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McKinley Wright moving up NBA Draft boards

The Buffaloes star impressed at the NBA Draft combine

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Georgetown at Colorado Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

McKinley Wright IV always plays best when he has a chip on his shoulder. Widely projected to go undrafted in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Colorado star is quickly moving up draft boards after an impressive display at the draft combine.

Wright was invited to the combine in Chicago and immediately shined during the live scrimmages. He looked great running the pick-n-roll with high school teammate Jericho Sims, made excellent passes all over the floor and made most of his shots. His defense was even better, as he was hounding the ball handler with bulldog intensity.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN was clearly impressed. He included Wright in his column (subscription) on winners and losers of the combine, writing a detailed scouting report:

The 22-year-old Colorado guard moved himself into the draft conversation by more than holding his own against some of the NCAA’s top guards, averaging 9.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 12.1 assists per 40 minutes over two scrimmages. Wright’s defensive intensity caught the eye of NBA scouts. He routinely picked up 94 feet, got underneath bigger guards and proved to be a pest by staying attached, fighting over screens. Wright is also an excellent positional rebounder who can fill in the gaps on the offensive end as a cutter, driver, midrange shooter, occasional floor spacer and facilitator. At just 6 feet in shoes, Wright isn’t the most dynamic off-the-dribble passer. He regularly puts two hands on the ball before making pick-and-roll reads, especially when faced with size and length. Despite a strong floater and smooth midrange game, he’s still gaining consistency on his 3-point shot (33% in 130 college games). But Wright has impressed NBA teams thoroughly in interviews with a mature approach to the game and understanding of his projected role, regularly referencing longtime backups like Ish Smith as a career blueprint.

Hearing that Wright impressed during interviews is no surprise at all. He loves basketball more than anything and has a known reputation as a hard worker and leader. It’s great to see that he’s trying to model his career after realistic comparisons, because that’s his route towards cracking an NBA roster.

It’s also worth noting that Wright posted good measurements at the combine. There’s a joke about 6’0 guards being closer to 5’9 than their actual height, but it turns out that’s his actual height (with shoes on). He posted a 6’5 wingspan, which at +6 is better than most NBA players at +3 or +4. His hand size (8.5’ length, 9.0’ width) was up there with wings and forwards.

All told, Wright is pushing into draft range. Givony moved him into the second round in his latest mock, going #59 to the Brooklyn Nets. That doesn’t sound great, but until now, most draft experts have listed him as a fringe top-100 prospect and projected to be undrafted. None of this will matter to Wright — he’s going to make it to the NBA no matter what — but it’s good to see teams are valuing him more.