Ranking everybody in the draft is such a challenging exercise. This year I watched more film on the lottery guys than any other draft since 2014, and it’s still so hard to parse through these guys.
And this is after having experience ranking guys for 7 past drafts, and getting feedback from being right sometimes and wrong other times, and somewhere in between the vast majority of the time.
Every draft is such a small sample of players who become quality pros, and it is such a slow feedback loop afflicted with so much invisible randomness. What was the correct valuation of Giannis in 2013? He clearly had some mystery box upside, but he also bad in his limited sample of statistics available. How foreseeable was it that he would grow 2 inches, fill out like a tank, and max out his athleticism on top of developing his game at an outlier rate? Was this his 90th percentile outcome or 99th percentile outcome? How good would he have been if he hit his median– would he even still be in the league? Nobody knows the answer to any of these, which makes even the sparse and slow feedback difficult to decipher.
It’s all so murky and random, and it is difficult to find many significant edges over consensus. But it is also a fun analytical exercise, and since I have put in the work and feel I have a better grasp on this draft than most others, here is a big board. Some of these takes may seem hot at a glance, but the goal was to be as accurate as possible:
Tier 1: Likely Star:
1. Evan Mobley, 7’0 PF/C, USC
Mobley offers a rare intersection of athleticism, skill, and basketball IQ for a 7 footer. He is one of the best passing big man prospects of all time, which not only makes him easy to fit in offensively and capable of playing the perimeter, but also correlates with his high IQ defense where he was an excellent rim protector who fouled at an extremely low rate for USC. He has clear defensive player of the year upside.
Offensively, he can handle, pass, and is passable shooter who appears likely able to make an open NBA 3 pointer. He is also efficient and good at avoiding mistakes, with excellent upside on this end as well.
He is slightly older for a freshman, having already turned 20 in June, and has a slight frame that limited his rebounding. This precludes him from being a generational prospect. But slight frame often works out when it comes attached to plus athleticism, as it did for Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, and many others.
The best comparison for him is Chris Bosh but being taller and slightly better at passing gives him a nice upside tail to possibly be even better.
Tier 2: Possible Stars
This tier is extremely difficult to rank, as these prospects all have a unique distribution of strengths and weaknesses and it is difficult to discern how they will all shake out in the NBA. Let’s run through them:
2. Jalen Suggs, 6’4 PG/SG Gonzaga
Suggs has good athleticism and excellent basketball instincts, which gives him an easy path to a valuable NBA career.
The big question for him is– is his skill level good enough to run an NBA offense for a 6’4″ guard who already turned 20? He is a decent but not great shooter making 76.1% FT and 33.7% 3P as a freshman for Gonzaga. And he is capable of getting to the rim and finishing off the dribble, but his handle is somewhat limited and most of his best passes were in transition as he shared the PG load with multiple other handlers. Can he handle well enough to create for himself and teammates off the dribble with consistency against NBA offenses?
If his skill does come around, then he has a nice upside tail as he is similar to Jrue Holiday and has a better first step. But if it proves to be limited, he may be more of a role player like Marcus Smart with a bit less defense and more offense.
Whoever drafts him is getting a quality player, but there is some risk he is more of a boring role player than a true star.
3. Scottie Barnes, 6’8 PG/SF/PF FSU
Barnes is a high variance prospect and one of the trickiest in the class to pin down. He has a unique intersection of dimensions, handling, and passing for a teenage prospect, as he is 6’8″ with a 7’3″ wingspan. As a freshman for FSU, he averaged more assists per 40 (6.6 vs 6.0) and fewer turnovers (4.0 vs 4.1) than Steve Nash over his entire 4 year career for mid-major Santa Clara.
He also has good agility, and is able to create and use his length to finish at the rim proficiently. And he plays with energy and intensity on defense, where he takes pride in his defense and uses his length to get in passing lanes and get a high rate of steals.
But he isn’t a good shooter, making just 27.5% 3P and 62.1% FT at FSU. He had a better FT% in a bigger pre-NCAA sample, making 67.4%, but he attempted a low rate of 3’s per game at FSU and has a slow release and his shooting is a major work in progress. And even if he learns to spot up, will be be able to use his length to shoot off the dribble or is he trigger too slow?
He does not have that much burst or a good eurostep, and cannot get to the rim that consistently. Right now he only has a bad floater when he doesn’t make it all the way, so a pullup jumper would be extremely useful in rounding out his offensive game.
And while he tries hard on defense and is capable of making plays, his fundamentals on this side are currently poor as he hops rather than slides on defense and is frequently blown by, on top of being prone to lapses and making questionable decisions in help defense. He also is a poor defensive rebounder for his size, which makes it unlikely he is ever a Draymond Green or Kawhi Leonard level on defense.
But he nevertheless has an easy path to being a solidly good defensive player with decent NBA coaching, and he has upside to be considerably better than Draymond offensively as he is well ahead in terms of a creator offensively at the same age, and has the possibility of becoming a better shooter.
Much of his value is placed in the 10-15% chance that he becomes an above average shooter, in which case the sky is the limit for him and he can potentially be one of the best players in the NBA if his creation and defense come along as well.
In the more likely case that his shooting remains subpar, it is more difficult to say what to expect. He can be likened to a smaller Giannis, but since he doesn’t rebound, protect the rim, or dominate scoring in the paint that is a vastly different player. He could also be likened to a longer Evan Turner, but his ball skills were well ahead of Turner at the same age, and 7″ more wingspan is nothing to scoff at.
Perhaps his middle ground is something akin to a Pascal Siakam who plays less like a big and more like a guard. But it is difficult to say with his unique distribution of highs and lows.
The only thing that can be said for certain with Barnes is that he is a high variance, high upside player. If he misses he can be a frustrating player that is difficult to build around, but when he hits he can hit extremely hard.
4. Franz Wagner, 6’9 SF/PF, Michgan
In spite of being a sophomore, Franz is only one month older than Cade Cunningham, one month younger than Scottie Barnes, and 3 months younger than Jalen Suggs. And he is undoubtedly the best college player of the bunch, while fitting a perfect archetype for NBA role player.
He has ideal dimensions for a wing listed at 6’9″ with a long wingspan that was measured as +3 years ago but looks more like +4 or +5 now. His defensive fundamentals are pristine, as he moves his feet better than any wing prospect in recent memory, has exceptionally quick hands, and excellent IQ and awareness. His potential as a versatile switching defender in the NBA is excellent.
Offensively, he is more of a role player, but he he can handle and pass competently. He had more assists per 100 possessions (5.6 vs 5.4) than Cade Cunningham with a microscopic turnover rate (2.4 per 100 vs 6.2 for Cade). He does not score a high volume, but the low turnovers speak to his unique ability to avoid mistakes.
He made 83.5% FT in his NCAA career, but currently his jump shooting is a work in progress. He attempted a decent rate of 3PA, but only made 34.3% as a sophomore and 32.5% in his career. He should at minimum be able to make an open shot in the NBA and could be a very good shooter if his 3P% catches up to his FT%, but his shooting is currently a work in progress.
The main question with Franz is how much upside does he really have? He has a slight frame and is not particularly explosive, and is not going to score a high volume of points in the NBA. His closest NBA comp is Otto Porter Jr., who had two excellent role playing seasons at ages 23 and 24 before getting de-railed by injury. How highly should an elite role player like that be valued?
