2021 NBA Draft: Spurs make surprise pick of lottery by taking Joshua Primo No. 12, draft’s youngest prospect

In what was arguably the surprise of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs selected Alabama guard Joshua Primo with the No. 12 overall pick. 

At just 18 years old, Primo was the youngest prospect in the draft, and he will be the youngest player in the NBA next season. He enters the league after just a single season at Alabama where he started 19 games for the Crimson Tide and averaged 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per performance. He also shot 43 percent from the floor and 38 percent from long range. 

Despite his obvious potential, most mock drafts had Primo going late in the first round, or early in the second round. The final mock draft from CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone had Primo going to the New York Knicks with the second pick in the second round. Here’s what Boone had to say: 

Knicks go youth here and grab Joshua Primo, the youngest prospect in the draft, who at 18 years old can really stroke it from deep and who made a strong impression at the draft combine with his ability to handle the ball and create off the bounce.  

As Boone referenced, Primo used a solid showing at the combine to propel himself up draft boards, and ultimately all the way into the lottery. 

“I think what people were able to see was that for me being so young, I was able to communicate with my teammates really well, be a leader out there on the floor, show a little bit of my playmaking skills and being able to defend,” Primo said of his combine performance ahead of the draft. “I think across the board, just going out there and showing I can compete at a high level. There’s a real competitive spirit within me and I was able to show that well.”  

Prior to the combine, Primo wasn’t sure if he was going to continue toward the draft or return to Alabama for a second season. Ultimately though, the chance to get experience at the highest level at his age was too good of an opportunity to pass up. In fact, the young guard thinks that he will be better in the future because of it. 

“The best part about it is knowing that I’m going to learn so much at this age that I’m at right now,” Primo said. “Being able to come into the league and learn those things first hand that I might not have learned going back an extra year. I know that at 21 or 22, I’m going to be a lot better off for this. I’ll have that much more knowledge.”  

Despite his age, Primo thinks he will fit in well in an NBA where traditional positions have become increasingly fluid. Plus, at 6’6″, his size should help him transition to professional play. “I think this game has become more or less positionless,” Primo said. “I’m able to play one through three and defend those positions as well. I think I’ll be able to fit well in this positionless league.”

So, what are Primo’s goals for his rookie season? 

“I want the team that I’m on to have achieved the goals that they set out,” Primo said. “Second, being one of the most influential rookies, a guy that affects the game from the start. Being that guy with the energy all year that was able to help his team be successful through what he’s able to do. I think I’m a very intellectual player, someone who can read defenses well, offenses well, and adapt very quickly. Being able to adapt to whatever situation I’m in. I’m able to mold myself into anything I need to be.” 

It remains to be seen how much Primo will be able to contribute to the Spurs, who missed the postseason in each of the last two years, in the short term. If they fully commit to a rebuild, his on-court opportunity will likely increase. If not, his playing time will probably be more spotty. His upside is obvious though, and with the Spurs, a team that has a history of excellent player development, he should have an opportunity to realize his potential. 

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