The 2021 NBA Draft is quickly approaching. Who are some of the top potential franchise-altering players set to play professionally next year?
The NBA Draft is always an exciting time for college and professional fans alike. Not only is it the culmination of years of hard work for 60 players set to hear their names called, but hope springs eternal for NBA teams searching for their future star. It is an exciting, and nerve-wracking time, for all involved, from the fans to the players to the executives making job-defining choices. The draft lottery and combine are still approaching, but it is now officially draft season with the early-entry deadline now in the rear-view mirror.
As has been the case since the onset of 2021 draft discussions, Cade Cunningham remains widely viewed as the top player in the class. There also appears to be fairly consensus Top 5 (Cunningham included) before the true uncertainty lies. Will a project impress in workouts and leap into the Top 10? Perhaps a proven collegiate veteran leaps up the list by proving far more NBA-ready than his younger peers? These are the questions asked each offseason as the NBA Draft approaches.
Fit is obviously the toughest attribute to grade when concocting pre-draft lists. Without the element of knowing a team’s objective in the draft, projecting results is practically impossible. Big Boards also need to juggle the conversation of whether high-floor/low-ceiling or low-floor/high-ceiling is more important. Regardless, let’s dive into my Top 30 prospects set to be available on July 29th.
Note: This is not a Mock Draft and is subjectively ranked based on the viewings of each player. Disagreements are in the nature of NBA Draft discussion. All ages listed are what they will be on draft night.
1. Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
19.8 years old | Guard | 6-8 | 220 lbs.
Cade Cunningham is the unquestioned top prospect in the 2021 NBA Draft class. A playmaking savant at 6-8, he is “create-a-player”-like in his combination of size and skill. Very few youngsters possess the level of playmaking patience and vision that Cunningham boasts; this skill should be even more evident when paired with more talented teammates at the professional level. He averaged 20.1 points (.438/.400/.846), 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman at Oklahoma State and was named an All-American. He oozes versatility as someone that can thrive as a lead creator or play off-ball while also defending multiple positions on the other end. Hype has followed several “big guards” over the years (Tyreke Evans, Michael Carter-Williams, Lonzo Ball), but Cunningham is the most likely player in this class to be a true franchise-changer. He has been at the top of the draft board for well over a year, and nothing changed after his stellar freshman season.
2. Evan Mobley, USC
20.1 years old | Center | 7-0 | 215 lbs.
Wings are all the rage when it comes to the most important players in the modern NBA. With that said, though, we are coming off a season in which two centers (Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid) were both named finalists for the MVP award. Mobley is perhaps the perfect blend of everything that a modern big stands for; he is mobile, long, defensively versatile, and can knock down the open jumper. While he is still a bit thin relative to NBA centers and lacks elite post moves, he grades extremely well in just about every other category. Mobley can switch and defend in space and ranked in the Top 40 nationally in block rate — his length and timing are up there with the best even if he is giving up some pounds. He only shot 69.4 percent at the foul line, so his jumper is a work in progress, but the potential is there for him to be a floor-stretcher. His ceiling registers as a go-to offensive weapon and versatile defender, a.k.a. the makings of a multi-time All-Star given the proper development. You will not find many bigs with this combination of length, athleticism, savviness, and body of work.
3. Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
20.2 years old | Guard | 6-4 | 205 lbs.
A top-tier creator fresh off an excellent season with Gonzaga, Jalen Suggs feels like a lock to go in the Top 5. He brings quality size to the lead guard position at 6-4 and is often a step or two ahead as a playmaker. Mark Few’s up-tempo offense fit Suggs like a glove and allowed him to showcase his ability in transition. While able to get downhill himself for finishes, he also displayed his unselfishness and creativity with several dazzling ahead-passes on the break. Suggs averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He already creates well, finishes above the rim, and is an excellent defender at the point of attack and away from the ball. Perhaps the biggest key will be diversifying his scoring and improving his shooting. He is very streaky from three and shot just 28.6 percent on 3PA of his final 25 games of the season. Suggs’ efficiency at the foul line (better than 76 percent) indicates a potential improvement as a shooter at the next level, but he has a ways to go before being a dynamic off-screen or off-handoff shooter. He was a highly-touted recruit coming into college, and he showed the ability to step up on the biggest stage. Suggs averaged 18.7/5.3/5.7 on .553/.429/.800 in the final three rounds of the NCAA Tournament, including his buzzer-beater in the Final Four to lift Gonzaga over UCLA.