There’s an argument to be made that should have an elite value, because guys who play near perfectly off the ball fit perfectly in almost any lineup, and they give the most potential to build an overpowered lineup around a star much like Golden State did surrounding Steph Curry with Klay, Iguodala, and Draymond.
And if Franz upside is something like +5 points per 100 compared to say +6 points for the other players in this tier, and has the highest median and best odds of attaining his upside on top of the versatility to fit into any NBA lineup, is there not a realistic case for him to be the 2nd best prospect in the draft?
His only real concern is his lack of physicality, as he did not crash the offensive rebounds or drawing many fouls. This is enough to worry that his elite NCAA defense peaks at merely good in the NBA, and that he may struggle to stay healthy in the NBA much like Otto Porter given his slight frame.
This is enough to make ranking him higher feel like a hot take in tandem with his slightly limited upside, but if he stays healthy he is going to be a highly useful NBA player with the lowest bust risk of anybody in the draft outside of Mobley.
5. Alperen Sengun, 6’9 PF, Turkey
Sengun is statistically the best player in the draft, as he dominated Turkey to win the MVP of a good professional league at age 18.
He fits an old school PF mold, but he wasn’t just a bruiser who scored in the post at an elite rate and reeled in rebounds. He also showed a promising stroke, making 79% FT with a nice looking shot that should eventually be developed into a + NBA 3 point shooter. And he showed point forward skills, with enough handle to occasionally score off the dribble from the perimeter, and good passing with more assists than turnovers.
Defensively he is highly enigmatic. He had a decent block rate in Turkey, in large part due to his propensity to hustle back for chasedown blocks. But he doesn’t have the reach or athleticism to be a rim protector, and his help defense is currently not particularly good as he makes odd decisions and often does not help when he should.
While he is an excellent offensive rebounder, on defense he does not rebound out of area particularly well and he is prone to taking bad angles on closeouts to result in getting beat off the dribble.
Arguably the greatest strength of his defense is his ability to defend the perimeter. He moves his feet decently well and has done reasonably well switched onto guards, and he certainly does not look like a lead footed Enes Kanter type big to say the least. He complements this with a strong steal rate for a big, as he reads the passing lanes well and is capable of getting deflections.
While his fundamentals and decision making need improvement, and he is not physically built to defend the rim, he does have potential guarding wings on the perimeter in the NBA. His mobility and athleticism seem decent enough, and his vision and instincts give him more sneaky potential on defense than you would expect from a slow footed power forward.
And if he eventually develops into a player who can pass, handle, shoot, and defend the perimeter, you are left with a big wing who happens to also be an elite garbageman and post scorer and can eat opposing wings alive in the paint.
The best comp for him would be Kevin Love with more perimeter skills, which would be a really awesome NBA player. There’s a good argument to be had that he is actually the 2nd best prospect in the draft, and everybody is overthinking his mold and sleeping on his sneaky ability to play on the perimeter.
6. Cade Cunningham, 6’8 SF/PF Oklahoma St.
This is what most people would call a hot take, but that is based largely on the narrative that Cade is the obvious #1 overall pick. If we look at the facts of the situation, Cade’s goodness is offset by extreme warts that make everything murky.
He has an excellent mold with good wing dimensions, excellent shooting, and good passing. He is the prototypical wing creator who can also space the floor that everybody would love to build around.
But being in a good mold does not ensure a good player, and there are a number of warts that caused Cade to perform well short of hype. He is a decent but not great athlete, and does not have the first step to blow by opponents. This results in a lot of ugly bully ball and contested shot attempts, and a lower NCAA 2P% than any other player to get drafted in the top 3 in the past 20 years.
He also has a weak motor and makes limited effort off ball. While he has the tools and instincts to be a good defensive player, he is lackadaisical on this end and prone to getting beat off the dribble and missing rotations.
He also has an anemic offensive rebounding rate– lower than any other player in the past 20 years, and almost never scores off screens, cuts, putbacks, or handoffs. If the plan is to let Cade dominate the ball, and he is going to be lackadaisical about moving off the ball, how much spacing gravity does his shooting really provide?
And while he was advertised as an elite creator and passer, he was merely good for Oklahoma State as his loose handle and non-elite decision making resulted in more turnovers than assists.
Those are some nasty warts for a guy projected to go top 5, let alone #1 overall.
The common narrative is that he was held back by his poor teammates at Oklahoma State, but plenty of prospects do better in similar situations (such as Khris Middleton at Texas A&M). It can at best play a minor role in his 2P% and AST:TOV ratio, and has no bearing on issues such as his lack of burst, motor, or effort.
Perhaps the pandemic caused him to play uncharacteristically different than his natural self. But the most likely explanation would be that his flaws that were not as clear pre-NCAA are becoming more as he faces tougher competition, as is common for highly touted high school players who fall short of expectations.
His arc is eerily similar to that of Andrew Wiggins, where he came in with elite hype, and lived up to expectations in a few ways and fell massively short in others. But extra weight to his priors led to frequent excuses for his underwhelming NCAA performance, and he went #1 and was massively overpaid with a max contract extension while disappointing the whole way through.
It is worth wondering if it is actually correct to err on the side of pre-NCAA ratings when a prospect looks so ordinary after coming in with such extreme hype. If Cade disappointed this hard as an NCAA freshman, should we not fear that he will continue to disappoint through his entire career, much like Wiggins?
This is especially true when he is getting rewarded in spite of his shortcomings, and may not have as much pressure to develop his defense and off ball play as prospects drafted later who do not get every benefit of the doubt based on high school play.
Which is not to say that he will necessarily develop as poorly as Wiggins. But once you strip away the hype and all of the golden child narratives, and actually look at what he did on the court for Oklahoma State, he does not stand out from the rest of this tier in any clear way.
He also isn’t clearly a notch down from anybody else in the tier, and he realistically may deserve to be the #2 prospect in the draft. He could easily be a Khris Middleton or Jayson Tatum type which is a nice return on such a high pick.
But he is #6 on this board because his warts seem a bit grosser than everybody else, and he seems slightly more prone to disappointing in a different flavor of Wiggins, similar to a taller OJ Mayo.
Tier 3: Possible All-Stars but with more warts to stomach
7. Josh Giddey, 6’8 PG, Australia
Giddey is the Harry Potter of basketball, as he looks like and passes like a wizard as a 6’8″ boy wonder from Australia.
He is likely the best passing prospect of all time for his height, as at the tender age of 18 he posted a monster 36.3% assist rate while smashing the eye test to boot. Aside from making excellent reads and quick decisions that put his teammates in excellent position to score, he also is incredibly crafty and accurate with his passes, as if he has the ball on a string.
That alone gives him monster upside, but the big mystery is whether he offers enough else to complement his passing. He has short arms with a 6’7.5″ wingspan, and is not particularly strong or athletic and got roasted on defense playing alongside grown men in the Australian league.
And most importantly, he needs to learn to be able to create for himself off the dribble to unlock his passing potential. Or like Lonzo Ball he may be relegated to an ordinary role player whose passing value is not fully realized.
His advantage over Lonzo is that he moves more fluidly, and at his age has time to learn to improve his pedestrian 29% 3P and 69% FT from Australia. If he can develop into a good shooter and learn to pressure the rim to some extent, he has significant offensive upside, and could be something akin to 6’8″ Steve Nash.
But if he does not develop the scoring ability to set up passing opportunities, it’s difficult to know how good he will be. He may not be as good defensively as Lonzo, although his intelligence and height give him potential of becoming decent on that end in spite of his physical limitations. And he did show improved defense in Australia’s matchup vs Nigeria earlier this month.
