Grading Every Top 2021 NBA Draft Prospect in Each Key Category

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 8, 2021

Grading Every Top 2021 NBA Draft Prospect in Each Key Category

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Scouting reports on NBA draft prospects cover a lot of ground. 

    We graded each top prospect in key areas relative to their roles and positions. Scoring, shooting, defense and impact are important for everyone. For perimeter players, we looked at playmaking, and for bigs, we assessed rebounding. 

    Except for the G League Ignite prospects, only players who played at least 20 games were considered. International prospects were left out since their seasons are ongoing. These players represent the top three tiers on the latest draft board, which encompass the top 19 prospects.

Scottie Barnes (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    Scoring: B-

    Scoring isn't Scottie Barnes' strength. He's a limited self-creator who relied mostly on transition with his ball-handling fluidity.

    Off ball screens, he was successful getting downhill and finishing. Off the ball, Barnes flashed some ability to attack closeouts and score on the move. But as a one-on-one player, he shot just 3-of-10 out of isolation and only recorded three made buckets out of the post despite his 6'9", 227-pound size. 

    Shooting: C

    Barnes didn't arrive at Florida State with a track record of making threes, so the 11 he hit may be considered promising (or bonus buckets). Still, he shot 27.5 percent from deep on limited attempts, and his 62.1 free-throw percentage was discouraging. 

    Just 4-of-19 on pull-ups, Barnes won't be taken seriously around the perimeter by NBA defenses anytime soon. 

    Playmaking: A

    Barnes was known for passing coming in, and he delivered on that reputation. He finished with an outstanding 31.6 assist percentage, grading in the 98th percentile as a pick-and-roll distributor. Even from a standstill position, he was able to deliver high-level assists using deception, timing and vision. 

    Defense: A

    Defense remains Barnes' biggest selling point. At Florida State, he guarded all five positions, pressuring guards full-court and bodying up with bigs inside. He's the most versatile defender in the draft with a consistent desire to make things difficult for opponents. 

    Impact: A-

    Even though Barnes didn't score in volume, his impact was regularly felt in other ways. He didn't seem to have a personal agenda. He picked his spots to attack, unselfishly looked for teammates and consistently defended. His enthusiasm for his teammates' success was also noticeable, and scouts sound very high on his intangibles. 

Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Garett Fisbeck/Associated Press

    Scoring: A-

    Cade Cunningham arrived at Oklahoma State known more for passing. He'll enter the draft viewed as a scorer after he averaged 20.1 points with an impressive one-on-one skill set. He ranked in the 87th percentile out of isolation, creating space into drives and jumpers off sharp footwork. Cunningham also shot 16-of-31 out of the post, an area from which he can cause problems for defenders with his 6'8" size and ability to use both hands. 

    The one negative with Cunningham here was his 46.1 two-point percentage, traditionally a low mark for a projected No. 1 overall pick. He struggled on contested shots in traffic, missing 24 of his 33 floater attempts.

    Shooting: A

    An 84.6 free-throw percentage suggests Cunningham's 40.0 percent three-point shooting (on 5.7 attempts per game) wasn't fluky. His shot looked smooth all year both off the catch (43.9 percent) and the dribble (49 makes). 

    Playmaking: B

    Cunningham delivered passes that highlighted tremendous ball skill and vision. He would have averaged more than 3.5 assists if spot-up shooters shot better than 35.7 percent off his pick-and-roll passes. The offense ran through Cunningham often, and a heavy workload contributed to his 4.0 turnovers per game. But he still appeared too casual at times with his decision-making, and he'll have to value the ball and possession more at the next level. 

    Defense: A-

    Cunningham's defensive IQ stood out more than anything else. Off the ball, he often put himself in the right position to help or make a play on the ball. It's worth questioning what NBA position he'll guard and whether he's quick enough to stick with lead ball-handlers. But he showed an excellent feel for anticipating and reading different situations, both around the perimeter and near the basket. 