4. Jalen Green, G League Ignite (NBA G League)
19.5 years old | Guard | 6-6 | 178 lbs
Jalen Green is the first G League Ignite product to crack the Big Board, and he does so after scoring very well down the stretch of their campaign. The explosive scoring prospect recorded 17.9 points per game over 15 contests for GLI and had solid efficiency splits. Not only did he shoot 36.5 percent from the three-point line, but his 82.9 percent free-throw clip indicates his shooting will likely translate to the next level. Adding more muscle to his frame will go a long way on both ends of the floor, though he seemingly grew more comfortable defensively as GLI’s season progressed. Shoring up his defense and playmaking could be critical, but his athleticism and scoring versatility grade exceptionally well. Green has already been tested against tough competition while playing for GLI and is a safe bet to be a reliable scoring option from Day 1 of his NBA career. He has shown his ability as a shooter, plus his combination of athleticism and body control should translate to consistent finishing at the next level.
5. Jonathan Kuminga, G League Ignite (NBA G League)
18.8 years old | Wing | 6-6 | 210 lbs
An excellent athlete with tremendous size, Jonathan Kuminga is widely regarded as a Top 5 prospect in this class. He boasts exceptional physical measurements and holds the potential to be a two-way star. Though Kuminga struggled with efficiency in the G League (.387/.246/.625 shooting splits), he displayed comfortability with his stroke while averaging 15.8 points per game. He used his athleticism and instincts on the glass to pull down an impressive 7.2 boards per game (19.2 percent DRB%). Lengthy athletes that can play multiple positions always generate intrigue, and Kuminga is no different. His floor is lower than the prospects above him but still holds one of the top ceilings in the class. If the right franchise is patient with his development — he is one of the youngest players available after all — it could pay significant dividends. While this is a Big Board rather than a mock draft, I could see the Magic or the Thunder swinging for Kuminga based on their prior personnel preferences.
6. Keon Johnson, Tennessee
19.4 years old | Guard | 6-5 | 186 lbs
With freak burst and elite change-of-direction, Keon Johnson has a legitimate claim to be named the Most Athletic Player in this draft class. Perhaps even more importantly, though, Johnson understands how to use his athleticism to his advantage — particularly defensively. Not only does he consistently stay in front as an on-ball defender, but he can wreak havoc off-ball by playing passing lanes. His combination of length and athleticism could allow him to be among the NBA’s best in causing deflections. Wing stoppers are a vital archetype for playoff basketball, making Johnson worthy of Top 10 consideration. Developing his offensive game will be crucial, though. He averaged 11.3 points per game for Tennessee but shot just 27.1 percent from three and 70.3 percent at the foul line. His shooting is holding his overall game back at this point, as is the fact that he recorded more turnovers (71) than assists (67) in his 27 collegiate games. Diversifying his offensive skillset could be the difference between Johnson being just a strong perimeter defender and becoming a future All-Star.
7. Moses Moody, Arkansas
19.2 years old | Wing | 6-6 | 205 lbs
Moses Moody’s draft stock soured a bit following struggles at the NCAA Tournament (32.7 percent shooting), but those performances did not change my opinion much. He has high defensive potential with a solid 6-foot-6 frame and long arms. Moody showed flashes of versatility in his lone collegiate season. An excellent shooter, Moody hit 35.7 percent from three this season, even after going 3-for-17 in the Big Dance. His 81.2 percent foul shooting (186 attempts) also backs up his reputation as a likely deep threat at the next level. He already has good defensive instincts and can cover multiple positions on-ball while also staying alert away from it. The ‘3-and-D’ potential is high with Moody and, while their collegiate roles couldn’t have been much different, I could see a similar trajectory to Mikal Bridges. Moody helping elevate Arkansas into a Top 10 team doesn’t hurt his lottery case, either. As his head coach Eric Musselman put it when discussing Moody: “Winning is a skill.” Perhaps the biggest key to unlocking his full potential will be developing more self-creation skills en route to becoming a primary scorer at the next level.