Giddey is a high risk, high reward prospect. His passing, youth, and height give him immense upside, but his flaws give him greater bust risk than everybody in the higher tier.
8. Jalen Green, 6’5 SG, G League Ignite
Green offers impressive athleticism and scoring ability for a shooting guard that gives him upside to be a Zach LaVine, Devin Booker, or Bradley Beal type.
His flaw is that he is small for a shooting guard with a thin frame and mediocre dimensions, and plays small. This limits his defensive versatility, as he is too small to guard most players and is going to be prone to getting hunted.
And there is only so much he can make up for this offensively with scoring, as he is a decent passer but not a true floor general. This means he likely will need to be pair with another guy who can play floor general, which tends to skew toward the smaller side which leaves two little guys for defenses to hunt.
Ultimately this mold tends to be capped at low end all-star and is difficult to build around, as it pairs poorly with other stars.
The common perception is that elite first step + scoring ability yields high upside, but that simply is not the case. Creation upside that comes in a well rounded package with defensive versatility is what truly offers high upside, and Green simply does not complement his scoring with enough supporting traits to justify his hype.
Rating Green this low may seem like a hot take, and it may look bad if he hits his upside of low end all-star that casual fans will inevitably overrate. But in reality, this mold should be valued lower and elite role players like Franz Wagner should be valued higher. The idea that creation needs to be given priority over well roundedness and versatility is an inefficiency in the NBA draft as well as the trade and free agent market.
9. Moses Moody, 6’6″ SG/SF, Arkansas
Moody fits an ideal 3 + D archetype, as he has a smooth shot with a quick release, and his 7’1″ wingspan and solid frame gives him defensive versatility.
He is not an elite athlete, creator, or passer right now which calls his star potential somewhat into question. But he moves the ball, doesn’t turn it over, and gets to the free throw line inordinately often– more than any of Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, or Jalen Suggs where he made 81.2% as an 18 year old freshman.
His defense is also a bit of a question mark, as in spite of his excellent length he had the lowest steal rate of Arkansas top 6 rotation players and his defensive instincts and fundamentals are currently limited. He is physically capable of being a decent defensive player if he develops well with NBA coaching, but right now that is a bit of an uncertainty.
Having only turned 19 at the end of May, it is difficult to say where he will land on a scale of Gary Trent Jr. bench player to Reggie Miller or Klay Thompson level spacer. Or if he perhaps has potential to develop into a bit more of a creator, even though most of his creation is currently from the mid-range. But he is a nice player in a nice mold, and worth considering once the high upside players start coming off the board.
10. Jalen Johnson, 6’9″ PF, Duke
If somebody wants to gamble on a high variance mystery box once the safer bets are off the board, Johnson is the guy to look at.
He only played 278 minutes in 13 games for Duke, but posted a rare intersection of bulk box score numbers in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.
He is still incredibly raw, as while he has point forward skills, he had slightly more turnovers than assists and relied a bit too heavily on pullup jumpers for a subpar shooter.
Defensively, he is currently a mess as he has questionable IQ and shies from contact. But he has a number of highly impressive steals and blocks that hints at good potential on this end if he pulls it together.
The question for whoever drafts him is how confident can they be that he will put it all together? He unexpectedly left Duke’s team midseason, which may make teams question his off court intangibles, and whether he is a decent bet to undergo the immense development necessary to reach his upside.
He may slide in the draft if questions about his intangibles inspire limited confidence in him. But he is an incredibly talented player, and if he is able to develop into a more polished player he can be a big time steal.
11. Jaden Springer 6’4 SG, Tennessee
12. Keon Johnson 6’5 SG, Tennessee
The Tennessee boys are incredibly similar in a number of ways. The main difference is that Springer is 6 months younger and more polished with respect to shooting, defense, and decision making whereas Keon is much more athletic.
Springer is currently slotted at #30 on ESPN’s latest mock, which is difficult to comprehend. He is small for a SG with questionable creation, as he relies heavily on ugly bully bull and mid-range chucking. But he super young, not turning 19 until September with a well rounded package. He has a similar 3 + D package to Gary Harris, and is a better passer and handler, which is worth something regardless of how ugly his NCAA creation was. It’s unclear how much upside he has, but young and well rounded is going to amount into a useful player fairly often.
Keon likely has more upside with nuclear athleticism, but also comes with more bust risk as he struggles with efficiency more than you would hope from a small SG prospect. His athleticism gives him potential to make bigger leaps than average, but if he progresses at a slow rate he simply isn’t going to be useful.
Keon is in a bit of an odd mold as it is not clear what he will exactly amount to in the best case, but there is some high risk high reward potential with him and he is an interesting gamble if he slides out of the lottery as currently projected.
13. Sharife Cooper, 6’1 PG, Auburn
Sharife is capable of creating a massive amount of offense, as he had more 2P, FT, and assists per 100 posession as a freshman than Trae Young with fewer turnovers.
His downside that sets him below Trae is that he has a broken jump shot, as Trae attempted nearly twice as many 3’s and made 36% vs the lowly 22.8% by Cooper.
But Cooper did make 82.5% of his free throws, and seems to have a natural touch which give him potential if his jump shooting mechanics can be fixed. And if he can learn to make pullup shots and score from every level, his offensive potential is through the roof.
He is small and will likely be a liability on defense, but his defense does not seem as bad as Trae’s at the same level and Cooper was the slightly better rebounder between the two.
Really it’s crazy how much lower he is valued than Jalen Green. He is smaller and a bigger defensive liability with a less reliable jump shot, which is why it is understandable to have Green a bit higher. But Cooper can create just as much from a scoring perspective with vastly superior passing ability. Unlike Green, the sky is the limit for Cooper offensively if he fixes his shooting.
Tier 4: Possible Solid Starters
14. James Bouknight, 6’5 SG, UConn
Bouknight is a good athlete with a good motor who is a talented scorer, getting buckets in a variety of ways.
He rebounds well, moves off the ball, and is a good shooter, so it is easy to see him becoming a quality player.
His downside is that he is undersized for a SG at 6’5 with a 6’8″ wingspan and a somewhat slight frame. He makes a good effort on defense and isn’t particularly bad on this end, although his size limits his versatility which means he will be a below average defensive player in the NBA more often than not.
And for such a high volume scorer, Bouknight seems better scoring off ball than with the ball, where his handle is somewhat limited and he is prone to playing out of control at times. Consequently, he averaged a poor 1.8 assists vs 2.8 turnovers as a 20 year old sophomore who turns 21 in September, and he may be unreliable as an on ball player in the NBA.
This makes him difficult to unpack, as he can still be useful as an off ball scorer who can space the floor, create in a pinch, and attack closeouts while not being a disaster on defense. But it is difficult to see where his upside to justify his #6 overall slot in the current mock comes from without his creation ability panning out, which seems like a dicey proposition right now.
Further, there is some risk that he attacks off the dribble too frequently in the NBA and does not do well, which will cut into his efficiency.
There are a number of things to like about Bouknight, but it’s tough sledding to become great in the NBA as a small SG without elite ball skills.
15. Jonathan Kuminga, 6’8 SF/PF G-League Ignite
Kuminga is incredibly slippery to evaluate, largely due to the slippery point of his unconfirmed age.
