Toronto, Ontario native and Alabama freshman guard Joshua Primo elected to test the 2021 NBA Draft waters, originally entering the process by signing with an NCAA certified agent to keep the option of returning to school available.
Playing half of his freshman season as a 17-year-old, Primo was one of the youngest players in the NCAA. Going through the draft process as an 18-year-old that won't turn 19 until Christmas Eve, Primo is seen as a young and mouldable prospect with above-average size for his position.
Measuring at the Combine at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, the jumbo guard already caught the eyes of scouts. With several reports surfacing about Primo's success during drills and scrimmages, the Canadian guard's name began to gain some buzz, going from a prospect just testing the waters to a potential first-round pick.
Footage of Alabama's Josh Primo at the Life Sports Pro Day. Primo, the youngest player in the draft, had a great week at the NBA Combine, boosting his stock into the first round of our latest mock draft. pic.twitter.com/dFtIiErox9- Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) July 3, 2021
As a result, the 18-year-old elected to forgo his remaining college eligibility , staying put in the 2021 NBA Draft class.
Turns out, it was the decision of a lifetime, as the Toronto product heard his name called well before anyone could have expected. With the 12th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Primo, resulting in a resounding "whoa" from the Barclays Center crowd in Brooklyn.
But what does Primo bring to the Spurs?
In a conversation with Wes Brown (@wesblairbrown ), a Canada Basketball scout who has watched Primo play since Grade 10, he was adamant that the prospect's ability to create his own shot will be something that translates seamlessly to the next level.
"He's a guy that has always had good footwork to create his own jumper, getting to his spots on the floor. He's what I would call a shooting scorer. And he has shown flashes that he's more than that now, proving that he's getting better at scoring around the rim, too," Brown told NBA.com.
When Brown was asked which area of Primo's game that has developed the most since he first started scouting him years back, he felt it was a combination of tangible skills and mindset. Brown said Primo is becoming a much more confident player, which has parlayed well with his improved ball-handling, helping the big guard get better at creating separation for his shot while also knowing when to attack the basket.
"He's always been a great shooter but I really think his handle has improved and his confidence has improved," Brown stated. "When I first saw him, he was knocking down shots, but he wasn't really creating his own shot. And he wasn't the level of athlete that could finish at the rim really well.
"As his skill level has improved, you've seen his confidence elevate with it. And that's what we saw at the NBA combine. He showed his ability to get to and score from a number of spots on the floor, he showed he's developed refined countermoves with a strong handle, and he's shown a natural change in speed and fluidity off the bounce to be able to get his shot off at all times," Brown told NBA.com.
"He reminds me of a bigger Immanuel Quickley."
Primo didn't have a great opportunity to fully display his arsenal as a player in his one season at Alabama, stuck behind three established guards in sophomore Jaden Shackelford, redshirt sophomore Jahvon Quinerly and senior John Petty. As a result, he was fourth on the team's pecking order for both playmaking and scoring, explaining how a player that averaged just 8.1 points and fewer than one assist per game received a major boost to his draft stock as soon as he could prove himself on a platform like the Combine.
"I think his confidence is at an all-time high and his skills are at an all-time high," Brown preached. "As a result, you're seeing the potential for him to reach a new height, looking like a player that could be a point guard or shooting guard, a true combo guard at the next level."
Brown was particularly interested in Primo's potential as a versatile defender in the NBA, using his size and length to his advantage to be a suffocating on-ball defender and sly off-ball defender.
"I think he can guard 1-through-3, but getting stronger will be the biggest thing. I think as his body strength and leg strength improves, he could be great on that end. He's good laterally, very long to play passing lanes, deflect balls and wreak havoc. Improved physicality will help with getting through screens and coming up with stops, but that's the intrigue of his versatility. We already know he can defend really well off-ball, but maybe he could become a guy that is lockdown on the ball. He's shown all these tools that you're looking for."
Primo has his work cut out for him to crack a Spurs rotation that includes other guards like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker, but with DeMar DeRozan's looming free agency decision, there will be some minutes up for grabs. As San Antonio enters somewhat of a rebuilding stage, missing the playoffs two seasons in a row following a 22-year streak of qualifying for the postseason, it will look to its young talent like the aforementioned players, as well as promising forward Keldon Johnson to turn things around.
Primo has a fantastic opportunity ahead of him to grow and learn under one of the best player development franchises in NBA. If there is any place that could maximize his potential and get him to reach his ceiling, it may as well be San Antonio.
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