The NCAA Tournament starts this week, so it’s worth diving deep into where the 2021 NBA Draft stands heading into the event. Plenty of players have really helped their standing over the last month, and plenty more have a chance to cement themselves with a huge run toward the Final Four.
This draft class is still extremely strong at the top, with five Tier One prospects tracking ahead of where Anthony Edwards was at this stage last season. Below them is a lot of uncertainty throughout the middle of the first round, but scouts think there’s a chance for some depth later in the first. Particularly, this class is seen to be filled with shooters who could really help space the floor as role players.
The order here is based on standings as of the All-Star break. I reached out to smart coaches who have played each lottery prospect to get a quick note on each guy from a scouting perspective. What stands out about him that might not be talked about enough? For the G League guys, I hit up a scout I know who is very smart.
This mock draft does not account for team needs. It also does not include a subset of players who I’m waiting to learn more about their intentions for this draft: Trey Murphy, Justin Champagnie, Julian Champagnie, Hunter Dickinson, Raiquan Gray, Trayce Jackson-Davis, D.J. Steward, Mark Williams, your favorite player. The odds are that if you don’t see him and he’s a pop-up underclassman, I’m waiting to see what his plan is.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Cade Cunningham | 6-foot-7, lead ballhandler | 19 years old, freshman | Oklahoma State
Cunningham is still clearly the top prospect for me, and he’s the favorite to go No. 1. He won the Big 12 Player of the Year award last week after averaging 19.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. And that assists number is low too. Cunningham is a real lead ballhandler with terrific vision. Evaluators who go back to watch his high school tape at Montverde Academy will see a point guard with real passing ability who should step right into the NBA and average over five assists per game with no questions asked. NBA evaluators have started to note to me that they’re a touch concerned about Cunningham’s propensity to turn the ball over, but I’m not as worried. Why? I think that as the half-court area expands in the NBA, it’s going to be even more difficult to collapse and crowd Cunningham in the way he has been in college. And beyond that? His defense is outstanding.
What they said: “Everyone gives Cade credit for his offensive ability and the way he takes over late (in games), but his defense sets him apart for me,” one Big 12 coach said. “There are some great defenders in our league, so I don’t know that he should have made the All-Defense team. But he wouldn’t have looked out of place on it either. He knows when to help and gamble. And he’s really tough to get by.”
Cunningham is one of the more complete prospects to enter the draft in the last decade.
2. Detroit Pistons
Evan Mobley | 7-0 center | 19 years old, freshman | USC
Mobley slides up to No. 2 as he swept the Pac-12’s Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards. He is the first Pac-12 player to do that, and actually just the second high-major player in history to do that. The first one? A player he often gets compared to: Anthony Davis. I don’t quite think that Mobley is that level prospect (Davis has a case as the best prospect of the last decade), but he’s absolutely a Tier One guy who profiles as a future All-Star.
Offensively, he can put the ball on the deck and attack. He has the potential to shoot it. He’s a pretty good passer. Defensively, his lateral quickness is terrific on the perimeter, and his hip flexibility is outrageous. He can drop his hips and slide to cut off multiple different ways in the same possession. Obviously, he’s also a terrific rim protector.
The place where teams have felt they can take advantage of him is on the defensive glass, and I do think that’s a concern going forward. He has high hips and thus a high center of gravity, which causes him to be pushed around a bit. Still, the positives just so drastically outweigh the weaknesses. And the growth curve this year has been real.
What they said: “What has stood out is how much better he keeps getting on defense,” a Pac-12 assistant said. “I know that might not sound groundbreaking. Freshmen get better and learn. But when I watched tape on him early, I thought we could pull him out of position and get him chasing. But as the season’s gone on, it’s really hard to do that. And with him, it’s different because of the tools he has with his length and quickness. He covers so much ground. So as he’s learned, it’s become really hard to score on them.”
3. Houston Rockets
Jalen Suggs | 6-5 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Gonzaga
Suggs has so many of the aspects you’re looking for in a lead guard in today’s NBA. He has the burst to get by his man but also the control to change pace and tempos whenever he needs to. He has the creativity and passing vision of a lead guard, both in transition and out of Gonzaga’s ball-screen continuity. He can score from all three levels. He has the toughness and physicality to embrace contact inside, and the pull-up game to take shots from away from the rim. And when he’s locked in on defense, he’s impossible to get by. His combination of strength and quickness laterally — plus determination in those moments — allows him to fight through ball screens and stay in front in isolation. Basically, this is the total package, as long as the jumper stays steady. He can get a bit streaky from distance, but I think I’d bet on him coming through at the end of the day.