It’s a sensitive point that isn’t comfortable to discuss, as it is unfair to accuse him of having a false age with no strong evidence, nor is it fair to punish him for growing up in the harsh Democratic Republic of Congo for having poor documentation (only 25% of children have birth certificates) if his age is indeed accurate. But there is no consensus agreement on how old he truly is, and whether it is politically correct or not it has a massive bearing on his value as an NBA prospect.
He has excellent physical tools with a reported 6’8″ height and 7’1″ wingspan, which are ideal dimensions for a wing even if they are slightly optimistic as well as great athleticism.
His skill and basketball IQ are both a work in progress to say the least. He has a weak handle and cannot offer more than straight line drives, and typically pulls up for elbow jumpers. His shooting form looks OK but does not go in, as he shot just 24.6% 3P and 62.5% FT in his G League stint.
Defensively, he struggles. Although he has the tools to be an excellent defensive player, his instincts, effort, and fundamentals are all currently subpar which make him a liability on that end at this juncture.
On the plus side, he is a decent passer for his size, as he is unselfish and capable of making the simple pass, with slightly more assists (2.7) than turnovers (2.6) per game in his G League sample.
If he is truly 18, he is an interesting gamble on pure physical tools as his skill and IQ have time to develop, and with a strong rate of development he can grow at a much faster rate than a physically inferior prospect. If his age is taken at face value, he is clearly worth a top 10 pick and there is a case to be made that he belongs above his G-League ignite teammate Jalen Green due to being in a vastly superior mold. Jaylen Brown would be a reasonable upside comp.
But if his age is off by a year, he loses a crucial year of development and his skill and IQ limitations weigh significantly heavier. If his age is off by two years or more, then he may be too far behind the curve for his age to merit a 1st round selection. There has arguably never been a prospect from a country with poor documentation whose value is so sensitive to any minor inaccuracy in his age.
So what can be concluded about him? Not much with any confidence. There’s no clear evidence supporting either his true age or his ability to play basketball, which makes him an unnecessarily risky pick. It feels like a fool’s errand to try to rank him with such thin information on him on multiple levels. He has nice upside if it hits, but all of the uncertainty creates too much bust risk to be comfortable taking him in the top 10.
16. Quentin Grimes, 6’5″ SG, Houston
Grimes is a fairly straightforward roleplaying SG. He started off his career as the #8 RSCI recruit at Kansas, and after a disappointing freshman year he transferred to Houston where he made a nice leap as a sophomore. This past season as a junior he made a massive leap to full fledged flamethrower, as he made 40.3% 3PA on a massive 15.3 3PA per 100 possessions.
He still only made 78.8% FT while shooting 64% over his first two seasons, which makes it a bit scary to invest in his shooting. But he has a lightning quick release, moves well off the ball, and has a nice step back off the dribble to enable himself to get a huge volume of attempts off.
While he has slightly small dimensions at 6’5″ with 6’8″ wingspan, he has a nice strong frame and good athleticism that he uses to rebound and defend well for his size. And he has a decent basketball IQ and is a willing passer, with slightly more assists than turnovers in all 3 years of college.
This was enough to make him a reasonable choice in the late 1st, but then he looked by far the best player on the floor in his two combine scrimmages. This suggests that his junior breakout was no fluke or product of Houston’s system, and he appears to be living up to his initial RSCI hype as he improves at an exceptional rate.
Grimes has some shades of Buddy Hield, as they have similar physical profiles, monster 3PA, and insane rates of improvements after mediocre starts to their NCAA careers.
It may be a slightly hot take to rank Grimes this high, but at this point most of the star upside is off the table anyhow and he seems like one of the best bets to be a quality NBA role player of the guys remaining.
17. Isaiah Jackson, 6’10 C, Kentucky
Jackson is a late lottery talent who seems to be sliding due to intangibles concerns.
Listed at 6’10” with a thin frame, he is a bit small for a center but he atones with a reported 7’5 wingspan with good athleticism and mobility. He rebounds, blocks shots, has potential to switch, and made a respectable 70% FT in his freshman sample for Kentucky.
Statistically, he is similar to a freshman Al Horford and if he develops at a strong rate like Horford he has the athleticism to be as good. But if his intangibles are flagged, it seems unlikely that he hits the Horford upside and is more likely to be similar to his fellow Kentucky alum Willie Cauley-Stein.
18. Jared Butler 6’3 PG, Baylor
Butler is essentially a super role player at PG, as he can handle, pass, shoot, and defend, but doesn’t have the burst or shake to consistently get to the rim for a little guy which limits his upside.
He likely won’t be able to be the primary handler for an NBA offense, which means that he will be best paired with a bigger ball handler like Giannis Antetokoumpo or Luka Doncic. But in the right situation, he can be a highly useful role player due to his well roundedness.
He is also young for his class– Butler and his teammates Davion Mitchell are both juniors, but Butler is nearly 2 full years younger.
The murky point is his heart condition. He was cleared to play, but if team doctors yellow flag it, are teams going to run the risk of an outside chance that a player dies on their team? It’s a unique and difficult point to size up. Hopefully being cleared means that he should have a long and healthy career, but it doesn’t mean that teams will necessarily ignore it now.
19. Usman Garuba, 6’9″ PF, Spain
Garuba offers a nice defensive package as he is 6’8 with a 7’3 wingspan, rebounds well, and shows capability of switching.
Offensively he doesn’t offer that much as he was a low usage player who could only vaguely shoot making 31.6% 3P and 65.9% FT. And he isn’t particularly explosive and does not have much room to grow on that end.
He can be useful as a defensive specialist if his shooting and offense come around, but he is a somewhat boring role player mold with limited upside.
20. Day’Ron Sharpe, 6’11 C, UNC
There seems to be an unwritten rule that it is illegal to take a center who is neither a great athlete nor shooter in round 1 in 2021, which certainly describes Sharpe who only made 50.5% FT and had a 5.1% block rate which is underwhelming for a center.
But the guy is a beast rebounder, passes well, and has decent feet on the perimeter and a good steal rate for a big. That’s a unique intersection of strengths that could sum to an interesting player.
It’s difficult to envision exactly what his upside tail is like, but this late in the draft it is reasonable to gamble on a guy like Sharpe with weirdo upside.
21. Ziaire Williams 6’10 SF, Stanford
22. BJ Boston, 6’7 SF, Kentucky
Boston and Williams were the #4 and #6 RSCI recruits who looked like possible top 5 picks entering the season, and then both heavily disappointed as freshmen.
They share the commonality of being super skinny wings– it is worth pondering whether the pandemic affected their ability to get proper strength and conditioning to be in shape for the season.
Williams is 3″ taller but they both weighed in at 188 pounds and Boston has 0.5″ more wingspan 6’10.75″ vs 6’10.25″. They both shot well from the line Boston 78.5% and Ziaire 79.6%, but were brick machines from the field– Boston with 40.7% eFG and Williams 43.1%.
Both guys are willing passers. Williams created for his teammates more frequently, but Boston managed to to have a positive assist (3.0 per 100 possessions) to turnover (2.7) ratio while Williams was an ugly 4.5 vs 6.0. Both guys were soft at the rim and chucked a number of questionable shots, but Williams was perpetually out of control.
Now with the draft approaching, Williams seems to be convincing teams that he is more redeemable due to superior shooting and interviews as he flirts with lottery consideration while Boston is mired in round 2.
And this may be a fair assessment, but Boston does fit a more natural role player mold, whereas Ziaire is more of a terrible offensive hub who needs to transition to a secondary player. Boston may have an easier time finding an NBA niche.
