Our 300th Episode with Stone Hansen on the NBA Draft!
As the NBA playoffs continue, and the jockeying (aka “tanking”) for positions in the NBA Draft lottery has been completed, the only moment of suspense now comes from the ping-pong balls yet to be dispensed until June 22nd. But with the NCAA tournament firmly in the rear-view mirror, who are the prospects many draft experts and pundits are looking at now who might become the next NBA names of note in the 2021-2022 campaign?
After searching through an abundance of videos over the past weeks and months and talking to experts regularly on the Lakers Fast Break podcast, I thought once again I would throw in my two cents on who (as of now) the top 30 candidates might be. So here below are the players currently in the order as I would rank them. But of course, that will change most certainly once a draft order and team need become more clear…
1.Cade Cunningham (G) 6’7″, Fr., Oklahoma State, 19 years old- In what many experts consider to be a five-player draft, Cunningham has continuously stood head and shoulders (OK maybe jumped) ahead of even the top tier of draft hopefuls. With unique versatility on both sides of the ball and elite-shooting skill (40% on 3’s, 85% on FT’s), Cade checks off virtually all the boxes for any NBA team and outside of his higher turnover rate, makes an unequivocal choice at #1.
2.Jalen Suggs (PG) 6’4″, Fr, Gonzaga, 19 years old- Topping off a fantastic Freshman season with a great run in the NCAA tournament, Suggs provided consistent leadership with rare versatility and play-making skill that propelled Gonzaga to an (almost) perfect season. Many see Jalen as a player that whatever his shortcomings are now (3-point shooting, turnovers), are traits that can be improved upon and that he will end up be a major component of a future NBA champion.
3.Evan Mobley (PF/C) 7’0″, Fr., USC, 19 years old- Featuring a rare combination of size and skill, Mobley’s defensive presence can transform any team’s frontline instantly. If he improves his shooting touch (30% 3-PT, 69% FT) and shows consistent aggression at the NBA level, Evan can be the model of what the modern NBA big-man will be for the next ten years.
4.Jalen Green (SG) 6’6″, G-League, 19 years old- Jalen, with his elite athleticism and his knack for efficient scoring (61% True Shooting), projects to be a high-level point-getter in the NBA. His performance in the games in the G-League bubble showed a great deal of improvement and if can continue that upward climb, his future as a 20-point+ a game player may come sooner than a lot of people think.
5.Jonathan Kuminga (SF) 6’8″, G-League, 18 years old- Joining Jalen Green in the G-League bubble was Kuminga, who impressed many early on with play-making potential. His shooting faltered (25% 3-PT, 62% FT) as the bubble continued however and that’s an area in dire need of improvement for Jonathan, who many foresee being more than just a really good 3-and-D wing.
6.Davion Mitchell (G) 6’2″, Jr., Baylor, 22 years old- The player whose performance in the NCAA tournament benefitted from the most, Mitchell has skyrocketed up the mock drafts due to his efficiency (44% on 3’s) and his defensive prowess. There will be some who are concerned about his height, but as Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Kemba Walker have proved, under-sized combo guards can thrive in today’s NBA.
7.Jalen Johnson (F) 6’9″, Fr., Duke, 19 years old- Leaving Duke after 13 games has many uncertain about his true standing in the draft. His potential as a top-10 prospect stems from the already NBA-level physique and athleticism he already possesses. Brief flashes that were shown at Duke hinted at someone who could fill the stat sheet in several areas. The limited on-the-floor action in college could seem some shy away after the less than inspiring start James Wiseman has seen after a college career that was also all too brief (3 games).
8.Scottie Barnes (F) 6’9″, Fr., Florida St., 19 years old- A versatile forward who projects to be a solid defender against high-powered wings. He’s remained high on many draft boards based on his potential, and seeing how fellow FSU-alum Patrick Williams (who went as a surprise in 2020 at #4 to the Bulls) has progressed in his rookie season, many are looking at Scottie to follow a similar path. How much of an impact player he becomes relies on developing an outside shot (28% from 3, 62% FT at FSU) and allowing his already adept passing and defensive skills to help him to land a spot in an NBA rotation.