What they said: “He’s awesome,” a West Coast Conference assistant said. “He’s the guy who raises their ceiling to being the title favorite. I don’t think they’ve had anyone in recent times who can raise the ceiling like him, including (Brandon) Clarke, (Rui) Hachimura and (Zach) Collins. Jalen Suggs on the floor in crunch time, you’re damn near guaranteed to get a good shot. But if you take Jalen Suggs off the roster, I still think they make the Final Four because of (Corey) Kispert and (Drew) Timme. His stroke is a little bit inconsistent, and I think that’s backed up by the fact that he hasn’t been an elite free throw shooter in his career. But you see him, you go under a ball screen on him on back-to-back plays like against BYU, he’ll go behind it and hit a 3. His passing and vision is ridiculous. Can make unbelievable reads. But I’d like to see him in a situation like Cade Cunningham, where he has to carry the load.”
4. Orlando Magic
Jalen Green | 6-5 guard | 18 years old | G League Ignite
Green had a terrific G League run with the Ignite before it came to an end last week. Despite a couple of tough games to start, Green really came into his own over the course of the event and became one of the premier scorers in the Gubble. He dropped 30 points in the team’s playoff loss and absorbed contact really well. There are going to be zero issues with Green as a scorer in the NBA. He can average 25 points per night. The questions I’ve gotten about him are simply, what else does he bring to the table? Can he become a better passer and playmaker? Can he defend better? Still, when you have that kind of scoring upside, scouts are going to salivate because the upside is through the roof if the rest of his game comes along. This is another top-tier-level talent.
What they said: “I didn’t love the tape I saw of Green prior to this, but he’s converted me,” an NBA scout said. “He can put the ball in the basket at a ridiculous level for a teenager. He’s so explosive and has real quick-twitch. Great out in transition but by the end of the bubble had really started to drive in the half court with real purpose. Early, it was more aimless. But it seemed like he learned and really adjusted throughout. He’s going to have to be a 38 percent shooter at volume for it to work as well as it can. I don’t know that he’s there quite yet once you put him against NBA talent on defense, but I think he’ll get there. I have him as a top-three guy.”
5. Sacramento Kings
Jonathan Kuminga | 6-6 forward | 18 years old | G League Ignite
Kuminga is the fifth of this top tier of prospects. Why? His jumper is probably the biggest swing skill for any prospect in this class. I like the mechanics, and he’s known as a worker. But the results just aren’t there, and that worries me. If the process is already OK and the ball isn’t falling through the rim, could that portend him having rough touch? I think there is a case the answer is unfortunately yes. Having said that, if Kuminga does shoot, he’s going to be an absolute star, and that is worth betting on in this draft. He’s a terrific wing athlete at 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot wingspan. He plays really hard and has great body control. Defensively, he does well in help situations and makes an impact with this length. But he isn’t great on the ball yet. There is star potential here; he just needs to figure out the shot.
What they said: “I liked a lot of what I saw,” an NBA scout said. “He was ready physically from Day 1. There won’t be an adjustment period for him in the NBA in that respect, even as a teenager. At some point, though, he’s going to have to shoot it. The name Jaylen Brown has been brought up a few times in our office as someone who really had to improve as a shooter when entering the league. I don’t know that Kuminga is quite the level of worker that Jaylen has proven to be. Teams at the top of the draft will have to dive deeper into the intel to find that out. But I think he’s that level prospect.”
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Scottie Barnes | 6-8 forward | 19 years old, freshman | Florida State
There is no consensus for teams on who the sixth-best prospect is in this class. It feels like I hear a different name from every evaluator I talk to. Here, I’ve gone with Barnes. At the end of the day, I think teams are going to be able to sell themselves on a 6-8 forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan who clearly has an NBA-ready frame and very high-level basketball IQ as a passer and defender. Like with a few of the prospects below him, though, the swing skill is the jumper. Can Barnes hit enough shots to stay on the court at the wing? Or will he need to play more of a small-ball five who uses his passing skills in short rolls? Having said that, he’s big enough to do both without issue. His positional flexibility should be a big selling point.
What they said: “Leonard (Hamilton) doesn’t really let his guys explore their games on offense,” an ACC coach said. “So it’s hard to judge how good Barnes is at this point. We weren’t threatened by him as a scorer unless he was out on the break. We loaded up to slow him down in transition, but in the half court, we weren’t worried about him. One thing about him, though, is that doesn’t bother him. He’ll take four, five, six shots in a game, and that’s fine. If he’s not scoring and doesn’t see an advantage, he’ll make an impact as a passer. And he’s always pretty good on defense. He fits right in with what they do on that end. Their toughest lineups are when they have Barnes and (Raiquan) Gray as the two bigs out there because those guys are as strong and long as your center, but they’re also athletic enough to guard your guys out on the perimeter.”
