2021 Orlando Magic Draft Preview: Corey Kispert aims to keep getting better

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert enters the NBA Draft as perhaps its best shooter. But he aims to be a whole loot more. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert enters the NBA Draft as perhaps its best shooter. But he aims to be a whole loot more. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

It is easy to dismiss Corey Kispert for all the reasons anyone might think.

It is easy to peg him as just a shooter and miss other parts of his game. It is easy to say he came from a strong program like Gonzaga boosted by the players around him and the culture Mark Few had created in that tiny college.

Kispert has probably heard it all. And he continues to hear it all even as everyone hails him as the best shooter in the 2021 NBA Draft class.

The criticisms he actually listens to though are the ones that came from testing the waters as a junior when he first entered the NBA Draft.

The feedback he got was similar throughout the league and the workouts he did: Continue to improve his outside shot, get better shooting and working off the dribble and improve his defense. That is something easy to work on.

Getting to the point where a team with a top-10 pick is legitimately considering picking a player like Kispert is not something that comes easy. Especially to a rare four-year senior who waited his turn for the draft process.

That might be what is at the core of Kispert though. He just continually gets better.

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert might be the best shooter in the NBA Draft class. But he is aiming to be a whole lot more and to continue improving as he did in college.

Kispert worked out Tuesday for the Magic, owners of the fifth and eighth picks in the 2021 Draft, giving them a look at a player who very well might be the best shooter in the draft in a league that demands outside shooting and for a team that is in desperate need of modernizing its offense.

It is pretty hard to ignore Kispert now.

"“I take a lot of pride in that,” Kispert said after his workout Tuesday. “It’s kind of my trademark. It is what has gotten me to this point. It’s going to be what helps me build on my career. It’s what I work on every day. It’s like my little baby. It’s what I love doing.”"

Kispert’s numbers jump off the page in his senior year. He averaged 18.6 points per game while shooting a 64.4-percent effective field goal percentage and 44.0-percent from beyond the arc.

Perhaps more impressively, Kispert improved each season he played at Gonzaga starting at 6.7 points per game and 35.1-percent shooting from deep as a freshman. It is rare to see top picks stay in school for all four years but the ones who make it are guys like Kispert who show constant improvement.

It would be easy to peg Kispert as just a shooter. But that does not capture everything that he does.

Corey Kispert said he watched a lot of Klay Thompson and Joe Harris, even developing a relationship with Harris dating back to a camp he attended in Washington. Kispert said he believes his style of play matches the direction the NBA is heading with his ability to move off the ball and play with pace in the half-court with his shooting ability.

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  • Kispert is not just going to stand in the corner and wait for the ball to swing to him. Where he developed most offensively is his ability to come around screens and attack even closeouts with one- or two-dribble pull-ups. Kispert is not merely a stationary shooter, he can be an offensive weapon.

    If shooting is something that does not go away, Kispert is the kind of player who immediately makes an offense better with the threat of his shot.

    "“I’m way more than just a shooter,” Kispert said after his workout Tuesday. “That’s my moniker and what people label me as. But I can do a ton more than that. It’s my greatest weapon, sure. But I can do way more on the floor. I’m much more athletic — bigger stronger faster than people give me credit for. I think once I step in the gym with people or see me live, people will see that.”"

    Kispert has gotten a lot better since that freshman year in a number of areas. But there is still a lot more for him to do.

    The biggest area he has to work on offensively is attacking off the dribble. Kispert said he believes he has taken steps to improve in those areas. He feels he is a lot better and more comfortable attacking off the dribble and using his improved athleticism to find gaps in the defense.

    His athleticism is surprisingly strong too. At the NBA Draft Combine, Corey Kispert’s shuttle run time of 2.99 seconds was tied for second with Scottie Barnes. He certainly measured out a whole lot better than people might expect.

    Orlando Magic
    Orlando Magic /

    Orlando Magic

    No one should confuse Kispert for a primary offensive option though. He is not going to beat top defenders off the dribble or break anyone down in isolation. His role in the NBA is to run off screens and use space to get open jumpers or warp defenses with the threat of his drive.

    He is probably not a tough shot-maker like Terrence Ross is. But the team could easily use him the same way, running him through series of screens and forcing the defense to make decisions on how to cover him. That obviously opens things up for other players.

    The other question Kispert will face is on defense. While Kispert has certainly done work to improve his athleticism and make the most of his gifts as his times at the NBA Draft Combine suggest. But it is certainly a step up to get to the NBA.

    Playing at Gonzaga for four years with an elite program will help. That competition every day made him a better player and made Gonzaga one of the best teams in the nation. Even though the Bulldogs fell short of winning the national championship, their undefeated season to that point is not something anyone should ignore.

    Kispert is not the high-upside choice in this draft. There is something of a ceiling on his role. But it is also clear this is a guy who has worked hard to get to this point. This is a spot on the floor he has had to earn.

    That makes him a unique prospect for the Draft. That experience along with his skill should make him a valuable player in the NBA.

    "“I learned how to struggle, I learned how to work even when my game wasn’t feeling its best,” Kispert said after his workout Tuesday. “That’s going to happen in the NBA no matter who you are. Those struggles, those times of having my game not where I want it to be is something I’m going to lean back on throughout my entire career in the NBA no matter how long it lasts.”"

    Kispert said his improvement in college comes from a mentality of believing good enough is not good enough and a constant strive to improve. He wants to see his numbers continue to improve.

    That is certainly an ambitious goal. But no one should be docked for ambition. Kispert knows what he is good at and what got him to the NBA. It is clearly the most important skill teams are looking for.

    If Kispert’s shooting translates to the NBA, he will find a place in the league for a long time. That much is abundantly clear.

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    What else he can become will be dependent both on fit and whether he follows through on the improvements that started at Gonzaga.