Guest Writer: Matt Landry
Joshua Primo is a long, skilled guard/wing who has a shot to play his way back onto 2021 draft boards in this back-end stretch of SEC play. Primo entered the season as a 17-year-old who would not turn 18 until the start of SEC play with his late-December birthday. He’s turned it up a notch of late and scouts are starting to take notice.
Joshua Primo: SG, 6’6”, 190 lbs., Alabama, (18 years old).
Offensive role: Secondary creator and shooter.
Defensive role: Multi-guard, team defender.
NBA projected role: Top 7 player in the rotation, starter upside.
Swing factor: Becoming more comfortable as a playmaker and hitting more shots off movement.
Early in the season he mainly played like a freshman who should still be in high school, but showed the flashes of being a legitimate first round prospect throughout the start to the year. He came into the 2020-2021 season as a borderline lottery pick on many draft boards including ESPN’s.
Through 9 games of SEC play, Primo looks the part of a potential first rounder in the 2021 class, and with progression rather than regression, a potential lottery pick in the 2022 draft.
Primo came into Alabama as a reclassified young guard from Canada and was ranked by 247sports as a 5-star prospect and the 21st ranked player in his class. His stock blew up last year at a “Basketball Without Borders” event in Chicago where scouts were blown away by his shot-making ability and his overall motor, which is how he moved his way into ESPN’s original 2021 mock draft as a first rounder and potential lottery selection. While his total numbers haven’t exactly shown that of a first rounder, he has shown glimpses throughout the season of how nice the full product will be once he reaches his full potential.
He is mainly a guy to watch for the 2022 NBA draft in the minds of many who follow and cover the draft, but he is beginning to make the case that he should be back in the 2021 conversation. Through 18 games, he is only averaging 8.9 points per game, but is shooting 47.2% on 2-point attempts, an outstanding 41.7% on 3-point attempts, and a TS% of 57.8%. He has also consistently been one of Alabama’s better on and off-ball defenders.
It’s easy to project Primo as a plus defender at the NBA level once he adds more weight to his frame, but his IQ on that end of the floor puts him in another tier due to the ability to consistently be in the correct spots as a team defender. It is also important to remember that while these numbers may not jump off the page at you, half of these games played occurred while he was still 17 years old and getting adjusted to the game speed and level of talent at the Division-I level.
Since turning 18, Primo has played 10 games. 9 of which have been in SEC play and the other being against Oklahoma in the SEC-Big XII Challenge. Primo has been on a tear in this stretch – especially from 3-point land. Primo is averaging 11.3 points per game in conference play on shooting splits of 44.2%/48.8%/93.3% for overall FG%, 3-point FG%, and FT%. His TS% is up to 60.6%.
The one area of regression for Primo while in conference play has been his 2P% which has trailed down to 38.9%. A part of this is due to the athletic shot blockers in the SEC that alter every shot at the rim, and this does present an area of improvement for Primo in these last 9 games if he wants to get himself solidified into the 2021 first round discussion. The extremely encouraging stat here is his 3P% being just under 50% on good volume of 4.6 3PA. He has hit a variety of 3s both off-the-dribble and catch-and-shoot, but is an elite catch-and-shoot threat.
Primo is a shooting guard at the NBA level who will be capable of handling the ball and being a secondary playmaker as he continues to get more comfortable creating for himself and others. He has shown flashes of this throughout the season, but has not put the final product together and still seems a bit uncomfortable at times. Where he will make his money on the offensive end is as a catch-and-shoot shooter. He is able to get his shot off quickly and with his length and lift can get it off easily over defenders.
Here are a few examples of that below:
Primo relocates to the corner after driving and kicking, and KAH instinctively (perhaps illegally) screens Primo's man to free him up for a three. pic.twitter.com/Bl06sPfuDQ
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) January 25, 2021
Here you see him break down the defense, kick it out and relocate instantly to the corner for the quick C&S three. The release is lightning-quick.
Josh Primo is my top choice for the Mavs' 2022 1st round pick. I'm planting my flag plenty early in hopes of him returning for a sophomore year when he should get a full breakout pic.twitter.com/3neDZ2Zb7j
— Mavs Draft (@MavsDraft) January 15, 2021
This is a simple, yet encouraging play to see him loaded, ready to shoot well before the ball arrives.
— Crimson Crossover (@CrimsonXover) January 13, 2021
Here he’s left wide open and just comfortably gets into his shot.
I love how natural and in rhythm Primo looks on this catch and shoot.
He's wide open after Days and Watford turn their backs and ball watch as Shackelford drives. pic.twitter.com/jfangZXEAZ
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) January 22, 2021
While it is great to be able to hit shots in C&S scenarios, you have to have the ability to take the ball inside. Getting feet in the paint gives you the ability to finish for yourself or create shots for others with ease. This is an area of improvement for Primo through these next 9 games as he works to solidify himself as a 2021 prospect. Primo has shown plenty of flashes of getting to the rim, but getting there and making the right decision consistently will only improve his stock.