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Scottie Barnes elevates for a dunk against North Carolina. (Nell Redmond / USA Today)
7. Washington Wizards
Keon Johnson | 6-5 wing | 18 years old, freshman | Tennessee
I was a huge fan of Johnson entering the season, and he struggled a bit early and seemed like he wasn’t quite ready. The athletic explosiveness he showcased in high school didn’t seem to be back yet. But throughout the back half of the season, Johnson has emerged as a critical player for the Vols. Over his last eight games, he’s averaging 14 points, three rebounds and three assists while playing tremendous defense on the ball. He didn’t quite play enough early in the year to make the All-Defense team in the SEC, but he wouldn’t have looked out of place. The swing skill for here Johnson will be the jump shot. If he shoots it, he’s going to be a starting-caliber wing in the NBA with ease. He can handle it, he has vision and he defends. The only thing missing is the jumper. Having said that, the jumper is a pretty big hole given that skill’s importance in the modern NBA.
What they said: “I’m not sure why Rick (Barnes) didn’t let his freshmen loose early in the season, but they’re tough,” an SEC assistant said. “They’re really athletic, which is something they have needed all year, and they (Johnson and Jaden Springer) both defend hard. They’re normal freshmen in that they make mistakes out there, which probably pisses their staff off. You can count on them turning it over a few times each game where there isn’t an excuse for it. But they’re not normal in that they both work their balls off on defense. I don’t think you need to push these guys on that end. I still don’t trust Keon as a shooter, and you can sag way off him at the 3-point line. But they’re better with him because he’s an action driver.”
8. New Orleans Pelicans
Moses Moody | 6-6 wing | 18 years old, freshman | Arkansas
Moody has solidified himself as a lottery pick during Arkansas’ run over the last month. Early in the season, scouts had questions about whether Moody was just beating up on bad teams given that his first few games against good SEC teams didn’t go well. But he was terrific in February and early March. The team went on an eight-game winning streak starting in February, with Moody averaging 19.4 points and shooting 44 percent from 3. The idea here is pretty easy. He’s a real potential 3-and-D wing who knocks down shots from distance, can hit shots off movement and can slide around and defend multiple positions due to his strength and length.
What they said: “He does everything within himself,” an SEC assistant said. “He doesn’t chase shots. He takes a lot of them, but he doesn’t go outside of what they’re trying to do on offense. Then you look up, and he has 23 points and you wonder what happened. That’s why I think he’s a great NBA prospect. Moses Moody doesn’t have to change his game at all to play in the NBA. He only has to spot-up in the corners, knock down shots, move well without the ball and defend. He does all of those things well already.”
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
James Bouknight | 6-5 wing | 20 years old, sophomore | Connecticut
Bouknight’s return to play has pushed Connecticut into a really strong position entering the NCAA Tournament. Following an elbow injury that forced him to miss a large portion of Big East play, Bouknight has returned and been up to his normal tricks. He’s averaging 20 points and six rebounds in those contests and generally has been the kind of athletic guard who has NBA scouts believing he can be a starting off-guard at some point in his career. He’s really bouncy and has a great first step. His balance and body control are really underrated too. He can hit opponents with a wicked crossover and get by, even when his first step doesn’t get the job done. I also think he’s pretty underrated on defense. When he’s locked in, he’s really tough.
What they said: “A totally different team with him in the lineup,” a Big East assistant said. “He gives them that scoring punch they didn’t have when he was out. It’s really hard to stay in front of him. He preps for his drives with his feet. He’s always ready to catch and go. What I think he probably doesn’t get enough credit for is how good he is at shifting gears. He’s good in a straight line, but he’s not just a straight-line driver. His hesi move is tough. He loves it out on the semi-break when he has a bit of space. He’ll have that space all day at the NBA level, so I think his game will really fit there.”
10. Atlanta Hawks
Kai Jones | 6-11 big | 19 years old, sophomore | Texas
The idea of Jones is tantalizing. The 6-11 center from the Bahamas has probably made more plays this season that have just flat out made my jaw drop than anyone else outside of the top five. He can attack off the bounce and has the body control to contort his frame in ways that wings do. The term “functional athleticism” is one I use to describe guys all the time. Some players are really bouncy, but they don’t get the most out of that bounce because they don’t have the quick twitch. Some guys are really quick but don’t have the power to play through contact. Jones has some of the most functional athleticism you’ll find in a center with his hand-eye coordination, balance and explosiveness. He’s just an exceptionally difficult matchup for opposing centers. Now, his defense could really use some work, and he’s still at a nascent stage of his development to where his feel is still developing. But if a team is willing to be patient with Jones, there’s a big-time player here who can be a starting center in the NBA.
