2021 NBA Draft Big Board: Jalen Suggs vs. Jalen Green Debate Heating Up
The NBA draft process has officially begun.
Prospects are declaring and asking for feedback on their stock, while scouts are shaping their boards before workouts and interviews.
But international leagues are still going strong and NBA teams should now be focusing more attention on finding sleepers overseas.
This board includes anyone who either has declared (with or without an agent) or is expected to at least test the waters.
50. David Duke (Providence, SG, Junior)
49. Ariel Hukporti (Kedainiai Nevezis, C, 2002)
48. Herbert Jones (Alabama, SF, Senior)
47. Isaiah Livers (Michigan, SF, Senior)
46. Austin Reaves (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)
45. Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Junior)
44. Nah'Shon Hyland (VCU, SG, Sophomore)
43. Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG, Freshman)
42. Santi Aldama (Loyola MD, PF, Sophomore)
41. Rokas Jokubaitis (Zalgiris, PG/SG, 2000)
Waiting on decision from Bennedict Mathurin
We haven't written much on Mathurin, who always seemed like a candidate to return as a sophomore and maximize his draft stock in 2022. But with Arizona firing coach Sean Miller, it wouldn't be surprising to see the freshman more motivated to test the NBA process.
A 6'7" wing, Mathurin shot 41.8 percent from three. He's a limited creator, but he ranked in the 96th percentile out of spot-ups, showcasing smooth rhythm catching-and-shooting and the athleticism for slashing and finishing.
If he winds up declaring and staying in the draft, Mathurin, still 18 years old, seems like a terrific second-round gamble with a strong foundation of positional size, shooting skill and line-driving capabilities.
Ariel Hukporti a boom-or-bust option
It's hard to be too high on a 7-footer shooting 42.5 percent from the field. It's easy to be enticed by an athletic, 250-pound center who can fly around the floor and hit threes.
Coming off a 14-point, eight-rebound effort with two triples on Sunday, Hukporti delivers some wild highlights of physical ability and skill. But he's also far from polished or ready to comfortably execute on an NBA floor.
He looks like a total hit-or-miss project that some team figures will be worth taking on for the price of a second-round pick.
40. Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine, SF, Junior)
39. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Sophomore)
38. Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Sophomore)
37. Day'Ron Sharpe (North Carolina, C, Freshman)
36. Isaiah Todd (G League Ignite, PF, 2002)
35. Greg Brown (Texas, PF, Freshman)
34. Marcus Bagley (Arizona State, SF/PF, Freshman)
33. Trey Murphy III (Virginia, PF, Junior)
32. Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Junior)
31. Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky, SF, Freshman)
Interesting decision ahead for Trey Murphy III
Murphy declared without an agent but figures to have plenty of suitors interested in his frontcourt shooting.
He likely improves his chances of going first round by returning and getting more than 7.6 field-goal attempts per game. But he also seems capable of earning a contract this summer with a valued, translatable skill set. Murphy, a 6'9", 20-year-old that shot 43.3 percent on three-pointers, graded in the 90th percentile or better spotting up, cutting and scoring in transition.
Even though he doesn't offer much creation for scoring, his shot and athleticism around the basket seem equipped for a speciality stretch-4 role.
I've moved him up now that his name is in the draft. If he withdrew, I'd put him near the top 20 of an early 2022 board.
Idea of Marcus Bagley more appealing than his results
Scouts like the idea of Bagley, a 6'8" combo forward with a smooth shooting stroke and the tools to guard multiple positions. But he only played 12 games and averaged just 10.8 points and 1.2 assists on 34.7 percent from three.
Should we buy the eye-test results and flashes over the inefficient numbers of a small sample size? Bagley declared for the draft while keeping his eligibility. He'll likely help himself during workouts, but he's one of the tougher prospects to have a confident take on given how little he played and showed in terms of scoring versatility or passing. Of his 106 shots, 72 came from behind the arc.
30. Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)
29. Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)
28. Aaron Henry (Michigan, SG, Junior)
27. Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)
26. Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)
25. Miles McBride (West Virginia, PG, Sophomore)
24. Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)
23. Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
22. James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)
21. Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SF, Freshman)
International standouts pushing Ziaire Williams down
For the most part, I've overlooked Williams' underwhelming season for long-term potential. But other NCAA and overseas prospects were strengthening their cases while Williams watched from March 3 on after a 1-for-8 performance during Stanford's Pac-12 tournament loss to USC.
I've moved a few international names ahead of Williams, who shot just 37.4 percent in 20 games. The eye test looked better than his numbers, but except for Cam Reddish, there hasn't been a recent lottery pick (from NCAA) who struggled like Williams did from the field.
As smooth as his jumper looks, he only shot 29.1 percent from three, a little scary for a player who doesn't get to the rim, draw fouls or handle contact. It's still worth gambling on Williams' shooting stroke, shot-making versatility and defensive projection, but the holes in his game are easier to swallow later in the first round.
Roko Prkacin blowing up
In April, Prkacin has gone for 38 points (with six threes) in an Adriatic League game and 29 points in the Croatian League. He's blowing up at the right time when scouts can focus more on international play.
He possesses the modern skill set for an NBA 4 with an ability to shoot, slash past closeouts and use the dribble to set up a pull-up or drive. Prkacin doesn't excel in any one area yet, but these recent outbursts have shed more light on his scoring versatility and NBA fit.
20. Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG/SF, Freshman)
19. Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)
18. Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
17. Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)
16. Tre Mann (Florida, PG, Sophomore)
15. Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, PF/C, 2002)
14. Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)
13. Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)
12. Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)
11. Kai Jones (Texas, PF, Sophomore)
Slowing down on Davion Mitchell
Now that the excitement of the NCAA tournament has worn off and we're no longer living in the moment, I've taken a step back to reevaluate Mitchell and gather more feedback.
While scouts expect a team will wind up taking him near the top 10, Mitchell was No. 20 for me before March Madness. History warns about making serious changes based on postseason performance. History also says to be careful with prospects who'll be 23-year-old rookies, though there have been a decent amount of success stories like Devonte' Graham, Malcolm Brogdon, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Harris.
Still, the surprise late-blooming breakout, age and a 65.2 free-throw percentage cause some hesitation when projecting his offense. And though he should still provide tough defense, it can be easy to overrate a guard's defensive impact out of college. At the next level, good offense beats good defense from the point of attack, and recent tape shows March/April opponents like Texas Tech's Mac McClung (17 points), West Virginia's Miles McBride (19 points) and Villanova's Justin Moore (15 points) still scoring on Mitchell.
I'm not jumping off the wagon—I'm just more comfortable with Mitchell as a pick in the teens or 20s after prospects who are three to four years younger.
More to Isaiah Jackson's game?
If you squint hard enough at Jackson's tape, hidden game and skill become visible on certain possessions.
The draw to Jackson still revolves around his bounce and quickness for finishing and shot-blocking. His 12.7 block percentage will be higher than that of other first-round picks. But despite averaging just 8.4 points, flashes of face-up moves, mid-range touch and jump hooks hint at more scoring upside to unlock down the road.
There is a belief that NBA executives who didn't scout much during the season could be swayed by Jackson during workouts, where he'll be able to showcase skill that was masked at Kentucky.
More faith in Usman Garuba
Garuba has opened my eyes even wider since our last update, when we touched on our decision to stay patient with his offense. He's now scored double-figures and hit two three-pointers in three consecutive games.
With a rotational-big NBA floor, propped up by tremendous physical tools, mobility, IQ and effort for defense, plus quick-processing passing, Garuba is starting to look more confident catching and shooting behind the arc. Becoming reliable or even just threatening would be a huge development for his offensive fit. This latest stretch only helps create more optimism, particularly since he's still 19 years old.
10. Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)
9. Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF/PF, Sophomore)
8. Scottie Barnes (Florida State, PF, Freshman)
7. Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)
6. Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG/SF, Freshman)
Despite roller-coaster year, Jalen Johnson still top 10
Johnson is one of the more polarizing prospects in our top 10. He's been here for months, despite an ugly, early finish to his one year at Duke where he nearly fell out of the rotation before opting out of the season.
You can hate his decision to leave the team in February, but a year from now, it will be forgotten. Returning from a foot injury, when many didn't think he would, also hurts the argument that he's selfish or lacks drive.
Regardless, he's top-10 on my board due to his physical talent, skill set and room for growth in correctable areas. With an outstanding 6'8", 220-pound frame, Johnson can handle the ball and pass on the move. He should offer enough paint scoring, playmaking for a 4, rebounding and defensive versatility to add substantial value without needing to make threes.
And Johnson still didn't look like a completely lost cause as a shooter, having made 8-of-14 non-dribble spot-up jumpers (8-of-18 3PT).
Unless red flags emerge during the predraft process, Johnson should hold his spot in our No. 6-10 range from here on out.
5. Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)
4. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)
3. Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)
2. Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)
1. Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG/SG, Freshman)
Debating Jalen Green vs. Jalen Suggs
After Cunningham, there is a case to be made for Green, Mobley and Suggs being deserving of the No. 2 prospect title. But a re-watch of G League Ignite games and deeper dive into Gonzaga's film have led to change on our board.
While there is very little separating Nos. 2-4, Green moves up to No. 2, as I may have overlooked just how sharp, advanced and efficient he was executing against current/former pros and recent draft picks. Special athleticism has always been his signature, specifically ridiculous quickness off the bounce and explosive leaping at the rim. But Green's shot-creation and shot-making have developed into legitimate strengths.
For Ignite, he regularly separated into drives and dribble jumpers with decisive ball-handling moves and footwork. His shot is significantly improved and I'm buying what we saw in February versus previous FIBA and AAU numbers.
Even if he currently lacks strength or tries to avoid contact, some of his finishes highlighted incredibly advantageous hang time and coordination for mid-air adjustments.
It's just too easy to picture an elite NBA scorer given how comfortable he looked in the G League bubble, where averaged 17.9 points on 61.3 percent true shooting before erupting for 30 points in the Ignite's playoff game.
Previously, my fears with Green stemmed from his shot selection and decision-making. He loves his pull-up, sometimes too much. But I'm starting to think the concerns were overblown based on his age, talent, consistent progress and effectiveness in a competitive setting.
As much as I value Suggs as a prospect, I worry that his lovable intangibles—effort, toughness, unselfishness, clutch play—can cloud judgement when it comes to assessing his skill level. His handle isn't the tightest, while his 33.7 three-point mark, low-volume attempts (3.5 per game) and bad misses have caused me to hesitate on his shooting projection.
Still, Suggs is well-rounded enough physically, fundamentally and mentally for a team to confidently take him top three. There is no scary hole in his game, and deeming him No. 2 behind Cunningham (like I had) remains acceptable. You can argue he's safer than Green, who doesn't offer Suggs' playmaking or defensive impact.
The team picking second probably can't go wrong with Green, Suggs or Mobley. Best team fit may ultimately be the deciding factor in which player has the best case.