2021 NBA Draft Big Board: The Top 50 Prospects Right Now

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 2, 2021

2021 NBA Draft Big Board: The Top 50 Prospects Right Now

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    David Butler II/Associated Press

    With the NCAA tournament looming, the NBA draft scouting lens intensifies. 

    Our February big board update received some significant changes, including moving one previously injured player into the top 10 and a once-projected lottery pick into the second-round range. 

    Most prospects have played around 20 games, a good sample size for scouting, while the G League Ignite are now 11 games into their schedule. 

Nos. 50-41

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    David Butler II/Associated Press

    50. Sandro Mamukelashvili (Seton Hall, PF, Senior)

    Attempting and making more threes in February (40.6 percent, 5.3 3PTA), Mamukelashvili scored at least 20 points in four of six games last month. He doesn't rebound or block shots like a big, but the versatility to shoot, handle and pass creates enticing offensive versatility. 

         

    49. Allen Flanigan (Auburn, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    Dramatic improvement has Flanigan shooting 46.9 percent on catch-and-shoot chances, ranked in the 87th percentile as an isolation scorer and converting 69.1 percent of his attempts around the basket. He can be hit or miss and wild with his decision-making, but for an athletic, 6'6" wing, Flanigan's physical tools, year-to-year jump, offensive versatility and palpable confidence suggest he's worth tracking. 

         

    48. Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine, SF, Junior)

    Edwards' consistent shooting and shot-making versatility for a 6'8" forward should be enough to draw second-round interest.

         

    47. David Duke (Providence, SG, Junior)

    A near triple-double against Xavier last week (18 points, nine assists, nine rebounds) highlighted Duke's improved all-around game—not just his scoring. 

        

    46. Matthew Hurt (Duke, PF, Freshman)

    It's become impossible to keep overlooking Hurt's breakout season after this weekend's 37-point explosion against Louisville. He lacks physicality to play inside or any plus athletic traits for defense, but shooting accuracy (45.8 percent from three) and shot-making versatility at 6'9" should warrant second-round consideration. 

         

    45. Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Junior)

    With a 65.7 true shooting percentage, Ayayi has been wildly efficient, picking his spots to attack off ball screens (98th percentile) or cut through defenses (92nd percentile). NBA teams should figure he could excel playing the same supporting role on and off the ball. 

         

    44. Isaiah Livers (Michigan, SF, Senior)

    Shooting over 40 percent from three for the third consecutive year, Livers could give teams a shooter whose sound decision-making and serviceable defensive tools/IQ help round out his role-player profile. 

          

    43. Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)

    Jackson's 13.5 block percentage figures to rank first among eligible draft prospects. Without any ball-handling, shooting or passing skills, he'll have little margin for error as a finisher, but Jackson clearly has the athletic ability to serve as a useful lob target and rim protector.  

          

    42. Miles McBride (West Virginia, PG, Sophomore)

    Entering the season, McBride was a prospect to monitor for his pesky defense and speed with the ball. While he's still that potential energizer, he's become easier to take seriously now that he's shooting 42.9 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists to 1.8 turnovers.

          

    41. Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)

    A former junior college player of the year, Duarte suddenly deserves NBA looks for his 42.5 percent three-point shooting and defensive toughness. Rising flashes of creation and specialty shot-making continue to push him up the board.

Nos. 40-31

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    Matt Stamey/Associated Press

    40. Taevion Kinsey (Marshall, SG/SF, Junior)

    Shooting 57.5 percent from two and 45.9 percent from three, Kinsey is averaging 19.8 points while possessing some of the bounciest leaping ability in the nation. Even if questions about his jumper and limited three-point volume (17-of-37) are fair, there is still enough scoring efficiency and athleticism to gamble on with a second-round pick.

         

    39. Rokas Jokubaitis (Zalgiris, PG/SG, 2000)

    Over the years, the Lithuanian has flashed enough skill versatility, craftiness and IQ for NBA teams to look past his wavering production overseas. 

