recent mock drafts from Bleacher Report and NBADraft.net have the former Longhorn being selected in the mid to late stages of the second round.
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Regardless of where he'll play next season, Sims will make an immediate impact defensively. The high intensity and competitiveness he brings on defense are arguably his strongest attributes.
His impressive upper-body strength paired with the length makes him a nightmare to deal with for opposing offenses. Even when you think you have him beat, you probably don't.
If Sims gets switched onto a point guard out in no-mans land, his defensive discipline is fit for the challenge. He constantly shows a high hand in the face of shooters while keeping a low center of gravity in order to quickly react to blow-by-dribble moves.
When scorers drive into the lane against him, Sims uses impressive verticality in the air to contest the shot without fouling or swiping down at the ball. His weak-side help-defense has also proven to be a lethal force, as he can come out of nowhere to swat floaters and lay-ups into the third row.
Sims can give an NBA team everything they could ask for in a defender. He has excellent discipline and understanding of how to defend. Though his feet are agile, he'll need to become even quicker for the league if he wants to maintain his reputation as a switchable defender.
Sims' offense identity is something that became refined for him during his time at Texas.
His offensive role is similar to that of a prime Deandre Jordan. Both of them use athleticism and size to roll to the rim to catch lobs off the pick-and-roll or dominant with their paint presence to crash the offensive glass for easy put-backs.
But Sims might be a better athlete than the current Brooklyn Net's center was in his early years. In this jaw-dropping play against Kansas last season, Sims' reach above the rim showcases why.
Here's a look at what was probably Sims' best game of his senior year. His dominance on both ends of the floor helped Texas secure its first Big 12 basketball title in school history.
Sims won't be the ideal stretch-big that NBA teams tend to desire. He isn't a reliable shooter (he attempted one mid-range shot all of last season and had only one three-point attempt in four seasons at Texas), but it's become obvious that he doesn't need to score at all in order to maintain his impact on a team.
Yet, Sims still scores efficiently and timely. This takes his value and potential to new heights.
Last season, he finished second in all of Division 1 in total field-goal percentage with a .689 percent clip. Sims' ability to score efficiently at the rim will be key for any NBA offense. Pairing him with an intelligent and accurate point guard with help maximize opportunities for easy buckets that defenses won't have an answer for.
Sims seems to know his defined role within an offense and embraces it. He never tries to play out of his comfort zone and used improved footwork in the post to score at will during his senior year.
He'll have to develop as a passer from the post in order to create direct scoring opportunities for his teammates, but this will come with experience and coaching.
Sims' frame and overall athleticism are unteachable traits that any NBA coach would love coming off their bench. Pair that with his tenacious defensive ability and there becomes little reason to argue that this guy won't be an impactful player at the next level.
Who knows? He might even be the best Longhorn to come out of this draft class when we look back in a decade or so.
CONTINUE READING: NBA Draft Preview: Texas Longhorns C Kai Jones
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