    Impact: A-

    Cunningham led the country in clutch points (per Synergy) and managed to elevate Oklahoma State to a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. He took over numerous games late in second halves to help secure wins. There shouldn't be any empty-stat arguments regarding his production. 

Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)

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    Scoring: A

    Jalen Green left the G League bubble with a 30-point playoff game after averaging 17.9 points during the Ignite's regular schedule. 

    Playing against pros and recent draft picks, he was productive and relatively efficient (46.1 percent from the field) given his age (19) and shot selection.

    Together, his quick first step and explosive leaping were incredibly advantageous, allowing him to earn easy-basket opportunities without needing to pull off any fancy dribble moves. But Green was still highly impressive with his creation, demonstrating advanced footwork to separate into jumpers. 

    The eye test detected an NBA scorer who looked ready to carry a sizable workload as a rookie.

    Shooting: B+

    Green improved his shooting as a high school senior, and it showed in the bubble, where he averaged 2.1 threes per game on a respectable 36.5 percent. He was a little streaky and had a green light to shoot himself out of cold streaks, but he has clearly evolved into a three-level shot-maker capable of catching fire once his confidence starts to pump.

    Playmaking: B

    Ignite had plenty of point guards, so Green wasn't out there to set up teammates. He finished with 42 assists to 40 turnovers and showed some ability to pass in ball-screen situations. He didn't facilitate enough for teams to think he can be used as a primary ball-handler, but his creativity and ball skills suggest he'll offer secondary playmaking at the next level.

    Defense: B

    Green looked engaged defensively, and though he didn't always anticipate screens and a lack of strength occasionally showed, no red flags emerged. He averaged 1.5 steals with his quick hands and feet.

    Impact: B+

    The Ignite's leading scorer, Green looked comfortable as a go-to option after a shaky debut. Just making the playoffs was considered an accomplishment (8-7 record), and the 19-year-old clearly played a significant role in the team's record. Green's success figures to inspire future high school prospects to follow suit and try the G League route.

Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Scoring: B

    Flashes predict long-term potential for Keon Johnson. At 19 years old, he's not as sharp a scorer as the other projected lottery wings. He looked more confident during the second half of the season, averaging 14.7 points over Tennessee's final 11 games. 

    Explosiveness leaping toward the rim off drives and cuts was Johnson's biggest weapon. In terms of on-ball skill, he scored most efficiently from the post (0.88 PPP). He struggled in ball-screen situations (6-of-23), and he had some success making shots off screens and isolations. 

    Shooting: C+

    Johnson's shooting development could swing his NBA trajectory. His jumper isn't reliable at this stage. He hit just 13 threes in 27 games, finishing at 38.5 percent off the catch and 31.7 percent off the dribble. Johnson looked capable in rhythm, and he made some tough fallaways and shots off the bounce in the mid-range, but he doesn't project as a volume shooter anytime soon.

    Playmaking: B

    Though not a primary playmaker, he's a good passer. Teammates shot 48.6 percent off his pick-and-roll ball-handling passes. His 2.5 assists per game don't sound exciting, but he showed vision and setup ability after putting the ball on the floor. 

    Defense: A

    Though he's limited offensively, teams will reach on Johnson for his defensive projection. His aggression and toughness showed at Tennessee as he pressured the ball with his strong physical tools and quickness. He guarded with intensity, often giving opposing ball-handlers little room to operate comfortably

    Impact: B+

    The inability to take over offensively limits Johnson's impact. But he did have signature stretches and games, particularly a 27-point effort in February's win over Kentucky. Even when he wasn't productive, his energy rarely wavered. He was a two-way lightning rod for Tennessee's rotation.