          

    38. Ariel Hukporti (Nevezis Kedainiai, C, 2002)

    An immediate standout for his 7'0", 250-pound frame, movement and athleticism, the German has also delivered some enticing flash plays of skill as a face-up scorer and shooter. He's still rough around the edges in terms of perimeter execution and picking his spots, but Hukporti can make unique plays for an 18-year-old with his particular body.

         

    37. Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky, SF, Freshman)

    I've stayed patient with Boston through his struggles, but it's gotten to the point where his creation and shooting out of high school officially seem overrated. With smooth slashing and three-level shot-making potential to unlock, he's not worth writing off completely, however.

         

    36. Daishen Nix (G League Ignite, PG, 2002)

    Nix's strong frame and passing instincts suggest his physical finishing, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game can translate from the G League bubble to the NBA. No explosiveness and poor shooting (6-of-28 3PT) raise questions about his ceiling. 

         

    35. Isaiah Todd (G League Ignite, PF, 2002)

    Scouts have been surprised and impressed by Todd's shooting for an athletic, 6'10" forward. There is a willingness to overlook his limitations as a creator and passer if his three-ball is for real and he continues to use his quickness and bounce for defensive versatility and playmaking at the rim.

          

    34. Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SF, Freshman)

    Ranking in the 94th percentile in spot-ups and 99th percentile as a cutter, Mathurin has the shooting stroke, athleticism and feel for off-ball scoring. The 6'7" wing is at 41.9 percent from three and 63.6 percent at the rim.

          

    33. Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)

    Giddey has been up and down in the NBL, particularly as a scorer, but it's still easy to buy his passing and IQ for a 6'7" ball-handler. With eight three-pointers over his last five games, all eyes from here will be on Giddey's shooting, a key swing skill that could push him into the first round.

            

    32. Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)

    Averaging 21.0 points, 5.3 assists and 40.0 percent shooting from three, Dosunmu has kept pressure on scouts all season to buy his breakout. A tough matchup against Michigan State's Aaron Henry exposed some of Dosunmu's question marks as a creator, but he's still developed into a more complete shot-maker and passer to deem worth drafting in the first round.

         

    31. Nah'Shon Hyland (VCU, SG, Sophomore)

    With 64 threes in 21 games, Hyland has been making a case to NBA teams as a shot-making specialist. Though limited as a playmaker, the right team and role could get use out of Hyland's shooting confidence and streaky scoring. 

Nos. 30-21

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    30. Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    Shooting 73.7 percent at the rim, Shannon's explosiveness should buy him time and patience when it comes to his shooting development. His jumper is worth rolling the dice on this late, given what it could do for a player with his athleticism and quickness for slashing and defending.

          

    29. Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG/SF, Junior)

    The lack of shooting improvement won't help Henry's draft stock. It could mean a team gets to buy low on a 6'6" wing defender and slasher with one of the nation's best floaters (96th percentile), serviceable passing skills and a jump shot that still has potential (41.9 percent on pull-ups). 

         

    28. Tre Mann (Florida, PG, Sophomore)

    Coming off a big week combining for 53 points in wins over Kentucky, Auburn and Georgia, Mann is making a late push for NBA love with his creativity and shot-making. His playmaking numbers (3.4 assists, 2.7 turnovers per game) don't scream lead guard, but at 6'5", Mann has the size, handle, shiftiness, dribble-jumper game and floater for a combo scoring-spark role.

          

    27. Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Junior)

    Bassey missed an opportunity to make an impression against No. 12 Houston, which held him to a season-low nine points by sending double-teams. He's still shown enough progress with his post game and touch for an athletic, 6'11" center blocking 3.1 shots per game. 

         

    26. Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

    Butler's NBA pitch focuses more on versatility than lead guard or scoring potential. Between his ball-handling and shooting off the catch or dribble, he's become well rounded and easy to use, even if he doesn't offer a ton of upside. 