Perhaps the gap in their value is more than one slot apart, but they seem close enough and it is easier to write about them side by side since they are such similar value propositions.
23. Miles “Deuce” McBride 6’2 PG, West Virginia
Deuce is a former quarterback with excellent 3 + D potential for PG, as he measured 6’2.5″ in shoes with 6’8.75″ wingspan.
He is a limited athlete and does not pressure on the rim, but he made 81.3% FT 41.4% 3P as a sophomore at West Virginia with a solid 4.8 assists vs 1.8 turnovers per game. He did not take a high rate of 3PA (6.3 per 100 possessions) and seems a bit more comfortable in mid-range at this time, but he has clear potential as a shooter and passer who avoids mistakes on offense.
He could be similar to a Patrick Beverley type of role playing PG.
24. Josh Christopher, 6’4″ SG, Arizona State
Christopher is essentially Jalen Green lite, as the #10 RSCI freshman is an athletic SG with mediocre dimensions.
Christopher is stronger and plays slightly bigger than Green, but Green is more skilled with the better shooting, passing, and creation ability.
The offensive disparity is significant which is why Christopher’s stock is so much lower. But he is a 1st round talent and it is curious that he is currently slotted to go #34 in ESPN’s latest mock.
25. Ayo Dosunmu, 6’5″ PG/SG, Illinois
Ayo has a nice skill package for a SG as he can handle, pass, and shoot, and has a solid 6’10.25″ wingspan.
He isn’t the quickest or most athletic player, so the concern is that he is bad on defense and cannot get to his spots offensively.
But his dimensions, skill, and IQ give him potential to be a Spencer Dinwiddie type, which would be a nice haul in late round 1 or early round 2.
26. Charles Bassey, 6’11 C, Western Kentucky
Big men are rapidly going out of style, but Bassey offers quite a bit of basketball playing ability to let him slide out of round 1 as currently projected.
He is an excellent rebounder who can protect the rim and score efficiently in the low post. And he is a decent shooter, making 76.8% FT 31.9% 3P in 3 years at Western Kentucky, while attempting over 2 3PA per game as a junior.
He is slightly undersized measuring 6’10.25″ in shoes with 7’3″ wingspan, but he plays big and with so many smaller lineups his dimensions should be sufficient to be a starting center.
Going small is all the rage now, but teams still start a center and it helps to have one who can do all of the big man things as well as make an open 3. How many mediocre guards and wings can really be justified going ahead of Bassey?
27. Bones Hyland, 6’3″ SG, VCU
Bones is an excellent shooter, as he made 82.7% FT and 39.9% 3P on high volume in his two years at VCU.
He is small for a SG at 6’3.5″ with a slight 169 pound frame (thus his nickname), but he has a 6’9″ wingspan which he uses well to make plays defensively.
He isn’t a natural floor general nor does he do well scoring in traffic in the paint, but he is an interesting flyer as a combo guard based on his length and shooting.
28. Trey Murphy, 6’9″ SF/PF, Virginia
Murphy is a weirdo that is super difficult to pin down. He is an excellent shooter with a quick release, good dimensions at 6’9″ with 7’0″ wingspan, good athleticism, and he seems to have good intangibles.
Then everything else is a weakness. He is skinny, rebounds like a guard, does not create off the dribble at all, and is poor defensively as he has questionable awareness and is easily bullied due to his slight frame. Virginia often hid him on the opponent’s weakest offensive player, and this was with their defense being much weaker than typical.
On one hand, it is rare to find guys with Murphy’s dimensions who can shoot and are not molasses slow. So it is difficult to find comps for him, and the two most similar past comps are Cameron Johnson and Duncan Robinson, who are both quality NBA role players. So perhaps the most likely conclusion is that guys with his intersection of strengths have an easy path to NBA success, and that he should be one of the top guys to look at once the high upside lottery talents are off the board.
But there are so many different things that can go wrong for Murphy that didn’t for Johnson or Robinson. He could be a sieve defensively, he may happen to be a worse handler to the point where it is a fatal flaw, he could be worse moving off the ball and shooting around movement as most of his offense at Virginia was stationary catch and shoot.
With all of his weaknesses, he needs to make a huge volume of 3P at 40%+ to be useful, which gives him little margin for error.
He could work out the same way Duncan Robinson worked out for Miami. Or he could fail for the flaws that caused Duncan Robinson to go undrafted to begin with. It’s all so unclear and difficult to discern.
Tier 5: Role Players:
29. Joe Wieskamp, 6’7″ SF, Iowa
Wieskamp has good dimensions for a wing at 6’7″ with 6’11” wingspan, decent athleticism, and is a very good shooter to make him an ideal role playing archetype.
When you compare his stats side by side with projected lottery pick Corey Kispert, it is unclear why Wieskamp is slotted so much lower in round 2:
30. Herbert Jones, 6’7″ SF, Alabama
Jones offers an excellent intersection of physical tools and defensive ability, as he has a 7’0 wingspan, good athleticism, and was a perimeter stopper for Alabama.
He is projected for round 2 because his offensive is not quite as good. He only shot 28.8% 3P on scarce attempts and 60.4% FT for his college career, although he made a leap as a senior with 35.1% 3P and 71.3% FT– showing some prayer of being able to make an open 3 in the NBA.
His hope on offense is that he had a solid creation and passing ability, although he did not do so efficiently as he is turnover prone and struggles to finish for a prospect with his physical tools.
He is one of the best defensive wing prospects in the draft, and if he finds a way to become passable offensively in the NBA he will be a nice return on a 2nd round flier.
31. David Johnson, 6’5 SG, Louisville
Johnson has good physical tools for a SG, measuring 6’4.75″ with 6’10.5″ wingspan to go with a solid frame and good athleticism.
He also has good vision and instincts, and showed quite a bit of potential as an NCAA freshman off the bench including a monster breakout game at Duke.
But his skill level is the big question, as he has a shaky handle and a mediocre shooting ability. And he followed up his promising small freshman sample with an inefficient sophomore campaign after getting COVID.
If his sophomore performance was uncharacteristic due to COVID, he has nice upside for a 2nd round flier.
32. Santi Aldama, 6’11 PF, Loyola MD
Aldama is a highly skilled and coordinated big man, which gives him interesting offensive upside.
His physical tools leave much to be desired as he is skinny and lacking in length and athleticism, which makes his ability to fit in defensively in the NBA a big question mark. But if he can survive based on height and intelligence, and hits his offensive potential, he can provide a nice payoff for a late round 2/UDFA guy.
33. Corey Kispert, 6’7″ SG/SF, Gonzaga
Kispert is an excellent shooter for his height and plays with efficiency, so it is not difficult to see him being a useful role player.
It is difficult to see him living up to his lottery hype, as he has a short 6’7″ wingspan and is painfully one dimensional as a shooter.
34. Cam Thomas, 6’3″ SG, LSU
Thomas can get buckets and that’s about all that he brings to the table, as he offers anemic rebound, assist, steal, and block rates with terrible defense.
He is an excellent shooter making 88.2% FT with a low turnover rate as he attempt and make a high volume of shots off the dribble. But he is painfully one dimensional for a small SG, which makes it tough for him to be good.
Perhaps he can be a bench microwave, or a more athletic version of Seth Curry. There is some talent to work with. But his mold is too weak to get too high on him.
