2021 NBA Draft Big Board: Updated Rankings of Top 50 Prospects

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 27, 2021

2021 NBA Draft Big Board: Updated Rankings of Top 50 Prospects

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    This slow period of the NBA draft process calls for reviewing tape and making calls to gather extra intel. 

    Rewatching film can be helpful, as the evaluator can focus on different things compared to the first go around. Changes and additions to the board have been made after talking with scouts and picking up on missed details. 

    The G League Elite Camp and NBA Combine lists are next to be released, with both events taking place the week of June 20-27. 

Nos. 50-41

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    50. RaiQuan Gray (Florida State, PF, Junior)

    49. Julian Champagnie (St. John's, SF, Sophomore)

    48. Austin Reaves (Oklahoma SG, Senior)

    47. Isaiah Livers (Michigan, SF, Senior)

    46. JT Thor (Auburn, PF, Freshman)

    45. Josh Primo (Alabama, SG, Freshman)

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

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

    42. Santi Aldama (Loyola Maryland, PF, Sophomore)

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


    The overlooked Champagnie brother

    I overlooked Julian Champagnie during the season, with his brother Justin generating more buzz in the ACC at Pittsburgh. Some scouts have recently suggested that Julian may be the better prospect.

    It's unclear if he stays in the draft, though his improvement and shooting for a 6'8" combo are worth looking into in the second round. He hit 60 threes in 25 games at a 37.7 percent clip while converting 88.7 percent of his free throws. 

    He projects mostly as a spot-up player or stretch forward, though there could be more scoring upside to unlock (19.8 points per game) based on Champagnie's flashes of self-creation around the perimeter with his pull-up and step-back.

Nos. 40-31

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    40. Herb Jones (Alabama, SF, Senior)

    39. Greg Brown (Texas, PF, Freshman)

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

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

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

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

    34. Trey Murphy III (Virginia, PF, Junior)

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

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

    31. Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SF, Freshman)


    Revoking Ziaire Williams' pass

    As the season unfolded, I continued to give Williams a pass for his inefficient play. The eye test always looked more convincing than the poor numbers. But rewatching Williams shoot 37.4 percent from the floor, his struggles were clearly the result of more than just too many missed (makable) jumpers.

    He was used in more pick-and-roll ball-handling possessions (83) than any other play, and only once did he successfully drive to the basket off a ball screen for a score. 

    Williams' lack of explosion and strength to attack are worrisome. There were instances when it looked like he'd predetermine a pull-up and miss on an opportunity to drive, showing no confidence in his ability to burst through a lane and finish at the rim. 

    His shooting is likely sharper than the 29.1 three-point percentage says, but after going back through the tape, I've lost some faith in his three-level scoring or playmaking translating.


    Still hopeful for Robinson-Earl

    Robinson-Earl needed to show growth as a shooter this season, and his 28.0 three-point percentage suggests he didn't. However, he did hit 52.1 percent of his mid-range jumpers and 41.7 percent of his spot-up, non-dribble attempts. 

    It was subtle improvement. The more noticeable jump was going from 52.6 percent at the rim to 67.7 percent. He looked quicker off the ground. There are obvious flaws in his game—limited ball-handling skills and shot-making versatility, plus no defensive upside. But he's a smart power forward with good hands around the hoop, post polish, a buyable jumper long term and a nose for the ball on the offensive glass. 

Nos. 30-21

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    30. Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)

    29. Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)

    28. Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine, SF, Junior)

    27. Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG/SF, Freshman)

    26. Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)

    25. Day'Ron Sharpe (North Carolina, C, Freshman)

    24. Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)

    23. Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, PF/C, 2002)

    22. Kai Jones (Texas, PF, Sophomore)

    21. Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)


    Good intel on Edwards leads to rankings bump

    Edwards has been in the 30s or 40s on our board most of the year. But I'm moving him up after receiving glowing, positive intel from scouts and coaches on his character and approach.

    If he's the type of individual who can maximize his potential, Edwards can be valuable pro with his particular skill set. At 6'8", he's been a consistent three-point shooter since 2018-19. His shot-making skill shines from the post, where he ranked in the 95th percentile. He also raised his free-throw mark to 87.6 percent, an outstanding number for a forward that highlights his touch.

    A high-usage, effective cutter at Pepperdine, Edwards has the game to score off the ball at the NBA level, while still possessing enough self-creation to generate some offense on his own.


    Slotting Corey Kispert

    It's tough to give Kispert a hard, numerical ranking. Where you slot him comes down to personal preference in terms of whether you're happy settling on a high-floor fit or whether you'd prefer to gamble on more upside.

    There isn't a wide range of outcomes for 22-year-old Kispert. We're likely looking at another version of Doug McDermott and Cameron Johnson. For the right roster, you can argue that type of shot-maker is worth taking in the teens. 

    It's up to the team on the clock to decide if it wants the known, sure thing, or if it would rather chase a higher-ceiling prospect who can either add more creation and/or defense. Rebuilding franchises may want to swing bigger on youth. Competitive rosters with a need for shooting should see a low-cost, plug-and-play solution. 

    Kispert will mostly be used as a spot-up and movement shooter, given his limitations off the dribble. But his strength, body control and coordination contribute to easy baskets off transition and cuts. And that could help Kispert reach the higher end of the role-player spectrum.

