Keon Johnson, Tennessee
While the case could be made for a handful of guys in this class, Johnson is a frightening athlete. The fact that he could go in the late lottery in spite of being very unrefined from a skill set perspective is a testament to just how athletic he is. Though other top athletes in this class (Green, Kuminga, Jalen Johnson) did not attend the combine or attended but skipped athletic testing, Johnson blew away the competition with a combine record-setting max vertical
leap of 48 inches. He also led the field in standing vert and posted the combine’s third-fastest sprint. He has jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism and it shows on both ends of the court, whether he’s attacking the basket with ferocity or getting weak side blocks or jumping in passing lanes on defense.
Day'Ron Sharpe, UNC
Physically, Sharpe just carries a body type that few other guys in this draft can boast. He’s a more traditional, wide-bodied big man than guys like Evan Mobley or Isaiah Jackson, and while his game is far from perfect, his strength is one of his biggest selling points. He’s great at moving his guy off his spot and carving out post position. At 6’11” 265, he has one of the most imposing frames in this draft.
Davion Mitchell, Baylor
Nicknamed “Off Night” because that’s what he causes for his opponents, Mitchell is quick in the open court, but he’s particularly good at staying in front of his man and beating defenders with his powerful first step. With or without the ball, he’s a blur. In transition, he’s a menace. His top attribute could very well be his speed.
Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
Other guys’ percentages might be a little better, but Kispert shot the lights out on such a monstrous volume of attempts for Gonzaga last season. He made 44% of his 3’s despite shooting over 6 per game, he made 53% from the field, and his free throw percentage in the high 80s since his sophomore season, indicates that last season was no fluke and he profiles as a great NBA shooter. He can spot up, he;s deadly coming off screens, and he even has a little bit of ability to create his own look and hit the dribble pull up.
Sharife Cooper, Auburn
Despite some of his deficiencies as a prospect, Cooper passes at an elite level. At age 19, he was already averaging over 8 assists per game in the SEC. He demonstrates tremendous feel for the game, and makes great reads despite his diminutive stature relative to most other prospects. Combined with his tremendous ball handling, he’s one of the best offense creators in this class.
Davion Mitchell, Baylor
Mitchell’s aforementioned speed is a huge asset to him defensively. His lateral quickness is among the best in this class. His technique is impeccable, getting low in his stance, and his mindset and approach to defending is everything you want in a guard. He had some excellent defensive showings on a big stage in Baylor’s NCAA tournament and will almost certainly make a great point-of-attack guard in the NBA regardless of how his offensive game turns out.
Evan Mobley, USC
Mobley is one of the best big man prospects on the defensive end in a while. His big asset is his switchability but he’s also an excellent rim protector. His 7’4” wingspan, along with his stellar athleticism, tremendous reaction time, and defensive instincts generally have him in the right place at the right time on defense. He goes vertical when he contests which dramatically limits his fouls. As a 19-year-old, Mobley averaged nearly 3 BPG and was the anchor of the best
two-point defense in the country. Mobley is also comfortable blocking shots with both hands which effectively extends his range defensively.
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
This might be the biggest strength of consensus #1 Cade Cunningham’s game. His feel for the game coupled with his size (6’8”) have given him great potential as a passer, but he also showed just how well his shot creation and shooting ability can translate after looking dominant as a scorer at Oklahoma State despite a relatively mediocre cast of teammates who weren’t able to alleviate that much of the defensive pressure on him. He’s a menace in transition, and his shooting splits, particularly his 40% three-point shooting and 85% free throw shooting demonstrate his efficiency.
Evan Mobley, USC
In addition to his excellent rim protection, Mobley is just an all-around fantastic defensive prospect. He’s tremendous at switching onto the ballhandler when his guard is caught on a screen up top and can very competently defend guards on the perimeter. He defends at a high level and yet only averages 2.1 fouls per 40 minutes. In addition to his athletic tools, he’s a very smart defender who seems to always know where to be and how to effectively position himself against the pick-and-roll.
HIGH RISK/HIGH REWARD
Jonathan Kuminga, G-League Ignite
Physically, Kuminga is the full package, even at age 18. He’s an incredible athlete, he’s already got the strength and length to compete against NBA players, and he even shows flashes of offensive brilliance. But the weaknesses remain glaring. Unlike Jalen Green, he looked very far away from being ready last season in the G-League and is still extremely raw. He has tremendous defensive upside but just hasn’t put it together to even be a competent defender so far. He’s still kind of careless with the ball. His jump shot is very much a project, and he shot 25% from 3 in the G-League with a 62% free throw mark that does not project a future good outside shooter. And his shot selection was just poor last season, so the hope is that he learns to play within his role as he continues to polish his game. It’s an overused expression but Kuminga truly has All-NBA or out-of-the-league-in-5-years upside.
Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
While Cade might be the safest pick in this draft, Suggs is just such an incredibly well-rounded prospect for a 20-year-old. He shows polish far beyond his years. He’s got great lateral quickness and defensive instincts. His shooting stroke looks good and proves to be effective, particularly on the dribble pullup. He takes it to the rim strong, has great body control, and is unstoppable in transition. Already, we saw him lead a talented team at Gonzaga to great heights and was a critical part of making that offense into a historically great one.
FIRST ROUND SLEEPER
Ziaire Williams Stanford
Williams has been seen falling as far as the Clippers at 25 on mock drafts. He’s a risky pick as he lacks assertiveness and really struggled at Stanford in his freshman season. But he’s an extremely talented prospect with great length, shooting ability and athleticism. He was a tremendous shooter in high school and showed flashes at Stanford but really struggled with consistency. Could the COVID-19 situation be the reason he severely underachieved and became a great value for the 2021 draft? Time will tell.