2021 NBA Draft Big Board: Updated Top 50 Players

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJanuary 5, 2021

2021 NBA Draft Big Board: Updated Top 50 Players

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    We updated our 2021 NBA draft big board for a second time with a bigger sample size of action to evaluate.

    For some, early flashes are starting to look legitimate now that we're continuing to see regular glimpses of potential. Texas' Kai Jones is one of those rising.

    A few new names were also added as players are putting together breakout seasons, including Seton Hall's Sandro Mamukelashvili and Marshall's Taevion Kinsey.

    We're still waiting to make dramatic changes to the top 10, though a few could be coming with certain freshmen struggling early.

Nos. 50-41

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    Nati Harnik/Associated Press

    50. Nah'Shon Hyland (VCU, SG, Sophomore)

    Impressing with shot creation and shooting, Hyland is building a case as a scoring specialist. He's making more three-pointers than twos while averaging just 1.6 assists per game, so his NBA value will be heavily dependent on his ability to continue hitting deep and contested shots.


    49. Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SF, Junior)

    It's worth staying patient with Henry given the value of a 6'6" plus defender who can slash, make plays and potentially shoot. Per 40 minutes, his scoring (18.4 points), assists (5.6) and free-throw shooting (80.6 percent) are up, but he'll need to start making threes at a respectable clip (25.0 percent this season).


    48. Sandro Mamukelashvili (Seton Hall, C, Senior)

    Playing some point center, Mamukelashvili has put together fascinating tape that highlights attractive versatility for NBA teams. He just had a 24-point, nine-rebound, six-assist game with two threes in a win over Butler on Saturday. His offensive skill set for a big should help ease concerns about his defensive projection.


    47. Ariel Hukporti (Nevezis Kedainiai, C, 2002)

    Scouts are waiting for Hukporti to return from injury after he won MVP of the German U19 league and had some strong games over the summer in the Basketball Bundesliga. Now in Lithuania, he should continue to stand out with overpowering 7'0", 250-pound size and active athleticism at both ends.


    46. Trendon Watford (LSU, PF, Sophomore)

    Watford looks like a three-point shot away from entering the first-round discussion. Without much burst or quickness, he'll need the jumper, but at 6'9", 240 pounds, he is a useful ball-handler and passer (4.3 assists) who's scoring in different ways inside the arc.


    45. Trayce Jackson-Davis (Indiana, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Teams still show interest in post-up-heavy bigs (Isaiah Stewart, Vernon Carey Jr., Daniel Oturu last draft), a promising sign for Jackson-Davis' draft stock. He hasn't attempted a three since arriving at Indiana, but this year, he's averaging 20.1 points per game and playing to his strengths as a skilled post scorer with terrific footwork and a quick second jump for putbacks.


    44. Miles McBride (West Virginia, PG, Sophomore)

    Known for open-floor speed and pesky defense, McBride led West Virginia to a comeback win Monday night with his shot-making versus Oklahoma State. He's returned this season with more skill and confidence for scoring and playmaking, averaging 14.8 points and 4.1 assists per game with 38.9 percent shooting from three through 11 games.


    43. David Duke (Providence, SG, Junior)

    Duke's breakout should be earning more attention. Averaging 19.3 points and 4.3 assists per game with 41.2 percent shooting from three, the 6'5" 2-guard has developed into a high-level shot-maker capable of creating for himself and finding teammates as a secondary playmaker.


    42. Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

    Mitchell's two-way playmaking (6.7 assists, 2.7 steals) and shooting (50.0 3PT percentage) for the nation's No. 2 team should earn him looks. Despite sharing the ball with Jared Butler, he has been productive and efficient, creating for teammates and grading in the 97th percentile when spotting up.


    41. Taevion Kinsey (Marshall, SG, Junior)

    Third in the nation in dunks at just 6'5", Kinsey can fly, but he's also developed into a more refined offensive player, averaging 21.4 points and 4.2 assists per game. Shooting is still his obvious swing skill, but through nine games, he's 9-of-18 from three and 46-of-55 on free throws.

