March is creeping up in a hurry, and the 2021 draft has come into a bit more focus. It’s time for the second update of the Big Board, and, predictably, much has changed since December. This has been an unusual season thanks to the impact of COVID-19 on scheduling and routines, but NBA teams continue to evaluate these guys closely on film, with live scouting opportunities a bit more limited this season on whole.
At this stage of the process, it’s fair to say this: teams are legitimately excited about the top five prospects, and while the pecking order there isn’t settled, a soft consensus has formed: Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jonathan Kuminga, Jalen Suggs and Jalen Green seem likely to be the first five players drafted, in some order. Opinions vary on those prospects relative to one another (with Cunningham still the favorite to go No. 1), but the most confusing range of the draft right now may actually be 6 through about 20, where separating players from one another becomes a challenge. I’d guess the first round hierarchy shifts several times between now and the draft. The NCAA tournament typically gives college players a helpful platform, and may be even more magnified this year.
As usual, the Big Board accounts for my personal player evaluations from live viewings and on film, typically dating back several years, and the feedback and opinions I hear from scouts, executives, and others around basketball whose opinions I trust. This is not a mock draft, but it is intended to be somewhat representative of the player pool and individual prospects’ ranges.
1. Cade Cunningham, G/F, Oklahoma State | Freshman
Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 1
Whether or not Cunningham has lived up to the hype this season depends on your vantage point, but it speaks to the quality of his overall résumé that he remains the frontrunner for the No. 1 pick. He’s lifted his Oklahoma State team (otherwise bereft of NBA talent) onto the fringes of the top 25, and will likely get them to the NCAA tournament, a task that’s been easier said than done for the bevy of blue-chip college stars preceding him. He’s shattered expectations with his three-point shooting, now up to 44% on 83 attempts through 20 games and having created more than half of those for himself. Yet Cunningham is also shooting just 42% on twos, and is averaging more turnovers than assists. He needs to shore up his in-between game, improve his finishing, and offer more consistent effort on defense. Based on what he’s shown, some have come to view him as more of a playmaking wing than a full-time point guard in the NBA.
Of course, defenses are working primarily to stop Cunningham every night. To his credit, he’s not the type of player who seems to care much about his own numbers. His competitive makeup may ultimately be the strongest selling point, and he’s consistently shown a willingness to make plays and close out games. A steady diet of spread pick and roll with NBA shooters around him might maximize his gifts and minimize his weaknesses. Still, this is a draft with three legitimate No. 1 pick options. Cunningham remains a stellar, unique prospect, and from my vantage point, it would be difficult to be the team that passes on him. But with Evan Mobley and Jonathan Kuminga coming on strong, that debate is going to continue.
2. Evan Mobley, F/C, USC | Freshman
Height: 7' 0" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 2
Mobley has been dominating college competition on a nightly basis and building a pretty strong case as a No. 1 candidate, with USC emerging as the best team in a relatively weak Pac-12 as a result. There’s a real argument that he’ll be the most intriguing true big man to enter the draft since Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015, or if you’re feeling bold, Joel Embiid in 2014. His statistical case is bordering on unassailable. Mobley looks like the type of mobile shot-blocker and space-eraser you can build a defense around, with overwhelming length and exceptional instincts. It’s often glossed over how impressive it is that he rarely commits fouls. Although you occasionally hear concerns about his toughness and physicality, he’s performing with a level of consistency he sometimes lacked in high school, and showing a more frequent willingness to take over games.
The big variable here lies on offense, where Mobley has always been an excellent ball-handler and passer for his size. Over the past year, he has started to really blossom as a playmaker, seeing the entirety of the floor at a high level and understanding how to draw attention and pass the ball over and around defenders at difficult angles. He can be too deferential sometimes, but could be one of the better short-roll playmakers in the NBA if all goes well. While he may never be the most physical scorer and occasionally struggles with ball security, his long reach makes it difficult to alter his shot in the paint, and he’s a steady finisher. Obviously, NBA bigs will test his mettle far more than college competition, but he’s clearly trending in a positive direction. If Mobley gets to the point where you can really run offense through him, there’s huge potential. If not, he may be best deployed as a second or third option—but when you combine that with his probable defensive impact, you’ve got a special prospect.
3. Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 4
Kuminga’s strong run of play with G League Ignite has certainly helped his case as one of the draft’s top prospects, as he’s showcased his physical gifts, impressive motor and playmaking feel on a consistent platform for the first time. He’s strong, explosive, and impacts the game on both ends with his energy, ideally projecting as the type of big, versatile wing you can build a team around. His potential on the defensive side of the ball is sky-high and obvious. His overall game is still progressing, and Kuminga has a ways to go from a skill perspective—his jumper is shaky, and his handle needs to keep improving to make the most of his gifts as a scorer. Without the ball in his hands, he sometimes struggles to make an impact, and he’s been a little inconsistent after a hot start. If he doesn’t shoot it better, Kuminga likely won’t be a star. But there’s a ton for his future team to work with here, and his tools are among the best in this draft.
4. Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga | Freshman
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 5
Gonzaga’s dominant season catapulted Suggs near the top of most draft boards, and he remains a likely top-five pick with March Madness approaching. He boasts an appealing combination of elite athletic ability, physical toughness and two-way impact, with upside as he continues to add polish as a scorer. With his quickness, strength and instincts, he could end up as one of the better on-ball defenders in the league if he continues on this trajectory. Suggs profiles as more of a combo guard than a true point, and Gonzaga’s team context has covered for his limitations as a halfcourt scorer, but the NBA’s trend toward multiple-playmaker lineups helps mitigate those concerns. While he’s not a dynamic jump shooter and will be best playing off a more creative player, Suggs’ floor as a starting-caliber guard is pretty appealing, and he should be ready to make an early impact in the pros. He’s more hyper-athletic utility guard than high-usage playmaker, but there’s plenty to like.
5. Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 3
All things considered, Green has acclimated really well to the G League, showcasing his athletic ability, a solid degree of offensive comfort and willingness to play through his mistakes. Through Ignite’s first eight games, Green was shooting over 50% from the field, a pretty remarkable accomplishment considering past concerns about his efficiency. He’s always been a gifted scorer, and has developed real passing chops, pointing to some creative potential as he matures. At this stage, he can still be a bit one-dimensional, often struggling to impact the game without the ball in his hands and still playing some conceptual catch-up on the defensive end. Green can be streaky shooting from distance, due in part to his proclivity for tough attempts, and has room for improvement in that area. He needs to shore up his handle in order to maximize his physical gifts, and it’s worth noting he’s visibly smaller than his listed 6’ 5”. But Green offers significant upside on both sides of the ball, and appears to be picking things up quickly with Ignite. He rounds out what’s generally become a soft consensus top five.
6. James Bouknight, SG, UConn | Sophomore
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 13
Admittedly, this is higher than you’d want to place Bouknight in a vacuum—for now, consider it illustrative of how much definition this draft class lacks after the first five prospects. After missing six weeks with an elbow injury that required surgery, Bouknight returned last week and looks to be picking up where he left off following an early-season breakout. He relies on strong instincts and advanced, acrobatic finishing skills to put pressure on the rim. He’s not very big for his position but compensates with explosiveness, and as a stellar athlete with tons of natural ability, needs to be taken seriously as a mid-lottery prospect due in part to a lack of great options. Bouknight is a capable shooter and passer, but needs to improve on both fronts, and defensively he stands to improve, as well. If he can make the transition toward on-ball playmaking, his ceiling rises substantially, but he may profile better as a microwave bench scorer than as a legitimate starting two-guard. Bouknight’s competitive makeup and consistency at least point to a degree of useful floor.
7. Jalen Johnson, F, Duke | Freshman
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 7
The incomplete season Johnson turned in at Duke isn’t going to help his perception in NBA front offices, but it may not wind up completely tanking his draft stock, either. In the 13 games he played before departing the program—with his season interrupted by an injury absence—Johnson showcased the playmaking skills that make him such a unique player at his size, but also his limitations as a halfcourt scorer, iffy jump shot and intermittent competitive effort. Some teams were already concerned about Johnson off the floor coming into the season, following an unceremonious exit from IMG Academy during his senior year of high school. His decision to shut it down early is unlikely to sway those that were already skeptical. Still, his fit with Duke’s personnel was far from perfect, and his style of play was always better-suited for the NBA. Nothing about this situation is going to help his draft stock, but it’s still difficult to see Johnson slipping too far at this point, questions aside. He will, however, have more to answer for than many of his peers over the course of interviews and workouts with teams. Johnson has become one of the more polarizing lottery prospects, but his upside as a versatile combo forward is still intriguing.
8. Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State | Freshman
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 8
Although his efficiency has left a lot to be desired, Barnes remains an intriguing gamble as a prospect, bringing an appealing mix of playmaking skills, feel and defensive toughness to the table. He’s managed to be a major positive for Florida State despite his ongoing struggles as a shooter, and his poor marks from both the foul line and three-point range are a tad concerning. But his unique array of strengths and willingness to do the dirty work help set him apart from his peers. Barnes is an excellent passer who handles well for his size and typically makes good decisions with the ball, pointing to some offensive upside if he can piece together any semblance of a consistent jumper. As a big, intelligent, switchable defender with some ball skills, it’s not hard to see him becoming a useful, versatile rotation piece. It’s going to take Barnes some time to get there on offense, but there’s a lot to work with here.
9. Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga | Senior
Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Previous rank: 20
Kispert has scored with otherworldly efficiency all season, particularly for a jump shooter, and projects neatly into a similar role in the NBA, where he forces opponents to account for him as a shooter, moves the ball unselfishly, and plays adequate defense. He turns 22 in March, but should arrive readymade for rotation minutes as a big, viable floor-spacer, making him a particularly attractive pick for a team in search of shooting help. He can do damage running off screens or spotting up and has simply been way too good for college basketball, capable of getting hot quickly and making a huge difference for Gonzaga. The concern taking Kispert early in the lottery is that you’re paying full price for a player who’s somewhat close to his ceiling, but he does boast a valuable skill set and looks like a pretty safe option. He profiles as a threatening shooter and longtime NBA player, and it’s hard to nitpick what he’s done this season.
10. Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee | Freshman
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 11
Johnson’s freshman year has been a mixed bag, but his flashes of brilliance are encouraging, and while he isn’t a polished offensive player yet, the prospect of what he could eventually become separates him as one of the more interesting bets in this range of the draft. He’s an excellent run-jump athlete and a disruptive, tough-minded defender who can guard on the ball, although he’s undersized for an NBA wing. The big issue is that Johnson isn’t a good shooter yet and has a rudimentary handle, which are points of concern when trying to project his ceiling and require a lot of optimism if you’re drafting him in the lottery. He’s shown positive feel as a passer, and his smarts, toughness and effort are helpful factors that suggest he has a good chance of maximizing his ability. Of course, there’s risk here if Johnson’s offensive skills don’t come around to the point where he’s creating much for himself, and his jumper is pretty clearly the biggest swing factor in the long run. But the upside here is pretty appealing.