What they said: “I think he could use another year (in college),” a Big 12 coach said. “They’re way better on defense with Jericho Sims than with him. You can get him out of position and bait him into fouls. But I totally get why the NBA likes him. With the way that league is going, everyone wants the next center who can stretch the floor and play with the ball in their hands. He can do that, and I think he’s only scratching the surface of his game.”
11. Indiana Pacers
Corey Kispert | 6-7 wing | 22 years old, senior | Gonzaga
The translation for Kispert is just super simple. He’s the best shooter in college basketball and has been compared to Joe Harris since the moment he declared for the draft last year. He would have been picked somewhere in the top 40 had he decided to go pro, but he decided to return and try to get Gonzaga to its first title. The Zags have been the wire-to-wire No. 1 team, and Kispert has clearly taken a leap. He’s hitting 44.4 percent from 3 and nearly 90 percent from the foul line while averaging about 20 points per night. He makes the right decision on every play, be it to attack closeouts, make a smart kick out or drive to finish. Defensively, he’s smart, strong and physical, but teams do worry a touch about his lateral quickness holding. Overall, though, he’s just the kind of guy whom teams are going to sell themselves on wanting in their locker room as a high-level role player who provides floor spacing at an elite level.
What they said: “Love him. He has unshakable confidence and rhythm,” a WCC assistant said. “He’s the total package from everything and everyone I’ve seen, heard, read, talked to. He’s the poster boy. Attentive, smart, detail-oriented, crazy worker. The people at Gonzaga rave about him and his approach. Corey Kispert is by far their most valuable and most important player, even ahead of Suggs.”
12. Chicago Bulls
Jaden Springer | 6-4 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Tennessee
Much like with his teammate above him, Springer elicits a wide swath of opinions. On one hand, he’s one of the youngest players in the class and has been very productive on a per-minute basis. He’s 6-4 with a powerfully built frame. He has a technically sound game off the bounce that he uses to get by opponents initially at the point of attack. He’s hit shots this season, although he’s much more comfortable driving. Defensively, he’s tough at the point of attack, and offensive players have a hard time getting by him. Having said that, he also has some real inefficiencies in his game. He loads up off two feet for every finish and tries to play bully ball at the rim. He needs to keep improving as a passer and playmaker with his decisions, but there is plenty of reason to buy into him as a lottery pick with how he’s closing the year. He’s averaging 17.3 points per game in his last eight games while shooting an efficient percentage across the board and taking nearly twice as many 3s.
What they said: “Obviously he’s been huge for them late in the season,” an SEC coach said. “I wasn’t a fan entering college relative to what other people were given where he was ranked as a recruit. I thought he played a selfish game at IMG (Academy in high school). He had a lot of good teammates, and a lot of what he did was iso attack. At Tennessee, he’s been so much better. He plays relatively within their scheme and plays really well off the catch. You have to be balanced in your closeouts because his first step is so good. Really good at drawing fouls too. If you’re out of position, he’s going right into your body and convince the ref to put him on the line. I’m a lot more impressed with him than I thought I’d be.”
13. Memphis Grizzlies
Franz Wagner | 6-10 forward | 19 years old, sophomore | Michigan
Wagner has skyrocketed up draft boards in 2021. Why? His fit in the modern NBA is about as pristine as it gets. He’s a good shooter from distance with clean mechanics and strong percentages, having hit 39 percent from 3 this year. He’s also a smart cutter who really knows how to get free from his opponent and an overall good mover without the ball. And on defense, he’s absolutely terrific. His exclusion from the Big Ten’s All-Defense team was baffling, as he has absolutely tremendous off-ball instincts that allow him to make an impact rotationally all over the court. He uses his length and anticipation of what’s going to happen exceptionally well. And it’s not a situation where the stats don’t tell the story, either, as he averages over a steal and a block per game. The idea here is something similar to what Robert Covington provides.
What they said: “They play man and then they’ll sneak in some 2-3 zone, and Wagner is great in both,” one Big Ten assistant said. “They play him in the corner of that zone, and you always have to account for him on the back side. It’s really tough to beat him cross-corner because he’s so solid with his technique closing out to shooters. And his length makes it tough to beat him off the dribble because he can move his feet. Then in their man-to-man, it’s the same deal. They use him on both scoring guards and on wings. And he doesn’t really get beat against those guys either. Part of why they’re so good on defense is that they give you different looks in terms of matchups and scheme.”