8. Franz Wagner, Michigan
19.9 years old | Wing | 6-9 | 220 lbs
Franz Wagner is simply the type of player that contributes to winning basketball. While he perhaps does not exhibit one elite-level skill, he does just about everything well. Wagner’s self-creation lacks, but he can be a supplemental scoring piece with his strong shooting and playmaking abilities at 6-foot-9. Wagner was a career 83.5 percent free-throw shooter in college (133 attempts), which suggests he may post highest three-point shooting numbers in the NBA than the 34.3 percent he put up as a sophomore (though he did shoot 40.6 percent in Big Ten play). You would also be hard-pressed to find a better instinctual defender than Wagner in this class. Ranking Top 15 in the Big Ten in both block rate (3.4 percent) and steal rate (2.7 percent), he was a defensive playmaker in the nation’s toughest conference. He holds his own on the perimeter and in the post but truly shines as a dynamic off-ball defender. The likelihood of Wagner developing into a top offensive threat is low, but his all-around talent makes him worthy of Top 10 consideration anyway. Every team needs players who make positive impacts without needing high usage rates; Wagner is one of those guys. He notched the second-lowest usage rate among Michigan’s core rotation last season but was still an integral part of a No. 1-seeded team at the NCAA Tournament. Even though he has two years of collegiate experience under his belt, the draft will come before his 20th birthday.
9. Scottie Barnes, Florida State
19.9 years old | Wing | 6-9 | 227 lbs
Defense is the name of the game for Scottie Barnes. A five-star recruit out of high school, Barnes boasts an elite 6-foot-9 frame with tremendous measurables. His combination of size, athleticism, and length make him arguably the best candidate to be a future All-Defensive player in this class. He can defend multiple positions, and that gives him a very high floor. He will also still only be 19 on draft night. Barnes plays with a tremendous motor and stays active on the glass. He functioned as a lead playmaker for Florida State and is a magnificent creator for his position. Developing perimeter scoring ability will be crucial for him; Barnes shot just 34.9 percent last season when he wasn’t attacking the rim. Shot-creation and extending his range are the primary skills that could raise his ceiling in the league. Even now, though, Barnes’ quality finishing touch and elite defensive potential make him worth a lottery selection.
10. Davion Mitchell, Baylor
22.9 years old | Guard | 6-2 | 205 lbs
Davion Mitchell was a two-way monster for Baylor this season, soaring up draft boards on his way to becoming a national champion. He has already proven his ability to be a “winner” and enters the NBA Draft already extremely well-built and poised to be an impact player from Day 1. He is one of the oldest players projected to land in the first round, but that shouldn’t hold front offices back from selecting him much. Mitchell is an elite guard defender with the ability to switch onto wings when necessary as well. He has drawn some comparisons to Jrue Holiday and Kyle Lowry for his defensive tenacity and playmaking ability — it would be hard for any GM to pass that up if they see the same similarities that others have. There’s no doubt that he is one of the best players in this class, but being nearly 23 on draft night makes him tricky to rank. Mitchell will not be an upside pick but boasts an excellent floor; this could make him a priority for a lottery team that thinks it is close to contending. Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Mitchell is whether or not his improved three-point shot is real or just an outlier season with reduced fan capacity:
Even if his accuracy does revert a bit in the pros, Mitchell’s defensive prowess is already high enough to warrant consideration as a lottery pick.
11. Josh Giddey, Adelaide (National Basketball League)
18.8 years old | Guard | 6-8 | 205 lbs
Giddey represents one of the more intriguing players in the class due to his size (6-8), playmaking ability, and tremendous development over the past year. First and foremost, he is perhaps the best pure passer in this class. He brings remarkable vision to the floor and often seems clairvoyant in how he sees plays developing on the offensive end. Live-dribble, skip, and acrobatic passes are commonplace in his film and are the primary reasons for his rise into lottery contention. Giddey averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game for Adelaide in the NBL this past season. Developing as a shooter will be crucial in determining how he translates to the NBA; the lack of a proven three-point shot (29.3 percent) will diminish his impact as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. On the other hand, Giddey may be the player who will benefit most from the recent successes of Luka Doncic and LaMelo Ball, two big playmakers who are helping to improve the perception of overseas leagues. He has developed exceptionally well over the past year and is still just 18 years old.
12. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
22.4 years old | Wing | 6-7 |
Three-point shooting is the premier skill in the modern era of the NBA, and while Corey Kispert is going to be 22.4 years old on draft night, he is likely the best shooter in this draft class. He has a lightning-quick release and is money in catch-and-shoot situations. Kispert shot 43.9 percent from three (385 attempts) and 84.6 percent from the free-throw line (182 tries) over his last two seasons at Gonzaga. The Bulldogs went a combined 63-3 and led the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency during those campaigns. He has a track record of contributing to winning basketball, and his gravity as a shooter should translate to the next level. Kispert also brings a well-built 6-foot-7 frame to the table, which should make the transition to the next level more straightforward than it is for some others. He is not an elite athlete relative to his peers in this class but is used to a shooter/cutter role and intelligently positions himself on D. Kispert is a guy that improved with each collegiate season and could continue to do so in the pros. Kispert’s likelihood of long-term relevance centers around his primary skill — three-point shooting — being among the most valuable in the NBA.
13. Tre Mann, Florida
20.5 years old | Guard | 6-5 | 190 lbs
Tre Mann took a significant jump as a sophomore at Florida this past season while emerging as a potential lottery pick. Most significantly, he blossomed into one of the best shooters in the class. Mann connected on 40.2 percent of his three-pointers this year while hitting 83.1 percent at the foul line as well. On the whole, he posted 16.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Mann boasts a deadly floater, a shot growing in popularity thanks to youngsters like Trae Young dominating in the postseason with it. He has room to improve as a defender and isn’t quite the athlete of other prospects but has plenty of offensive game. Mann is streaky but looks like a star when entirely on his game. He is an elite pull-up shooter and feels like a guard that could be useful in playoff basketball. Mann’s playmaking is an undervalued trait as an off-guard.
14. Jaden Springer, Tennessee
18.8 years old | Guard | 6-4 | 204 lbs
Somehow, Jaden Springer is a sleeper in this draft, with many outlets slotting him getting drafted in the 20s. He is a highly well-built 6-4 guard and a top perimeter defender in the class. He is highly technical with his footwork, fights through ball screens, and displays excellent IQ when beating offensive players to their spots. Springer’s defense alone gives him a pretty high ceiling, and he will still only be 18 years old on draft night. His offense is more challenging to project, but there are reasons to be optimistic. Namely, he was remarkably efficient in two key areas: Springer finished 65.8 percent of his at-the-rim attempts (42.0 percent assisted) and connected on 43.5 percent of his three-pointers (an admittedly small sample size). If the shot is real, which his 81.0 percent shooting at the foul line seems to support, then he has the potential to be a big-time ‘3-and-D’ guard with finishing ability on cuts. Speeding up his release will be critical. The superb defense anchors his floor, and his youth raises his ceiling.