11. Franz Wagner, F, Michigan | Sophomore
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 32
While Wagner’s marked improvement doesn’t show up in the points column—he’s still averaging just 12 per game—he’s impacted winning across the board for a very good Michigan team, and taken a leap forward that will help him on draft night. He’s upped his assist rate by 11 points while also reducing his turnover rate, he’s now shooting 36% from distance, and he’s coupled decisive offensive play with improved defense, as well. Now fully comfortable at the college level, Wagner has more or less delivered on the promise he showed as a teenager in Germany, adding muscle and playing an unselfish style that should translate nicely into an NBA role. His combination of size and skill at both forward spots makes him a malleable fit, and he’s still just 19 years old. If he can handle added volume while maintaining his strong efficiency as he matures, there’s some substantial room left for offensive growth, too.
12. Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas | Freshman
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 24
Moody’s relative youth and sweet shooting stroke make him an intriguing long-term bet, but he’s understandably a ways from being a consistent contributor at the NBA level. He’s put together a good freshman season on whole, showcasing a good understanding of his role away from the ball, but also struggling to score efficiently inside the arc against good competition. Moody isn’t particularly athletic by NBA standards, nor is he dynamic off the dribble, but he does have a long, projectable frame that should play up in the pros. The hope is that he’ll develop into a reliable, low-maintenance 3-and-D type piece, with upside if he can make strides with his ball skills and playmaking. It’s easy to buy into the threat of Moody’s jumper, and he’s still a bit more of an idea than you’d like in the lottery, but he appears to fit a consistently valuable role player mold, and at his age, that’s a solid starting point.
13. Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford | Freshman
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 9
Without sugarcoating it, Williams has not been particularly good at anything on a regular basis at Stanford this season, and while he remains in the lottery picture, things have been trending downward. After missing six games in the middle of the Pac-12 schedule for undisclosed reasons, Williams has been understandably out of whack, but his play had been concerning before that. His blend of size, feel, and shooting ability has always held strong theoretical appeal dating back to high school, but the truth of the matter is that the actual results have been inconsistent. His lack of physical strength continues to be a major impediment to his ability to play downhill and create for himself, as well as his projection on the defensive end. Williams too often settles for jumpers as a result. Due to the strange nature of this season, he should be afforded a bit of slack, but he doesn’t profile as a top scoring option and it’s still not exactly clear what else he’s going to provide in the pros. He’s looking like a boom-or-bust type pick, with 3-and-D type ability if he can get back on track developmentally.
14. Usman Garuba, F/C, Real Madrid (Spain)
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 230 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 12
Garuba’s minutes and productivity appear to have plateaued this season, but he remains an interesting long-term bet due to his defensive skills, frame, and past productivity against his own age group. He’s spent the last two years facing senior competition with Madrid, but in a limited role capacity. Athletically, Garuba has the length and strength to fit the NBA. On the flipside, he has yet to come around skill-wise, as a non-threatening jump shooter lacking a varied offensive game. He’s a solid finisher and passer, but there are concerns he may have been an early-bloomer. Garuba has shown dynamic ability as as a rim protector and switchable defender, possessing unusual degrees of lateral movement, change of direction and vertical explosiveness. He has a chance to anchor lineups defensively and add value as a rim-runner and roller.
15. Daishen Nix, PG, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 10
Watching Nix compete in the G League level has been a useful litmus test, showcasing just how good a passer he is, while also laying bare his athletic limitations. His size and savvy are plenty appealing, and his playmaking instincts and execution are extraordinarily advanced for his age. But not everything has translated from high school, and it’s imperative Nix works himself into better shape, which would ostensibly help him improve as a defender and finisher. He’s an average jump shooter at best right now and will likely need a ball screen more often than not in the NBA. Nix’s competitive makeup and toughness are pretty appealing, and he’s certainly held his own against older players, but there are some points of concern here, as well. Still, given all he has going for him, it’s easy to envision him making a long-term winning impact if he can maximize his physical ability and sharpen his scoring skills. Nix is an interesting bet on feel, with elite passing skills at a young age looking like a worthwhile selling point.
16. Greg Brown III, F, Texas | Freshman
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 18
Brown is one of the best athletes in the draft and has gotten more comfortable at the college level over the course of the season, but his overall feel remains a major point of concern for teams. He falls somewhere on the Jerami Grant-Derrick Jones spectrum, but both those players entered the league as bargain investments, before eventually blossoming into legit NBA talents. Brown’s tools likely warrant a first-round selection, and he’s helped himself to an extent by consistently playing hard on both ends. It’s just that his impact on winning is pretty limited right now, with a pronounced lack of passing acumen and limited ball skills that make it tough for him to consistently utilize his tools. Teaming with better playmakers in the NBA should help unlock Brown as a lob threat and cutter, and he’s displayed a workable jumper. He has a long way to go before he can consistently impact an NBA game, but he’s also a tempting gamble in this messy range of the draft.
17. Kai Jones, PF, Texas | Sophomore
Height: 6' 11" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 25
Another pure upside play in this range of the draft, Jones continues to flash NBA ability as a shot-blocker, finisher and occasional spot-up threat, but those contributions are still a bit too few and far between to feel totally great about. He’s been able to make an impact in his limited minutes and has showcased impressive ability to handle and shoot for a player his size, but still floats in and out of games too often and looks better in the context of his flashes than over the course of a full game. Jones is not much of a passer, nor has he been a productive rebounder, and for a player likely best suited as a perimeter-oriented big, he’s eventually going to have to embrace physicality and produce on a more consistent basis. His feel still lags behind where you’d like it to be for a Top 20 pick, but this middle part of the first round feels like the range to take a gamble, and Jones is a viable one. Keep in mind he needs to add physical strength, and will likely benefit from some G League time to build confidence next season. Jones is far from a sure thing, but bigs with his natural mobility, length and inside-out skill are hard to come by.
18. Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina | Freshman
Height: 6' 11" | Weight: 265 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 14
Sharpe is more of a throwback center, which can come with a bit of a stigma in the context of the draft, but he’s been so productive and impactful in his minutes that he warrants consideration in this range. He plays extremely hard and has been one of the best rebounders in college basketball, with soft hands and good instincts in pursuit off of the glass. Sharpe also processes the floor well and has shown legitimate upside as a passer. He isn’t a good jump shooter and may never be, but his size and intangibles make a major difference, and he has enough baseline mobility to survive on defense. It’s difficult to find bigs with his type of motor, skill, tools, and low-maintenance approach all rolled together, and it all adds up into what could eventually be a starting-caliber package at the NBA level.
19. Marcus Bagley, F, Arizona State | Freshman
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 23
Bagley has missed time with injury this season, and Arizona State’s team full of ball-needy scorers has proven to be a fairly disastrous context, but he brings NBA-type physical tools and a buyable jumper with range to the table. He’s not a flashy player, but has a chance to be a solid rotation player if all goes well, with enough scoring ability and defensive capability to hold his own. Bagley will have to get more comfortable sharing the ball, as passing has never been his forte and he’s unlikely to be leaned on as a volume scorer moving forward. But as a solid shooter and willing rebounder who can guard both forward spots, there’s some value baked in here playing away from the ball. He projects as one of the safer options in the mid to late first round, if not a player with starry upside.
20. Jared Butler, PG, Baylor | Junior
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 30
As the leader of one of the best teams in the country, Butler’s intangibles and all-around game make him one of the more bankable guard prospects in the draft, having proven himself on both ends at this point as a quality player. He’s managed to really raise his game this season and should be more squarely on the radar as a first-round prospect this time around, particularly if Baylor manages a deep tournament run, as expected. He can play on and off the ball, score it inside and out, and make plays for teammates without forcing anything. His change of pace off the dribble is solid, and he’s a multiple-effort defender who’s been highly consistent. You aren’t drafting Butler to be a superstar, but there’s a lot to like with him as a supporting piece, and it helps matters that he’s yet to turn 21.
21. Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee | Freshman
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 34
Springer came on strong in February and has played well for the most part as a true freshman, especially encouraging considering he doesn’t turn 19 until September. But he’s still a divisive prospect from an NBA perspective, with lingering questions about his shooting, feel, maturity and athleticism, as well as the translatability of his below-the-rim tendencies. Springer is already a tough on-ball defender and has found ways to be efficient for the most part, with room for growth if he can improve his ball skills and diversify his game as a scorer. For now, Springer projects as an undersized two-guard and relies a bit too much on overpowering defenders in lieu of a creative handle. He plays a two-footed attacking style that inhibits some of his ability to separate, and rarely works for players his size in the NBA. He isn’t a natural point guard, and his jumper is still a bit mechanical, but his shot selection has been positive, and he’s not one to force up many bad looks. A strong finish to the season could help Springer’s case quite a bit, and his case compares well with the other freshman guards at this point in time.
22. Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn | Freshman
Height: 6' 1" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: NR
There’s been considerable public hype surrounding Cooper since he was cleared to play for Auburn in January. In NBA circles there’s less excitement to be found with regard to his long-term prospects. Cooper is a gifted passer and gave a big boost to a team that was otherwise without a point guard, but the Tigers are just 5-7 since he returned. His absurd assist rate (bordering on 50%) has been inflated by heavy usage and the lack of other playmakers on the team, and he’s been predictably turnover-prone a lot of the time, as well. Cooper excels at drawing fouls, which will be a major bonus if it translates up a level, but to what extent is still something of a question given his size. Scouts are concerned with his diminutive stature and struggles from three-point range, and right now he profiles more as a backup than a starter. Still, Cooper gets into the paint pretty much at will right now, and there’s certainly a chance he’s good enough to outkick convention for an undersized point guard.
23. Alperen Sengun, F/C, Besiktas (Turkey)
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: NR
Sengun was pretty much off the radar coming into the season, but has been dominant in the Turkish league as an 18 year old, averaging 19 points and nine rebounds and building a first-round case. His game is unorthodox and fairly simple, relying primarily on deep post catches, soft hands and strong finishing skills to rack up points in the paint. Sengun doesn’t have great length and may not be able to succeed at center full-time due to defensive concerns, so one question here is whether he’ll develop enough perimeter skills to spend time at the four. He’s a good free throw shooter, and adding three-point range would make a big difference. Although he’s a divisive eval and has a somewhat narrow pathway to NBA success, Sengun is highly advanced for his age and looks like an interesting investment, particularly if a team can keep him overseas another year.
24. Justin Champagnie, F, Pittsburgh | Sophomore
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: NR
It’s tough to ignore just how productive Champagnie has been all season, and while his shooting numbers have regressed a bit in recent weeks, he’s played his way into the first round picture. He’s an excellent rebounder on both ends, gets off the floor quickly, and finds ways to produce without needing manufactured touches. There’s reason for optimism that he’ll be a viable floor spacer and potentially transition into more of a wing role in the NBA—some scouts have expressed concern about who he’ll be capable of defending, while others view him as a switchable forward. Optimistically, Champagnie fits into smaller lineups as a useful positional hybrid who brings energy and complements a wide range of teammates.
25. Brandon Boston, SG, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 6
Between Kentucky’s struggles and his own inability to make a consistent impact, Boston has lost a lot of shine as a prospect, although the preseason hype was admittedly overwrought. There’s still some upside here as he adds physical strength and can rediscover his confidence in his shot, but Boston hasn’t been efficient in any area of his game, and his defensive effort has mostly been subpar. For a player whose ceiling was tied almost entirely to his ability to make tough shots, his inability to consistently make easy ones is pretty concerning. His high school pedigree will make him worth a gamble for someone, but his stock continues to crater, and he’s not a lock for the first round at this point.