14. Golden State Warriors
Ziaire Williams | 6-7 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Stanford
A bit of a tumble down the board for Williams, who is arguably the most polarizing prospect for evaluators in the class — especially now that his season is over without a Pac-12 Tournament appearance. The big question is how do you deal with his performances versus the context surrounding him. He was inefficient on his way to averaging 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Stanford had to live out of hotels for the first 50 or so days of its season without access to a regular practice court or workout facility. Like many freshmen, Williams didn’t get a real preseason. On top of it, he had two deaths in his family midseason that caused him to take time away from the team.
Some evaluators are believers and think that once they get Williams into a real developmental system that he didn’t have this year because of all of the context of his situation, he will blossom again into the top-seven prospect everyone thought he was entering the season. He still has real athletic pop and real burst. His feel for the game is pretty good, plus he has real shot-making acumen. But there are others who just don’t buy the frame as being strong enough and think his skill set is so far away that the team that drafts him won’t be the team that gets the most out of Williams. His range is very wide, depending on how the pre-draft process goes.
What they said: “He was a different player after he got back from his absence,” a Pac-12 assistant said. “The tape on him early in the season is better. When he came back, it felt like they were juggling so many different parts, between the (Oscar) Da Silva injury, the (Bryce) Wills injury, Daejon Davis being out. I feel for their staff because it felt like they never got a clean run. And then they won some games when Wills and Ziaire were out, so they had to decide on if they wanted to go with what was working or bring their guys back into the fold. It’s hard to know what to make of Ziaire. He’s kind of a mystery still.”
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Ziaire Williams (Neville E. Guard / USA Today)
15. Toronto Raptors
Usman Garuba | 6-8 big | 18 years old | Real Madrid
NBA teams remain interested in Garuba largely due to his defensive tools. At 6-8, he has tremendous movement skills. He can really slide his feet and drop his hips to stay in front of opponents. He profiles well as a switchable center defender who can also provide real rim protection due to his strength and ability to mirror and time an opposing player’s load up into an attempt at the rim. Having said that, I have some real offensive concerns about what his role in the NBA looks like. He doesn’t have the best hands catching the basketball. He tries to overextend himself a bit too much. He tries to shoot and has some potential there, but he’s not a good shooter yet. And out of pick-and-roll, he doesn’t have a ton of crazy bounce to get downhill as a roll threat. If he can add even one of those things, he’ll be an NBA player for sure and potentially one who can make a difference in a playoff series. But he has a long way to go to be a threat on offense.
16. Charlotte Hornets
Josh Giddey | 6-8 wing | 18 years old | Adelaide
Giddey continues to rise up the board on the back of spectacular performances in the National Basketball League. His most recent one came against Brisbane, where he dropped 19 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. He’s a legit 6-8 point guard in that league and has tremendous vision and ability to get into the lane using a ball screen. Few players in this class are better in ball-screen actions because of his body control and feel for the game, along with his ability to see over the top of the defense. I don’t quite think he’s a true point guard at the NBA level because he doesn’t quite have the same level of burst or creativity as a ballhandler that someone like LaMelo Ball did coming out of that league last year, but he profiles really nicely as a secondary creator as long as the shooting continues to make strides. That’s the main question for scouts now that Giddey’s frame has clearly improved.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder (via MIA)
Isaiah Jackson | 6-10 center | 18 years old, freshman | Kentucky
Jackson has really helped himself late in the year. It took him some time to get his feet wet, as he missed a lot of rotations on defense early and struggled to make an impact in a Kentucky offense that struggled with spacing. But by the time February rolled around, Jackson was terrific. In his final six games, he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds with 2.2 blocks in 22 minutes per night. He’s an impact guy out there because of his quickness and length. He can switch out on the perimeter defensively, he’s a terrific shot blocker and he’s a great downhill threat as a rolling lob catcher. This is just a really easy role to fit into with the modern NBA. Jackson might take a year to get his feet under him, but with how hard he plays, he looks like a potential starting center if things break right.
18. New York Knicks
Ayo Dosunmu | 6-5 guard | 21 years old, junior | Illinois
Dosunmu made a hell of a late run for the national player of the year award and will absolutely be a first-team All-American when those teams get announced. He’s considered going pro each of the last two years as a productive former five-star recruit but instead stayed in school and decided to really work on what NBA evaluators have felt he needed to improve. He’s shooting 40 percent from 3 this season, and while most teams don’t think he’ll be that level of shooter in the NBA, if he can just knock down the open ones when teams close out short on him, he’s going to be a useful player. He’s a terrific athlete out in transition, has a great sense for the moment in closing games, is a solid passer, rebounds well for his position and defends at a high level. He profiles really well as a third guard at the NBA level and is regarded by sources in college and the NBA as a high-level worker and high-character player.