Nos. 40-31

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    Matt Stamey/Associated Press

    40. Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)

    Seen on the bench and practicing with Auburn, Cooper could be nearing his debut, which the NCAA has kept from happening because of eligibility issues. If he does suit up this season, there will be plenty of interest in his creativity off the dribble and confident shooting.


    39. Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine, SF, Junior)

    Averaging 17.2 points per game, Edwards is over 40 percent from three for a second straight season. NBA teams should be willing to chase that shot-making skill for a 6'8" forward, regardless of whether they think he can create or defend.


    38. Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, PF, Freshman)

    It's tough to fall too deeply in love with Jackson, who has yet to reach double figures in points and has more than three times as many fouls (26) as assists (eight). But his hops, quickness and timing have translated to easy baskets and 2.8 blocks and 7.6 rebounds in just 22.0 minutes per game.


    37. Daishen Nix (G League Ignite, PG, 2002)

    The appeal of Nix stems from his 6'5" size and passing IQ for an 18-year-old. He'll want to show scouts in the G League bubble that he has more scoring and shooting potential to complement his facilitating skills, but his ability to read defenses and set up teammates will drive his value.


    36. Terrence Clarke (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

    A ankle injury cost Clarke the Mississippi State game over the weekend and may have been limiting him while he was active. He's still falling down my board, showing poor feel as a decision-maker and no shooting consistency. But it's a little early to write off a 6'7" wing who can handle and slash, use his floater and make shots when set.


    35. Tre Mann (Florida, PG, Sophomore)

    We saw flashes of creativity last year, but Mann's execution has been much sharper this season. Finishing cleaner, shooting 44.0 percent from three and already surpassing his freshman assist total, the 6'5" ball-handler should earn looks if he continues at this pace.


    34. Efe Abogidi (Washington State, C, Freshman)

    Early flashes have started turning into regular production for Abogidi, who's averaging 15.5 points, 12.3 boards and 3.3 blocks over Washington State's last four games. He's raw without skill or feel, except for surprising shooting touch (5-of-13 3PT, 82.9 FT percentage) that creates enticing upside when combined with his 6'10" size, athleticism and defensive numbers (2.2 blocks, 1.0 steal). Abogidi may be more of a 2022 draft prospect, but he'll generate interest in 2021 with some degree of consistent shooting and activity.


    33. Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech, SG, Sophomore)

    The inconsistent aggression can be frustrating, but Shannon's athleticism, slashing, shot-making and defensive quickness remain worth monitoring. We want to see him consistently take the lead as a primary scorer.


    32. Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Junior)

    Looking healthy after last year's leg injury, Bassey should resurface in the draft conversation if he continues to average in the range of 16.3 points and 11.1 boards per game. Even if he fails to show anything as a shooter, his tremendous physical profile, short-range touch and shot-blocking (3.2 per game) should draw interest.


    31. Rokas Jokubaitis (Zalgiris, PG, 2000)

    Coming off a season-high 17 points in the Lithuanian league on Sunday, Jokubaitis should be earning spots on boards with production and efficiency that backs up his obvious skill level and feel. He lacks burst, but his craftiness off the dribble, jumper and IQ are sharp for a 6'4" guard.

Nos. 30-21

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    30. Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG, Junior)

    Averaging 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game with 42.1 percent shooting from three, Dosunmu has elevated each aspect of his game. It's tough to pinpoint his most translatable skill, but he seems sharp enough with each (for a 6'5" guard) to carve out a role.


    29. Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

    Butler didn't receive enough love last year, but he should for the 2021 draft if he continues to shoot (45.7 3PT percentage) and make plays (5.8 assists) as he has through nine games. One of the nation's toughest ball-handling covers is now using his advanced dribble more effectively.


    28. Marcus Bagley (Arizona State, SF, Freshman)

    Bagley hasn't played since December 3, but he'll maintain a fringe first-round grade for his shooting fluidity and positional size. More flashes of shot-making versatility and creation could push him further up the board, assuming he's able to continue hitting threes at a near 40 percent clip.


