The order of the 2021 NBA Draft lottery has been decided and teams are prepping to decide on picks ahead of July. Some players are clear-cut lottery picks but others are looking to move up ahead of the big day. We’ve compiled a list of 25 prospects that could be selected in the first round. Here are some prospects to keep an eye on.
1. Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State
Cunningham is undoubtedly the most coveted prospect in the 2021 draft class and is seen as a franchise-changing cornerstone. The 6’8” point guard is seen as a dynamic scorer and playmaker. Players with Cunningham’s upside don’t come around often, and the former Oklahoma State Cowboy will almost certainly have his name called first.
2. Evan Mobley, F/C, USC
USC’s Mobley is the top big man in the class and has a unique skill set for a seven-footer. He boasts elite rim protection skills and showcased the potential to become an efficient 3-point shooter in college. Anchoring a defense from the interior and stretching the floor on offense isn’t easy, and that’s why he’ll likely be the second player drafted.
3. Jalen Green, G, G League Ignite
Green entered 2020 as the top recruit in the country but shocked the world by electing to skip college and help found a G League team alongside several other blue-chip prospects. The dynamic guard’s decision hasn’t damaged his draft stock, as he used his elite athleticism and difficult shot-making to impress against pros during his one year with the G League Ignite. Green’s ability to create shots off the dribble and finish around the rim could make him one of the NBA’s more exciting lead guards.
4. Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
No player helped his draft stock more than Suggs over the last season. While his Gonzaga Bulldogs lost the national championship his freshman year, he was able to show entice capital scouts with his strength and aggression. When Suggs gets a head of steam it’s hard to stop him from finishing through or over defenders in the paint. He’s guarded the best perimeter player of opposing teams for an entire year at Gonzaga. Suggs’s ability to impact games on both ends makes him one of the most well-rounded guards in his class.
5. Jonathan Kuminga, PF, G League Ignite
Kuminga was one of Green’s teammates on the G league Ignite and also left high school as a top-five recruit. Kuminga is less of a scorer and more of a 3-and-D prospect. His seven-foot wingspan on a 6’8” frame is ideal for defensive versatility, and so his fluid movement and strength. Kuminga’s shooting can be streaky but his physical profile boasts loads of potential.
6. Scottie Barnes, G/F, Florida State
Barnes is a combo forward like Kuminga and put together a solid collegiate campaign at Florida State. Barnes is a versatile defender but has a better feel for the game than Kuminga and can make plays as a point guard. The 19-year-old has a long way to go as a scorer, though. His lack of shooting touch could reduce the number of teams he fits with, but joining a team with plenty of shooters could help him maximize his upside.
7. Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
Mitchell helped anchor Baylor’s defense en route to a national championship last season. His suffocating on-ball defense helped him earn Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, but he also shot a career-high 45% from deep in his final year with the Bears. Mitchell might not have as much potential to grow as most lottery picks, but the 22-year-old has the skill set to be a major contributor early in his NBA career.
8. Keon Johnson, G, Tennessee
Tennesee’s Johnson also hangs his hat on excellent defense but is a much more gifted athlete. Johnson puts opposing players in the torture chamber when he sets his sights on them and uses his explosiveness effectively on both ends of the court. Johnson’s offense is limited by his below-average shooting range and decision making and improving as a playmaker will raise his ceiling significantly.
9. Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
Johnson opted out for the rest of Duke’s season after just 13 games but remains a lottery candidate. The 6’9” forward can handle the ball on the open floor and make plays for others but boasts plenty of defensive versatility. However, Johnson’s shooting touch is questionable and he hasn’t shown that he can dominate elite competition. Showing that he can keep up with other top-notch prospects at the NBA combine could help bolster Johnson’s draft stock.
10. Franz Wagner, C, Michigan
Michigan’s Wagner is the younger brother of Moritz Wagner and appears to be the better prospect of the two. The 19-year-old wing is a plus defender despite his below-average quickness and explosiveness because of his talent for being in the right spot and knack for quality team defense. Wagner’s passing chops are above-average for a 6’9” player and his shooting touch is evident around the rim and on free throws. He can be a complementary rotation piece early on and could develop into a quality starter.
11. Josh Giddey, SG, Australia
The NBL’s Giddey is largely considered the best international prospect entering the 2021 NBA Draft. The 6’8” point guard led his league in assists as an 18-year-old last season and could climb up boards after seeing how successful LaMelo Ball was in the NBA after one campaign in Australia. The pick-and-roll specialist rebounds well but needs to work on all aspects of his shooting.
12. Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga
Kispert could become the second Gonzaga player to go in the lottery this year. The 6’7” wing was one of the most efficient shooters in the country last year and converted 52.9% of his shots despite shooting 6.5 threes per game. His scoring shouldn’t be a problem at the next level. Kispert will need to compete more defensively as a tweener who will play as a shooting guard or small forward, and improving his off-the-dribble creation will help him maximize his skill set. If he does go in the lottery, it’ll be outside the top 10.