26. David Johnson, G, Louisville | Sophomore
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 21
Johnson has successfully transitioned into more of a combo guard role this season, and he’s made huge strides as a jump shooter, but his breakout hasn’t been quite as substantial as many hoped it would be. He’s struggled with turnovers, his scoring has been inconsistent, and his trips to the rim have been infrequent. Johnson is an excellent passer with good size for a lead guard, and his minutes without Carlik Jones on the floor have been a bit more convincing. He’s a good athlete and solid defender with room to grow all around, and the fact he seems to have figured out a workable jumper strengthens his case. He remains a viable first-round option, but his issues scoring inside the arc bear some monitoring.
27. Terrence Shannon Jr., G/F, Texas Tech | Sophomore
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 38
An athletic, slashing wing who plays hard on both ends and is unafraid to do the dirty work, Shannon profiles as the type of glue guy with upside a team should be eager to take a chance on. On the offensive end, Shannon hasn’t been quite as consistent as you’d hope, but he’s shown flashes of improved shooting and has consistently been good from the free throw line. He’s an admirably tough defender who’s willing to sacrifice his body, an underrated passer, and does a lot of things well that don’t manifest in the box score. Wings with Shannon’s type of physical profile tend to be appealing projects, and he brings a lot to the table in terms of intangibles. If he becomes a consistent shooter, there’s added upside here.
28. Joel Ayayi, SG, Gonzaga | Junior
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 180 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 26
Although Gonzaga’s other players have received more fanfare, Ayayi has developed into an intriguing prospect in his own right, excelling in an off-ball role and showcasing impressive complementary skills. He has good size, is a competent spot-up shooter, and consistently makes quick decisions and sneaky off-ball cuts. He’s not creative or skilled enough to be a full-time lead guard, but he’s highly effective moving the ball, playing in transition, and finding open teammates. Ayayi is also an opportunistic, quick defender with a nose for the ball. While he needs to work on creating his own shot, he’s a solid role player already, and it helps that he has yet to turn 21. If Gonzaga goes on a deep run in March—which it probably will—he’ll have a major opportunity to solidify his stock. He projects somewhere in the 25-40 range right now.
29. Ariel Hukporti, C, Nevezis (Germany)
Height: 7'0" | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 22
Hukporti looked like the best prospect at the 2020 Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, where he won MVP and left a strong impression playing front of numerous NBA decision-makers. The German center made the move to Lithuania this season and has been a bit of a mixed bag, but brings a lot to the table physically, and has some legitimate starter upside. Hukporti’s shot selection is an issue, and he hasn’t been particularly efficient as a result of his penchant for experimentation. His sheer size and ability to cover ground with his length and foot speed should give him an eventual pathway to NBA minutes—he could be a monster defender and screen-setter—but he’s still piecing a lot of things together, and isn’t particularly consistent in any realm of his game yet. Hukporti has a lot to offer long-term, but also has a lot of development left.
30. Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State | Freshman
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 16
Christopher has lived up to his reputation this season for better or worse, with a handful of big games, some dud performances, and a lot of points under his belt. He’s always been able to score, but loves to take tough shots, and his teams sometimes pay the price. Arizona State has struggled for a number of reasons, and Christopher’s suboptimal decision-making has often been a detriment. He remains an intriguing talent and capable slasher, and he’s a quality finisher at the rim—if an NBA team can help instill better shot selection, Christopher has a chance to be impactful—but he also has to want that himself, which will be a question for some teams. He’s a good athlete with a strong frame and creative handle, he’s decisive when he does try to score, he‘s dangerous from all over the floor, and he plays with an unyielding confidence. Educated observers have always wondered how much his game accessorizes winning, and that question remains.
31. Roko Prkacin, F, Cibona (Croatia)
Height: 6'9" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 27
Prkacin continues to put together a strong season in Croatia, and as one of the youngest draft-eligible prospects, his overall profile is encouraging. A skilled big with inside-out versatility and passing skills, Prkacin is fairly mobile, but doesn’t get a ton of lift in tight spaces or move that well laterally. He has an NBA-type frame with a 7-foot wingspan, which helps matters, and his feel is quite advanced—he’s not fazed by older competition, and he has a good sense of what he can and can’t do on the floor. Prkacin is an excellent ballhandler for his size, and if he continues improving as a shooter, an NBA role should eventually be within reach. Even without an elite skill, he may be a player with a wide enough array of strengths to make a difference.
32. Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor | Junior
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Previous rank: NR
A late-blooming breakout season has put Mitchell on the radar as a Top 40 prospect with a real shot at the first round, with optimistic scouts viewing him as a plug-and-play bench guy early in his career. He’s made huge strides as a scorer over the past year, turning himself into a dynamic shooter off the dribble, and while he’s not going to shoot 49% from three in the NBA, his all-around improvement has to be taken seriously. Mitchell’s value stemmed from his work as a tough, athletic on-ball defender coming into this season. He’s 22, undersized, and more of a two than a point guard, which does raise the question of upside—this type of efficiency may be close to his ceiling—but it’s hard to watch him and not think he’s earned a shot at an NBA role.
33. Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU | Freshman
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 37
Dating back to high school, the book on Thomas has been that he’s a gifted scorer who struggles to impact games in any other way. That’s pretty much been the case at LSU, where his points have been a catalyst for a competitive team, and his playmaking and defensive impact have been minimal. Thomas gets to the foul line a ton, and his 90% clip from the stripe says more about his shooting skills than his middling 30% mark from three-point range (which stems in part from how many difficult shots he takes). But as an undersized two-guard and average athlete, it’s hard to view him as more than a specialist at this point, and it’s concerning that he’s shooting just 33% on unguarded jumpers, per Synergy. Thomas has a first-round case, but his game is one-dimensional enough to give you pause.
34. Isaiah Jackson, F/C, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6’10" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 29
Jackson is a freak athlete who adds real value as a rebounder and shot-blocker, but his limited offensive game and relatively low basketball IQ are concerning. In a lot of ways, he’s comparable to Mitchell Robinson, but he doesn’t boast the same caliber of tools, at 6' 10" with a 7’ 0" wingspan. Jackson’s prodigious block rate and work on the offensive glass make him a worthwhile investment on a guaranteed contract, but he’s also extremely foul-prone, his impact is inconsistent, and he’ll likely need G League time. Still, his athleticism and basic skills give him a chance to succeed as a rim-running energy big, and he’s done enough to get drafted.
35. Bennedict Mathurin, SG, Arizona | Freshman
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: NR
Mathurin would likely benefit from another year of college, but he’s been a pleasant surprise for Arizona and has been one of the better perimeter shooters in college basketball, making 41% of his threes and 85% of free throws as an 18-year-old. His scoring is mostly limited to what others create for him, and he’s not much of a passer at all, but he’s a good athlete who can attack a closeout on a line and finish. There’s some specialist potential here, and some clear upside considering his age. Mathurin’s contributions have been a bit too inconsistent to call him a definite one-and-done right now, but he’s certainly intriguing, and teams should be eager to work him out if he opts to test the waters.
36. Juhann Begarin, SG, Paris Basket (France)
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 36
Begarin’s physical tools and improving skill level make him a fascinating long-term prospect and potential first-round talent. He competes hard, can play above the rim, has open-floor speed and has major defensive potential with his length and lateral agility. I watched him live at Basketball Without Borders in February and came away concerned with his loose handle and iffy jump shot. As a result of those issues Begarin isn’t a consistent scorer in the halfcourt, nor is he a very creative player, and he projects best as an energy wing who adds value away from the ball. But you can see a clear pathway to the NBA for him if his feel and skills improve, and he’s young enough that there’s plenty of time.
37. Tre Mann, PG, Florida | Sophomore
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: NR
Mann has taken a step in the right direction this season, with plus size for a lead guard, a crafty handle, and long-term creative upside, but his play has been a tad inconsistent. He’s on the cusp of the first-round picture, but he’s yet to take the type of leap as a passer scouts have hoped for, and he’s a streaky scorer who lacks physicality and doesn’t get to the line as much as he should. Mann should be able to play either guard spot in the pros, and the upside here is pretty appealing in the 30s, but he’s not a first-round lock and could benefit from one more college season. He definitely deserves a chance, but he has more work to do.
38. Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon | Senior
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 190 | Age: 23 | Previous rank: 49
Although Duarte will turn 24 before he makes his NBA debut, he’s been ridiculously good all season for Oregon, and built a strong statistical case as a prospect. He may be good enough to walk into bench minutes immediately next season, as a big wing with a strong catch-and-shoot skillset, good defensive instincts, and a mature floor game. He’s been a positive in pretty much every way for the ducks, and while you aren’t drafting him for ceiling, Duarte is a strong second-round option in spite of his age. He‘s already outpaced expectations, and as the NBA continues to place a premium on tall shooters, he should be a natural fit.
39. Joshua Giddey, G/F, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 44
Giddey has shown a lot of positive things in his first 10 NBL games, as a big, playmaking wing with guard skills and extremely advanced passing instincts. The big issue is that he’s not a very good shooter, nor is he an explosive athlete, raising questions as to what capacity he’ll be worth playing on the ball in the NBA. He’s certainly shown enough to get drafted, and should get first-round consideration, but until he starts to score with more pronounced efficiency, Giddey will be a tricky projection. He’s tough, physical and mature for his age, which bodes well overall, and he’s one of the better passers in the draft. But his NBA fit isn’t totally clear-cut yet, and he’ll need to take a big leap as a scorer to make it work.
40. Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois | Junior
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Previous rank: 56
In taking an individual step forward and helping turn Illinois into one of the best teams in the country, Dosunmu has firmly played himself into the draft. Pinning down his exact fit in the NBA is still a bit tricky. He has great size for his position and has taken a step forward as a playmaker, but relies more on strength and athleticism than skills, and his three-point stroke still comes and goes at times. Dosunmu projects better as a wing long-term than at the point, which will require him to step up defensively and continue knocking down jumpers. But he continues to prove he’s up to task, and a strong finish to the season will help inch him closer to the first round.
41. Ochai Agbaji, SG, Kansas | Junior
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 45
Agbaji has settled in as Kansas’s most appealing prospect, adding value as a defender and spot-up shooter and boasting nice athletic tools. He has a solid frame and plays capable defense, while offering some floor-spacing potential and an unflashy, team-first style. He’s not a creative player, but he’s tough, smart, and understands how to fit in and add value. Players in his mold are often useful to have around, and while he’s not likely to be more than a fourth or fifth option on offense, Agbaji has an underrated skill set that should fit well on most rosters as a bench option.
42. Keyontae Johnson, F, Florida | Junior
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Previous rank: 19
It’s tough to know what to make of Johnson’s situation after a scary collapse related to a heart condition ended his season after just four games. In the end it will come down to whether teams are comfortable clearing him medically, and that’s a situation nobody has the answers to yet. Whatever it means for his career, a healthy Johnson would have a chance to be an impact role player, and he was tracking as a first-round candidate before the season. What he lacks in height, he makes up for with strength and a measured 6’ 11” wingspan, enabling him to rebound in traffic and defend taller players effectively. He’s proven to be a consistent three-point shooter and is a tremendous fit for positionless schemes, with the right blend of skill, athleticism, and utility on both sides of the ball. Johnson isn’t a creative player and will be better cast in a complementary role, but it suits him well.