9.Franz Wagner (SF) 6’8″, So., Michigan, 19 years old- Don’t let one bad performance against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament dictate what was a fine sophomore season. As a skilled playmaking forward with all-around ability and promise, Franz projects well in several categories for his position including rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. With his nearly 85% Free-Throw rate projecting him as a solid shooter, he could develop into a second or third playmaker so many teams covet in today’s NBA. His lack of quickness and athleticism however may have some questioning on how well he can defend or drive on opponents at the next level, but given the right team Franz could play a valuable role and shake off bad memories of a tourney misstep gone by.
10.Keon Johnson (SG) 6’5″, Fr., Tennessee, 19 years old- Athletic and very aggressive to the rim, Johnson looks to be someone that will get fans excited with his highlight-reel dunks. As a two-guard, Keon’s strength is clearly as a slasher, with the possibility of becoming a lockdown defender at the other end of the floor. A very shaky jump shot (27% from 3) will have opponents playing off of him asking him to put it up from the outside until he can prove to be more consistent from long distance.
11.Moses Moody (SG) 6’6″, Fr., Arkansas, 18 years old- What’s not to like about Moody’s game? He projects to be an above-average shooter with great length for his size. He’s aggressive to the basket, shoots well from the free-throw line (81%), and is a solid defender. Moses looks to be that “3 and D” wing player so many teams are looking for. If he improves his passing and ability to finish around the rim, Moody figures to have a long NBA career ahead of him as a valued rotation player.
12.Kai Jones (PF/C) 6’11”, So., Texas, 20 years old- Kai will be that polarizing big man who some see going higher, and some see going much lower. With raw athleticism and the ability to hit the outside shot (38% from 3), Kai brings some intriguing talent to the NBA but not without his flaws. If he’s going to play heavy rotation minutes, he needs to be much more of a defensive and rebounding presence. Otherwise, teams will consistently attack him in the paint and offsetting any production he gives on offense.
13.Josh Giddey (PG) 6’8″, Adelaide, 18 years old- Questions abound with what many are projecting as one of the highest (if not highest) international prospects. A potential triple-double waiting to happen, Giddey’s vision as a floor general has few peers in this draft, with the top-level passing ability and play-making skills. His questionable outside shot (31% from 3), average athleticism, and concerns with his on-the-ball defense prevent him from being a top-5 pick. But as a possible big point guard who can distribute like few others, Giddey has a place for many landing inside the lottery.
14.Jaden Springer (G), 6’4″, Tennessee, 18 years old- One of the younger prospects in the draft, Jaden’s potential shines as a developing 3-and-D prospect. With good shooting numbers (43% from 3, 81% FT) and an aggressive defensive mindset, Springer’s future is among the brightest beyond the top 5 in the draft. A team will have to be patient, and if so, could have a multiple-year starter on their hands.
15.Alperen Şengün (PF/C) 6’10”, Besiktas, 18 years old- Also considered as one of the top international prospects, Şengün’s role as a small-ball four or five becomes paramount in today’s NBA. He was able to excel in some of Europe’s top-level competition, including the Champions League and BSL in Turkey. Combines strength and power in the post (19.6 PPG), is a good rebounder (9.2), and shoots free-throws at a very acceptable rate for a big man (79%). He also has developed some adept play-making skills for someone still not yet 19 when draft night hits. Questions about his athleticism and if he can extend his range will persistently dog him at the NBA level, but Alperen is a talent who can be a force down low filling up the stat sheets in a positive way for years to come.
16.Tre Mann (PG) 6’5″, So., Florida, 20 years old- Is Tre Mann a point guard at the next level? That seems to be the burning question for many scouts and analysts who eye Tre as more of an off-guard or a scoring threat at both backcourt positions. In a league always hungry for good shooters, Mann’s accuracy (40% from 3, 83% FT) will be highly coveted by many teams. An above-average rebounder, Mann needs to work on becoming a more willing passer, shot creator, and consistent defender to show teams he can develop into more of an all-around threat if he is to become more than a high-level specialty player in the NBA.