    27. Scottie Lewis (Florida, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    After a disappointing freshman season—he arrived at Florida as a top-30 prospect on our board—Lewis is back into the first-round discussion, shooting 56.7 percent inside the arc and 7-of-15 from three. He's still not a creator, but his elite athleticism and quickness, improving three-ball, flashes of dribble jumpers and wing defense remain attractive.


    26. Romeo Weems (DePaul, SF, Sophomore)

    DePaul has played just three games, and Weems has played only two. But in his debut, he delivered exactly what scouts wanted to see: three-point shooting (5-of-8) to complement his athleticism and tools for transition offense and defense.


    25. David Johnson (Louisville, PG, Sophomore)

    After shooting 5-of-23 from three as a freshman, Johnson is already 14-of-31 through eight games. It's a key development given his 6'5", 210-pound frame and passing skills. He's still missing a signature strength, however, which would make it easier to picture upside in any one area.


    24. Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)

    Thomas leads the SEC in scoring with his advanced creation and shot-making skills. Teams figure to look past his limited playmaking and view the 6'4" freshman as a source for instant offense.


    23. Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF, Sophomore)

    Wagner got off to a slower start offensively, but it's worth staying patient to see if his shooting will improve. Over Michigan's last three games, he's averaging 17.7 points and has made seven threes. He's been terrific on defense all season with his IQ and anticipation, and at 6'9" with his three-point range (1.1 3PTM) and passing (3.1 assists), he could wind up becoming a better pro than college player.


    22. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Sophomore)

    Though Robinson-Earl's three-point shooting hasn't taken off, he's been money in the mid-range (11-of-20) and post (11-of-19), and he's added some extra scoring moves and wiggle to average 16.2 points per game. Robinson-Earl still has some heavy feet, but he's skilled and has promising touch and IQ.


    21. Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)

    Prkacin turned 18 in November and has been efficient in the Croatian and Adriatic leagues, producing with an NBA-friendly skill set for a power forward. Flashes of ball-handling and slashing, high-IQ assists and shooting should catch the attention of teams in the Nos. 15-30 range.

Nos. 20-11

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    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    20. Day'Ron Sharpe (North Carolina, C, Freshman)

    Sharpe mixes old school with new school, standing out for his physical play and activity around the basket and terrific passing skills. He struggles to score in the post and hasn't shot much from outside, but he's coming off a 25-point game against Notre Dame that highlighted his effective power and motor.


    19. Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)

    Sengun's breakout year looks more legitimate by the game, with the 18-year-old Turkish big man still second in scoring in the Basketball Super League. His game doesn't scream modern NBA center, but he's effective at what he does well in the post, and he's flashed enough fluidity on his face-up moves and finishes on drives from outside the paint. He's averaging 11.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.8 blocks per game and shooting 81.2 percent on free throws, so it's becoming easier to buy his tools and instincts for defense and offensive touch.


    18. Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG, Freshman)

    An advanced self-creator and scorer, Christopher is averaging 16.9 points per game with 60.7 percent shooting inside the arc, wowing with an ability to slash and hit contested mid-range jumpers. It's worth monitoring whether he can sustain this level of efficiency or if he's able to start hitting threes (6-of-26), something he's struggled to do through seven games.


    17. Greg Brown (Texas, PF, Freshman)

    The highlights outweigh the lowlights for Brown, who is raw but unique athletically and has encouraging shooting touch that he hasn't been shy with. Fouls, turnovers and unreliable offensive execution prevent him from playing a full-time role at Texas, but per 40 minutes, Brown is averaging 23.2 points, 14.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.4 threes.


    16. Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)

    Kispert's shooting and efficiency are good enough for scouts to overlook his limitations as a creator and athlete. Though his production has come against mostly inferior competition, he is putting together a historic statistical profile, averaging 21.6 points per game with 75.8 percent shooting inside the arc, 50.8 percent shooting from three and 87.9 percent shooting from the free-throw line (with 22 assists to nine turnovers).


    15. Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)

    Coming off Tennessee's bench, Springer has been super efficient (64.6 true shooting percentage), taking and converting balanced shots inside the arc while making jumpers (7-of-10 3PT) when they're available in rhythm. Teams may have trouble seeing a primary point guard because of his lack of explosiveness and wiggle, but his decision-making, execution, shooting and defense appear strong, and he's one of the youngest players in the country. His 12.1 box plus-minus ranks first among the freshmen in our top 50.


