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Ranking the Top 15 Prospects for the 2021 NBA Draft Class

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 23, 2020

Prolific Prep's Jalen Green #4 in action against La Lumiere during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic, Sunday, January 19, 2020, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

The 2020 Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, featured many of the nation's top-ranked high school players who'll go on to generate heavy NBA interest for the 2021 draft.

We may eventually look back to see that the first five overall picks competed this weekend in Blake Arena. 

While most teams played only one game, the matchups, national broadcast and courtside seating made for an excellent live scouting opportunity. 

These rankings are based on pro potential and only include high school recruits and international players eligible for the 2021 draft.

              

No. 1: Cade Cunningham (Montverde Academy, PG)

Committed to: Oklahoma State

Even before Hoophall, there had been a growing sentiment among scouts that Cunningham would be the first pick in 2020 if he were eligible to declare. That says something about the current crop of draft prospects, but also about Cunningham's development, fit and potential trajectory based on his advanced physical profile, skill set and intangibles.

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He finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Sunday's win over IMG Academy, putting on one of his routine shows of three-level scoring, special passing and blanketing defense on potential lottery pick Jaden Springer. 

At 6'7" and 215 pounds, Cunningham has a power forward's body, but he's best with the ball as a point guard. He threw some high-level passes in Springfield, including one ridiculous lefty assist through traffic to a cutter that highlighted an elite knack for anticipating and executing as a playmaker. 

But he's also an established mismatch creating for himself, given his ball-handling, power, athletic fluidity and mid-to-long-range shot-making. Along with the easy buckets he earned at the rim, he flashed his soft one-hander game around the lane and a sweet fallaway jumper over the shoulder to knock IMG out of reach.

While Cunningham doesn't have Zion Williamson's explosiveness, he's as well-rounded of a high school prospect as we've seen over the past several years. Comparisons are shifting toward Luka Doncic, though Doncic is the superior perimeter threat, while Cunningham possesses far more defensive upside.

Though the 2021 draft is still 17 months away, it's difficult to imagine another player moving ahead of Cunningham as the No. 1 overall prospect. It will be nearly impossible for one to replace him before he arrives at Oklahoma State.

           

No. 2.: Jalen Green (Prolific Prep, SG)

Schools in the mix, per 247Sports: Memphis, Auburn, Oregon, Florida State, USC

Special athletically with standout quickness and explosiveness, Green moved to No. 2 on our 2021 board after Springfield mostly because of his growing skill development since the summer. It continues to show, from Peach Jam in July and Hoophall West in December. This past weekend, Green delivered more flashes of shot-making and passing.

With Memphis assistant Mike Miller on hand, the nation's top uncommitted prospect went for 26 points and five assists in a win over La Lumiere. He buried a key step-back three-pointer late from the top of the key. He gets strong elevation on his jump shot in general, which helps him separate into clean looks. 

Otherwise, his improved ball-handling and athleticism translates to layups, dunks and trips to the free-throw line every game off slashes and transition. But Green also used his off-the-dribble game to set up teammates with kickouts and pick-and-roll dishes. 

He tends to force the issue on drives and pull-ups. He'll need to learn how to play more under control, and he still isn't at the level where he can be labeled a shooter. Still, no incoming freshman will match Green's explosiveness on offense, scoring upside, playmaking potential and defensive foot speed.

              

No. 3: Evan Mobley (Rancho Christian, C)

Committed to: USC

DeMatha Catholic defeated Rancho Christian, using zone to limit Mobley's opportunities. He still finished with 22 points despite his teammates struggling to get him the ball in good spots throughout the game. 

One college coach sent Bleacher Report a text message mid-game noting how much Mobley will benefit from stronger point guard play in college. 

The USC-bound center possesses special fluidity for a 7-footer, which shows on finishes, quick face-up moves and defensive plays around the rim. He has excellent poise and vision as a passer with a projectable jump shot based on his soft touch. 

However, he wasn't as dominant as one might have hoped, particularly given the spotlight shined on Hoophall. Hunter Dickinson, DeMatha's center headed to Michigan, outplayed Mobley in the post and exuded more intensity throughout the win.

But the NBA talent detector still lights up when assessing Mobley's long-term potential. 

             

No. 4: BJ Boston (Sierra Canyon, SG/SF)

Committed to: Kentucky

Kentucky has sent a scoring 2-guard or wing to the lottery in every draft since 2015. Tyrese Maxey will be next, and then Boston should follow in 2021. 

A 6'6" shot-creator with easy three-point range, Sierra Canyon's top option was a standout in Springfield, generating the most noise against Domincan High School after exploding for a vicious dunk on Alex Antetokoumnpo. Boston is noticeably skinny, but he plays with a confident, aggressive edge, and he compensates for limited strength with fluid athleticism, positional length and a high skill level on finishes and jump shots. 