35. Justin Champagnie, 6’7″ SF, Pittsburgh
Champagnie is somewhat lacking in the skill department as he only made 28% 3P and 74.5% FT in his 2 years at Pittsburgh, and isn’t particularly adept at creating off the dribble.
But he has solid tools for a wing, and just knows how to play. He is a good rebounder, passer, moves well off the ball, and generally has an easy path to being a useful NBA player if his shooting comes around.
He is also young for a sophomore, having just turned 20 in late June.
He is currently slated to go undrafted and it is not clear why, as on paper he seems to deserve late round 1 consideration.
36. Joel Ayayi, 6’5 SG, Gonzaga
Ayayi was diminished to a low usage role playing on Gonzaga’s stacked offense, but he did so extremely efficiently with a good assist to turnover ratio and a whopping 68.3% 2P% which is essentially unheard of for a guard.
He is also a solid shooter, making 36% 3P 77.6% FT in his 3 years at Gonzaga while also being a good rebounder and a solid defensive player for his position.
He upside is capped as a role playing SG in the NBA, but he has potential to play the role well.
37. Chris Duarte, 6’6″ SG, Oregon
Duarte has a good 3 + D skill set, but he is already 24 years old and a fairly limited role player.
First his dimensions are 6’6″ with 6’7″ wingspan which are not enough to defend wings– he is a SG. And he does not offer much creation or passing ability, which is enigmatic because his lack of size limits his defensive versatility.
Further he is only a good but not great shooter. He made 38% 3P 80% FT in his two seasons at Oregon, which is far from special given his age.
It seems some teams are treating his age as a feature rather than a bug, since he will be ready to immediately contribute. But he won’t contribute much, as his upside is sorely capped and he will begin to decline a year or two after his rookie contract runs out.
His closest NBA comp is likely Damion Lee, and he is a horribly inefficient use of a first round pick, let alone a lottery pick where he is currently rumored to go.
He could be a decent bench player but he isn’t going to make or break a team’s championship hopes. Why not try to sign an international FA on the cheap to fill out your rotation and instead try to draft somebody with more potential and a longer shelf life of usefulness?
Duarte’s hype is incredibly difficult to comprehend. Why does everybody want this guy so much? Are they that desperate for a cheap SG to fill out the rotation?
38. Neemias Queta, 7’0″ C, Utah State
Queta is a legit center prospect who can rebound, protect the rim, and score inside.
He also has decent handles and good passing for a big man, averaging more assists (2.7) than turnovers (2.4) as an NCAA junior, and Utah State’s offense was much better with him on the floor than off.
He only attempted 8 3PA over his 3 years in college, but his shooting is not totally broken as he made 67% FT as a soph and 70.7% as a junior.
Queta has the foundation for a well rounded rotation big.
39. Tre Mann, 6’4 PG, Florida
Mann is a shifty guard that can make shots, shooting 40.2% 3P 83.1% FT as an NCAA sophomore.
But he has poor physical tools, with 6’4″ wingspan, a slight frame, and underwhelming athleticism that gives him limited versatility. And his PG skills are also somewhat limited, he has decent shake but doesn’t have the athleticism to get to the rim and finish with consistency, and heavily depends on his floater game. And he is not a true floor general, averaging 3.5 assists vs 2.8 turnovers as an NCAA sophomore.
He does enough things to find a niche as a role playing PG in the NBA, but with his limited ability on defense and inability to lead an NBA offense, it is difficult to get too excited for him in round 1.
40. Davion Mitchell, 6’1 PG, Baylor
Mitchell has good quickness that he uses to pressure the ball very well on defense, and that is about where his strengths end.
He entered the draft with extreme levels of hype being projected as a mid-lottery pick, which seems to be cooling to late lottery as teams have decided they don’t want to overinvest in a 6’1″ one way defensive player.
Further, it is not even clear how good his overall defensive impact will be, as he has a pedestrian 6’4″ wingspan and does not play physically with underwhelming rebound and FT rates, even for his size.
It’s difficult to see what makes him better than a Chris Duhon or Earl Watson type who both went in round 2 and became fringe NBA starters.
He has excellent intangibles and work ethic, but there is only so much that can do for him when his skill level is so limited at his age, as he still looks unnatural off the dribble at age 22, and his 64% FT imply that his breakout 44.7% 3P was heavily driven by luck.
Perhaps he carves out a niche as a fringe starter with diligent work and continued improvement, but he is simply not a first round talent, let alone lottery caliber.
41. Daishen Nix 6’4″ PG, G League Ignite
Nix has good size and passing for a PG, but his lack of athleticism inhibits his scoring and defense.
He probably isn’t that exciting, but he is a 5* recruit and you gotta respect the potential for passing, dimensions, and youth to surprise in the NBA.
42. Jason Preston, 6’4″ PG, Ohio
Preston is a fascinating mid-major prospect as he has excellent dimensions, passing, and basketball IQ.
He also has enough skill level to have a chance offensively. He has a funky looking shot that goes in decently enough, as he made 35.4% 3P 70.5% FT in his 3 years at Ohio.
He does not have a quick first step, but he handles well enough to get to the rim at times, and he posted a monster 31 point 6 rebound 8 assists 0 turnover game vs Illinois and 11 pts 13 rebound 8 assists vs Virginia in the first round tournament upset.
He is one of the highest IQ players in the draft, and he may have just enough skill to make it offensively in the NBA. But he is outright terrible on defense, and his thin frame and lack of athleticism inhibit his upside.
He still could be a fun flier since his dimensions and IQ give him a chance of figuring out things on defense. But in all likelihood his talent is just a bit short of being a useful NBA player.
43. Aaron Henry 6’6 SG/SF, Michigan St.
Henry is a bit short for a wing and a bit inefficient to be enticing on the perimeter.
But he has a 6’11” wingspan, good athleticism, and is a capable shooter making 72.9% FT 33.3% 3P in his 3 years at Michigan State to go with solid passing and defense.
There’s enough to work with for him to find a niche in an NBA rotation.
44. Matthew Hurt, 6’9″ PF, Duke
Hurt has underwhelming physical tools with a 6’9.5″ wingspan, a doughy physique that measured 15.2% bodyfat, and subpar athleticism.
But the former top 10 recruit is exceptionally skilled as a shooter and scorer. If he can find a way to hang defensively on height and intelligence, he can be a decent value in late round 2/UDFA.
45. Kai Jones, 6’11 PF, Texas
Jones is in a funky mold of 6’11” guy who tries to play like a guard and does so poorly.
He has a background in track and field and only started playing basketball at age 15, and it shows on the floor. He is athletic and does well in the open floor in transition with his long strides, and occasionally has an impressive take from coast to coast.
But in traffic he looks unnatural and clumsy with the ball, and his poor instincts and lack of experience result in bad decision making off the dribble, as evidences by his 1.1 assists vs 2.4 turnovers per 40. He does not project to be a capable creator off the dribble against NBA defenses.
He has some semblance of shooting hope, making 34.5% 3P 67.7% FT in his 2 years at Texas on 1.1 3PA per game. And some semblance of switchability hope, with 2% steal rate in the two years and decent mobility. There are traces of perimeter hope.
The problem is that he does not do big man things well, as he rebounds like a wing and protects the rim like a PF. He can’t be played at center defensively, and the traces of perimeter ability are not enough if he needs to be played as an oversized and underskilled wing.
It’s difficult to see how his lack of experience can be a benefit when he looks this unnatural and behind the curve at age 20. Perhaps he can find a way to amount to a really weird rotation player, but it is difficult to see how his first round hype is justified.