15. Kai Jones, Texas
20.5 years old | Center | 6-11 | 218 lbs
Kai Jones averaged just 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game for Texas this past season, but his film and potential are incredible. The modern NBA center needs to be able to switch defensively, finish above the rim, and stretch the floor with a jumper. Jones is not the most consistent player and has a lot of developing to do, but he has the raw talent to check all of those boxes. He is hyper-athletic and projects as a rim-runner that can get up for lobs. Additionally, Jones shot 38.2 percent from three and ranked 215th nationally in block rate at 4.2 percent. He brings enough size at 6-11 and is tantalizingly raw. His ball-handling and overall fluidity are also impressive. Jones will be one of the most valuable players in this class if the flashes become a reality. Doing things like this at his size makes scouts’ mouths water:
16. Chris Duarte, Oregon
24.1 years old | Guard | 6-6 | 190 lbs
Having an unconventional college journey, Chris Duarte is one of the oldest players in the class; he will already be 24-years-old on draft night. Regardless, his sheer talent level is extremely high, and he feels like a perfect fit for the modern NBA. He brings a well-built 6-6 frame to the court and oozes ‘3-and-D’ ability. The former Oregon Duck shot 42.4 percent from three last season en route to averaging 17.1 points per game. He can hit off-the-dribble, spot-up, or be an off-screen sniper; there is no shortage of shooting versatility in Duarte’s game. Despite not being the most explosive athlete, Duarte finishes at the rim (70.0 percent on 90 attempts) nicely with both hands. He is also highly regarded as an off-ball defender. Duarte uses his instincts and length to be a passing lanes pest; his 3.2 percent steal rate ranked 113th nationally last season. His age and overall lack of playmaking chops bring him down a bit, but he can shoot it and is likely to be an impact team defender. Duarte had a statistician’s dream of a season for the Ducks last year:
17. Jared Butler, Baylor
20.9 years old | Guard | 6-3 | 195 lbs
Jared Butler’s junior season at Butler was not short on accolades. Not only was he the leading scorer for the national champions, but he was also named a First Team All-American and the Final Four’s MOP. His prowess as a college player is easy to see. It is a bit trickier to figure out his fit in the NBA, but he is very talented and a proven winner. Most notably, he creates space for himself as a pick-and-roll scorer exceptionally well. A deadeye three-point shooter (41.6 percent last season), he could be deadly in pull-up situations against drop coverage. He created and defended at a high level in college as well. Butler feels like a non-lottery selection that will be an instant-impact reserve guard on a playoff team next season. Butler’s ceiling feels limited relative to others in this class, but he could stick in the league for a long time. He could fill a role similar to Monte Morris.
18. James Bouknight, UConn
20.9 years old | Guard | 6-5 | 190 lbs
James Bouknight missed eight games due to injury as a sophomore but still proved enough to warrant being a first-round pick. The 6-5 guard is an elite athlete with tremendous bounciness and body control. Acrobatic and creative finishes come naturally, and he is unafraid of playing above the rim. You will not find many guards better at finishing inside than Bouknight; he shot 65.8 percent on at-the-rim shots this past year (34.6 percent assisted). He is very streaky as a perimeter shooter, hitting 30.4 percent from three this past season. Bouknight’s archetype is that of an off-ball scorer; playmaking, on the other hand, is a weakness. He could make up for some of his missed passing reads in college by finishing through traffic, but that will be more challenging in the NBA. Developing into a better off-ball creator would broaden how he can fit at the next level. His combination of athleticism and quickness indicates defensive potential. Bouknight is just a consistent three-point shot away from being a highly impactful scorer, even with the poor playmaking.
19. Jalen Johnson, Duke
19.6 years old | Forward | 6-9 | 220 lbs
Jalen Johnson is one of the toughest players to evaluate in this draft class. In addition to leaving IMG Academy during his senior year, he only played 13 games at Duke as a freshman. With that said, his talent is undeniable, and this past year was a difficult one for everyone given the circumstances. He brings a big frame at 6-9 with plenty of playmaking ability. Johnson displays quality court vision and is an excellent live-dribble passer. Improving shooting and consistency will be the primary keys for Johnson. He shot just 34 percent on non-“at-the-rim” attempts at Duke; his playmaking will not be maximized until he commands defensive respect beyond the arc. Considering his frame, playing style, and potential, Johnson could turn out to be the steal of the draft if teams pass on him due to the concerns mentioned above.
20. Trey Murphy III, Virginia
21.1 years old | Forward | 6-9 | 206 lbs
6-9 proven snipers with high-level defensive ability do not come around all that often, which is why I am giving Trey Murphy a first-round grade. A career 40.1 percent three-point shooter (476 attempts) and 81.9 percent free-throw shooter (166 attempts), the Rice-turned-Virginia prospect is clearly one of the better snipers in this draft. He has an excellent track record from beyond the arc, was a strong defender at the college level, and is athletic enough to play at the next level. Murphy feels like a safe bet to be a rotation player in the NBA. His shot should translate, and he is at least a solid defender; with those two traits in hand at 6-9, he should be able to carve out a role. He feels like this year’s version of Saddiq Bey as a big ‘3-and-D’ forward. Even with three years of college under his belt, he still will only be 21-years-old at the draft; plenty of time for him to continue developing.
21. Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky
19.6 years old | Big | 6-10 | 206 lbs
The 2021 NBA Draft is not super deep in terms of available centers. That is part of why Isaiah Jackson might hear his name called earlier than some anticipate. The Kentucky product is a bouncy big at 6-11 with big-time potential as both a rim-runner and rim-protector. Jackson is very raw both from a skill and physicality standpoint and needs to both refine his ability and add strength before playing significant minutes at the next level. Still, he finished on 67.9 percent of his at-the-rim attempts as a freshman (23 dunks) and ranked in the Top 160 nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding rates, as well as free-throw attempt rate (70 percent on 90 attempts). Defensively, Jackson posted the eighth-best block rate in the nation at 12.7 percent. He is a bit of a project but worth working on if a team needs a shot-blocker and lob-finisher.
22. Usman Garuba, Real Madrid (Liga ACB)
19.4 years old | Forward | 6-8 | 229 lbs
Usman Garuba is one of the best defensive players in this class, which raises his floor considerably relative to other prospects. He is gifted on that end while also boasting the physical tools at 6-8 for his stopping to translate to the next level. Garuba intelligently reads offenses, can switch onto multiple positions, and is a playmaker from a “stocks” (1.3 steals-plus-blocks per game) perspective. The key for him will be developing more as an offensive weapon. He is currently a non-threat from three, and poor free-throw shooting does not suggest a sizable improvement in that department anytime soon. His versatility is a crucial trait, though, as someone likely to play a fair amount of small-ball ‘5’ at the next level, and his motor is excellent.
23. Ziaire Williams, Stanford
19.9 years old | Forward | 6-8 | 185 lbs
Ziaire Williams earned a five-star recruiting ranking out of high school but struggled during his lone season at Stanford. He put up just 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game on .374/.291/.796 shooting splits. Despite the struggles, though, he feels likely to be a first-round pick on the basis of his archetype and potential. He stands at 6-8 with long arms. Multipositional and versatile wings are exceptionally valued by NBA GMs, and Williams could be a steal that fits that mold late in the first. His near 80 percent shooting at the foul line expresses confidence that he could develop his shot-making over time. He is still very young and needs to add muscle to what is a skinny frame. With strong ball-handling and quality defense, it is easy to see a canvas on which a coaching staff could paint a masterpiece with Williams. He feels like the definition of an upside pick.
24. Alperen Sengun, Beşiktaş (Turkish Süper Lig)
19.1 years old | Big | 6-10 | 240 lbs
One of the best post-up players in the class, Alperen Sengun is a classic big. The Beşiktaş product averaged 19.2 points during this past season while doing most of his work inside the arc (67.9 percent on 2PA). The big plus to his game is how well he passes the ball; he averaged 3.6 assists per game over his last 14 recorded contests on Basketball-Reference. He can be a featured offensive presence due to being able to either score himself or find the open man. Sengun is currently a non-threat from three-point range, but his 80-percent clip at the line suggests potential in that area. He has a reputation for being a superb offensive rebounder. Very young with room to improve, but he is currently more of a project that needs to improve defensively. He ranks this low due to preference for prioritizing wings.
25. Sharife Cooper, Auburn
20.1 years old | Guard | 6-1 | 180 lbs
Sharife Cooper is another player that could slip through the cracks due to his limited film from college (his size also contributes here, too). He only participated in 12 games for Auburn last season but still showcased that he is arguably the best passer in this draft class. Cooper manipulates defenses with his change-of-pace and excellent fakes, creating open looks for teammates. His 53.3 percent assist rate ranked tops in the SEC. The big key for him will be developing into a better three-point shooter. Even with his impressive craftiness around the hoop, he could struggle as a finisher in the NBA due to his lack of size. Being able to connect consistently from deep, which might take some mechanics adjustments, will be huge for him; he shot just 22.8 percent on threes at LSU but was an encouraging 82.5 percent at the stripe. The passing creativity gives Cooper an elite skill from which to built the rest of his game around.
