Updated: Oct 9, 2021
This year's NBA draft class has the potential produce several All-NBA (and potentially Hall of Fame)-caliber players. With that being said, it's important for these young prospects to land with teams that will maximize their skillsets and provide a stable, steady course of development. Here are the ten of the best prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft, all of which will almost certainly be drafted in the first half of Round One tonight.
Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State
Cunningham has been the expected pick for months—the question was who would land him in the lottery. The Pistons are adding a unique talent that has one year of college experience but operates like an NBA veteran. He’s a smooth scorer, a polished passer, and he has legitimate All-Defense potential. Cunningham will make an immediate impact for his teammates in Motor City as the Pistons continue their rebuild.
Jalen Green, G, G League
Green is a firecracker of an athlete with a deep offensive bag, similar to Bulls guard Zach LaVine. He’s crafty around the rim and has a nice stroke from outside. Green averaged just 2.8 assists during his time in the G League, but he’s willing to improve his playmaking. Pace is something that will come with time. Right now, he rarely takes his foot off the gas, but playing around with tempo will only increase his effectiveness against professional defenders.
Evan Mobley, C, USC
By drafting Mobley, the Cavs killed two birds with one stone. They now have a pick-and-roll partner for point guard Darius Garland and a frontcourt threat alongside big man Jarrett Allen. In his one year at USC, Mobley displayed all of the traits that make him such an enticing prospect. He has nice touch from all around the court, and he can find open teammates quickly and accurately when necessary. Though he’s just 215 pounds as a 7-footer, he should have no problem putting on muscle. Plus, while that slender frame may work against him while defending in the low post, Mobley can keep up with smaller players on the perimeter.
Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
It’s almost too fitting—with a 35-year-old Kyle Lowry all but gone, the Raptors have found an heir to the starting rotation in Suggs. A key cog to Gonzaga’s championship appearance, Suggs is a natural leader. He’s an electrifying player to watch, from his blazing speed to his “how-did-he-do-that?” finishes. The 6-foot-4 guard’s defense is just as enthralling—he averaged 2.8 steals for the Bulldogs and is laser-focused on his assignment. The next step is developing a consistent shot from deep.
Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
There are always prospects that seem to shoot up draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft. This year, Barnes fits the bill. Barnes is an incredible defender aided by his 6-foot-7, 225 pound frame and 7-foot-3 wingspan. He can truly do it all: he guards on the perimeter, battles with bigs down low, and protects the rim. You name it, Barnes is up to the task. His offense, on the other hand, severely lags behind. Barnes will likely never average more than 15 points per game in a season, but his All-Defensive potential is all that the struggling Magic need to hear.
Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League
Kuminga is a raw prospect whose athleticism took center stage in his 13 games for the G League Ignite. At 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, the Congolese forward can convert both contested layups and tough finishes above the rim. There seemed to be a lid on the bucket during his time with the Ignite—38.7 percent from the field and 24.6 percent from deep is rough, to say the least. He can defend positions one through four, but he’s prone to lapses in intensity that hinder his effectiveness. By drafting Kuminga in the top 10 picks, a team will be banking on his development on both sides of the ball.
James Bouknight, G, UConn
Think of Bouknight as a Jordan Clarkson-type player: a microwave scorer who can surprise defenders with their agility. Bouknight struggled from deep in his second season as a Husky, shooting just 29.3 percent. He did undergo elbow surgery in January that seemed to have an impact on his jumpshot. Nonetheless, his accuracy from deep is something to watch in his early years as a pro. He has a shoot-first mentality, so there’s really no other option than to improve.
Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
Mitchell is arguably the most divisive prospect in this year’s draft. Some scouts love his competitive nature and lockdown defense. He’s improved his 3-point shot tremendously since his freshman year, and he’s lightning quick. Mitchell seems like the most pro-ready player in the class. However, other teams have different ideas. For one, he’ll turn 23 in September. And despite making a blistering 44.7 percent of his 3-point attempts in his junior year, he only shot 64.1 percent from the free throw line. How much can he really improve as an offensive contributor in the NBA?
Alperen Sengun, F, Beskitas
Riser alert! Talk to NBA scouts last year and they would slot Sengun in as a second-round selection, if they’re being generous. Now, the Turkish big man could easily come off the board within the first 10 picks tonight. Sengun won Turkish League MVP after averaging 19.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game at 18 years old. He has a great skill set down in the post, including beautiful footwork for a 240-pound player. Sengun isn’t much of a shooter (19.0 percent from deep on 21 attempts), but he did make over 81 percent of his free throw attempts. Still, his technical skills down low are enough to dispel any concerns about his offense in the pros.
Josh Giddey, G, Australia
Many are inclined to make a comparison between Giddey and LaMelo Ball—they played in Australia, they’re tall guards, and they have stellar court vision. However, Giddey has some work to do in order to follow in Ball’s footsteps. He’s a shaky shooter with questionable mechanics, as evidenced by his converting a lackluster 31.1 percent from deep. At 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds, Giddey struggles to stick with his man on defense. But he truly is a wizard with the ball in his hands. Late-lottery teams would be remiss not to take a look at the Australian floor general.