Early Look at the Top Prospects for the 2021 NBA Draft
The top NBA prospects are proving their worth right now, whether that may be in the NCAA G-league, or overseas. Young players are showing what they can do at their respective programs and situations. As of today, there are clear frontrunners to be drafted in the upcoming NBA lottery, hoping to become the league's next superstars. Here are the players that have stood out thus far:
1. Cade Cunningham - Oklahoma St.
Position: Freshman, Point Guard
Ceiling: Paul George
Floor: Michael Carter Williams
Cunningham has shined in his time at Oklahoma State so far, averaging an impressive 19.5/6.3/3.5. He is a 6'8 ball handler with great strength and mobility. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor, as well as, drive in and draw contact. His huge frame allowed him to play great on-ball defense as well. Cunningham has the intangibles to become one of the NBA's premiere point guards. He has the potential to average a triple double in the league one day. Do not be fooled by his low assist numbers because his teammates aren't near the level of talent he is. Cunningham makes everyone on the floor better, but he can only do so much to this disappointing supporting cast. The only reason the Cowboys have stayed relevant this season is because they have the best player in this years class. It is clear he is the most NBA ready player in this year's draft.
2. Evan Mobley - USC
Ceiling: Karl-Anthony Towns
Floor: Mason Plumlee
Mobley is a freakishly tall, yet athletic and nimble center who defies the "typical" NBA center build. It is hard to compare him to another play in history because his potential is different from everyone else. His length does not limit him to moving fast in transition and blowing by defenders. Mobley's timing and coordination help him on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, allowing him to block shots with ease and slip around defenders. He has an NBA forward's tendencies with a huge frame. I could see him being the best center in the league one day. However, he is skinny for the center position and needs to gain weight to handle the professionals. If he pans out, Mobley could easily become to best center in the league one day.
3. Jalen Suggs - Gonzaga
Position: Point Guard
Ceiling: Damian Lillard
Floor: Reggie Jackson
With his explosion on to the college basketball scene, Suggs had led the Gonzaga Bulldogs to an undefeated season thus far, earning the #1 AP Poll spot. Suggs is averaging 13.9/5.5/4.5 on 50.5% shooting. He has the ability to shoot, drive, and pass with ease. He is an all around offensive player with few flaws. He is one of the most athletic players in this draft class, dunking regularly in transition and in the half-court. Suggs pick and roll awareness is high, as he knows when to pull back and shoot the three or find the opening in the defense to slip through to the basket. Against the top rated Iowa team, Suggs was able to put up an impressive 27 points, shooting 70% from the three point line. He already has the skill to dominate the NBA on the offensive end. On the defensive end, he plays with a high intensity, intercepting passes and poking the ball loose. Suggs' hustle and skill should make him a top pick in the upcoming draft.
4. Jonathon Kuminga - G-League Ignite
Ceiling: Kawhi Leonard
Floor: Stanley Johnson
This 6'8 forward was one of the first top rated prospects to choose the G-League route over college basketball. Kuminga was a beast in high school, putting up big numbers against some of the best team in the country. Right now, he is playing in the G-League bubble, playing for the "Ignite" team along with Jalen Green. He has already make an impact on the floor in the bubble, as he has had no trouble finishing inside. Kuminga uses his wide frame to bully defenders down low, especially guards who are mismatched against him. He is by far the best slasher in the draft. His raw athleticism will help him create space on offense, however, his ball handling needs to improve if he ever wants to become an iso type player outside the paint. His jump shot isn't lackluster, but Kuminga needs to learn how to stay consistent on an NBA level.
5. Jalen Green - G league Ignite
Position: Combo Guard
Ceiling: Bradley Beal
Floor: Terrence Ross
Jalen Green is an explosive guard with tremendous talent. His raw athleticism is eye-popping. He is able to slither through the defense with his elite speed and quick first step. In high school, Green blew up on social media because of his crazy dunking highlights. He was putting up big numbers against some of the best teams in the country, yet he was bringing his flashy energy to the offensive end. Green chose to do the G-League route to the NBA, the highest prospect ever to do so. Expect him to make a quick transition into the NBA and be contributing immediately, as he is already putting up big numbers in the G-League bubble. He has all the skills to be an elite triple threat scorer in the league. Once he gets to the NBA, Green could be one of the only players ever to be in both the dunk and three point contest.