17.Corey Kispert (SF) 6’7″, Sr., Gonzaga, 22 years old- With Kispert, it’s never going to be about his shooting efficiency (44% from 3, 87% FT). But as the elder statesmen on a team that went one game shy of perfection, other questions loom as his draft status has fallen as of late. As Gonzaga was dominating teams left and right during the season, Kispert’s draft stock was continuing to rise as well. Any team who drafts him will expect him to be a gunslinger capable of knocking down threes from all over the court. But some underwhelming performances in the NCAA tournament, combined with his draft age have left many unsure if his stock will still remain that high.
18.Jared Butler (G) 6’3″, Jr., Baylor, 21 years old- While Davion Mitchell is getting a large share of the press coming off of Baylor’s title run, teams should not overlook his backcourt counterpart as he displays a wealth of talent on his own that could allow him to be a quality player at the next level. Like Mitchell, he also shot well from deep (41%) and showcased playmaking skills that will serve him well as an effective combo guard in the NBA.
19.Johnny Juzang (G/F) 6’6″ So., UCLA, 20 years old- An impressive set of performances at this year’s NCAA tournament has everyone talking about the sharp rise for one Johnny Juzang. With good size on the wing, Juzang has a good feel for the game and is deadly from the mid-range. His outstanding free-throw percentage (88%) suggests he will expand his game further to beyond the three-point line even more than he already has (35%). Neither quick nor athletic, picking Juzang in the first round is a vote of confidence in what areas he’s best suited in will be developing into a quality specialist at the next level.
20.James Bouknight (SG) 6’5″, So., Connecticut, 20 years old- A high-level scorer (19 PPG) and rebounder (6 RPG) with good size and ball-handling skills, James looks to contribute at the next level to provide instant offense and potentially good defense with a 7’0″ wingspan and strong athleticism. While his measurements come out to be very strong, his regression in his long-distance shooting (to under 30% from 3 as a Sophomore) does call for some concern and an area in need of returning to a higher level in order for him to be a consistent starter in the NBA.
21.Ziaire Williams (SF) 6’8″, Fr., Stanford, 19 years old- One of the top-ranked high school players coming into college, the future looked bright with a clear place high in the lottery. A rocky year at Stanford however changed the perspective for a lot of scouts and pundits, with now Zaire in the position needing something to prove as he enters the draft. His size and versatility may be too hard to pass up for a team higher in the draft. But he must improve shooting from both short and long distances (29% from 3, 37% overall) and make better choices on what he does with the ball (almost 3 turnovers a game) in order for him to reach the level once projected upon him when he left high school.
22.Cameron Thomas (SG) 6’4″, Fr., LSU, 19 years old- A truly high-level scorer in college (23.0), Thomas’ excellent free-throw percentage (88% ) suggests he will extend his range more consistently from beyond the arc (32% from 3). Thomas comes into the league as someone who can drive to the hoop with skill and be able to fill it up as a point-getter in the NBA. Should he be able to expand his game to become even an average play-maker and defender, Thomas could surprise many who already have targeted his career solely as someone who will just be able to get you buckets as a sixth man coming off the bench.
23.Greg Brown (PF) 6’9″, Fr., Texas, 19 years old- It’s not about the stats when it comes to the possibility of what Greg can accomplish at the next level. Because when you look at his one year at Texas, nothing on the stat sheet stands out (9.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 70% FT, 33% 3-point). What does stand out though is his extreme athleticism, which is regarded to be among the best, if not THE best, coming into the draft. The question remains, can Brown develop his game to match his unquestioned athletic ability? NBA teams will soon be finding out.
