Big Board 3.0

Breaking down the top 30 prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft

It’s time for the latest update of my 2021 NBA Draft Big Board!

With the NCAA tournament starting this week, I spoke to a number of NBA execs and scouts about how they see the draft up to this point.

A consensus has formed about which players make up this year's star-studded top 5, although those players might leapfrog one another. And likewise, the next eight prospects are beginning to settle as well, though the order is still very much up in the air.

After that, it gets pretty wild. Some teams have players ranked in the lottery that other teams have ranked in the late first round.


01 CADE CUNNINGHAM

WING, OKLAHOMA STATE, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Elite court vision, Ballhandling, Size
Age 19.5 | 6'7" | 215

Cunningham’s dominant performance the past month has solidified his hold on the top spot of the draft. He dominated the Big 12 Tournament, proving to scouts that he’s one of the most complete prospects -- a dominant scorer, an elite shooter and someone who can carry his team. The only red flag on his resume is his high turnover rate.

Draft range: 1-3


02 EVAN MOBLEY

PF/C, USC, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Athleticism, Defense, Ballhandling
Age 19.7 | 6'11" | 205

Mobley also made a strong case for being the No. 1 pick the past few weeks. His performance in the Pac-12 Tournament (26 ppg, 9 rpg, 5 bpg) showcased his versatility on the offensive end and his potential to be a dominant rim protector on the defensive end. He lacks strength and his 3-point shooting is still a work in progress, but he possesses all the tools to be a top-flight NBA big man.

Draft range: 1-5


03 JALEN SUGGS

G, GONZAGA , FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Athleticism, Toughness
Age 19.7 | 6'4" | 195

Cunningham and Mobley aren’t the only ones who have saved their best basketball for late in the season. Suggs has been every bit as impressive. His aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, clutch playmaking and big shots in the WCC Tournament reminded NBA scouts just how special he is. There are questions about his jump shot and his ideal position in the league, but Suggs' leadership and toughness make him a favorite of scouts that prioritize intangibles in their draft reports.

Draft range: 1-5


04 JALEN GREEN

SG, G LEAGUE
Primary Attributes: Athleticism, Scoring
Age 19.1 | 6'5" | 180

Green is the best pure scorer in the draft and wowed scouts with his athleticism and ability to get buckets in the G League. When his jumper is falling, he’s very, very difficult to stop. As Green gets stronger and rounds out his game, he has the most star potential of anyone in the draft.

Draft range: 1-5


05 JONATHAN KUMINGA

SF, G LEAGUE
Primary Attributes: Athleticism, Defensive Versatility
Age 18.4 | 6'8" | 210

Kuminga impressed scouts with his early play in the G League but tapered off as the shortened season wound down and he missed the final few games with a knee injury. He’s the rawest of the top-5 prospects, and given the strong play of the other four, that hurts his draft stock a little. But he has the talent, size, athleticism and versatility to be an impact player in the NBA. Teams will have to be patient with him, given he’s the youngest of the top-5 prospects.

Draft range: 1-5


06 KEON JOHNSON

SG, TENNESSEE, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Athleticism, Motor
Age 19.1 | 6'5" | 186

Johnson’s athletic and defensive abilities are ahead of his offensive game at the moment, but over the past month scouts have been encouraged by his development as a scorer and playmaker. His shooting is still the key swing skill here. If he develops that skill, he has true two-way-star potential. He has a significantly lower floor than the top-5 prospects, but his ceiling is very, very high.

Draft range: 6-12


07 FRANZ WAGNER

F, MICHIGAN, SOPHOMORE
Primary Attributes: Versatility
Age 19.5 | 6'8" | 205

Wagner isn’t dominant in one area, but his complete statistical profile makes him a favorite of the analytics crowd. His defensive numbers are especially impressive, and he looks able to guard at least two positions at the next level. If he can keep shooting 39% from 3, scouts hope he can be an offensive weapon anywhere on the floor as well.

Draft range: 6-12


08 SCOTTIE BARNES

F, FLORIDA STATE, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Versatility, Defense
Age 19.6 | 6'8" | 210

Barnes’ versatility as a ballhandling big man who racks up steals and assists, but not rebounds or blocks, is interesting. His lack of a consistent jump shot is concerning. It’s tough to find a good comp for him in the NBA. But veterans scouts think, on the right team, he could have a Draymond Green-type defensive impact with the ability to defend all five positions on the floor.

Draft range: 6-12


09 MOSES MOODY

WING, ARKANSAS, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Shooting
Age 18.8 | 6'6" | 185

Moody projected before the season as one of the top shooters in this draft class, but he’s more than just a shooter: He can get to the basket, is an excellent offensive rebounder and has proved he can defend multiple positions. While he’s not an elite athlete, he projects as a prototypical 3-and-D wing in the NBA.