6. Jalen Johnson - Duke
Ceiling: Jayson Tatum
Floor: Kevin Knox
Jalen Johnson has legit point guard skills at the forward position. He is a versatile, position-less basketball player who can do it all. Johnson's athleticism helps him run the fast break and play above the rim. His speed at his height is unmatched, able to guard any player on the other end. So far at Duke, he has shot 52% from the field and 44% from three. With only 18 three pointers taken this year, it is hard to grasp how much his shooting has improved. However, his shooting was a concern in high school coming into college, and this early production from him has looked promising nonetheless. Johnson recently announced that he will be sitting out for the rest of the season at Duke, and he will declare for the NBA draft. NBA GM's might not necessarily be content with the fact that he "quit" on his team when they were losing. In my opinion, it is not a red flag. Johnson has tremendous talent and does not want to ruin his chances at the NBA draft with an injury, especially when his team isn't in tournament contention. With the pandemic in play, no one should be blamed for sitting out.
7. Scottie Barnes - Florida St.
Ceiling: Blake Griffin
Floor: Jabari Parker
Scottie Barnes is a point-forward who plays exceptionally on both sides of the ball. His offense and defense bode nicely with whatever team he plays for. His athleticism helps him defend the paint and guard smaller guards on the perimeter. Barnes dunks the ball with ease, as powerful build allows him to get in the paint and punch it down. He has a genuine feel for the game and will make any NBA team happy when drafting him. He's helped Florida State be competitive this year, as he's led the Seminoles to a 14-4 record and hopefully soon, a trio to this year's tournament. He is averaging an impressive 10/4/4 on one of the best rosters in the country. If he can improve his weak three point shooting, he could be tough to handle offensively in the NBA.
8. Cam Thomas - LSU
Position: Point Guard
Ceiling: Lou Williams
Floor: Anfernee Simons
Cam Thomas may not fall within the top 10 picks, but I believe he will be the steal of this year's draft. His basketball IQ is already top notch, as he's consistently able to reach the rim even with his small stature. He is able to finish with floaters and creative layups. Thomas is averaging 23/3/2 over the course of his freshman year. This freshman has led the Tigers to an overachieving year, sitting 4th in the SEC right now. He is a pure scorer that can help any team get out of a cold spell. He is well built with a high motor despite his lack of height. Thomas has taken a big role as a freshman in college, and he has played tremendously despite the lack of experience. Look for him to be an elite scorer for years to come.
9. Zaire Williams - Stanford
Ceiling: Rudy Gay
Floor: Josh Jackson
Zaire Williams is a lanky point forward with serious skill. he was ranked in the top ten high school players while he attended Sierra Canyon, one of the best basketball programs in the nation. Williams has a quick first step, which allows him to blow by defenders and get to the rim. He finishes with contact and finesse. He has proven he can be a volume scorer for his team, but his issue is staying consistent. Some games, Williams looks like a top 3 player in the draft class, scoring with ease from every spot on the floor. However, he has too many games where he comes in cold and shoots less than 25% from the field. If he can develop into an everyday, consistent scorer, he could have a long and successful career in the NBA. Watch for him to boom or bust.
10. Jaden Springer - Tennessee
Position: Shooting Guard
Ceiling: Avery Bradley
Floor: Frank Ntilikina
Jaden Springer is a defensive minded guard with a high motor. He loves to attack the pain and initiate contact with the defender. From three, he has shot 47% from the field this season with Tennessee. He has averaged an impressive 12.8/3.6/2.8 in his freshman year. With little experience so far, he has already become the Volunteers leading scorer, as well as, their leading defender. He is able to help tremendously on both sides of the ball. This guy is going to be in high demand due to his rare defensive and offensive capabilities. Expect him to be a lottery pick when the draft comes around.