Nos. 20-11

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

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

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

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

    17. Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

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

    15. James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)

    14. Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    13. Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)

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

    11. Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG/SF, Freshman)


    Henry, McBride rise after reevaluations

    Henry gradually rose up our board this season as his offense started to click. He’d been interesting since his freshman year for his defensive tools, anticipation and quickness to react. But then he averaged 17.6 points and 3.8 assists on 39.5 percent shooting from three over his final 14 games as a junior.

    It wasn’t just sharper shooting. Henry became more decisive slashing and more nuanced as a finisher in the lane. Rewatching his tape, I noticed Henry has a unique ability to adjust on drives by hitting floaters with his off-hand. His 57.7 percent mark converting runners is elite, and this heavily-used part of his game should translate.

    I’m moving him up another notch after going back through film, based on the idea that he’ll be able to hit jumpers at a good-enough rate for a small forward who I'm expecting to successfully attack, score in the lane, pass and defend. Two-way wings that can play-make are valued, and it’s worth betting on his shooting reaching an average, threatening level.

    McBride is also getting a bump up the rankings following my reevaluations.

    Many of his two-point misses were makable shots that were created with impressive ball-handling and separation ability. He finished with 54 pull-up makes in the half court, one of the highest totals among draft prospects. He shot 46.2 percent off the catch, 41.4 percent from three and 81.3 percent from the free-throw line. His 28.5 assist percentage to 11.1 percentage is excellent. This is all a reflection on his improved skill level.

    But the initial draw to McBride always stemmed from his speed, motor and athletic ability for making defensive plays on the ball. An outstanding 3.1 steal percentage highlights his quickness and aggression, which he uses at both ends.

    The big question with McBride stems from his inefficient scoring inside the arc as a 6’2” guard. But he proved he’s capable of earning buckets in practically every way, having recorded at least 20 points off cuts, post-ups, handoffs, plus over 60 points as an isolation, spot-up, transition and ball-screen scorer. Even if McBride’s most likely NBA outcome is as a bench spark or energizer, you could still justify taking him in the mid-first round of this draft.

Nos. 10-6

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

    9. Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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

    7. Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG/SF, Freshman)

    6. Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)


    Giddey shut down, set to train for draft

    With five games left on the schedule, Giddey was allowed to shut down his season and train for the draft. His camp is presumably optimistic about the impression he's made on NBA teams. The 18-year-old was leading the NBL in assists and racked up triple-doubles, building a convincing case around his advantageous 6'8" height for a ball-handler and translatable passing skills/IQ.

    It's easy to buy his facilitating carrying over. It's harder to picture a major scoring threat, given his lack of explosion and pull-up shooting. The right fit could be more important for Giddey than some other late-lottery prospects. Ideally, he goes to a roster with established self-creators, shot-makers and perimeter defenders. 

    He won't be for every team, so his No. 10 ranking is a soft one. I like the idea of the New York Knicks trading up with their two first-round picks to target Giddey. He'd be an interesting fit for the Oklahoma City Thunder next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and stopper Lugeuntz Dort. And with Kemba Walker having seemingly hit a wall in Boston, the Celtics could think about adding a distributor like Giddey.


    Drawn to Keon Johnson's floor, not ceiling

    Johnson has stuck around the No. 6-10 range all season, mostly due to my comfort level with his strengths translating and his particular archetype. His explosiveness, passing IQ off the dribble and defensive intensity are built for the NBA game.

    I'm less convinced about his ceiling or star potential, consider he's still pretty far away as a shooter (13 threes in 27 games on 27.1 percent) and creator (21st percentile pick-and-roll ball-handler). 

    He did look much sharper scoring during the second half of the season. Room for improvement for a 19-year-old athlete like Johnson suggests a high ceiling, while the flashes of skill in February and March felt encouraging for his chances of continued growth. It's still a high floor for a two-way wing—a valued player type—that's Johnson's selling point. He's a low-risk, potential high-reward prospect.

Top Five

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

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

    4. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Freshman)

    3. Evan Mobley (USC, PF/C, Freshman)

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

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


    The difference between Green, Mobley and Suggs on my board is tooth-pick thin. 

    In a vacuum, I’m taking Green over Mobley, mostly because of a comfort level with Green’s scoring translating and some nerves over Mobley’s 210-pound frame. But it’s close enough where I’d pick Mobley No. 2 for certain teams, including the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings. It’s difficult to picture any outcome where Mobley isn’t a star defender thanks to his quickness, length and mobility for rim protection, switching and guarding in space. 

    Suggs' athleticism, passing, defense and intangibles point to a zero-risk prospect with a high-end role-player floor. Green and Mobley just have an edge due to questions about Suggs' handle and shooting for a lead guard, though both are correctable. 

    As for Cunningham, he's been No. 1 all year, and given his versatility and positional interchangeability, no team will find an issue with his fit. There isn't an ocean between Cunningham and Green, Mobley or Suggs. Cunningham's 46.1 two-point percentage and 4.0 turnovers per game highlight some weaknesses worth thinking about. But for a 6'8" guard or wing, his advanced creation, passing and shot-making skills—plus 20.1 points per game on 40.0 percent from three to back up the eye test—hint at a surefire star and valuable archetype. 


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports, Sports-Reference.com