19. Boston Celtics
Day’Ron Sharpe | 6-11 center | 19 years old, freshman | North Carolina
I wasn’t a huge Sharpe fan, but he’s grown on me throughout his freshman season. Why? Because I think he’s used differently in college than he will be in the NBA. North Carolina almost never uses him in pick-and-rolls, where he has the potential to be terrific because of his great hands, and his feel for the game. Additionally, he profiles exceedingly well in short-roll settings because he’s arguably the best passing big in this class. He makes outrageous, patient reads on a regular basis for North Carolina, and his assist numbers should be through the roof. Sharpe moves really well for his size and has the strength to take up space around the basket. He’ll be attractive to teams in the back half of the first round, with his range running from 15 to 35.
20. New York Knicks (via DAL)
Jalen Johnson | 6-8 forward | 18 years old, freshman | Duke
Johnson is extremely polarizing, depending on who you speak with. Some evaluators really like his mix of size and passing acumen. He has a real feel for the game at 6-8 and makes passes few players his size even think to attempt. He has a great frame and real athletic dexterity and balance. But NBA teams have some worries. He was terrible on defense for Duke this year despite some tools that say he could end up OK long term. As a scorer, Johnson just doesn’t shoot well enough and doesn’t have a ton of burst. The idea is something like a Ben Simmons-type bigger initiator, but he’s just not athletic enough to create his own downhill force as Simmons does. And of course, NBA teams will be doing a lot of due diligence on the situation surrounding Johnson’s departure from Duke, his departure from IMG in high school and his overall habits as a player.
21. San Antonio Spurs
Alperen Sengun | 6-9 big | 19 years old, international | Beskitas
Sengun is just ridiculous from a production standpoint. He’s averaging 19.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in the Turkish League while shooting 63 percent from the field. He leads the league in blocks and is second in scoring and rebounding. And he’s still a teenager, playing in a league with former collegiate stars such as Sam Dekker, James Blackmon Jr., Kyle Wiltjer, Erick Green and Daryl Macon. He’s been a huge part of Turkey’s EuroBasket qualifying team too, and last month he went off against Sweden and former NBA big Jonas Jerebko for 24 points and 12 rebounds. His feel for how to carve out space and get a bucket is ridiculous. He just understands where he needs to be. The problem here is that he does not have a game that looks particularly applicable to the NBA. He is smart and can short roll or rim-run but doesn’t really shoot it, isn’t particularly explosive athletically and isn’t a wildly great defender. Teams really want to go overseas to get a good look at him before the draft to get a better feel for how a teenager this productive would translate.
22. Denver Nuggets
Greg Brown | 6-8 forward | 19 years old, freshman | Texas
Brown has had an up-and-down freshman season. He produces highlight-reel plays as often as any other college player in America because his leaping ability is on par with most guys even in the NBA. If you jump with him around the rim, there is a good chance you’re ending up on a poster. He’s also pretty tough on the glass and moves well. There are some positive signs too. Brown started terribly from 3 over the team’s first five games, but since then, in his last 18 games, he’s hit 37.5 percent from 3. An athlete who can potentially defend and hit 3s at a reasonable clip at the forward position is a great combination. But it’s clear he needs to iron out a lot, including as a ballhandler and decision-maker. His 1-to-7 assist-to-turnover ratio would be one of the worst marks for any non-center in the draft in recent history. He has fans who love his athleticism and think they can fix the skill level, and other evaluators who think he’d be better off going back to school.
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Greg Brown is double-teamed by two Texas Tech defenders. (Ricardo B. Brazziell / American-Statesman via USA Today)
23. Houston Rockets (via POR)
Sharife Cooper | 6-2 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Auburn
Cooper is all over the map for NBA teams, which isn’t a surprise given the relatively limited sample we saw from him this year. On some levels, it was spectacular. He’s an absolutely terrific play creator. His handle is tighter than any other player’s in this draft class. He’s an exceptional live dribble passer who can find open passes to his teammates from any angle with either hand. The strengths of his game are genuinely not just NBA skills, but high-level NBA skills. His weaknesses, though? They have the potential to crater his career. He’s one of the worst defensive players in college basketball, in part due to effort and in part due to physical limitations. He’s also a pretty poor shooter from distance and can’t finish around the rim, which means teams just might play off him as a scoring threat and close down some of those passing angles. Cooper’s shooting is one of the bigger swing skills in the draft. If he can work his way into a high-level shooter, he’s a starting point guard. If he can’t, he’s a backup in the Ish Smith mold.