He also is a smart player overall when it comes to offensive IQ. Josh has been great at making the extra pass to open teammates to get them open looks. This is an important trait to have as a selfless 2-guard who knows when to take the shot himself or give it up to the open teammate.
Alabama gets Tennessee off balance and into a scramble situation with dribble penetration. Primo with a great extra pass to Petty for the triple.
This is how it's supposed to look. pic.twitter.com/RdStnwMiT5
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) January 4, 2021
The key for Primo in unlocking his offensive potential will be his ability to become an effective shooter off movement and screens at the NBA level. This is something that NBA teams will have to evaluate in workouts and have faith in Primo to become a high-level shooter in these areas as with Alabama’s offense most 3PA’s that Primo will get will either be pull-ups or catch-and-shoot off of drives.
With his jumper having the plus mechanics and the efficiency that it does, this is an area that I do not doubt Primo’s ability to effectively translate to the next level and improve at. Another area of improvement for Primo to become a more impactful player will be the ability to handle the ball comfortably and initiate offense. All in all, Primo projects to be a very successful player at the NBA level and with him being a young 18, he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential.
I will try to keep this portion of his game short and straight to the point. There aren’t nearly enough clips of Primo’s effectiveness as a team and individual defender, so I will have to try my best to let my words paint the picture. While Primo doesn’t pop with athleticism and isn’t a bulldog like a Deuce McBride, he is still a plus defender.
He rarely misses his rotations, is always in great help position, and scrambles well off of digging in the post to close out on shooters catching quick swing passes. Primo stands at 6’6” and is very long. There is not an official wingspan out there, but I would project it is around 6’9”. So while he isn’t Devin Vassell long, he is long nonetheless. He does a great job sliding his feet to stay in front of drivers and does not lose ground when taking contact on the drive.
Freshman Josh Primo is only 17 but you can see the defensive potential. He's always active and engaged on that end of the floor. Nice rip here. pic.twitter.com/Pp20EnMPhL
— Bama Basketball Film Room (@BamaFilmRoom) December 2, 2020
Here’s an aggressive challenge by Primo on a much larger human in Isaiah Jackson, where he makes an impressive block.
Josh Primo has so much potential on both ends of the floor both at the college level and at the NBA level. This block against Isaiah Jackson is just a testament to how fun Primo is and will continue to be. pic.twitter.com/3YXHvE2R0S
— Matt Landry (@Landry1117) February 2, 2021
There is no doubt Primo needs to add some more weight to his frame to ensure he doesn’t get bumped off his spots by the bigger guards at the next level, but as he gets stronger and more experienced I truly believe that he will be a plus defender with the ability to guard 1-3 with little problem. Primo’s length will give him the ability to force jump shooters into tough looks with his ability to close out and make shooting over him tough.
His ability to stay in front of his man and not play too much with his hands makes it easy for him to force opposing guards into taking tough jumpers where he is in their face or force them into kicking out. The ability to guard multiple positions makes him switchable and he won’t be a liability with his ability to guard a variety of different archetypes.
Him reaching his full potential on that end will be dependent on his ability to continue to add weight to his frame while continuing to become smarter on that end of the floor. While his offensive upside is a lot of fun to project, I think his upside as a positive defender in the NBA is even easier to do and arguably more fun.
It’s never easy projecting where an 18-year-old will fit in the NBA. He is still years away from his peak, and may not be done growing yet. He will continue to learn his identity and his frame isn’t close to being finished yet. That being said, it’s a part of the evaluation process and figuring out where players should land on big boards and ultimately on draft night. If Primo is to declare as a 2021 draft prospect, his early NBA career could be team dependent as the right fit as he will need to continue to develop on both ends, especially on the offensive end.
A perfect fit for him would be with my Dallas Mavericks playing beside Luka Doncic and having the ability to play off ball and learn from one of the best in the game. Unfortunately, if he is going to declare and be in the 2021 NBA draft, he will more than likely be a first rounder to not return to school and the Mavs do not have a first rounder. Some other good fits for early in his career and to continue to develop would be the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies.
There are plenty of other fits, but these are a few of my favorites from a development and quick fit standpoint. Primo will flourish early in his career as a 3&D mold guarding opposing guards and being primarily a catch-and-shoot specialist. Playing with guards like Chris Paul and Ja Morant who are phenomenal passers would be huge for him early. Playing with great passers like Nikola Jokic in the Denver system or with drivers who demand attention like Giannis in Milwaukee would be great as well.
Returning home to Canada to play in Toronto and with the development the Raptors always have would obviously be a great plus fit as well. Long-term I think Primo has a chance to be an important player on a playoff team whether it be as a starting wing or as one of the first guys off the bench. The key factor here is does Primo continue his hot streak in SEC play and make his way into the 2021 draft or does he come back to school and work his way towards a lottery selection in the 2022 draft?
Primo seems like the type of player who could be a candidate to get hot and lead his team to a run in March Madness and have scouts fall in love with him. This is an important stretch for his 2021 draft outlook, but even if he waits for the 2022 draft Primo will be a name all who follow the draft will be familiar with.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to give Matt a follow on twitter: @Landry1117
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