Kai Jones (Texas, C, Sophomore)

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Scoring: B

    Lottery teams will look at Kai Jones based on flashes and what he could look like if he they become regular occurrences in a bigger role. He only averaged 8.8 points in a lineup loaded with veteran guards and center Jericho Sims. Still on the raw side, Jones relied mostly on 6'11" size, athleticism and motor to pick up easy baskets off transition and offensive rebounds. Despite playing 22.8 minutes, he finished 10th in the nation in dunks (46). 

    He wasn't used to create or score much in the post. But he did show impressive fluidity and footwork on a handful of drives past closeouts.

    Shooting: B

    Drafting Jones early means betting on his shooting stroke. He didn't attempt many jumpers, but he was accurate with promising mechanics, hitting 13-of-34 threes. He took 15 pull-ups and occasionally shows that he wants to be able to shoot off the dribble, but he didn't have much success this season (3-of-15). 

    Rebounding: B-

    Jones was in a tough spot to put up rebounding numbers, playing with two other bigs in Sims and Greg Brown. His 11.8 rebounding percentage doesn't look good on paper. He did add 11 putbacks, coming out of area for a number of them. 

    Defense: A-

    Jones' defensive versatility popped more than his rim protection. He did tap into his bounce for highlight blocks, and his lateral quickness stood out when switched around the perimeter. 

    Impact: A-

    Jones led Texas in box plus-minus despite starting just four games and attempting 5.5 shots per game. He  was the team's energizer at both ends. Jones made an admirable adjustment this season, playing more to strengths while resisting the urge to do too much.

Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scoring: A

    Shooting will earn Corey Kispert lottery looks, but he was more multidimensional offensively. He averaged 18.6 points on 62.8 percent shooting inside the arc. Kispert graded as an elite transition player (97th percentile) despite lacking explosion. And he used that strength and body control to finish drives off spot-ups, ball screens, handoffs and cuts. 

    He didn't score out of isolation, but that wasn't his role, and NBA teams won't be using him to create. 

    Shooting: A+

    Kispert has earned the title of top shooter in the draft after converting 44.0 percent of his threes, 87.8 percent of his free throws, 43.3 percent of his dribble jumpers and 40.0 percent of his shots off screens. He has a quick release and an ability to shot-make from every possible action and movement. 

    Playmaking: B

    Kispert didn't offer any playmaking, lacking creative ball-handling skills. He contributed by making smart passes and limiting his turnovers (1.3 in 31.8 minutes per game).

    Defense: B

    Kispert's defense was exposed in the NCAA tournament against more athletic competition. But he wasn't bad during the season, often showing strong team-defense IQ and enough foot speed and strength to contain one-on-one. 

    Impact: A

    Kispert seemed automatic throughout his senior year, rarely having an off night. Unfortunately for Gonzaga, he didn't have his A-game during the national championship. Level-headed yet competitive, he still displayed veteran leadership all season that should help NBA teams see a professional, easy fit and an NBA-ready role player.

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

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    Scoring: B+

    The highs outweighed the lows for Jonathan Kuminga. He averaged 15.8 points on just 38.7 percent shooting, but he demonstrated an eye-opening skill level for a 6'8", 220-pound forward.

    Capable of flying in transition or attacking through contact, Kuminga also flashed impressive shot-creation into drives and jumpers off the dribble. He threatened in ball-screen situations, out of isolations and from the post. His shot selection and execution just weren't the sharpest.

    Shooting: B

    Kuminga looked confident and capable shooting from deep, hitting 16 threes in 13 games. He attempted 65 of them, however. That said, the eye test still detects a future three-level shot-maker. Kuminga did hit a number of mid-range shots off the dribble, but he was too erratic from deep to feel confident about his short-term outlook behind the arc, particularly given his 62.5 free-throw percentage.

    Playmaking: B

    Not known for playmaking, Kuminga averaged 2.7 assists, a tribute to his ball skills and comfort off the dribble. Tunnel vision kicked in at times, though. You didn't get the sense he always used the attention he drew to make teammates better.

