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NBA Draft Big Board 3.0: Top 80 Prospect Rankings

Ranking the top 80 players in the 2021 NBA draft with the NCAA tournament in the rearview.

With three months until draft night and the NBA’s regular season winding down, the league at large has begun shifting full focus to the off-season. Players have until May 30 to declare as early entrants for the draft, after which point the predraft process will open up in full, leading up to the combine and lottery at the end of June. Our Big Board is long overdue for an update, and fully expanded out to 80 prospects as we all attempt to make sense of the big picture moving forward.

As usual, the Big Board is primarily based on my personal evaluations from both live viewings and on film, in many cases dating back several years. The rankings also incorporate feedback and opinions I glean from NBA executives, scouts, and others around the industry. This is not a mock draft, and team fit is not considered, but it is also intended to be somewhat representative of individual prospects’ ranges and the available player pool as a whole.

As far as the rankings are concerned, much has changed since February, with the NCAA tournament in the rearview. There’s been plenty of time to get a handle on who these players are. Underclassman who have announced their plans to return to college next season are not included on this list, but all other prospects were given consideration. This board will inevitably shift again as players gradually opt to return to college, and as the international second-round player pool comes into clearer focus.

You can find our most recent mock draft here.

NBA draft prospects Jalen Suggs, Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley

1. Cade Cunningham, G/F, Oklahoma State | Freshman

Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 1

Whether or not Cunningham lived up to the hype this season depends on your vantage point, but his body of work was substantial: he led Oklahoma State to a favorable tournament seed, engineered an impressive win over national champion Baylor, and lifted a relatively average supporting cast farther than anyone expected. Consider the bevy of blue-chip college stars that preceded him and didn’t get the job done, and Cunningham’s season speaks for itself—his individual numbers aren’t as flashy as expected, but opponents geared up to stop him every single game. Cunningham’s size, playmaking acumen and remarkable feel for decision-making at a young age are all strong selling points, and he’s turned himself from an average shooter into a legitimately good one. He’s not an elite NBA athlete and still struggles to finish more than you’d like, but a steady diet of spread pick and roll might maximize his gifts and minimize his weaknesses in the long run. Cunningham’s competitive makeup and leadership is the icing on the cake here, and he’s consistently shown a willingness to make plays and close out games. As a malleable, versatile guard without a truly glaring weakness and several special qualities, Cunningham has held the No. 1 spot on this board all season. There may be some debate, but there shouldn’t be much doubt, and it ultimately would be tough to be the team that passes on him.

2. Evan Mobley, F/C, USC | Freshman

Height: 7' 0" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 2

There’s a real argument that Mobley is the most intriguing true big to enter the draft since Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015, or if you’re feeling bold, Joel Embiid in 2014, and he’s built a sneaky, if not popular, case as an alternative option at No. 1. Mobley looks like the type of mobile shot-blocker and space-eraser you can build a defense around, with overwhelming length and exceptional instincts, rarely fouling and playing a mature, composed game most nights. The big variable here lies on offense, where Mobley has always been an excellent ball-handler and passer for his size, but falls something short of being a No. 1 option. Mobley can be too deferential sometimes, and while there’s much more substance to his game than volume offense—he’s blossomed as a playmaker and projects to shoot the three effectively—he’ll be more comfortable playing next to ball-dominant teammates than shouldering the load, at least in the early part of his career. His long reach makes it difficult to alter his shot in the paint, and he’s a steady finisher, but quality touches often have to be manufactured for him. But even if Mobley levels out as a second or third offensive option, noting his probable defensive impact, you’ve got a special prospect.

3. Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga | Freshman

Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 4

Gonzaga’s disappointing end to the season doesn’t diminish the ways in which Suggs set himself apart this season, and his level of composure, focus and consistency throughout the tournament was impressive. And for the most part, NBA teams have become extremely comfortable with everything he brings to the table: Suggs is a fantastic athlete, will play either guard spot, competes at a high level all the time, and has a range of ways to positively impact games as a defender, playmaker, and scorer. As he continues to polish his skills, there’s far more upside than was readily evident coming into this season, and it’s hard to see a scenario where he’s not a viable long-term starter at worst. Gonzaga’s team context covered for his limitations as a halfcourt creator, but the NBA’s trend toward multiple-playmaker lineups helps mitigate those concerns, and he’s a blur in the open floor. With his quickness, strength and instincts, Suggs could end up as one of the better on-ball defenders in the league if he wants to be. While he may still be more hyper-athletic utility guard than high-usage playmaker in the long run, that version of Suggs could still be a star.

4. Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite

Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 5

By the end of the G League’s season, Green was Ignite’s best player, and already one of the better individual scorers in the competition, bolstering his candidacy as a top five pick and showcasing how far he’d come over the course of the past year. He’s a terrific athlete and has begun to translate his remarkable high school flashes into consistent production, showing off some latent playmaking ability when he’s willing to share the ball. The knock is that Green remains a bit one-dimensional, often struggling to impact the game without the ball in his hands and still playing conceptual catch-up on the defensive end. He needs to shore up his handle in order to maximize his physical gifts, and it’s worth noting he may be a bit smaller than his listed height. Green can be streaky shooting from distance, due in part to his proclivity for tough attempts, and will have to become a more efficient scorer to maximize his ability. But Green has shown the ability to pick things up quickly, and his trajectory at the moment is encouraging.

5. Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite

Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 210 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 3

While Kuminga certainly helped himself with G League Ignite, his play tailed off a bit toward the end of the shortened season, and the window for him to play himself to the top of draft boards wound up being rather brief. He remains one of the draft’s most physically gifted prospects, and will be ready to play with NBA athletes immediately. Kuminga tends to play a bit harder on offense than defense, but has the ability to be a high-impact player on both ends, and has the tools to check big wings and switch screens. There’s a lot of room for improvement as a scorer, as well: Kuminga can get into the paint with ease and make plays for teammates, but has to get his three-point shooting to a passable level, improve his handle, and learn to do damage away from the ball. Kuminga’s potential is obvious, and he rounds out the top five comfortably.

6. Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee | Freshman

Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 10

Johnson came on strong at the end of the season and left a strong impression on scouts at the SEC tournament, many of whom were seeing him live for the first time. On whole, his freshman year was a mixed bag, but his flashes of brilliance are encouraging. He’s quick getting into the paint, an elite run-jump athlete, and a disruptive defender with a team-first mentality. Drafting Johnson in the Top 10 is a major bet on those traits coalescing into a high-level starter. There’s reason for concern here, too: he doesn’t have consistent range on his shot, has a rudimentary handle, and doesn’t have much pedigree as an on-ball creator, although Tennessee handed him more decision-making responsibility as the season went on. Johnson competes hard and should find a way to be a useful contributor in a team context, at worst. But his athletic ability and potential for rapid improvement make him a fascinating bet after the draft’s biggest names are off the board.

7. James Bouknight, SG, UConn | Sophomore

Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 7

Placing Bouknight this high is based primarily on what he showed in the early part of the season, before having elbow surgery. He looked every bit of a dynamic NBA scorer in December, showcasing his scoring instincts, acrobatic slashing, and natural creativity getting his own shot. Bouknight has a deeper bag of tricks than most college scorers, and despite not being particularly big for his position, he’s a terrific athlete and unafraid of physicality. He missed more than a month of the season and was never quite the same player when he returned, racking up numbers, struggling with efficiency, and perhaps not entirely healthy. Bouknight is a better shooter than his percentages suggest, but will have to expand his depth as a playmaker to maximize his potential for high usage. Bouknight’s competitive makeup and consistency at least point to a degree of useful floor, and there’s starter-level upside here if things break correctly.

8. Jalen Johnson, F, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 7

Johnson’s brief stay at Duke and unceremonious exit from the program didn’t help his standing as a prospect, and where he lands on draft night will depend to an extent on how teams choose to weight the intel. At the same time, Johnson’s range of skills at his size demands a close look, particularly given the dearth of proven prospects slated for the the mid-to-late lottery range. In the 13 games he played before departing college, Johnson showcased his passing skills and versatility, but his limitations as a halfcourt scorer, iffy jump shot and intermittent competitive effort were also on display. He’s always had the potential to be a terrific two-way player, and his ability to handle and play in transition is better suited for an NBA floor. Johnson will have more to answer for than many of his peers over the course of interviews and workouts with teams—his range likely runs into the teens—but with the way this draft has shaped up, teams will need to think hard about him in the lottery.

9. Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State | Freshman

Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 8

Barnes’ unique skill set may turn out to be a better fit for the NBA than college: he’s at his best when accessorizing more talented teammates, but struggles when asked to carry a heavy offensive load. He boasts a remarkably long wingspan and should be a versatile net positive as a team defender, and has enough ball skills to grab and go off the glass. Barnes is also an excellent passer for his size. On the flipside, he’s not extremely quick or explosive, struggles to make shots from distance, and isn’t yet a functional enough ballhandler to make a huge impact as a point forward. Barnes had a good freshman year overall, and the fact he’s extremely competitive helps matters. The matter of personnel fit will make him a tougher sell for some teams. It’s going to take Barnes some time to be passable on offense, but if his shot comes along, he’s likely a starting-caliber forward. If it doesn’t, his other skills could still make him a useful rotation piece.

10. Kai Jones, F/C, Texas | Sophomore

Height: 6' 11" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 17

While there’s some general consensus that Jones is unlikely to help an NBA team much next season, it’s easy to see the upside tied to his unusual mobility, length, and growth trajectory. He came off the bench for most of the season at Texas, but was able to showcase his ability to block shots and sprint the floor, and also flashed the makings of a viable jumper. By the end of the season, Jones had a better grasp on how to consistently impact games with activity. His slender frame is less an issue in today’s NBA, where few teams bother posting up on a regular basis and big men with similar body types like Chris Boucher are having success. Jones needs to become a more consistent rebounder, and can still be foul prone, but he’s fairly skilled and moves like a wing on the perimeter. Ideally, he’s a viable stretch big a couple years down the line. If he can start to turn his flashes into consistent production and has an opportunity to build confidence next season, Jones could pay off in a big way down the line. Opinions vary among scouts as to how likely that outcome is, but the upside here is obvious.

11. Joshua Giddey, G/F, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)

Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 39

Giddey has done wonders for his stock over the past couple months, to the point where his productivity in the NBL is impossible to ignore. He’s arguably the best passer in the draft, has great size, thinks the game to an advanced degree, and doesn’t turn 19 until October. Giddey is an average athlete and is still developing a reliable jumper (though he’s made definite strides in that area). Best-case scenario, you’d want him to play on the ball to maximize his passing skills, but he’ll need to get stronger and work on creating his own shot in order to get there. His shot is a bit mechanical and will likely take some time to develop. Defensively he has some basic feel for where to be, but needs to work on his technique and footwork to have a chance at containing the perimeter. Still, he’s tough, mature, and has held his own against much older competition this season, and that success is a strong indicator he’ll find a way to adjust in the NBA. There’s a lot of room for optimism here, and his innate versatility and feel are great selling points.

12. Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga | Senior

Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 220 | Age: 22 | Previous rank: 9

As by far the most proven shooter in the draft, Kispert has left few questions surrounding his professional fit. He scored with otherworldly efficiency all season, particularly for a jump shooter, and projects neatly into a similar role in the NBA as a ball-moving, floor-spacing forward who can contribute immediately. Kispert primarily defended fours all season and has proven strong and tough enough to do that situationally, which adds some nice versatility to his profile as a role player. With the premium on high-level shooting, he’s a viable option in the late lottery in spite of his age. A team might be paying full price for a player who’s somewhat close to his ceiling, but Kispert is pretty hard to nitpick. Simply becoming a better version of what he already is shouldn’t be much to ask, and will be enough to carve out a long career.

13. Franz Wagner, F, Michigan | Sophomore

Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 11

Wagner’s blend of size and basketball IQ makes him an appealing option, and while his progression this season didn’t show up in the scoring column, he was a driving force for a very good Michigan team. His season ended on a low note—the NCAA tournament was a missed opportunity to firmly lock himself in as a lottery pick—but he’s a well-rounded player who will fit well alongside better teammates in the pros. Wagner will need to improve his three-point shooting to maximize his potential, but there aren’t any glaring holes in his skill set other than average athleticism and bouts of inconsistency. He makes quick decisions with the ball and plays an unselfish style, but needs to be more assertive at times. Still, with all he does well, it’s not hard to see a fit in the NBA, and his floor is fairly solid.

14. Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas | Freshman

Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 12

The NCAA tournament wasn’t overly kind to Moody, but his flashes over the course of the season and projectable shooting stroke profile nicely into an NBA wing role. 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. Moody isn’t particularly explosive and struggles to convert around the rim in traffic, but he found ways to be effective this season by drawing fouls. He may never put much pressure on the basket, but if he can learn to attack closeouts and make plays in those situations, it’ll be a big help. His long frame profiles well defensively away from the ball. Moody isn’t an overly flashy player, but he has an easy pathway to value, and nice upside if he can fashion himself into a more dynamic player working off the catch.

15. Usman Garuba, F/C, Real Madrid (Spain)

Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Previous rank: 14

Garuba’s athletic tools, defensive acumen, and wealth of high-level experience at his age all suggest he finds a way to help an NBA team next season. While not a rim protector in the truest sense, he projects as a switchable, physical defender who can center small lineups or play the four next to another big. He has all the qualities to be an exceptional player on that end early in his career. The downside here is that Garuba isn’t an exceptionally skilled scorer, with most of his looks created for him by others, and is a below-average jump shooter with poor numbers from the free throw line. His offensive role will likely be marginal at best in the early stages of his career, which places more stress on him being a high-end defender to compensate. Garuba’s advanced understanding of team basketball will help his adjustment, but the upside is primarily tied to how much better he shoots in the long run. Without that piece, he may be better suited for a rotation role than as a legit starter on a good team, but that’s a fine play in this part of the draft, particularly factoring in his age.

Baylor Bears guard Davion Mitchell (45) celebrates with guard MaCio Teague (31)

16. Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor | Junior

Height: 6' 2" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Previous rank: 32

Mitchell has benefitted more than any prospect from March Madness recency bias, riding the wave of Baylor’s title run to his current status as a potential lottery pick. Whether or not that’s justified is a fair argument. Factually, Mitchell is an excellent athlete, tenacious on-ball defender, and took his offensive game to another level this season. Yet there are still some questions about his jumper (he’s never been a great free throw shooter), and he plays a somewhat predictable style of offense, predicated mostly off of strong-hand drives. It’s clear that he’s more than a specialist, but even the best guard defenders in the NBA struggle to defend the best guards, and Mitchell’s average size will work against him in that department. There’s still a lot to like here, but he’s a much better bet if you’re not drafting him to be a future star. The Top 10 feels a bit rich, but it’s not out of the question based on how his stock is trending.

17. Alperen Sengun, F/C, Besiktas (Turkey)

Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Previous rank: 23

After entering the season somewhat off the radar, Sengun has put together a historically prolific season for a true 18-year-old at any level, let alone Europe, and has built a pretty urgent first-round case. He remains an exceptionally tricky eval, as 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 size or length and may not be able to succeed at center full-time due to defensive concerns, but there’s optimism he’ll eventually space the floor, which would add a key layer of offensive utility. While the narrative surrounding what the NBA values in its centers is a tad fraught at this point, the success of Nikola Jokić and Joel Embiid has pushed teams teams to think harder about skilled bigs with a chance at being successful outliers. Sengun isn’t either of those players, but he’s been so good at such a young age, and it’s difficult to ignore.

18. Jared Butler, PG, Baylor | Junior

Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 20

Leading Baylor to a title should have more or less cemented Butler’s case as a first-rounder. He was already one of the more bankable guard prospects in the draft, having proven himself on both ends as a quality player with a good understanding of his own capabilities. He’s dangerous with or without the ball, can facilitate with a ball screen and score inside and out. Butler’s change of pace off the dribble is solid, and while not a spectacular athlete, he’s a multiple-effort defender and crafty ballhandler 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. His intangibles off the court only bolster his case.

19. Tre Mann, PG, Florida | Sophomore

Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Previous rank: 37

Although Mann is a bit of an acquired taste for some scouts, he came on pretty strong over the final month of the season and has started translating his ability into production. He has great size for a ballhandler and took a big step forward shooting the ball, with a major leap up to 40% from three and 83% from the foul line. Mann is crafty off the dribble and capable of creating space for his jumper, with his upside tied to that progression as well as his nascent ability to consistently make plays for teammates. However, he’s not a particularly physical player, can be stagnant without the ball in his hands, and too often takes a casual approach to his role, which sporadically damages his impact on gameflow. If Mann can fine-tune his game to add value away from the ball, he could be a nice fit in a dual-handler offense and offer helpful lineup versatility. If his complementary skills don’t improve, there’s a lot hinging on his ability to stay efficient. He’s a worthy first-round option.