43. Isaiah Livers, F, Michigan | Senior
Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 230 | Age: 22 | Previous rank: NR
Livers has always been a very good shooter, but has worked himself into a more well-rounded player and benefitted from full health this season. He’s an intriguing second-round option as a floor spacer, ball-mover and smart team defender who might be able to fit onto someone’s bench early in his career. He’s somewhat comparable to Jordan Nwora, who went to the Bucks in this range of the draft last season as a bet on shooting above all else. Livers isn’t a great athlete, and his upside isn’t massive, but as a second-round flier, you could do much worse. He should get a slight bump coming from a Michigan program that’s done well developing talent.
44. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky | Junior
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 235 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 28
Bassey made an impressive return from a serious knee injury, looking trim and more mobile and athletic than before. He doesn’t have a truly elite skill, but he’s a quality rebounder and shot-blocker with a 7’3” wingspan and a strong frame. Bassey isn’t exceptionally skilled, but he’s good around the rim and has some shooting touch. He’s dominating lesser competition in Conference USA, but has shown a strong motor and a clear level of competitive engagement. The other issue here is the replaceability of most centers. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Bassey emerge as as viable backup big, but he may not be special enough to justify a first-round investment.
45. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F/C, Villanova | Sophomore
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 31
As rock-solid a college player as you’ll find, Robinson-Earl’s array of skills and general know-how project nicely at the next level. He likely hasn’t done quite enough to play his way into firm first-round territory, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he stayed at Villanova, but he’s a draftable, versatile forward with a chance at a viable NBA career. He’s a capable jump shooter and finisher, gifted passer, and a smart rebounder and defender who always seems to be in the right spot. Where Robinson-Earl struggles is protecting the rim, as he isn’t particularly long or athletic, and will likely need a second big covering for him. He’s the type of complementary piece who’s only going to be as effective as the players around him.
46. Luka Garza, C, Iowa | Senior
Height: 6' 11" | Weight: 265 | Age: 22 | Previous rank: NR
If Garza doesn’t make it in the NBA, he’s probably going to dominate playing in Europe for the next decade. But he’s been so good for Iowa the last two seasons that he deserves a real chance to make a roster next year, due in large part to his progress as a jump shooter, in addition to his considerable post scoring acumen. Of course, Garza’s defensive shortcomings are well-documented, to the point where his best pathway to minutes may simply be providing situational scoring and floor-spacing on a team that’s not afraid to use traditional bigs. There’s a chance he’s never quite playable enough on defense to stick. It’s worth finding out, particularly if it doesn’t cost a first-round pick.
47. Terrence Clarke, G/F, Kentucky | Freshman
Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 17
A mysterious ankle injury ended Clarke’s season early at Kentucky, and ultimately there are far more questions than answers surrounding his stock as a prospect. He will most likely need to spend time in the G League next season in order for a team to have any real sense of what they have. Concerns about his maturity date back to high school, and Clarke will have to win teams over in interviews—it’s not out of the question, but he’s probably a first-round longshot at this point. He didn’t shoot well, struggled with turnovers, and simply wasn’t able to show much progression over the course of seven college games, in which his team went 1-6. There’s little beyond pedigree keeping Clarke’s stock steady right now. The appeal he held as a big, scoring wing still exists, but banking on him reaching that ceiling requires a lot of optimism.
48. Ron Harper Jr., F, Rutgers | Junior
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 245 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: NR
Harper’s NBA genetics, strong feel for the game, and major role in the turnaround of Rutgers’ program have put him on the map this year. His play has tailed off a bit in February, to the point where returning to college may be prudent. Many scouts are eager to see what Harper can do if he’s able to work himself into better shape and trim down his heavier frame. He’s an intelligent passer, capable shooter and intriguing complementary piece on the wing, but the primary question is who he’s able to guard at his current weight. His stock has stalled a bit, but Harper is an intriguing sleeper moving forward.
49. Trayce Jackson-Davis, C, Indiana | Sophomore
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 245 | Age: 21 | Previous rank: 52
Despite only ever using his left hand to do anything and lacking three-point range, Jackson-Davis is a somewhat intriguing prospect simply off his productivity. For two years running, he’s proven to be a good offensive rebounder and capable finisher and has been able to draw fouls and rack up numbers in gameflow, looking like a quintessential energy big. The fact he’s so one-dimensional and undersized for an NBA center is concerning—he’s not great defensively, and has never attempted a college three. Genetics are working in his favor (his father is longtime Pacers stalwart Dale Davis) and his sheer production makes him worth a flier.
50. Aaron Henry, G/F, Michigan State | Junior
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 39
Henry has improved his game across the board this season, but he’s still not a very consistent three-point shooter, which may ultimately mean he returns to Michigan State for his senior year. He’s a good athlete, smart passer and high-effort defender, but isn’t overly tall for a wing and has never quite gotten things to click in terms of efficiency. Henry shot 34% from three last season and shoots free throws well, so improvement in that area should be viable, but it just hasn’t happened yet, and he’s not a very dynamic player off the dribble, either. He has a chance at an NBA role long-term, but may have to prove himself to earn more than a two-way deal as things stand.