46. JT Thor, 6’9″ PF, Auburn
Thor is very young, turning 19 in August with a 7’3″ wingspan and some hope of being able to hang defensively on the perimeter and make shots as he made 74.1% FT 29.7% 3P as a freshman for Auburn.
His issue is similar to Kai Jones in that his traces of perimeter skill are not enough to be interesting when he lacks the necessary ball skills to be a full time wing, averaging 0.9 assists and 1.6 turnovers as a freshman.
And unlike Jones, Thor is lacking in athleticism as he rebounds like a wing and protects the rim like a PF, and shot only 53% inside the arc which is poor for a big prospect in the NBA.
Even though his youth and length give him some mold, Thor is stuck in an awkward mold where he more of an underskilled and oversized wing than a big with perimeter versatility.
47. Austin Reaves, 6’6″ SG, Oklahoma
Austin Reaves can handle, pass, and shoot at a decent rate which gives him good odds of being a useful NBA player offensively.
The trouble is whether he can hang on defense, as his wingspan, frame, and athleticism are all underwhelming and he struggled badly on this end as an NCAA senior. Having turned 23 in May, there is some chance he is hopeless on that side of the ball.
48. Isaiah Livers, 6’7″ SF, Michigan
Livers has solid dimensions for a wing at 6’7″ with 6’9″ wingspan, and made 41.2% 3P and 85.6% FT over his 4 years at Michigan.
He doesn’t offer much else, but that alone gives him a chance of sticking in an NBA rotation.
49. Josh Primo, 6’5″ SG, Alabama
Primo is super young at good at shooting, but his dimensions limit his defensive versatility on top of being bad at defense.
He also is sorely limited with the ball and athletically, which gives him limited room for growth offensively.
It’s difficult to see him justifying a 1st round selection unless he grows another inch or two and fills out well, because in spite of his youth there is not much to build on as of right now.
50. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6’9″ PF, Villanova
JRE is a solid, well rounded college player who likely lacks the physical tools to be more than a role player in the NBA.
Tier 6: Longshots
No need to bother ranking these guys because they all are very quick and superficial analyses. Just going to share some basic thougths and move on.
Isaiah Todd, 6’10 PF, G League Ignite
Todd is a stretch 4 in an era where all non-bigs are required to shoot. Except he likely doesn’t have the handle, passing or perimeter defense to stick in the NBA. But he is 19 years old and was a 5* recruit, so he nevertheless has a chance.
McKinley Wright, 6’0 PG, Colorado
Wright is a little guy who has a solid 6’5″ wingspan and is a pure floor general.
He is not comfortable from 3, having only made 32.8% 3P in 4 years at Colorado on middling attempts, but made 80.3% FT.
He isn’t particularly explosive or good at getting to the rim for a small guy who limits his upside. He needs to develop his shooting and rely on his floor general skills to carve out an NBA niche.
Raiquan Gray, 6’8 SF/PF, Florida St.
Gray offers a bit of everything as a thick wing with solid athleticism who can rebound, make plays defensively, and create and pass in a pinch.
He is a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none, and his 26.2% career 3P on low volume is a bad sign for his ability to play the perimeter in the NBA. But he made 73.2% FT, and if his shooting comes around he can be a guy.
Trendon Watford, 6’9″ PF, LSU
Watford isn’t particularly good at anything, but he is 20 years old with a 7’2″ wingspan and can do a bit of handling, passing, and shooting. If he develops well he can find a niche as a versatile role playing wing.
Kessler Edwards, 6’8 SF/PF, Pepperdine
Edwards is 6’8″ with a 6’11” wingspan and a solid shooter, making 39.5% 3P and 78.9% FT in his 3 years at Pepperdine
There seems to be a belief that he can play defense and is a solid 3 + D sleeper. But his rebound and steal rates for a mid-major prospect suggest otherwise.
If he proves capable on defense he can be a rotation player, but laws of averages say that he will not be able to create or defend well enough to stick in the NBA.
David Duke, 6’6″ SG, Providence
Duke offers solid passing and shooting for a guy with SG dimensions.
His malfunction is that he struggles to get to the rim and finish, and shot 40.4% inside the arc in 3 years at Providence that was a miserable 38.6% as a junior.
Perhaps some of his bad attempts can be trimmed out and he can find an NBA role, but that will be a fatal flaw fairly often.
Filip Petrusev, 6’11 C, Serbia
Petrusev is a big who does not protect the rim, and his lack of defense will make him difficult to build around. But he is skilled offensively, and can pass and shoot which makes him possibly something.
Sandro Mamukelashvili, 6’10 PF, Seton Hall
Mamu has decent skill for a big, as he shows traces of handling, passing, shooting, and perimeter mobility.
He is PF sized at 6’10 with 7’1 wingspan and does not rebound or protect the rim like a center. So he will need to function as more of a perimeter PF these, and he does just enough of everything to have a chance.
Isaiah Miller, 6’0″ PG, UNC Greensboro
Miller is a super athletic small PG, who is pesky on defense and can get to the rim and create for others offensively. He is also an exceptionally good rebounder for a little guy.
His achilles heel is that he cannot shoot a lick, making 23.9% 3P and 57.8% FT in his 4 years at UNC Greensboro. He turns 23 at the start of the NBA season in November and it is likely too late for him to figure it out.
But for an UDFA he could be a fun experiment on a player with an odd distribution of strengths and weaknesses
Terry Taylor, 6’6 SF, Austin Peay
Taylor has shades of a mid-major PJ Tucker. Could be a decent UDFA flier.
Matt Mitchell, 6’6 SG/SF, San Diego State
Mitchell overs fat potential as a perimeter player who do can do a bit of everything. But he is likely too small and unathletic to cut it in the NBA.
Sam Hauser, 6’8″ SF/PF, Virginia
Hauser is an elite shooter at 6’8″, having made 43.9% 3P 88% FT in his 4 college years while being generally efficient overall with a good assist:TOV ratio.
The guy is a solid basketball player. His fatal flaw is that he is very slow, which likely kills his chances of fitting in an NBA defense.
John Petty Jr. 6’6″ SG, Alabama
Petty fits a mold for a 3 + D SG, but nothing about him is exceptional and he made a pedestrian 70.4% FT in his NCAA career
Greg Brown, 6’8″ SF/PF, Texas
Brown has excellent dimensions and athleticism for a wing with a 7’0 wingspan to go with a passable jump shot at 33% 3P 70.8% FT.
But he simply does not have the ball skills to play wing and has one of the all time worst basketball IQs. He averaged 0.4 assists vs 2.3 turnovers as a freshman for Texas, and it is difficult to find any past non-big prospect to have an NBA career with such a horrendous assist:TOV ratio.
Vrenz Bleijenbergh, 6’10 SF/PF, Belgium
Vrenz is a draft twitter darling, as he offers a rare intersection of height and passing, which typically is a good indicator for sneaky upside.
The trouble is that every other signal suggests that he isn’t good enough for the NBA. He is very skinny with poor athleticism, and plays in the Belgian League which is not a historical source of any NBA players.
Further, he is 20 years old and will be 21 in October for the start of the NBA season. Yet in Belgium he averaged a meager 9.5 points per game on 45% 2P, 33.5% 3P, 67.5% FT with a high turnover rate. He isn’t a particularly good rebounder or shot blocker, and in all likelihood doesn’t have the skill or athleticism to fit in the NBA.
