A 6-foot-8 point guard in a wing’s body, Cunningham has a modern game custom-fit to thrive in the NBA. And as luck would have it for Detroit, the fit seems to be great. Next to Killian Hayes he’ll give the Pistons a second dynamic playmaker who can affect winning on and off the ball with his vision and ability to drill 3-pointers at a rate right at 40%.
I expect Jalen Suggs and Jalen Green to get strong consideration here, but Mobley is the prospect that scouts most frequently mention as the No. 2 in this draft behind Cunningham. He’s a 7-foot big who can destroy worlds around the rim but has the movement and some skills of a wing. A true generational talent if he reaches his ceiling.
The Cavs’ backcourt is stacked with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but the potential of adding the draft’s most prolific potential scorer in Jalen Green has to be too good to pass on here at No. 4. Green averaged 17.9 points and shot 36.5% from 3-point range playing for G League Ignite last season. His athleticism and shot-creation is among the best in the draft.
Maybe the most fun fit in the draft if it works out. Fred VanVleet and Jalen Suggs in the same backcourt? Sign me all the way up. Suggs is a hard-nosed competitor with a special “it” factor like FVV who fits the archetype of what Masai Ujiri tends to gravitate towards in scouting.
Orlando has a type and Jonathan Kuminga fits it as a long, athletic wing. He has a 7-foot-plus wingspan and a ton of physical tools that, if developed properly, could make him an All-Star. Like many of Orlando’s types, however, he’s a very raw product overall. He struggled shooting the ball after a strong start in the G League. That said, the upside for a toolsy wing like Kuminga — who is still only 18 — is worthy of a look here with the talent dropoff after him.
/ 227 lbs
The Thunder tend to prioritize size and athleticism in their evaluations which makes Scottie Barnes, a player quickly rising as a potential top-five pick, an ideal match for OKC. Barnes physically checks all those boxes as a forward with point guard skills and real defensive promise. It’s the lack of a reliable jump shot that right now is keeping him from pushing into the top-three discussion, which OKC can afford to be patient in developing.
Warriors GM Bob Myers said Tuesday: “We’re not trying to develop players at the risk of losing … That’s not the plan.” In other words, Golden State isn’t interested in drafting a player who can’t help win right now. Fortunately, Davion Mitchell can help right now. He’s a lockdown defensive presence who can play-make from the point guard position, two skills that would’ve come in handy last season for Golden State.
An elbow injury and subsequent surgery midseason disrupted James Bouknight’s breakout sophomore season, but scouts are well aware of what he can do on the court. His shot-creation and ability to finish in traffic are NBA skills. Orlando could put those to use as it builds through the draft with Bouknight, who is one of the draft’s true bucket-getters.
Sacramento’s depth along with the wing is a spot many believe it will address via the draft. Franz Wagner should be a contender to go in this range, and the fit makes sense. He’s got a long frame and is a heady defensive player whose 3-point shooting — while “just OK” — is an area I’d like to buy long-term. The shot doesn’t look broken. If it improves he could be a capable 3-and-D NBA player for a Kings team that could use that exact skill set.
New Orleans continues to surround Zion Williamson with complementary talent and the fit of Moses Moody — a 3-and-D wing who can be a deadeye spot-up shooter — makes this one an easy pick. Moody was the No. 1 option for Arkansas last season as a freshman and still managed to shoot 36% from 3-point range on high volume. He’ll be even more productive as a role player knocking down open looks, playing defense and crashing the glass.
Charlotte hit a home run last year when it drafted LaMelo Ball out of the NBL with the No. 3 pick. Giddey could give them a second quality NBL product in two years. He’s a creative playmaker similar to Ball who could play on the wing and give the Hornets another jumbo offensive creator to build around.
There is some serious moxie to Jaden Springer’s game accompanied by real skill he showed at Tennessee as a scorer and facilitator. I like the wiggle I’ve seen from him with the ball in his hands, too. He plays with so much confidence and poise it’s hard not to buy in to what his NBA role can be as a two-way guard who can do a little of everything.
Indiana’s backcourt depth — particularly on the wing — is due for an upgrade. Johnson is the type of high-upside gamble who could help give the Pacers an overhaul. He has the positional size and explosive athleticism to develop into a starter at the position, though he’s still just scratching the surface of what he can be on offense.
If we’re taking what Bob Myers said Tuesday at face value, then you’d have to think an older, NBA-ready player like Duarte would get consideration here. Sure, he’s 23 years old, an elder by draft standards, but he was one of the best players in the Pac-12 last season with a complementary skill set as a scorer and initiator that could make him an immediate contributor on a contender like the Warriors expect to be in 2021-22.
Washington needs shooters and players who in general can score the basketball, making Kispert a worthwhile examination here. He hit 44% from 3-point range last season for Gonzaga and has a quick release that makes him one of the most lethal spot-up shooters in this draft. He’s also got some wiggle to him as well that should free him up to knock shots down off the dribble as he develops his game.
/ 218 lbs
An elite athlete with tons of physical tools, Jones is one of the X-factors of the draft as a true boom-or-bust talent. His ceiling is limitless but his floor is virtually nonexistent. He needs time to develop physically and to learn and feel the game. OKC can afford to be patient and invest on upside, a theme here with this draft for a franchise hoping to build a contender almost entirely through the draft.