13. James Bouknight, G, UConn
UConn’s point guard is one of the more talented scorers in this draft. The 6’5” sophomore averaged 18.7 points per game last season and grabbed nearly six rebounds per contest. He has a variety of moves he uses to get to his spots on offense, but his shooting touch comes and goes. Bouknight turns the ball over more than he sets up his teammates, and a ball-dominant player like him will have to get better at not giving the rock away if he wants to play in the NBA.
14. Moses Moody, G, Arkansas
Moody has great size for a shooting guard at 6’6” and boasts a 7’1” wingspan. While he profiles as a 3-and-D player he can also make midrange shots efficiently and excels at creating contact to get to the line. Moody’s shooting percentage was much worse when Arkansas played quality teams. Proving that he can score and defend at a high level against players of his caliber or better will determine whether he goes late in the lottery or not.
15. Tre Mann, PG, Florida
Mann is another big point guard who could go in the front half of the first round. The 6’5” Florida prospect took a big step forward in his second year with the gators and scored 16 points per game while shooting 45.9% from the field and 40% from three. Mann has just bout every shot in his bag of tricks and can make plays out of pick-and-roll sets as well. Mann is a scoring guard who needs to cut down on turnovers. If he can’t hit tough shots at an elite level he’ll likely become a reserve guard who provides an offensive spark off the bench. His shot-making and creation off the dribble isn’t something most players can develop, though.
16. Alpren Sengun, C, Turkey
Sengun should probably be getting more hype in a draft class that’s not very deep at center. While the 18-year-old is undersized at 6’9”, he dominated Turkish basketball last season with 18.6 points and 8.9 rebounds on 67% shooting. The Turkish Basketball Super League is no NBA, but it does produce quality basketball on a yearly basis. Sengun could take a while to develop against much more athletic players, but his ceiling isn’t clear just yet.
17. Usman Garuba, PF, Spain
Garuba is another international big that lottery teams could take a flier on. The 19-year-old power forward stands 6’8” and played a significant role for Real Madrid in the world’s second-best basketball league last season. Garuba doesn’t have much to offer on offense but is capable of defending guards and bigs because of his impressive quickness and strength. It’s unclear how much his scoring will improve, but he has the potential to be elite in at least one area.
18. Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn
Cooper’s season was brief because of an early-season suspension but he was amazing for the 12 games he did grace the hardwood. The undersized floor general averaged 20.1 points and 8.1 assists per game through 12 games with Auburn. He shot under 40% from the field but is one of this draft’s best playmakers and thrives by forcing defenders to send him to the line. Cooper needs to get a lot better defensively and his lack of size, strength, and athleticism could all limit his potential in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive player though, as Trae Young has been able to become a different maker with a similar frame.
19. Kai Jones, PF, Texas
Jones is one of the more fluid bigs in this draft class. He runs the court extremely well at 6’10” and displays above-average switchability on defense. Jones’s activity on the defensive end helps make up for his subpar rebounding numbers, and he could prove to be an efficient shooter. He shot 58% from the field and 38% from three for Texas last season.
20. Ziare Williams, SG, Stanford
Stanford’s Williams wasn’t the most productive college player but has all the tools to be a decent NBA player. He’s agile at 6’8” and can handle the ball well enough to execute quality dribble moves. Williams’ efficiency and strength need to improve. He shot just 37.4% from the field and weighs in at 185 pounds. Wings as big and skilled as Williams are hot commodities and he could become a valuable player with the right development and strength training.
21. Jared Butler, G, Baylor
Butler was Baylor’s top scorer and playmaker en route to a national championship. He averaged 16.7 points and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 42% from deep. He can play on or off the ball but relies on isolation and is hardly assisted on 2-point baskets. Butler doesn’t have elite athleticism and will have to get used to being impactful without the ball more at the next level. His defending could
22. Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
Dosunmu’s draft stock dropped despite the massive improvements he made in his third year at Illinois. The 6’4” point guard won the Bob Cousy award after stuffing the stat sheet with 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. He addressed his questionable shooting by converting 48.8% of his field goals and 39% of his threes. Dosunmu is projected to go somewhere between the late first round and early second round, but his versatility and ability to close games could help him climb higher.
23. Jaden Springer, PG, Tennessee
Springer is a defense-first guard but shot 46.7% from the field and 43.5% from three in his lone year at Tennesee. His shooting stroke and burst leave something to be desired, but his strength and decisiveness help him get to his spots. Springer is a willing passer and doesn’t need the ball to apply pressure to defenses because of his excellent cutting. Getting better off the bounce would help him become more of a threat in the NBA as a shooting guard.
24. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky
Only Mobley can compete with Western Kentucky’s Bassey in terms of rim protection. The 6’11” center 3.1 blocks per game last season and has averaged a double-double in two of his three college campaigns. Bassey’s high motor and improving shooting touch could make him a serviceable big for several teams that need to improve on defense.
25. Max Abmas, G, Oral Roberts
Abmas was the nation’s leading scorer last year with 24.2 points per game and was ridiculously efficient from the field. The Oral Roberts star shot 48.4% from the floor overall and 43.3% from deep. His range extends past the parking lot and his creation off the dribble was second to none in college basketball last season. His lack of size and athleticism will prevent him from being a high pick, but his outrageous shooting splits could make him worth taking a chance on late in the first round.