College Basketball’s Best Player Right Now Isn’t a Top NBA Prospect

The NBA Draft can be an inexact science. It’s not always easy to evaluate the top talent in college basketball and determine which ones will make the best pros. Nowhere is that more evident than in this year’s draft class. Take, for example, Iowa’s Luka Garza.

Despite being arguably the best player in college basketball at the moment, he’s not considered a top NBA prospect. Here’s the story of Garza, his scouting report, and why he’s not being considered for elite draft status in 2021. 

Who is Luke Garza? 

According to the University of Iowa’s athletics website, Garza is a 6’11” senior from Washington, D.C. He was a Naismith Player of the Year trophy finalist — a big deal, considering that award is handed out to the country’s best player.

He was the 2020 Big Ten men’s basketball Player of the Year as well as being a unanimous consensus First-Team All-American. Garza found himself as the runner up for the AP National Player of the Year.

There’s no question that when it comes to the Big Ten or even the nation as a whole, Garza is one of the most accomplished and best players around. But how does his game translate to the next level? 

What is the scouting report?

According to NBA Draft Room, Garza is projected as a “late first to mid-second round type of NBA prospect.” They attribute this to his lack of mobility and project him to being a role player off the bench in the NBA.

They also cite his “elite skill level and brute strength” which should compensate for his less than ideal speed. Garza is a creative player on the offensive side with great fundamentals who has a soft touch close to the basket. 

Garza will need to continue to develop an outside shot to have a chance at thriving in the NBA. In today’s game, big men are expected to shoot almost as much as they’re looked at to score down low in the post.

Where Garza’s athletic profile may present problems is on the defensive end. His relative lack of speed will prove to be an issue when guarding the pick and roll in the high post. 

Why isn’t Luka Garza a top NBA prospect? 

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It may seem puzzling that a player as good as Garza at the college level wouldn’t be heralded as a top NBA pick, but he isn’t right now. USA Today compiled a mock draft for next year’s crop of talent, and Garza didn’t make the cut to go in the first round. How is it that a player who is so talented isn’t projected to go higher? 

When taking a closer look at Garza’s career, a different story emerges. He’s in his fourth year at Iowa, a senior. That might mean his game has taken a little longer to develop. Most high first-round picks in the NBA come out as freshmen.

While not every top prospect’s game is refined when they’re drafted, they at least appear to have the raw skills needed to make an impact at the professional level. Garza doesn’t appear to have that same level of athleticism. There have been plenty of college superstars who went on to have less than inspiring NBA careers — think of Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison. 

That’s not to denigrate the player, however. Garza has plenty of talent and skill, and if he continues to develop, he can carve out a decent role for himself as a rotation guy on a team in need of inside scoring. He may not be a top-five pick, but there’s a place for Garza at the next level.