         

    25. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Sophomore)

    A skilled post scorer, Robinson-Earl has made himself a more attractive pro prospect this year by developing into one of the most efficient spot-up players in the country (92nd percentile). He still has to improve his three-ball, but he's been money in the mid-range (55.6 percent) and quicker attacking off the bounce this year.

         

    24. Greg Brown Jr. (Texas, PF, Freshman)

    Brown makes you think boom-or-bust, with his athleticism and three-point shooting (1.4 3PTM) powering the boom projection. A 42.0 percent field-goal mark (for a 6'9" leaper), 46 turnovers to five assists and 3.2 fouls in 22.0 minutes per night highlight the bust concerns.

         

    23. Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)

    At 6'9", the Croatian's ability to handle in transition, shoot threes and use his athleticism for driving and finishing off the ball creates scoring versatility suited for the NBA. 

         

    22. Marcus Bagley (Arizona State, PF, Freshman)

    Buying into Bagley means buying his shooting and fit as a 6'8" forward with the shot-making versatility to connect out of different situations. He doesn't offer much creativity, but the ability to hit threes off spot-ups, screens and pull-ups, plus finish drives and defend his position, could turn Bagley into a valued role player for the right team. 

         

    21. Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)

    Only seven major-conference freshmen on record have averaged at least 22 points, and all of them wound up being top-five picks. Thomas requires a high usage and tough shot selection, but his effectiveness creating separation and shot-making is too special for a 6'4" 19-year-old in the SEC.

Nos. 20-11

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    Justin Rex/Associated Press

    20. Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG, Junior)

    Mitchell has cooled off while COVID-19 protocols have limited Baylor to just three games in February. Defensive toughness remains his signature, but improvement to Mitchell's creation, shooting and playmaking for the nation's No. 3 team has had NBA scouts buzzing all season.

         

    19. Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG, Freshman)

    Christopher continues to miss games with a leg injury, but I've seen enough to buy his explosiveness, creation and shot-making for scoring at the NBA level. It just may take a few seasons before he's able to produce at an efficient rate based on his shot selection and inconsistent three-ball. 

         

    18. Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)

    It's been a slump-free season of masterful shot-making for Kispert, who combined to score 49 points over Gonzaga's last two games. Elite shooting at 6'7", 220 pounds should help him earn lottery looks, while his two-point efficiency, decision-making and defensive IQ create an even stronger role-player profile. 

         

    17. Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)

    An ankle injury has kept Cooper out, but he won't need to play again to convince me or scouts that his playmaking will translate. Questions about his athleticism and frame for finishing, and a set jumper that doesn't look built for distance, keep Cooper outside our top 10.  

         

    16. Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, C, 2002)

    Real Madrid's defensive ace, Garuba is coming off consecutive games with a three-pointer. He'll earn his NBA money by impacting games on defense, making reads, challenging shots and switching. Just becoming a threat to hit open shots unlocks NBA starter potential for the right team. 

         

    15. Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF, Sophomore)

    Versatility has been the selling point to Wagner all season, but now he's asserting himself as a scorer for the nation's No. 2 team, finishing with at least 20 points in three of his last four games. Regardless, a shoot-dribble-pass skill set for a 6'9" forward, plus terrific defensive mobility and instincts, hint at a high floor and easy fit for any team.

         

    14. Kai Jones (Texas, PF/C, Sophomore)

    It's been the same story all season for Jones, who's attempted double-digit shots attempts once but regularly flashes the athleticism and scoring skills that point to upside. His potential to rim-run, shoot threes, attack closeouts and switch defensively suggests he's a project worth taking on with a top-20 pick.

         

    13. Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)

    Dominant overseas at 18 years old, Sengun just put together his eighth 20-point double-double in the Turkish BSL. He's even started to show off shooting range this month, a potential huge development if it can be maintained, given how productive, skilled and crafty he is off post-ups, short-corner isolations and rolls. 

         

    12. Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)

    With at least 20 points in five of Tennessee's last seven games, Springer is coming alive as a scorer, generating most of his offense off the ball with spot-up threes and timely drives and cuts.