    Defense: B

    Kuminga's defensive tools stood out in one-on-one situations where he was able to showcase his physical strength, length and mobility. Off the ball, his effort and awareness were less inspiring. 

    Impact: B

    After a strong debut, Kuminga shot below 50 percent in each of his final 12 games. He still gave the Ignite a potent scoring punch and mismatch, and the team was 7-6 when he was active (missed three games with knee soreness). But when he played well, the Ignite won (18.3 points per game in seven wins). They lost when he struggled (13.0 points per game in six losses). 

Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scoring: A-

    Tre Mann's breakout was evident early, but it escalated in March. He averaged 21.2 points on 55.2 percent shooting over Florida's last five games. 

    For the season, he was one of the nation's top ball-screen scorers (88th percentile). Defenses had difficulty containing his shiftiness.  He excelled creating and making shots off the dribble from every level. His floater also developed into a valuable weapon (20-of-43). 

    Mann did have trouble scoring off the ball, though he didn't spend much time spotting up or cutting.

    Shooting: A-

    Pull-up shooting elevated Mann's scoring attack. He shot 40.3 percent on dribble jumpers, many coming from behind the arc, where he made 1.9 threes per game at a 40.2 percent clip. 

    Playmaking: B

    Mann only averaged 3.5 assists to 2.8 turnovers, a ratio that raises questions about whether he's suited for a lead-guard role. He showcased playmaking skill, grading in the 87th percentile as a pick-and-roll passer. Mann set teammates up off his creativity, but he also looked for his own shot more. 

    Defense: B+

    Mann made defensive reads and effort plays he didn't make as a freshman. He raised his steal percentage (2.4 percent) and lowered his foul rate (from 4.1 to 2.9 per 40 minutes). 

    Impact: A-

    Mann emerged as a leader and floor general for Florida after Keyontae Johnson's departure from the lineup early in the season. The team leaned heavily on Mann's ability to create and shot-make, and he delivered, particularly during the postseason tournaments. 

Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG, Junior)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Scoring: B+

    Suddenly a lottery prospect, Davion Mitchell improved his draft stock without scoring more than 16 points during Baylor's six-game March Madness stretch. Scoring isn't his biggest selling point. But he did help his cause with scouts, delivering flashes of explosiveness attacking the basket and nifty step-back moves into dribble jumpers.

    For the year, Mitchell shot 60.5 percent at the rim and 51.3 percent out of isolation. He developed into a three-level threat and sharper shot-creator compared to last season.

    Shooting: A

    Mitchell made a huge jump as a shooter, connecting on 44.7 percent of his threes and 43.6 percent on his pull-ups. He shot 43.5 percent off the catch while playing with another ball-handler in Jared Butler, a promising sign for his potential to work from either backcourt position at the next level.

    But he only shot 65.2 percent on free throws, which raises some red flags about the legitimacy of his out-of-nowhere three-point improvement. 

    Playmaking: A-

    Mitchell was turnover-prone and occasionally forced the issue as a passer. But he also looked more like a true playmaker this year, finishing with 5.5 assists per game. Viewed more as a combo last year, Mitchell now has NBA scouts picturing a point guard.

    Defense: A+

    Scouts thought Mitchell was the nation's best perimeter defender. Opponents turned the ball over a whopping 29.6 percent of the time when he was guarding them man-to-man. His strength, quickness and snapping hands led to a 3.3 steal percentage and caused problems for opposing ball-handlers all season.

    Impact: A

    Butler was Baylor's best overall player, but Mitchell was clearly a driving force behind the national championship run. Aside from his production and defense, his energy and intensity seemed to elevate the team. 

Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Scoring: B+

    Evan Mobley averaged 16.4 points on 57.8 percent shooting, scoring double figures in 31 of 33 games. He didn't dominate every matchup, but defenses were rarely able to silence him. He still managed to carry USC offensively plenty of times, particularly in the Pac 12 tournament.