Draft range: 6-12


10 COREY KISPERT

SF, GONZAGA, SENIOR
Primary Attributes: Shooting
Age 22 | 6'7" | 220

Kispert is old for a draft prospect and lacks the athletic upside or potential of the other players on our Big Board. But he’s the best shooter in the draft and a solid defender. In a draft that gets far more uncertain outside the top 10, he seems to be the consensus “safe” pick at this point in the lottery.

Draft range: 8-15


11 JAMES BOUKNIGHT

SG, UCONN, SOPHOMORE
Primary Attributes: Scoring, Basketball IQ
Age 20.5 | 6'5" | 190

Bouknight’s ability to score at a high volume while limiting turnovers and bad shots is impressive. His inconsistent shooting and lack of elite size for his position worry some NBA scouts, but as far as scorers go, he’s the best still available in the draft.

Draft range: 8-15


12 GREG BROWN

F, TEXAS, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Freaky athleticism
Age 19.5 | 6'9" | 205

Brown is the most explosive athlete in the draft. His performance has been less exceptional. He’s been solid as a shooter and an excellent finisher at the rim, with a great motor. But his in-between game has been nonexistent, he’s made only nine assists on the season (four of them coming in one game) and his role for Texas has diminished as the season has wound down. Brown is the quintessential high-ceiling/low-floor player in the draft and a polarizing prospect among scouts.

Draft range: 8-15


13 JALEN JOHNSON

F, DUKE, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Versatility, Passing
Age 19.2 | 6'9" | 220

Johnson’s rebounding and ability to handle the ball in transition are very impressive for a 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward. However, his offensive struggles in the half-court have created serious questions for scouts, who wonder if he can be effective in the NBA without the ball in his hands.

Draft range: 8-15


14 SHARIFE COOPER

PG, AUBURN, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Passing, Scoring
Age 19.8 | 6'1" | 180

Cooper is an electric playmaker and scorer who excels at getting to the line. He’s the most creative passer in the draft and he can get anywhere he wants to on the floor. His lack of size (he’s closer to 5-11 than the listed 6-1) and his erratic shooting are significant warts that may keep him out of the top 10. NCAA eligibility issues in the first half of the season and an ankle injury at the end of the regular season gave scouts a limited sample, but when he was good, he was great.

Draft range: 12-25


15 JADEN SPRINGER

G, TENNESSEE, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Scoring
Age 18.5 | 6'4" | 205

Expect a string of “polarizing prospects” from here on out, starting with Springer, who looks like a strong defender with excellent shot selection. He can score from anywhere on the floor. The questions surround his lack of elite size and athleticism. Can he get the same good looks against NBA defenders?

Draft range: 12-25


16 KAI JONES

C, TEXAS, SOPHOMORE
Primary Attributes: Size, Mobility
Age 20 | 6'11" | 218

Jones has a lot of upside as a mobile big who can run and space the floor. His lack of rebounding and shot-blocking and his penchant for foul trouble are concerning, and he needs to add strength. He’s an upside pick all the way, as he looks maybe a year away from being able to hang in the NBA.

Draft range: 12-25


17 JARED BUTLER

G, BAYLOR, JUNIOR
Primary Attributes: Versatility
Age 21.5 | 6'3" | 195

Butler has been one of the most successful players in college basketball this season and that counts for something. He can defend multiple positions, plays well both on and off the ball, has shot it well from 3 and is one of the toughest, headiest defenders among draft prospects. He doesn’t have major upside but he’s got one of the highest floors in the draft. Teams thinking about instant contributors in the NBA tend to like Butler’s chances.

Draft range: 15-25


18 DAVION MITCHELL

PG, BAYLOR, JUNIOR
Primary Attributes: Playmaking, Defense
Age 22.5 | 6'2" | 205

Butler’s teammate is one of the most intriguing players left on the board. His athleticism, strength, shooting, defensive toughness and versatility have a number of scouts comparing him to another Mitchell -- the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell. He’s a little smaller than Donovan and not quite the dynamic scorer, but the similarities are significant. If he were two years younger, he’d be a top-10 pick.

Draft range: 15-25


19 ISAIAH JACKSON

F/C, KENTUCKY, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Athleticism, shot-blocking
Age 19.2 | 6'10" | 205

Jackson’s length, athleticism, motor and shot-blocking drew the attention of scouts early. But his second-half offensive improvements are what moved him into consideration as a top-20 pick. He’s raw and he needs to add strength and polish to his offensive game, making him a risk at this point in the draft, but the upside is tantalizing.

Draft range: 15-25


20 DAVID JOHNSON

PG, LOUISVILLE, SOPHOMORE
Primary Attributes: Passing, Versatility
Age 20 | 6'5" | 210

Johnson was considered a lottery pick earlier in the year. That shine has worn off considerably. He projects as a big combo guard, he showed significant improvement as a shooter and he’s made progress in reducing his turnovers. But scouts were disappointed with his inability to take over games as a scorer and his overall impact on the game. He has talent, but does Johnson have the drive to capitalize on it?