Memphis has shown time and again that it will bet on high IQ players who perhaps don’t physically pop but have the production, tools and background of a winner. Sengun is precisely that, as he’s dominated the Turkish League at 18 years old and was recently named the league’s MVP. He doesn’t have the vertical lift or the flashy outside shot to make him an all-around big right now, but he’s a great free throw shooter with a strong mechanical base and there’s optimism he can continue adding to his already-mature game given he’s still so young.
/ 185 lbs
Stanford had a wacky year in which it lived out of hotel rooms for a huge portion of the season and Williams had his own personal challenges with two deaths in the family. Ultimately, he wasn’t able to live up to his five-star billing, struggling to separate himself as a clear-cut lottery pick. But his shot-making flashes, size and overall scoring ability are nonetheless still very rare. While he’s all over the place with evaluators, a team like OKC could decide the upside bet is worth it. He was a potential top-five pick before the season.
Physically there’s a lot to like about Isaiah Jackson: He has a 7-3 wingspan and can jump over the moon. But he’s still fairly limited offensively and there are concerns he may never hold up defending some of the more physically imposing bigs in the NBA. Nonetheless, his production around the rim on both ends of the court could be a value add for a Knicks team potentially willing to invest as potential Mitchell Robinson insurance if they don’t want to extend him long-term.
As a freshman for LSU last season Cameron Thomas led the SEC in scoring. He was a scorer at the prep level, a scorer at the college level, and he’ll be a scorer in the NBA. It’s his NBA skill. The Hawks clearly value that type of talent, too, having traded for Lou Williams earlier this year.
The Knicks were a great story this season but the playoffs proved their offense is … fairly limited. Tre Mann at No. 21 feels like good value as a potential add to help on that front. He made 40.2% from 3-point range at Florida last season and has the offensive versatility to add a little on and off the ball as a scorer and creator.
Montrezl Harrell didn’t pan out for the Lakers as the type of small-ball big who could stay on the court in pressure-packed moments because of his defensive limitations. Usman Garuba is the antithesis of Harrell, however, as he’s a small-ball big best known for his defensive strengths. Good movement and agility for his size should allow him to be a closing lineup-type player in the league at an early age.
/ 180 lbs
Sharife Cooper is the most creative passer in this draft. The way he sees plays develop and anticipates windows is next-level for a 20-year-old. The only thing keeping him from top-10 territory is his 6-1 frame, defensive struggles and outside shooting inconsistency. He’s still an unfinished product. But his playmaking and the idea of him potentially improving on those fronts could be a boon for this resetting Rockets club as a fine complement to Evan Mobley.
Jalen Johnson didn’t play up to his five-star billing at Duke and then quit before the end of the season. So he’s a tough eval after starting the year as a likely lottery pick. Still, he’s a forward with good handles and passing ability who can be effective in transition. The Rockets need as many pieces as possible to expedite a rebuild and this would be huge if he hits.
/ 206 lbs
I wrote back in May, after hearing from a few scouts, that Murphy had the size, skill and all-around game to be a late-riser in this draft process. Since then, Murphy has committed to sticking in the draft and seen his stock soar into first-round territory. He has ideal size for a wing, can shoot the 3-point shot and defends his rear off, the type of role-player who could benefit a contending Clippers team.
One of the most improved upperclassmen prospects in the class, Ayo Dosunmu took his 3-point percentage from 29.6% to 38.6% while serving as the top option on a team that earned a No. 1 seed. He made significant developmental strides the last year. His scoring, playmaking and selfless style fit on a Denver team that needs backcourt depth to put next to MVP Nikola Jokic.
Love the idea of adding a hard-nosed, do-it-all forward to Brooklyn’s contending core. Robinson-Earl packs a punch with his rebounding skills and ability to score it inside the arc. He’s been a top option for Villanova in college but could really come alive in the NBA with its spacing, as he plays with an innate feel for the game and rarely gets out of position.
Jared Butler was referred to a fitness to play panel at the combine after undergoing medical exams in Chicago, so his stock is in limbo as we wait to learn more. If he’s cleared, he’s a clear first-round talent, though. Butler was the Final Four MOP for title-winning Baylor whose court vision, creation skills and above-average 3-point shooting makes him uniquely positioned to contribute to a Philly team that is in dire need of everything he can bring to the table.
Phoenix’s roster and postseason run is a masterclass in team-building and it deserves a tip of the cap. But the Suns, incredibly, are a conference finals team with only one true center in De’Andre Ayton. It’s a position they need to address after getting very little production from 2020 first-round center Jalen Smith. Sharpe is a high-energy, rebounding force who could give Phoenix a different dimension at the position with his big body and ability to run the floor.
There was no player whose stock rose more in the NCAA Tournament than Johnny Juzang, whose fearless shot-making and masterful mid-range game helped guide UCLA to an unlikely Final Four run. Juzang hasn’t committed to staying in the draft or returning to school yet but he’s a borderline first-round player who teams are watching with a close eye this week at the combine.