    It's worth questioning how much a lack of explosion could hold him back at the next level, but Springer has been too effective of a finisher (64.3 percent), shooter (47.4 percent 3PT), passer (24.9 assist percentage) and defender (2.7 steal percentage) for athletic limitations to offset his skill level and intangibles.

         

    11. Scottie Barnes (Florida State, PF, Freshman)

    Barnes' defensive projection and unique, positional playmaking make it easier to accept his offensive limitations. He's the only college player 6'8" or taller with an assist percentage above 30.0 percent and steal percentage of at least 2.5 percent. 

10. Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Moses Moody had an off February, finishing the month at 30.9 percent from the floor and 24.3 percent inside the arc. But he's been relatively consistent from three, and between his projectable shooting stroke and defensive tools at 6'6", Moody still comes off as an NBA fit with a high floor and room to grow as a scorer.

    Even without much creativity to his game, he's still averaging 16.6 points. He's hitting 40.5 percent of his pull-ups and finding other ways to score, especially off screens, offensive rebounds and foul shots. 

    There isn't enough visible upside to Moody's game for him to climb much higher up the board, but he also isn't likely to slip far from No. 10, given the likelihood of his three-and-D translating, and the value tied to that archetype. 

9. Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SF, Freshman)

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    Pete Caster/Associated Press

    Ziaire Williams figures to hover around the late-lottery range, regardless of what happens the rest of the season. 

    The inconsistent production has been frustrating, but with Williams, I'm buying his jumper and the value tied to a forward with his particular skill set and defensive projection. 

    He's a smooth shooter with NBA range and the ability to cleanly separate into balanced pull-ups and step-backs. He doesn't get to the rim often, but Williams has been used as a 6'8" pick-and-roll-handler who can stop-and-pop or pass. 

    Defensively, he regularly stands out for his lateral quickness and length. And at the very least, teams should see a three-and-D forward. There's more upside kicks in if he continues to grow as a shot-creator and playmaker.

8. Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Jalen Johnson turned some scouts off by leaving Duke. His decision shouldn't impact his evaluation, however, unless a team thinks it reflects an attitude or mentality that won't mesh well with his teammates.

    On the floor, he possesses a unique skill set for a 6'9" forward, who at least should continue to finish, rebound and facilitate or switch defensively at the NBA level. The ability to handle in transition, face up and score or pass off the dribble separate Johnson from other bigs. 

    His jumper is an obvious concern, but it didn't look completely broken (8-of-18 3PT), and Johnson still found other ways to score using athleticism and improvised shot-making inside the arc.

7. Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG, Freshman)

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    Keon Johnson averaged 14.0 points in February and looked more confident in his skills and less reliant on athleticism and effort. 

    Early as an NBA pro, he still projects as more of an energizer and defender, but the flashes of ball-handling and shot-making create optimism over his potential to become a tougher half-court scoring and playmaking threat.

    Johnson started the season at No. 7—outside the top five because of a lack of offensive polish but top-10 based on long-term upside fueled by physicality, explosion, aggression and room to improve his off-the-dribble game and shot. Nothing has changed in his scouting report or projection with March Madness looming.

6. James Bouknight (Connecticut, PG/SG, Sophomore)

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    David Butler II/Associated Press

    Since returning from an elbow injury, James Bouknight is averaging 20.8 points on 50.0 percent shooting and appearing in total control when creating and finishing.

    With the ball-handling ability to manipulate defenses, change direction, attack through gaps and separate into pull-ups and step-backs, his scoring skill set mirrors an NBA 2-guard's. Always seemingly under control, Bouknight is rarely sped up or forced into wild shots. He's converting 66.7 percentage of his attempts around the basket. He gets the looks he wants, and he's producing in volume without relying on threes.

    Bouknight has room to grow as a shooter and playmaker, but given his shot-making and creativity off the dribble, it's easy to buy his potential to improve both. 

5. Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)

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    After a hot start in the G League bubble, Jonathan Kuminga hasn't been as sharp over the past two weeks. However, the positives still outweigh the negatives, which are mostly correctable bad shots and missed threes.

    Defenders continue to have trouble containing his size, strength, quickness and straight-line speed. He already has a physical advantage against older pros, driving and finishing through them. 

    But he also has scoring skills to complement that athleticism and power, with a decent chunk of Kuminga's 16.4 points per game coming off creation moves into layups and jumpers. 

    On the downside, he's shooting 40.1 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from three with a tendency to catch-and-hold or settle around the perimeter. The inefficient offense makes it tough to fall too deeply in love with Kuminga's game, but it's also worth noting Ignite have a 7-4 record.

4. Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)

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    Through 11 games, the G League Ignite's top performer is Jalen Green, who is producing with athleticism, creation skills and shot-making that suggest his scoring will translate.

    His shooting has been the most eye-popping development, with Green now up to 42.2 percent from three after hitting 6-of-8 against the Canton Charge. He naturally picks up a few easy baskets a game just by tapping into his explosive first step and bounce around the rim. But at his age, Green's ability to separate into balanced dribble jumpers—and make them at a solid rate—is what fuels the elite scoring potential NBA teams are after. 

    He's still prone to lazy decision-making and defensive lapses. But they aren't alarming enough to offset the transition offense/slashing NBA teams can bank on and an advanced one-on-one game that looks as dangerous as any prospect's in the draft. 

3. Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    For the first time all season, opponents have been able to keep Evan Mobley relatively quiet. He's averaging 11.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks over USC's last three games (1-2 record). 

    It won't affect his overall draft stock, given how consistent he'd previously been with a skill set and defensive versatility tailor-made for today's NBA. At 7'0", Mobley possesses special fluidity and coordination handling the ball in the open floor or separating into a layup or runner off a face-up move in the half court. His jump shot looks clean and projectable as well, making it easy to buy Mobley as a future pick-and-pop or spot-up threat. 

    His rim protection and switchability could still be his biggest draws to NBA teams looking for a new defensive presence to build around.

    The biggest concern with Mobley stems from his lack of physicality and slender frame. A 14.0 rebounding percentage represents a below-average number relative to centers picked high in previous drafts (Deandre Ayton, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis).

2. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    It's not worth diving too deep into Jalen Suggs' numbers, given his role on Gonzaga's loaded team of veterans and consistent blowouts the team is involved in. He's the full package of athleticism, pull-up scoring ability, playmaking skills, defense and intangibles.

    He doubles as a lead guard and energizer, capable of running an offense and taking over or impacting games with hustle and competitiveness. 

    If there is a reason to hesitate before buying All-Star potential, it's because he hasn't been shooting or making many threes relative to most point guard prospects (1.0 3PTM). But he also hasn't needed to, given his knack for getting downhill and Gonzaga's dominance inside. At 6'4", Suggs actually has more finishes at the rim (40) and dunks (eight) than Cade Cunningham (35 and seven, respectively).

    And the eye-test results on Suggs' shooting release remain encouraging. He ranks in the 89th percentile on dribble jumpers and is hitting 75.0 percent of his free throws.

1. Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG, Freshman)

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    Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

    Cade Cunningham separated further from the pack on Saturday, when he put up 40 points on 21 shots to beat No. 7-ranked Oklahoma. 

    He put on a scoring clinic that showcased pro-level creation and shot-making from all over the floor. He was tough inside finishing through contact and precise with his ball-handling, footwork and jump-shot execution around the perimeter. 

    For the season, he's now averaging 19.8 points on 43.2 percent from three and 85.0 percent at the line. As advanced as he's looked as a scorer, he's equally skilled as a passer—he just hasn't been asked to be a playmaker as much for a team that needs his scoring punch.

    A huge game-saving block down the stretch against Oklahoma highlighted even more potential on defense, where he frequently puts himself in the right spots.

         

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference. All statistics correct as of March 1. 

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