    14. James Bouknight (Connecticut, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    Bouknight has flashed exciting scoring potential, which is fueled mostly by his pull-up game (11-of-22), though he's also found success off the ball with cuts and dribble handoffs. He hasn't shown much as a playmaker (1.8 assists in 34.0 minutes per game), but teams will value his ability to create and make shots as a 6'5" guard.


    13. Kai Jones (Texas, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Expect inconsistency, but flashes could propel Jones into the lottery discussion. He just delivered more against Kansas (12 points in 23 minutes) over the weekend, when the athletic 6'11", 218-pounder hit a pair of threes while continuing to showcase his mobility and coordination at both ends.


    12. Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, C, 2002)

    In 23 minutes Saturday, Garuba finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, four steals and a three-pointer against Iberostar Tenerife. An outstanding defender with a motor and passing IQ, he's starting to come alive offensively with his shot and tools around the basket.


    11. Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)

    It's been almost a month since Johnson's foot injury, and scouts remain eager to learn more about his shooting and half-court scoring. But he has their attention with his toned 6'9" frame, ability to play off the dribble, athleticism around the basket and defensive versatility.

10. Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The scouting process on Brandon Boston Jr. started years ago, so it seems premature to move him down the board after eight games at Kentucky. The ice below is getting thinner, however, with Boston shooting 36.0 percent and 5-of-33 from three with 17 turnovers to 10 assists.

    He figures to start connecting again on his jumper once his confidence bounces back. At 6'7", Boston has the size and length to get it off as well as the shot-making versatility to connect in different ways from the mid-range and three.

    His creation hasn't been as impressive as it was in high school, and that seems more problematic than the poor shooting. But we're keeping Boston in the top 10 for now under the assumption his shot starts falling and three-level scoring returns.

9. Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SF, Freshman)

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    Andy Nelson/Associated Press

    The long-term scouting lens values Ziaire Williams and the potential trajectory tied to his skill set even though he's struggled so far at Stanford.

    We've seen enough throughout high school to feel confident his jumper is better than his 9-of-32 three-point mark suggests. Williams has a smooth delivery with 6'8" size and the ability to create and make shots off different dribble moves.

    And his tools and competitiveness bode well for his defensive projection.

    Williams could have trouble rising higher than the late lottery range—regardless of what happens in the next few months—with questions about his trouble to penetrate and take contact more worrisome than his shooting.

8. Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG, Freshman)

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    Caitie McMekin/Associated Press

    Compared to other lottery prospects, Keon Johnson isn't as refined, shooting 2-of-14 from three and averaging 4.6 turnovers per 40 minutes. But he's in the top 10 on our board based on what he could look like once the game slows down for the high-energy 18-year-old.

    Athletic with 6'5" size, he puts constant pressure on opponents at both ends with his attacking and defense.

    Without a great deal of polish, Johnson still finds ways to the rim, taking long strides in the open floor and demonstrating impressive footwork to find gaps in the half court. And he's shown a degree of shot-making skill off the dribble.

    His defense is still ahead of everything else, with Johnson's quickness and motor translating to a 3.7 steal percentage.

    Scouts will talk about his need to improve as a shooter, but he's also one of the rare guards capable of impacting games without a reliable jumper.

7. Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Moses Moody continues to shine in a simplified, off-ball role, averaging 16.9 points per game despite receiving just nine pick-and-roll and isolation possessions.

    He's shooting 42.0 percent from three, and though not a creator, he is 6-of-12 on dribble jumpers. He's also been using the offensive glass (2.5 offensive rebounds per game) for scoring opportunities, having already registered eight putbacks.

    With 14 steals and seven blocks in 10 games, he has defensive tools that have frequently popped as well.

    Fit is the bigger selling point for Moody than upside, given his three-and-D ability for a 6'6" wing plus his limitations as a one-on-one scorer and playmaker.

6. Scottie Barnes (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Scottie Barnes' limitations are clear and defined, but scouts remain high on the freshman's unique strengths and ability to impact games his own way.