    Diving deeper into how he scored, Mobley shot 69.1 percent at the basket, mostly using his length and mobility off rolls, cuts and putbacks. His most impressive method for scoring came out of spot-ups, where the 7-footer was able to put the ball down into pull-ups (8-of-15) and drives past closeouts (11-of-17).

    Mobley did have some trouble in the post (29th percentile), lacking the strength to gain position. But he was efficient facing the basket, combining for 18 field goals in isolation and ball-screen situations on 36 attempted shots.

    Shooting: A-

    He did most of his shooting on two-point jumpers, shooting 52 percent from 17 feet to the arc and 48.4 percent on shorter attempts. He hit 12 of 40 threes. Given his fluid delivery and soft touch, it's easy to picture Mobley being a regular mid-range threat at the least.

    Rebounding: B+

    Mobley racked up 29 putbacks, and a number of them made highlight reels because of how high he can play above the rim. He's a weapon on the offensive glass with his tools and quickness to the ball. But a 14.5 rebounding percentage is considered below-average for a starting center, specifically one who should go early in the draft. 

    Defense: A+

    With 2.9 blocks per game, Mobley finished No. 5 in the nation in defensive box plus/minus. USC ranked No. 6 in defense, per Kenpom.com, behind his rim protection. NBA teams will love his ability to defend the paint, but his foot speed away from the rim creates valuable switchability. 

    Impact: A+

    It's not a reach to suggest Mobley was college basketball's best two-way player. He led the nation in box plus-minus, carrying USC to an Elite Eight appearance. 

Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Scoring: A-

    Fourth among freshmen in scoring, Moses Moody averaged 16.8 points per game while playing almost exclusively off the ball. He didn't show much creation, but he also wasn't put in many isolation or pick-and-roll situations. 

    Instead, he capitalized as a spot-up player, off-screen scorer and offensive rebounder. 

    Shooting: A-

    Shot-making skill drives Moody's NBA value. He hit 1.8 threes per game, shooting off the catch, movement and dribbles. His 35.8 three-point percentage doesn't paint an accurate picture of his jumper. He shot 81.2 percent from the free-throw line, and given his 6'6" size and mechanics, it's easy to picture an NBA-ready shooter. 

    Playmaking: B-

    Moody delivered some high-level passes that hint at hidden playmaking ability. He just wasn't able to show much of it in his off-ball role at Arkansas, finishing the season with just 51 assists in 32 games.

    Defense: B+

    Moody was fine defensively, never looking incompetent or overly impactful. At 6'6", 205 pounds, he'll start his NBA career with a promising defensive foundation.

    Impact: B+

    After scoring 28 points in three of four games, Moody hit a wall in the NCAA tournament, finishing 2-of-10 in a loss to Baylor after a brutal 4-of-20 performance in a tight win over Oral Roberts. However, he'd been consistent all season as a No. 1 option for an Arkansas team that earned a No. 3 seed. 

Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Scoring: B

    Jaden Springer transitioned to more of an off-ball role at Tennessee compared to what he was used to at IMG. He adjusted well, averaging 12.5 points on 46.7 percent shooting, grading in the 70th percentile as a spot-up player and capitalizing in transition for a total of 108 points in 25 games. 

    He patiently picked his spots on the attack, leading to a 59.3 percent finishing clip at the rim. Despite lacking explosiveness, Springer has tremendous body control and balance. He uses deceleration well to separate on drives. 

    However, he shot a combined 8-of-35 between his ball-screen and isolation possessions. Concerns exist about Springer's ability to create his own offense against a set defense.

    Shooting: B+

    Smart shot selection was key in Springer's efficiency. He didn't take many threes, but he made 20 of 46 attempts. He wasn't as effective shooting off the dribble (28.2 percent). Altogether, he made just 32 half-court jumpers, so scouts figure to pay close attention to his shot during workouts. 