He made an even stronger impression Saturday with 10 assists that highlighted his passing and playmaking versatility.

Although Sierra lost to Paul VI on Monday, Boston still scored 20 points to secure a spot on the Hoophall All-Showcase team. 

His game and body type are sure to draw Brandon Ingram comparisons once he begins to receive national attention in college.  

                

No. 5. Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, PF/C, 2002)

On the draft radar ever since he won MVP of the U16 European Championships in 2016, Garuba has worked his way toward a role for Real Madrid in Euroleague by 17 years old. 

He even started Sunday, making all three of his field-goal attempts in 18 minutes against a lineup featuring 28-year-old big man Tornike Shenelia (16.5 PPG). At 6'8" and 220 pounds, Garuba is earning time with his toughness around the basket on finishes, interior defense and rebounds. 

His mix of strength, foot speed, coordination and anticipation separate him from other power forwards or centers.

Offensively, Garuba had a greener light in the Spanish ACB, where he's started to flash shooting potential on 4-of-10 three-point attempts.

Garuba's role in both leagues will presumably be bigger during his draft-eligible season. And by then, his skill level should look promising enough to draw 2021 lottery interest, particularly given his production and effectiveness at the highest level in Europe. 

             

No. 6. Ziaire Williams (Sierra Canyon, SF/PF)

Schools in the mix, per 247Sports: North Carolina, USC, Arizona, Duke, Oregon

Williams combined for 30 points in games against Dominican and Paul VI, scoring with his distinguished mix of 6'8" size and face-up scoring skills. 

He knocked down a pair of three-pointers Saturday night, and he's shown a comfort level separating in the mid-range for jumpers or finishing with coordination off one foot in the lane. 

His tools and athleticism also translate to easy baskets and highlight defensive playmaking. 

Williams does lack strength around the basket. And he can settle too much around the perimeter, where he's a threat but isn't super sharp as a creator or shooter.

             

No. 7. Terrence Clarke (Brewster Academy, SG/SF)

Committed to: Kentucky

Weather conditions kept Brewster from Hoophall, but one performance wouldn't have moved the needle on Clarke's evaluation. He's made plenty of highly monitored appearances over the past year in the EYBL, NBPA Top 100 Camp and CP3 Camp.

Lottery potential will continue glistening off his 6'7" frame, ball skills and perimeter scoring.

Teams defending Kentucky won't have easy answers for Boston and Clarke, who can also create and knock down jumpers from the mid-range to three-point territory. 

Scouts' eyes will focus on his shooting consistency and overall efficiency. In 18 AAU games from April to July, he shot 40.9 percent, 26.4 percent from three and 67.9 percent from the free-throw line.

He'll want to prove he can add value in areas like playmaking and rebounding when his shot isn't falling. He'll also turn 19 before his first college season. But at this stage, there is too much talent and skill to nitpick. 

            

No. 8. Jalen Johnson (N/A, SF/PF)

Committed to: Duke

Nobody seems to have any clarity on Johnson's decision to leave IMG or whether he'll play organized ball before headed to Duke. His talent and fit are clear, however.

While every scout and fan would have loved to see him face Cunningham and Scottie Barnes at Hoophall, Johnson's physical tools and ball-handling/playmaking create enticing versatility. The 6'8" forward averaged 5.8 assists in 17 EYBL and Peach Jam games, demonstrating unique vision and passing skills for a player his age and size. 

He finds ways to score in the lane, and he's ahead of the game as a rebounder and switchable defender. But Johnson only shoot 20.0 percent from three in AAU from April to July. His shooting development will be a hot topic at Duke in the 2021 draft discussion.

             

No. 9. Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy, PG)

Committed to: Gonzaga

Suggs went off in an ESPN game earlier this month against Park Center, dropping 25 points in a performance that seemingly showed his development in areas that needed it. 

He hit five three-pointers in the first half, including a few from NBA range. And he dished out eight assists, using his dribble to break down defenses and set up teammates with kickouts.

At 6'4", his size and athleticism raise his ceiling, but this year's improved shooting and passing make Suggs' potential easier to buy. Depending on Joel Ayayi's development and status at Gonzaga, the Bulldogs could have multiple first-rounders in their 2020-21 backcourt.

            

No. 10 Greg Brown (Vandegrift High School, PF)

Schools in the mix, per 247Sports: Auburn, Kentucky, Memphis, Michigan, Texas

Among our top 15 prospects for the 2021 draft, Brown could lead the way in dunks per 40 minutes next year, although we still don't know where he'll play. 