Draft range: 18-30


21 USMAN GARUBA

C, SPAIN
Primary Attributes: Rebounding, Defense
Age 18 | 6'8" | 220

Garuba will be drafted because of what teams think he might be someday, not on what he is right now: an undersized big man who has length, athleticism and a motor but no real offensive game to speak of. The bet is that Real Madrid continues to develop him and down the road he projects as a shot-blocking rim runner.

Draft range: 18-30


22 BJ BOSTON

SG, KENTUCKY, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Scoring
Age 19.3 | 6'7" | 175

The preseason hype was way out of proportion compared to what we actually saw at Kentucky. Boston was supposed to be one of the best scorers in the draft and didn’t look anything like that guy as a college freshman. His lack of strength hurts his ability to finish at the rim, and his jump shot is shaky. In his last game in the SEC Tournament, he scored zero points. But … scouts did see improvement during the season. He might not be a lottery pick, but teams still see a future in the NBA for Boston. At this point in the draft, the reward outweighs the risk.

Draft range: 18-30


23 DAISHEN NIX

PG, G LEAGUE
Primary Attributes: Playmaking, Defense
Age 19.1 | 6'5" | 225

On the one hand, Nix is one of the headiest players in the draft. He’s got elite floor vision and feel for the game. He reminds scouts of a young Andre Miller. His poor shooting and conditioning raise questions about whether he can take advantage of his floor-general skills at the next level.

Draft range: 18-30


24 ZIAIRE WILLIAMS

WING, STANFORD, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Tools, Versatility
Age 19.5 | 6'8" | 185

Williams, like his high school teammate BJ Boston, came into the draft with a ton of hype as a toolsy wing who would fill up a stat sheet. His first season at Stanford was a major disappointment. As with Boston, Williams' lack of strength, inability to finish at the rim and poor shooting raised serious questions about how his game would translate in the NBA. The raw tools are there and are intriguing, but he’s a long way away from impacting an NBA game.

Draft range: 20-35



25 MATTHEW MAYER

F, BAYLOR, JUNIOR
Primary Attributes: Shooting, Defensive versatility
Age 21.7 | 6'9" | 225

Mayer has played for Baylor for three seasons and is still coming off the bench and averaging fewer than 10 points a game. John Hollinger’s shout-out to Mayer in a recent column feels prescient, however. He may play only 15 minutes a game, but what he does in the minutes he’s given is compelling. He’s an excellent shooter with deep range, and he has the ability to guard three positions. In a league obsessed with big wings who can shoot 3s and defend multiple positions, he’s an intriguing late first-round pick.

Draft range: 20-35


26 JOSH CHRISTOPHER

SG, ARIZONA STATE, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Scoring
Age 19.3 | 6'4" | 204

Christopher can score from anywhere on the floor and is aggressive looking for his shot. The question is whether he can do anything when the ball isn’t in his hands to help teams win.

Draft range: 20-35


27 MARCUS BAGLEY

F, ARIZONA STATE, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Scoring, Versatility, Athleticism
Age 19.4 | 6'8" | 215

The younger brother of the Kings’ Marvin Bagley III is a bouncy, emerging scorer who can stretch the defense, finish at the basket and defend multiple positions. He’s battled injuries this year that have limited opportunities for scouts to see him. He could rise with great workouts, because he has the talent to succeed in the NBA.

Draft range: 20-35


28 DAY'RON SHARPE

C, NORTH CAROLINA, FRESHMAN
Primary Attributes: Motor, Size
Age 19.3 | 6'11" | 265

Sharpe’s combination of size and motor is special. He’s everywhere on both ends of the court. His other skills are still catching up, but playing hard is a skill, and Sharpe’s tenacity makes him a prospect.

Draft range: 20-35


29 JOSH GIDDEY

WING, AUSTRALIA
Primary Attributes: Court vision, size
Age 18.4 | 6'8" | 205

Giddey’s versatility, ability to see the floor and defend multiple positions at his size and age make him very intriguing. A number of scouts think he has the most upside of any international prospect in the draft. He lacks explosive athleticism and a consistent jump shot, putting him in a similar boat to Daishen Nix. For both players, the question is whether their elite floor vision is enough.

Draft range: 20-35


30 ISAIAH TODD

F/C, G LEAGUE
Primary Attributes: Shooting, Defense
Age 19.4 | 6'10" | 210

Todd was an afterthought as a potential first-round prospect, but as the G League Ignite season progressed, he got better. His shooting and hustle caught the eyes of scouts, despite his lack of strength and defensive toughness. He’s a project, but an intriguing one in a league that loves big guys who can shoot.

Draft range: 20-35