51. Miles McBride, PG, West Virginia | Sophomore
Height: 6' 2" | Weight: 200 | Age 20 | Previous Rank: NR
Over the course of a breakout season, McBride has gradually played his way onto the radar, showcasing some applaudable toughness and shot-making skills and the ability to carry West Virginia for stretches of time. He’s a quality shooter, but still settles for too many midrange shots versus putting pressure on the rim. He’s still young enough that there’s room to grow, and he’s also flashed above-average passing ability and plays tough defense. A strong close to the season should help his chances of getting drafted this year, but he’s made positive strides regardless, and could really benefit from returning to college.
52. Trendon Watford, F, LSU | Sophomore
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 41
Watford has transitioned into a playmaking role that better showcases his versatility, but he’s still a weird fit for the NBA, as a ball-needy combo forward who lacks explosiveness and plays mostly beneath the rim. He can handle and play on the perimeter, but has always been a bit too reliant on post touches in lieu of a consistent jump shot, and has yet to make major strides as a floor spacer. His ceiling is capped by a notable lack of lift around the basket that makes it difficult for him to operate in traffic and attack bigger players. Watford has played his way closer to draftability, but he remains a somewhat fringy bet.
53. David Duke, PG, Providence | Junior
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Previous rank: NR
Despite passing the eye test as a tall, pass-first point guard, Duke struggles to score the ball inside the arc with any efficiency, which has become concerning. Entering Wednesday he was converting less than half his attempt at the rim and shooting just 38% on twos overall. Some of that may be aided by more driving lanes in the NBA, but he profiles much better on a two-way deal than anywhere close to the first round as things stand. He’s a player worth keeping an eye on, but his struggles with turnovers and finishing make it hard to get too carried away.
54. Isaiah Todd, F, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Previous Rank: NR
Todd has been able to boost his stock with surprisingly decent play off the bench for Ignite, showcasing some basic face-up skills and shot-making ability while mostly punching above his weight in the G League. Granted, he was shooting less than 40% from the field entering Wednesday, but expectations were fairly low coming in, and he looks worthy of a two-way deal as a developmental stretch forward. He has a long way to go defensively, and he’s unlikely to create much offense, but at his age and with his size and length, Todd has earned some credibility as a decent second-round flier.
55. Rokas Jokubaitis, PG, Zalgiris (Lithuania)
Height: 6’ 4” | Weight: 195 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 55
Jokubaitis previously piqued NBA interest with his playmaking skills, but ultimately withdrew from the 2020 draft to return to Zalgiris, where he’s in a good developmental situation and logging regular time in Euroleague games. He’s not a particularly good mover, but he’s a crafty playmaker with size, and has an advanced feel for running a team, but may profile better as a longtime European guard than as an impactful NBA backup. His individual scoring is a work in progress, but he’s a decent shooter, and has been a fixture for Lithuania at junior levels. He should be in the draft-and-stash mix again.
56. Yves Pons, F, Tennessee | Senior
Height: 6’ 6” | Weight: 215 | Age: 21 | Previous rank: 51
Pons kind of is what he is at this point, and the big question remains whether or not he’ll eventually shoot threes. As a freakish athlete with an impressive motor, he has a chance to play in a rotation as an undersized big, but he simply isn’t very skilled, and hasn’t expanded his offensive game in a significant way this season. He’s an unorthodox prospect to be sure, but his defensive versatility with his strength and long frame is real. Pons should be worth a look as an end-of-roster project.
57. Carlik Jones, G, Louisville | Senior
Height: 6’ 1” | Weight: 185 | Age: 23 | Previous rank: 57
As far as savvy backup guards go, Jones has shown some interesting things, although his individual offense has fallen off of late, and Louisville had a three-week COVID hiatus which didn’t help. He’s a capable scorer and playmaker with a slightly unorthodox style, relying more on his craftiness, length and ability to draw fouls in the paint, and using his jumper to keep people honest. He’s also a stellar rebounder for his size and strong decision-maker with the ball. Jones was one of the best mid-major guards in the country at Radford, and has maintained most of his productivity at Louisville, though his efficiency has dipped a bit. As an older prospect, he’ll need to win teams over quickly, but he has an outside chance to make a roster as an extra point guard, and enough ability and intangibles to potentially stick.
58. Sandro Mamukelashvili, F/C, Seton Hall | Senior
Height: 6' 11" | Weight | 240 | Age: 21 | Previous rank: NR
Mamulekashvili is kind of a weird player, but he brings a degree of versatility as a big who can pass, handle and shoot threes, and has built an interesting, if not wholly convincing case in the second round. He’s not a great athlete, but combines enough physicality and skill to have an outside shot at an NBA bench spot. He’ll be better suited for the four than the five due to his defensive shortcomings. Still just 21, Mamulekashvili has put together a strong senior year, and warrants a look on a two-way deal.
59. Herbert Jones, F, Alabama | Senior
Height: 6’ 8” | Weight: 210 | Age: 22 | Previous Rank: NR
It took four years, but Jones has finally blossomed as a solid all-around contributor at Alabama, with defensive versatility, passing skills and what appears to be an improved jumper allowing him to add value in a range of areas. He’ll never be much of an individual scorer, but the idea here is that the small things might add up into an extra bench piece, who can chip in minutes defensively without hurting the team in other areas. Jones deserves a chance to prove it at this point, and if he keeps making open threes, it might work.
60. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Senior
Height: 6’ 5” | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Previous Rank: 59
While Petty has long been known as a dangerous shooter, questions have always surrounded what else he can do. He’s still a bit inconsistent in other areas, but has progressed toward draftability over the last few years. He’s improved a bit as a passer, he’s always been a decent rebounder, and has enough size to be playable defensively, but he isn’t a great athlete and will likely need G League time. Still, he’s now an inexpensive bet on shooting, which is a popular second-round concept.