26. Cameron Thomas, LSU
19.8 years old | Guard | 6-4 | 210 lbs
If you are looking for a bucket-getter, you have come to the right place. Cam Thomas is a pure scoring guard with the ability to get it done at all three levels. He can create for himself, particularly in the mid-range (83-for-210, 39.5 percent), where he made 66 unassisted jumpers. Thomas’ free-throw attempts rate ranked 200th in the nation last season, and he took advantage by connecting on 88.2 percent of his 220 attempts. That remarkable efficiency at the line indicates a likely improvement on his 32.5 percent mark from beyond the arc. Thomas’ scoring is easily his No. 1 attribute, but he can be a ball-stopper. He averaged just 1.4 assists per game, and that lack of playmaking limits his upside. He is not a great defender at this point, either. With his penchant for scoring, though, Thomas feels like someone that can stick in the league as a sixth-man microwave.
27. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
21.5 years old | Guard | 6-5 | 200 lbs
A stat-sheet-stuffing leader at Illinois, Ayo Dosunmu knows how to win. He was a monster for the Illini during his two seasons, most notably leading them to a No. 1 seed this past year. Dosumnu does just about everything well. He brings a solid frame at 6-5, is an engaged and strong defender, can score at all three levels, and is a willing passer. Despite averaging over 20 points per game as a sophomore, his scoring is perhaps the most challenging thing to project translating. He shot 39 percent from three this year but still has a low release point and is primarily a low-volume catch-and-shoot guy from deep; nearly 90 percent of his makes came off assists. Dosunmu dominated mid-range and was a superb finisher in college; whether that will translate is a question. With his big body and track record of success, though, Dosunmu could become a steal.
28. Nah’Shon ‘Bones’ Hyland, VCU
20.8 years old | Guard | 6-3 | 173 lbs
Premier shot-makers, particularly from three-point range, are always going to be valuable. That is where Bones Hyland comes in as someone worth a late first-round or early second-round pick. The VCU product still needs to add muscle to his frame but is coming off a season in which he averaged 19.5 points per game on quality shooting splits. He connected on 39.9 percent of 331 three-pointers over two seasons with the Rams and is a quality free-throw shooter as well. Hyland is a smooth scoring guard at 6-foot-3 whose versatility as a sniper will garner attention. Beyond just his elite skill, Hyland is a gifted athlete with speed and bounciness. He can beat opposing defenders off-the-dribble and is an acrobatic finisher. He finished on 65.3 percent of his at-the-rim attempts last season, with nearly two-thirds of the makes being unassisted. Developing as a playmaker would fix his issue of being a “tweener” guard.
29. Josh Primo, Alabama
18.6 years old | Guard | 6-6 | 190 lbs
This is a bit of a wildcard pick based largely on the upside. Alabama’s Josh Primo is one of the youngest players in the draft class, is coming off an underrated freshman season, and projects as the type of 3-and-D player coveted across the NBA. Context needs to be supplied to evaluate Primo truly. His numbers of 8.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game do not pop off the computer screen, but he was a solid contributor for a very experienced Alabama team. Primo even launched into starting 19 games for the Crimson Tide, who landed a No. 2 seed at the Big Dance. He is a quality defender and connected on 38.1 percent of his three-pointers as a freshman. Primo boasts a plus wingspan and is a project wing worth taking a shot on. He isn’t a Top 30 player in this draft right this moment (in terms of being NBA-ready), but he could be in a few years; he is loaded with untapped potential and will only be 18 when selected.
30. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova
20.7 years old | Forward | 6-9 | 230 lbs
Evaluating prospects based on their college is a mistake. However, Villanova’s most recent draft picks are Saddiq Bey, Eric Paschall, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, Jalen Brunson, and Josh Hart. The track record with selecting former Wildcats is strong, but Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was a pretty darn good college player in his own right. His fit in the NBA is much less clear than other Nova products, but he produces. JRE is a quick forward that is superb on the glass and has some shooting potential. He only shot 30.1 percent from three over two seasons but was mid-70s at the foul line and hit 40.0 percent of 110 mid-range shots. It is crucial that he both develops range and consistency as a shooter. JRE has a tremendous feel for the game, which should aid in his draft stock.
Header image courtesy of C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.