    Playmaking: B

    Springer was only used in 25 pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions all season. When he did facilitate, it was mostly off spot-up drives, and he showed promising passing instincts and vision when penetrating (2.9 assists per game). But scouts question whether he has enough burst to break down defenses, a limitation that lowers his playmaking potential. 

    Defense: A

    Solid defensively, Springer got low in his stance and used his length and strong legs to deny dribble penetration. NBA coaches should see a combo who can guard both backcourt spots.

    Impact: A-

    Springer was second on a veteran team in box plus/minus (first offensively). He was Tennessee's best player during multiple conference wins at 18 years old. With a cool demeanor, he demonstrated veteran poise, and Tennessee fans and coaches knew what they were getting from their freshman every game.

Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scoring: B+

    A freshmen surrounded by star upperclassmen, Jalen Suggs averaged 14.4 points on 50.3 percent shooting. He shot 58.8 percent inside the arc with an ability to explode downhill, use a floater or finish after contact. Aside from attacking ball screens and the open floor, he was dangerous with his pull-up (39.7 percent) and excelled off the ball as a cutter, finishing 13 of 14 attempts.

    Shooting: B+

    Suggs ranked in the 93rd percentile on dribble jumpers, which he used mostly behind the arc. He only shot 33.7 percent from deep, however, finishing with just 3.5 attempts per game. He wasn't as effective spotting up or shooting off the catch (29.7 percent). Suggs clearly has shot-making skills and an ability to catch fire since he hit seven threes against Iowa, four versus BYU and six total over his last three NCAA tournament games. But it wouldn't be surprising to see it take a few seasons before he's in the 37 percent three-point range at the next level.

    Playmaking: B+

    Sharing the ball with Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard, Suggs averaged 4.5 assists, demonstrating impressive open-floor vision and passing skills. He was excellent at finding streaking teammates in transition. A 19.6 turnover percentage reflected some overambitious decision-making, however. 

    Defense: A+

    3.5 steal percentage was a result of Suggs' incredibly quick hands and anticipation. The pressure he provided when playing on-ball defense wasn't even his most impressive trait because his off-ball instincts and ability to make plays with his athleticism popped most. 

    Impact: A

    Suggs' intangibles have become a major selling point. He brings competitiveness and effort to each possession. Though Gonzaga had senior leaders in Drew Timme and Corey Kispert, Suggs demonstrated leadership, as well. He was a driving force behind the team's historic season and an obvious factor in Gonzaga reaching the national championship game. NBA teams will look past his shooting percentages and assist-to-turnover ratios for his potential to impact winning in other ways. 

Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF, Sophomore)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Scoring: B

    Franz Wagner improved his draft stock dramatically, but not because of his scoring. His self-creation remains limited. But at 6'9", his fluidity attacking off the dribble pops. He converted 14 of 19 drives to the basket from spot-ups, and he was efficient in transition (76th percentile). 

    Shooting: B

    Inconsistency still raises questions about Wagner's shooting. But for a 19-year-old, the made shots still outweigh the misses. He hit multiple threes in a game 12 times this season, and he shot over 83.0 percent on free throws in consecutive years. He didn't shoot off the dribble often, but nine of his 11 made pull-ups in the half court came from behind the arc. 

    Playmaking: B+

    Wagner nearly tripled his assist percentage to 17.4 (from 5.9 as a freshman). He showcased a valuable skill for the NBA: an ability to play-make and pass on the move from the 3 or 4 positions. 

    Defense: A+

    Third in the nation in defensive box plus/minus, Wagner finished with an impressive highlight reel that illuminated special foot speed and anticipation for a player his size. He got beat from time to time, but his defensive mobility, timing and IQ allowed him to block jumpers and layups and stick with ball-handlers trying to turn the corner. 

    Impact: A

    Wagner's impact was felt mostly on defense, but his offensive versatility was also valuable to Michigan's lineup. He played a key role on a team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. 

        

    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports-Reference.com