    He's the only player over 6'8" with an assist percentage over 30.0 and steal percentage over 3.0. The 6'9", 227-pound Barnes works as a point forward, capable of handling and passing as well as defending every position and picking up full-court pressure.

    His self-creation and shooting skills are lagging, with Barnes 5-of-18 from three and 11-of-26 on free throws. There could be some concern about his scoring potential. But rare two-way versatility, along with his admirable energy and passion, create star role-player potential for Barnes the way they did for Draymond Green.

5. Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Though Jalen Green has only played two scrimmages for the G League Ignite, we've seen enough over the years—from his high school games and AAU to three FIBA competitions—to have a confident read. And it's obvious he has the athleticism and scoring skills to produce in the NBA.

    The question is whether he's wired to produce efficiently and impact winning. We should get a better sense of his standing when the G League season kicks off.

    From a pure talent evaluation standpoint, he possesses elite quickness and bounce, which he complements with improved ball-handling for creation and shot-making skill out to the arc. He's capable of heating up and scoring in bunches.

    On the downside, he tends to force shots and doesn't project as a major playmaker, and his defensive motor flickers.

4. Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)

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    Scouts remain anxious to get eyes on Jonathan Kuminga, who's played in fewer settings to evaluate live than any other prospect.

    He was the G League Ignite's top performer during the team's first two scrimmages. Soon, scouts can see Kuminga in the bubble, where he'll get to make a top-five case (in at least 12 games) with his tantalizing mix of 6'8" size, three-level scoring and defensive tools.

    With a body built to play both forward spots, he pops physically and skillwise with his ability to drive and finish through contact or rise and fire around the perimeter.

    There are some questions about his intensity and shot selection. The hope is to learn more about Kuminga when he faces G League opponents.

3. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Jalen Suggs moved the needle for himself with 27 points and seven threes against Iowa. The lack of production since hasn't been viewed as worrisome, particularly since Gonzaga has won its last four games by 30.3 points.

    He's the full package—a physical driver who's shooting 9-of-17 off the dribble, running the offense with high-IQ passing (5.4 assists) and disrupting on defense (2.4 steals) on and off the ball.

    One scout made the interesting comparison to Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson, a multisport athlete drafted by the Colorado Rockies. Suggs was Minnesota's Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball last year, and he possesses similar maturity, leadership and toughness.

    His 44.4 three-point percentage may be inflated from the 7-of-10 he shot against the Hawkeyes, especially given his 65.2 percent mark on free throws. But the eye test doesn't detect any red flags on his jumper, and he's a complete two-way player in terms of tools, skill and intangibles.

2. Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    While it's tough to picture Evan Mobley rising to No. 1, he has started to separate himself at No. 2.

    For a 7-footer, his special movement, fluidity and coordination show on face-up moves, second jumps and blocks as well as in transition. But he's become a top-three lock for his skill package, which is suited to a modern NBA center.

    Scouts will talk about a lack of strength, but they won't put much stock into it given his ball-handling and shooting touch. He's made seven of 14 jumpers off the catch (five threes) and converted all four of his drives to the basket from spot-up positions.

    Between his scoring versatility, rim protection and ability to slide defensively, Mobley checks the right boxes for upside. The only questions we've heard from scouts are about his physicality and toughness.

1. Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG, Freshman)

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    Brad Tollefson/Associated Press

    Cade Cunningham is still the prospect with the most potential to alter a franchise.

    The 6'8" point guard ranks in the 88th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and 87th percentile out of isolation, using his unique creativity, craftiness, strength, off-the-dribble shot-making and finishing to score inside the arc.

    And despite teammates shooting just 39.5 percent off his ball-screen passes and 12.5 percent off his post passes, he is averaging 3.7 assists per game, routinely showing vision and the skill to find shooters and finishers while drawing attention away from them.

    His jumper has cooled over the past three games, but the eye test buys his made shots, touch and shooting trajectory (12 threes in nine games, 80.8 FT percentage).

    He's been a disruptor on defense as well, both on and off the ball, leading to one of the more complete scouting reports for a freshman in the past decade.


    Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Sports Reference.