His game is still more athleticism over skill, but few players can match Brown's level of explosiveness for a 6'8" forward. He's a high-percentage finisher in transition, off missed shots and after any received pass where he has room to load up and leap.

Defensively, his ability to bounce and hang in the air allows him to block and contest shots, even when he mistimes his jump.

Brown is less effective when he's forced to put the ball down in the half court. He needs to improve as a creator and shooter, but his athleticism and enough production/efficiency in college should help buy him time to develop with scouts. He figures to get slapped with the "potential" label before next June's draft.

                   

No. 11: DJ Steward (Whitney Young, SG)

Committed to: Duke

Steward was an easy standout in Springfield, burying six three-pointers in a Sunday win over Mount Vernon. 

A combo guard at 6'3", he plays more off the ball for Whitney Young alongside Tyler Beard, who had a terrific game of his own. Steward put on a shooting clinic, burying jumpers off spot-ups, screens, pull-ups and transition leakouts. 

His ball-handling in traffic also popped, as did his defensive playmaking on at steal at half court and a blocked shot at the rim.

Steward is a scorer first, and there may be questions at Duke about his upside given his size and skinny stature. But it's easy to picture him being an offensive focal point for the Blue Devils next season. His valuable shot-making versatility, creation potential and defensive quickness should be a draw for NBA scouts. 

           

No. 12: Jaden Springer (IMG, PG)

Committed to: Tennessee

The game came easier to Springer against The Patrick School on Saturday than it did against Montverde on Sunday, when he was guarded by the 6'7", 215-pound Cunningham. Still, Springer looks stronger physically this year, playing his first season as a full-time point guard.

The poise and skill level have always been there, though 11 turnovers through two games in Springfield did highlight his room to improve as a decision-maker.

Springer scored 17 points Saturday, playing with his signature balance handling the ball and rising into his shots.

He lacks a degree of explosiveness, but he's sharp off the dribble with pull-up shooting, finishing ability in the lane and passing. Springer's package has a balanced mix of 6'5" size, scoring and playmaking.

And Cunningham isn't the typical player he'll be guarding in college or the pros. There is a lot to like about Springer's defensive potential from the point of attack, given his strong legs, quick feet, positional height and competitiveness. 

This was the fourth time Bleacher Report has scouted Springer live over the past year. And while he doesn't pop with superstar upside, a way-too-early assessment senses a late-lottery prospect.

         

No. 13.: Moses Moody (Montverde Academy, SG)

Committed to: Arkansas

Playing with Cunningham on Montverde's loaded roster, Moody gets plenty of good looks. He cashed them in against IMG on Sunday, finishing with 16 points and three made three-pointers. He hit another pair of triples versus McEachern on Monday while also tallying four blocks to continue fueling the excitement around his three-and-D potential. 

A 6'6" 2-guard, Moody has strong positional size, convincing shot-making skill and strong on-ball defensive tools for ball-handlers and wings. 

Spending many possessions spotting up, he isn't super creative off the dribble. But signs point to a promising set shooter who can pull up and attack in straight lines—enough to eventually reach NBA role-player potential. An 80.0 percent free-throw mark through 40 AAU games (2018 and 2019) is a good sign regarding his touch.

            

No. 14: Keon Johnson (The Webb School, SG)

Committed to: Tennessee

Johnson's long-term potential is the draw here, as it wouldn't be surprising if his freshman impact won't be as felt or consistent as others in our top 15. 

He's made an impression this season with more confident shooting and added polish off the dribble, which he uses to navigate through defenses or play-make. He'll still lean on his athletic ability at both ends to attack, finish and block shots like a forward. 

The 17-year-old wing's game screams both upside and room to improve. An appropriate amount of skill development over the next 17 months could create enough intrigue from NBA scouts.

        

No. 15: Scottie Barnes (Montverde, SF/PF)

Committed to: Florida State

Barnes' transfer to Montverde Academy gave it a unique edge. Versatility has always been his defining characteristic. Along with Cunningham, Montverde now has two players who weigh at least 210 pounds that can grab and go and defend all five positions. 

Against IMG on Saturday, Barnes showed off his unique mix of strength, ball-handling skills and off-the-dribble fluidity. He went coast-to-coast on one possession. On another, he flashed the Eurostep off a catch-and-slash from the arc. And he worked as a bully around the basket for finishes and putbacks. 

Barnes has point-forward ability, but he has also added enough muscle to guard bigs and rebound.

Shooting will be the swing skill that determines how high he'll go in the 2021 draft. Montverde doesn't need him taking threes. The NBA might. He still oozes pro potential and figures to be an impact freshman at Florida State, especially if the Seminoles lose Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams to the 2020 draft.

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