2021 NBA Draft Big Board: Stock Up, Stock Down for Top 60 Prospects
After a few months of reviewing tape and gathering intel, Bleacher Report's final 2021 NBA draft board is officially set.
Teams are finalizing their boards as well as they complete their last workouts and interviews leading up to July 29.
Overall, the first round feels strong with multiple position stars at the top.
60. Sandro Mamukelashvili (Seton Hall, PF/C, Senior)
59. Neemias Queta (Utah State, C, Junior)
58. Sam Hauser (Virginia, SF, Senior)
57. McKinley Wright IV (Colorado, PG, Senior)
56. RaiQuan Gray (Florida State, SF/PF, Junior)
55. Matthew Hurt (Duke, PF, Sophomore)
54. Aaron Wiggins (Maryland, SG, Junior)
53. Jason Preston (Ohio, PG, Junior)
52. Austin Reaves (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)
51. Greg Brown (Texas, PF, Freshman)
Though I'm still hesitant about Preston, there is no question his stock is up around the league. He's emerged as a second-round target, as opposed to a player who teams would try to bring to summer league after going undrafted. We've seen enough point guards succeed in the league with skill and IQ over athleticism, and one team figures to see a gamble worth taking with a pick in the 30s or 40s.
It sounds like many teams will deem Brown a project too challenging and time-consuming to take on. He's going to slip because of concerns about how correctable his feel for the game is. Despite upside tied to his athleticism and shot-making, Brown turned scouts off with wild decision-making, fouling and overall erratic play.
50. Luka Garza (Iowa, C, Senior)
49. Jericho Sims (Texas, C, Senior)
48. Vrenz Bleijenbergh (Antwerp Giants, SG/SF, 2000)
47. Isaiah Livers (Michigan, SF, Senior)
46. Filip Petrusev (Mega Basket, C, 2000)
45. Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine, SF, Junior)
44. Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Junior)
43. Rokas Jokubaitis (Barcelona, PG/SG, 2000)
42. Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky, SF, Freshman)
41. Herbert Jones (Alabama, SF, Senior)
Though Jones' shot remains a key swing skill, he has fans for two-way versatility that hints at glue-guy potential. At 6'6" with a 7'0" wingspan, he averaged 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks. He also hit 20 of 57 threes as a senior, a promising sign for a wing who coaches will already value for his passing and ability to guard positions 1-4.
A team can bring Jokubaitis right over or let him develop with Barcelona, who just signed the Lithuanian combo guard to a multiyear deal. Barcelona would offer Jokubaitis a favorable situation to develop if he's stashed. It worked out well for 2020 first-round pick Leandro Bolmaro, who looked good playing 15.9 minutes per game in the Spanish ACB. Jokubaitis would presumably replace Bolmaro, but an NBA team could also see an immediate contributor in the 20-year-old after he averaged 7.0 points and 2.5 assists on 38.8 percent shooting from three in EuroLeague.
40. David Johnson (Louisville, PG/SG, Sophomore)
39. Joshua Primo (Alabama, SG, Freshman)
38. JT Thor (Auburn, PF, Freshman)
37. Joe Wieskamp (Iowa, SF, Junior)
36. Isaiah Todd (G League Ignite, PF, 2001)
35. Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)
34. Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Junior)
33. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Sophomore)
32. Nah'Shon Hyland (VCU, SG, Sophomore)
31. Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SG/SF, Freshman)
Nobody seems to love Robinson-Earl, but plenty of scouts like him and see second-round value. A perceived low ceiling could lead to a draft-night steal for a team who'll be satisfied with adding a reserve big man. Though not explosive or a ball-handling threat, Robinson-Earl has excellent mid-range touch that he should be able to extend to the arc. And he's fundamentally sound around the post with good hands and IQ. Some team figures to add a pick-and-pop 4 who finishes, rebounds and doesn't make many mistakes.
Johnson started the season on breakout watch, but the arrival of Carlik Jones to Louisville limited Johnson's on-ball freedom. He had more of it at the NBA combine, which reminded scouts about his nifty ball skills for an athletic 6'5" guard. Johnson improved his three-point shooting as a sophomore, and between his physical tools and the highlights of flashy handles and passes, he has become an interesting buy-low option with sneaky upside.
30. Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG/SF, Junior)
29. Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG, Freshman)
28. Quentin Grimes (Houston, SG, Junior)
27. Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)
26. Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
25. Day'Ron Sharpe (North Carolina, C, Freshman)
24. Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG/SF, Freshman)
23. Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)
22. Trey Murphy III (Virginia, SF/PF, Sophomore)
21. Kai Jones (Texas, PF/C, Sophomore)
Garuba also seems like a decent bet to go top 20 after how comfortable he looked defending Team USA's forwards during Olympic exhibition play. It's worth noting that he won't be able to visit teams for workouts or interviews since he's competing with Spain, so that could lead to teams opting to pass. But there is enough tape to watch and former teammates or coaches to talk with about Garuba's special defensive IQ and effort. I have a tough time getting too exciting about a 6'8" big who doesn't create or shoot well, but if we're lowering the bar in the mid-to-late first round, he's a safe pick with a high role-playing floor.
Defense is a big part of Mitchell's sales pitch, but how high is the defensive ceiling of a player who measured 6'0" in socks? For a rookie who'll be 23 years old, overblown defensive potential, a 64.1 free-throw percentage and limited floater game (5-of-16) are red flags tough to swallow in the lottery (for me).
Rising guards and a lengthier timetable knock Jones outside the lottery. His athleticism and movement fluidity always pop. But the flashes of shooting and off-the-dribble stuff were too infrequent to buy as translatable, every-game occurrences anytime soon. Jones does know how to earn himself easy baskets, and his defensive versatility is appealing. But some guards and wings appear more enticing than a big who won't create, consistently hit jumpers or protect the rim.
20. Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)
19. Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, PF/C, 2002)
18. Miles McBride (West Virginia, PG/SG, Sophomore)
17. Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)
16. Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)
15. Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)
14. Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
13. Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, PG/C, 2002)
12. Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG,
11. Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)
Despite teams giving Springer positive reviews after workouts, he still wasn't invited to the Green Room. I'm apparently higher on his NBA fit than the NBA is, especially if he's more explosive now that his ankle is healed, which is what teams are saying.
Just as teams should have bought into Tyrese Haliburton's versatility to pass and shoot off the catch, Springer's versatility should make them forget about his lack of a natural position. I'm picturing a De'Anthony Melton type who can facilitate in the right situations, slash through contact, make open shots and defend both backcourt spots.
Duarte moves up a few spots, and teams think he'll wind up going top 20. After the top eight picks or so, age becomes less of a factor, and certain teams become more interested in sure things. Many see Duarte as a lock to add shooting and other forms of shot-making, while his defensive tools and toughness bode well for his chances of competing right away. He won't be for everyone, but it's easy to picture him contributing to a rotation throughout his entire rookie contract.
While scouts acknowledge Johnson's wild athletic ability, they were disappointed by his measurements (6'4¾" in shoes, 6'7¼" wingspan) for a wing whose skill level is lagging. Despite his explosive leaping ability, he graded in the 17th percentile in transition, and scouts have questioned whether he knows how to optimize his athleticism.
10. James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)
9. Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)
8. Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF/PF, Sophomore)
7. Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)
6. Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)
I'm told assurance was given to Wagner that he'd be taken top 10. He's very well-liked for a number of reasons, including his fit and versatility at both ends, his understanding of the game and unique experience (playing overseas and college) for a 19-year-old.
There might not be a path to star scorer, but there is to star role-player potential. Nic Batum is the comparison I've used all season, citing his 6'9" size for a wing, spot-up shooting, passing skills and ability to guard both forward spots. There isn't a team he'll have trouble meshing with given how well-rounded and interchangeable he should be. Wagner looks like a fine pick anywhere outside the top five.
Predraft intel from teams on Kuminga wasn't super assuring. Looking back at his time in the G League, he also finished with the second-lowest true shooting percentage of any projected first-round pick. And it doesn't appear he'll offer many ancillary strengths, meaning a lot is riding on his ability to be an efficient scorer.
At this point, his shot looks far away from being consistent. Enticing long-term upside is still tied to his physical profile, athleticism and face-up scoring skill set. But there is more risk with Kuminga than most projected top-10 picks.
5. Scottie Barnes (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)
4. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, 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 more I hear about Barnes and rewatch film, the easier it's getting to picture him maximizing his potential and developing into a different type of star compared to the NBA's scoring leaders.
With his 6'8" size, 7'3" wingspan and massive strides, his ball-handling, fluidity off the dribble and passing will be a problem for other bigs. And though the shooting numbers at Florida State weren't pretty, he still looks capable enough at 19 years old to have some level of confidence in his chances of improving.
This all seems like a bonus on top of All-Defensive Team upside.