24. Milwaukee Bucks
Tre Mann | 6-6 guard | 19 years old, sophomore | Florida
Mann has had an interesting year. Early on, he battled through real bouts of inconsistency, struggling with some turnovers and shot selection issues. But over his last nine games, the team has shifted him more into a scorer’s role instead of being responsible for some lead guard duties. The results have been strong. He’s averaging 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists over that time while shooting at a 48.6/38.1/88.2 clip. His talent is real. He’s a shot creator through and through, and he mentioned earlier this year that he got measured at 6-6. He plays with great pace and tempo, with the ability to burst into the lane with speed as well as the ability to change speeds to get defenders on balance. His pull-up game is also constantly improving. He profiles now as a solid third guard, but there is upside beyond that.
25. LA Clippers
Davion Mitchell | 6-3 guard | 22 years old, junior | Baylor
Mitchell’s fit in the NBA is a pretty easy one for a role player as long as one specific skill translates. He’s one of the absolutely elite on-ball defenders in the country. He looks like the odds-on favorite to win the national defensive player of the year award. And although I’d probably give that award to his teammate Mark Vital, Mitchell certainly has a case for how he keys that defense at the point of attack.
Offensively, the big improvement here is the shooting. He’s up to 47 percent from 3 this year, with most of his shots coming off the catch after being around a 30 percent 3-point shooter in his first two years. Is that sustainable? Given Mitchell’s reputed work ethic, I think he’ll likely knock down shots at a pretty reasonable clip in the league. He can also initiate some offense, but I think I’d prefer to have him out there with another initiator. But a great defender who can shoot and has some ball skills with passing ability? That’s what every team wants in a role player.
26. Los Angeles Lakers
Chris Duarte | 6-5 guard | 23 years old, senior | Oregon
Duarte is just tailor-made for the NBA. He’s a terrific 43 percent 3-point shooter who can hit them from a variety of different situations: off the catch, off movement, off the dribble, off a jab step. Whatever kind of shot you need, he can get it. He’s also a smart passer for someone who excels at playing off the ball. More than that, though, Duarte was also an All-Defense team member in the Pac-12 and really takes pride in that end of the floor, both on and off the ball rotationally. My prediction is that he carries Oregon to a deep tourney run this month. The hang-up for some evaluators is that he’s 23, and there is some question as to whether he’s dominating kids at his age. But I’ll bet he carves out a nice NBA career.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Cam Thomas | 6-3 guard | 18 years old, freshman | LSU
For LSU as a freshman, Thomas has done what he’s done at every stop in his career thus far: score. He’s averaging 23.1 points per game. The percentages aren’t great, but he has a great feel for how to get some separation, and he takes some tough shots that drag down those marks. He’s hitting 87 percent from the foul line, which showcases his natural touch. Everyone I’ve spoken with buys him as a scorer at the next level as long as the jumper holds up off real movement (it has a bit of a left-shot align, but he has enough touch to where I’m not concerned). The big question is simply: What else does he do? He’s a poor passer and hasn’t defended a soul this year. You can’t even make the case that he’s good at getting into passing lanes and gambling for steals: he doesn’t really even do that to create transition chances. Teams will also be looking to do more research on how much his teammates have enjoyed playing with him, as his brand of basketball can be very domineering over an offense.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
Aaron Henry | 6-5 wing | 21 years old, junior | Michigan State
Few players have helped themselves more over the last month than Henry. He’s long been one of the best wing defenders in college hoops, but he’s starting to add the offensive aggressiveness to match. He’s carried Michigan State to the NCAA Tournament as the best player in huge wins over Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan. He’s tough and plays with a real edge as a driver. He’s not a great shooter, but he’s much better directly off the catch than he is off the bounce. He’s asked to create more plays now than he will be in the pros, which leads to some inefficiency. But if you think the shooting can improve, he’s a great defender with NBA size on the wing, a good passer and a tough dude who knows what it takes to win from his years under Tom Izzo. I’m a believer in Henry, and teams are starting to come around on him.
29. Phoenix Suns
Josh Christopher | 6-4 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Arizona State
Christopher is one of the toughest players to assess in this class. On paper, he has been a pretty big disappointment this season, and evaluators wonder how this style of basketball is going to work at the next level. He’s allergic to passing the ball, has never really been much of a high-volume 3-point shooter and hasn’t ever really made shots at a super high clip. He’s also not exactly an elite athlete. And yet, when you watch the tape, you do see how he’s going to make it work. He gets separation from players and will be a real weapon with just slight improvement as a shooter. Defensively, he has some real tools in the backcourt. He’s one of the many polarizing prospects evaluators are interested in diving deeper into this offseason. His range is wide entering the pre-draft process, and it would behoove him to take it very seriously.