Awesome piece man! Thanks for all the write-ups this year, it’s really interesting to read through. I completely agree about where you placed Wagner, and that’s without acknowledging the unconfirmed reports that he may have a grown another inch or two. If he can still move his feet well on the perimeter with that size, that’s a really special defensive player. Hopefully the Magic can luck in to drafting him at 8 & Barnes at 5! It’d just be a blast to watch 5 ginormous wingspans on the court at once with Barnes/Chuma/Wagner/Isaac/Bamba
Thanks. Gonna be tough for the magic to resist these pterodactyl wingspans now that they are actually attached to good prospects. Hopefully this isn’t the year that they try to buck their reputation and go in the opposite direction.
Amazing content throughout the season. One question on your Cade analysis: how, if at all, does him being such a good 3 point shooter (including ooff the bounce) address some of these concerns? If he can hit deep threes off the dribble as a source of offense, does everything else come around?
Thanks! His 3 off the bounce is his only real weapon offensively right now.
If this turns out to be an uncharacteristic season and he has enough burst to create at the rim and is a better passer than he showed at Oklahoma State, then it complements everything nicely.
If it’s his only weapon, it’s something to work with but it’s tough to imagine that it is enough to justify his #1 pick leaning almost entirely on that.
Thank-you very much for doing all this in-depth analysis. Your work has been and will be remembered for years.
Thank you for the content. It was fun reading your blog over this draft season. We’ll see if this season is another legendary one like 2014.
Hey! Thanks for all the info – I was just wondering if you were going to post about your instant thoughts on how the draft turned out?
I’m a Raptors fan + I’m still not entirely sold on our draft (Barnes, Johnson, and Banton are all solid frame, good BBIQ players with shaky handles), especially considering the fact that we already have a few similar players in OG and Pascal. I’ve also seen a lot of outlets calling our choice to pick Barnes not great, so that also has me a little worried.
Thanks again for all of your insight!
I am working on a reaction post, just haven’t had a time to do it properly yet
People love Jalen Suggs and Barnes is more of a mixed bag, so it’s easy to criticize the pick.
I wouldn’t worry about it, Masai knows what he is doing. How many of the people criticizing the Barnes pick were lauding Masai for drafting Siakam in late round 1?
Suggs is a safer bet who comes in with more polish, but Barnes has more upside, he seems driven to work hard, and Toronto has the coaching to max out his potential.
IMO this pick is exciting for both Toronto and Barnes. Landing in Toronto should be favorable for his longterm projection, much like landing in Boston was favorable for Jaylen Brown and Tatum (neither of whom were received as great picks at the time).
Siakam may not be a significant part of Toronto’s longterm plans, and if he is it’s plausible that a lineup with OG, Barnes, and Siakam can work. It would be light on shooting, but Siakam handles well for a PF and Barnes handles extremely well for a PF. You could build an interesting defense with that insane amount of length with all of those guys moving fairly well for their size.
Johnson was a good round 2 flier– he looked like a possible lottery pick preseason before falling off bigly after catching COVID this year. Banton seems like a longshot, but they made up for that pick by signing likely the top undrafted FA in Justin Champagnie.
Raptors fans should be feeling good about their team. It could be a bit of a rebuild as the Lowry era comes to the end, but they added good potential in the draft and they are still one of the best organizations in the NBA.
Thank you so much for the reply and for the vote of confidence! It definitely makes me feel a lot more relieved. Just read your draft post :))
Hi Dean, I wanted to take the time to let you know that when you’re really engaged with a draft (2014 and 2021), you’re the best publicly available draft analyst. You understand several key points that NBA draft twitter completely misses on.
1) The jump to the NBA from college is hard. Just because a player like Trey Murphy was a solid 3-D wing in college does not mean he will be a solid 3-D wing in the NBA. The NBA is a massive step up in athleticism, length, and size. Looking at seemingly simple indicators like rebounds, stocks, half court rim attempts, etc. reveal that Murphy may not have the athletic juice to be an effective 3-Der in the NBA. This is such a simple point that almost everyone on twitter misses.
2) If you’re going to be a superstar in the NBA, you should make college basketball look easy. The vast majority of NBA superstars dominated college basketball. They were clearly the most athletic and/or skilled/cerebrally gifted guys on the court. Cade Cunningham did not make college basketball look easy. His handle got pressured. He struggled to get separation. He made bad decisions. How likely is he to be a superstar in the NBA when he found college basketball tough? Compare Evan Mobley, who flawlessly executed PNR coverages, picked apart defenses with quick passing, and protected the rim while hardly breaking a sweat. The level of easy dominance Mobley displayed should matter for his evaluation.
3) Draft twitter overvalues archetypes. They understand that many NBA superstars are big wings who are “primary initiators.” Draft twitter sees that Cade is a big wing primary initiator in college. Therefore, Cade will be a super star in the NBA. I don’t need to explain to you how dumb this analysis is. The archetype analysis also makes draft twitter miss on talents like Sengun. They recognize that Sengun doesn’t look like many archetypes presently in the league, and, instead of creatively thinking about what Sengun could be, they just drop him wildly on their boards because he breaks their narrow conception of NBA archetypes. This lazy analysis would have completely caused them to miss on players like Curry in ’09, Draymond in ’12, etc.
There’s plenty more you do better than draft twitter, but I’ve said enough to make my point. I don’t get involved in needless twitter drama, but suffice it to say draft twitter comes across like spoiled immature babies who bully independent thinkers that don’t join the group think.
Keep up the great work Dean. Thanks for making me think.
Thanks for the credit. And good breakdown of some of the key points that most people miss.
Whenever a one dimensional shooter gets overhyped it’s always fun to look at Kyle Korver’s college stats, where he stuffed the statsheet with assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals while also being an insane knockdown shooter. Just to understand how good one dimensional NBA shooters were as all around college players.
Somebody recently pointed out that you can accuse both Cade and Mobley of playing with the attitude that they are too good for NCAA…except Mobley actually was too good, whereas Cade had his struggles.
I think the big issue with draft twitter is that most of them are young kids trying to get ahead of the curve by overreacting to recent trends, and that ends up with a wonky hivemind of strange opinions. They were all super out on Sengun but massively in on Roko Prkacin and Vrenz, which made no sense because those guys had all of Sengun’s physical limitations and none of his skill or box score productivity.
PJP48 metric only points projections
# P First PJP Surname
11 SG James 11.8 Bouknight
12 SG Joshua 14.3 Primo
17 SF Trey 11.7 Murphy III
19 C Kai 15.7 Jones
21 SG Keon 14.0 Johnson
24 SG Josh 13.5 Christopher
27 SG Cam 11.8 Thomas
51 SF Kyle 22.3 Korver
1 SF Cade 20.6 Cunningham
2 SG Jalen 22.1 Green*
3 C Evan 26.0 Mobley
4 SF Scottie 26.4 Barnes
5 PG Jalen 25.0 Suggs
6 SG Josh 37.8 Giddey*
7 SF Jonathan 20.4 Kuminga*
8 SF Franz 21.1 Wagner
9 PG Davion 21.4 Mitchell
13 SG Chris 15.6 Duarte
14 SG Moses 18.1 Moody
15 SF Corey 19.0 Kispert
16 C Alperen 40.3 Sengun*
18 PG Tre 20.0 Mann
20 SF Jalen 25.9 Johnson
22 C Isaiah 22.9 Jackson
23 PF Usman 24.6 Garuba*