24.Isaiah Jackson (PF/C) 6’10”, Fr., Kentucky, 19 years old- Projected as a force on the defensive end, with a 7′ 3″ wingspan allowing for a high rate of blocks and rebounds, Jackson needs to strengthen other parts of his game in order to be able to stay on the court in NBA pressure situations. His future as a rim-running big man at the next level is there, but his propensity for fouls and lack of refined offensive repertoire may prevent him from making major contributions.
25.Chris Duarte (SG) 6’6″, Sr., Oregon, 24 years old- A smooth, heady player, there’s much to like when it comes to what Duarte can do out on the court. A skilled shooter (42% from 3) who takes good shots (53% overall FG), keeps his teammates involved, and is a solid team defender (2.0 Steals Per Game), Chris would normally look to find himself much higher in the draft. But his age (24) and his lack of potential ceiling may keep him lower in the first round to a team more committed to winning now. At this point, he’s a player who is ready to be a key part of a rotation, instead of someone who can develop into a superstar later.
26.Filip Petrušev (PF/C) 6’11”, Mega Bemax, 21 years old- After spending some time at Gonzaga, Filip returned to Europe to hone his game even further and has come back as an interesting prospect. An extremely skilled low-post scorer (23.0) for Mega Bemax in Serbia, Petrušev combines that with a surprisingly sharp eye from the outside (44% from 3 in limited attempts). Yes, he has good size and skill, but his limitations on the defensive end will have some shying away from a player who can be an effective go-to player in the post in the right matchup.
27.Charles Bassey (PF/C) 6’10”, Jr., Western Kentucky, 20 years old- Coming in at 6’10” and 240 pounds, Charles already has an NBA-ready physique and a power game (18 PPG, 12 RPG, 4 BPG, 60% FG) ready to come along with it. His 75% from the free-throw line suggests he may even be able to improve on his shot from long range (30%). What calls into question, as with any big man coming into the league, is how well can he guard out on the perimeter? Or will he be another big man that goes to the bench after being singled out on mismatches with much smaller guards? In this evolving game towards space and skill aspects of the game, big guys like Bassey may not be able to contribute as much as they once did in the past.
28.Joel Ayayi (G) 6’5″, Jr., Gonzaga, 21 years old- Coming off an impressive performance in the NCAA tournament, Ayayi serves as a skilled combo guard with impressive shooting numbers (39% from 3, 58% overall, and 79% on free-throws) to back up smart and efficient play displayed on both sides of the ball. What truly stands out is that he is one of the best rebounding guards (6.9 RPG) coming into the draft and if he can continue that nose for the ball in the NBA, Joel could easily find himself being a valuable contributor to an NBA team.
29.Sharife Cooper (PG) 6’1″, FR., Auburn, 19 years old- Cooper represents one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft. As someone who can eat up a majority of the ball-handling responsibility, Sharife’s ability to score (20.2 PPG) and pass (8.1 Assists) are augmented by his unique ability to get to the free-throw line in abundance. His detractors however point to his smaller size, inability to shoot from distance (23% from 3), and high turnover rate (4.2 turnovers per game) as reasons why to pass over Cooper for another choice. His free-throw percentage (83%) suggests he can eventually extend his range but with so many for and against selecting this play-maker, it leaves many unsure of exactly what spot he may eventually land on.
30.Max Abmas (PG) 6’1″, SO., Oral Roberts, 20 years old- Like Sharife Cooper, size will be one of the issues for Max coming into the league but getting the ball in the basket will not be one of them. Coming off a season approaching 25 points per game, being relied upon to carry a heavy load offensively is something Abmas looks for. Offensively, he could be outstanding with high marks across the board with a true shooting percentage hovering around 63% (including 43% from 3, and almost 90% from the FT line). While Cooper is more of a playmaker, Abmas is an all-out scorer but as with Sharife, Max’s size will be an area of concern (and targeting) by opposing teams on the defensive end.
Look for future updates and mock drafts once the order is officially announced with the NBA Lottery on June 22 and continuing on with revisions as we close to the big date itself on July 29.