30. Utah Jazz
Rokas Jokubaitis | 6-4 lead guard | 20 years old | Zalgiris
Jokubaitis is likely on his way to winning the EuroLeague Rising Star award this year while playing a key role off the bench for Zalgiris, a mid-table team in the league. The big thing a team would be getting with the 6-4 guard is just poise and maturity. Jokubaitis plays at such a steady tempo and pace. He never gets sped up and rarely gets forced into bad choices for a 20-year-old. His ability to read the play is tremendous. He’s terrific in ball-screen actions and also has the ability to move without the ball and play away from it. He’s just a really smart player. I’m not super worried about his percentages being a bit low from 3, as I think he can shoot it. This is just one of those guys whom a smart team is going to draft, maybe leave overseas for one more year and be happy with down the road as a solid rotation player in the NBA in his mid-20s.
31. Oklahoma City (via MIN): Jared Butler | 6-3 guard | 20 years old, junior | Baylor
32. New York Knicks (via DET): David Johnson | 6-5 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | Louisville
33. Houston Rockets: Matthew Hurt | 6-9 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | Duke
34. Orlando Magic: Brandon Boston Jr. | 6-7 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Kentucky
35. New Orleans Pelicans (via CLE): Bones Hyland | 6-3 guard | 20 years old | VCU
36. Sacramento Kings: Roko Prkacin | 6-9 forward/center | 18 years old | Cibona
37. New Orleans (via WAS): Jeremiah Robinson-Earl | 6-10 forward | 20 years old, sophomore | Villanova
38. Oklahoma City Thunder: Marcus Bagley | 6-8 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Arizona State
39. Chicago Bulls (via NOP): Terrence Clarke | 6-7 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Kentucky
40. Brooklyn Nets (via ATL): Miles McBride | 6-2 guard | 20 years old, sophomore | West Virginia
41. Brooklyn Nets (via IND): Santi Aldama | 6-10 big | 20 years old, sophomore | Loyola (MD)
42. New Orleans Pelicans (via CHI): David Duke | 6-5 guard | 21 years old, junior | Providence
43. Detroit Pistons (via TOR): Daishen Nix | 6-5 guard | 18 years old | G League Ignite
44. Detroit Pistons (via CHA): Terrence Shannon Jr. | 6-5 wing | 20 years old, sophomore | Texas Tech
45. Atlanta Hawks (via MIA): Isaiah Todd | 6-10 big | 19 years old | G League Ignite
46. Sacramento Kings (via MEM): Luka Garza | 6-11 center | 22 years old, junior | Iowa
47. Philadelphia 76ers (via NYK): Kessler Edwards | 6-8 wing | 22 years old, junior | Pepperdine
48. Utah Jazz (via GSW): Joe Wieskamp | 6-7 wing | 21 years old, junior | Iowa
49. Boston Celtics: Moses Wright | 6-9 big | 22 years old, senior | Georgia Tech
50. Dallas Mavericks: Charles Bassey | 6-10 center | 20 years old, junior | Western Kentucky
51. San Antonio Spurs: Isaiah Livers | 6-7 wing/forward | 22 years old, senior | Michigan
52. Oklahoma City Thunder (via DEN): Neemias Queta | 7-0 center | 21 years old, junior | Utah State
53. Memphis Grizzlies (via POR): Sandro Mamukelashvili | 6-11 big | 22 years old, senior | Seton Hall
54. Indiana Pacers (via MIL): Herbert Jones | 6-7 wing |22 years old, senior | Alabama
55. Charlotte Hornets (via LAC): Kofi Cockburn | 6-11 center | 20 years old | Illinois
56. Charlotte Hornets (via BKN): Filip Petrusev | 7-0 center | 21 years old | Mega
57. Sacramento Kings (via LAL): Derrick Alston Jr. | 6-9 wing | 22 years old, senior | Boise State
58. Philadelphia 76ers: John Petty | 6-5 wing | 22 years old, senior | Alabama
59. Brooklyn Nets (via PHX): Matt Mitchell | 6-6 wing | 22 years old, senior | San Diego State
60. Indiana Pacers (via UTA): Marcus Garrett | 6-5 guard | 22 years old, senior | Kansas
[ 此帖被黄衣哈斯塔在2021-03-17 10:37修改 ]