The list of players attending the 2021 NBA Draft combine was released on Wednesday, and and tons of players are looking to improve their draft stock ahead of July. While the surefire top overall pick Cade Cunningham has elected to sit out, plenty of other big-time names will take part in drills and scrimmage. Here are some of the most notable names participating.
USC’s Mobley is comfortably the second-best prospect on most people’s draft boards right now, and it’s unlikely that he’ll catch Cunningham with a strong showing at the combine. That being said, the big man has a lot to offer. Imagine a player with Rudy Gobert’s rim protection skills that can also pull up from three. Mobley could be that video game-like prospect. He can roll or pop after setting screens and is an excellent finisher around the rim. Regardless of what happens at the combine, Mobley will be the best center in the draft class. He’s as close to a lock for the second pick as you can get.
Florida State has produced a slew of NBA-ready players in recent years, and Barnes could be the latest. Barnes is similar to last year’s fourth pick, Patrick Williams, in a few ways. Both former Seminoles boast physically imposing frames and can defend perimeter and interior players. His nonstop motor helps him make up for his inconsistent shooting, and developing his playmaking skills will only make him more lethal. There’s no consensus on where Barnes will be drafted, but testing off the charts at the combine could help him come off the board between fifth and 10th.
Johnson will likely be a lottery pick. The former Duke forward shocked the masses by opting out for the season just 13 games into his collegiate career. He’s the kind of hybrid that NBA front offices rave about. He’s a versatile and fluid defender at 6’9” and can playmaker and rebound at a high level. His shot has a ways to go, but his foundation is sturdy. Johnson's limited exposure in college and habit of quitting could leave some questioning his potential. Johnson will likely end up between 8th and 10th if his current position remains neutral.
Tennesee’s defensive specialist will get plenty of attention from scouts. Johnson sprints the court like he’s been shot out of a cannon and excels on and off the ball on defense. There are plenty of gaps in his game, though. He’s not the best decision-maker and had four fewer assists than turnovers last season. Johnson also needs to work on his long-range shot. Getting better in both of those areas could help him take a major step toward being a quality two-way player. His athleticism and defense are what make him extremely tantalizing now. He’ll likely drop to between 10th and 12th.
Baylor’s Mitchell might be the best on-ball defender in the draft and helped anchor one of the nation’s top team defenses this past season. He had a breakout junior year with the Bears and made major strides as a shooter and playmaker. His three-point percentage jumped from 32.4% to 44.7%, and he averaged a career-high 5.5 assists per game. Mitchell’s free throw shooting still needs a lot of work, but he can still impact offense and defense at a high enough level to warrant being a top-10 pick.
Wagner is one of the top forwards in this draft class. The Michigan swingman can defend on and off the ball and can act as a point forward at times because of his talent for playmaking. Wagner can stretch the floor with perimeter shooting and needs to work on his finishing, but he’s one of the most complete players available. His limited athleticism makes his ceiling lower than other lottery picks, but he could still go between 10th and 12th because of his all-around game.
Giddey might be the most exciting international prospect looking to enter the NBA and fits the league’s mold perfectly. The 6’8” point guard has showcased savvy playmaking in the NBL and led all players with 7.4 assists per game at the ripe age of 18. Lamelo Ball managed 6.8 dimes per game in the NBL before entering the NBA. He might be the best passer and most creative player in the draft, and his natural instincts helped him rank sixth in the NBL in rebounds per game with 7.3 despite limited strength and athleticism. Giddey’s shooting leaves a lot to be desired, but going to a team with quality scorers could make this weakness less glaring. He could be drafted anywhere between 10th and 15th. He’s probably the best prospect casual basketball fans have never heard of.
Kispert was Gonzaga’s top scorer for most of last season and eventually dropped behind his teammate, Drew Timme. He averaged 18.6 points per game in his final season with the Bulldogs while shooting 52.9% from the field and 44% from deep on 6.5 attempts per game. He can facilitate when needed and plays solid team defense. It’s unclear whether he’s a big guard or a forward at this point, and his lack of athleticism could be troublesome on defense. Kispert could creep into the back half of the lottery and be picked 14th or 15th, but other prospects will have a chance to bump him back a few spots at the combine.
Garza is fresh off a Naismith Player of the Year award but isn’t looking like a lottery pick ahead of draft day. The center from Iowa could join a long line of elite college players that aren’t built for success at the next level. Only two of the last 10 Naismith winners — Zion Williamson and Anthony Davis — have made at least one NBA All-Star game. He’s a prolific scorer that almost certainly won’t be a top-five option on whatever team drafts and his ability to protect the rim is questionable. Can he show that he’s more than a second-rounder by getting the best of top prospects at the combine? That remains to be seen.
Dosunmu probably could’ve snuck into the back end of the lottery in 2020 but decided to return to college for one more year at Illinois. The combo guard is a plus defender that can guard multiple positions, but his risky passing and inconsistent shot-making could force him to be labeled as a tweener in the NBA. His decision-making and shooting have to improve if he wants to move up from being projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick. There are quite a few guards who are more complete.