It’s officially that time of year! It’s been about three weeks now since we watched the NCAA play it’s version of a Covid adapted March Madness tournament. Or as I like to call it “March Madness Two: Corona Boogaloo”. And what a treat it was to see so many high level potential lottery picks get a chance to raise their stock on the national stage. It really gave us a great chance to see some prospects who weren’t even being mentioned in first round conversations that have now somehow found themselves cemented in the middle of round one. One list that did remain relatively unchanged through the course of the tourney was the state of the consensus top five players available come this July.
NBA DRAFT 2021: Cade Cunningham CG 6’8” 220 Lbs Oklahoma State
Coming out of Montverde Academy, the same basketball powerhouse that produced Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Cade Cunningham was the consensus number one prep basketball player in the class of 2020. Cunningham committed to Oklahoma State and proceeded to go on a one man tour this season. He showcased his premium length, playmaking ability, and all around scoring acumen. He led the Running Rebels to a 21-9 record. While also leading the team in points per game, steals per game, and assists overall. The only thing that left viewers with a bad taste in their mouth this past season was the slightly alarming number of turnovers Cunningham committed this season. Granted, he might not have had the greatest supporting cast. Whoever decides to take him, (COUGH…Minnesota…OKC…COUGH), should be getting a player with multiple all star appearances in his future.
NBA DRAFT 2021: Jalen Suggs CG 6’4” 205 Lbs Gonzaga
Jalen Suggs wrote his name into the annals of tournament history this past March. That was when he hit an absolutely improbable half court shot to preserve Gonzaga’s undefeated season and secure their place in the title game against Baylor. What we saw from Suggs in this year’s tournament just further cemented into our heads what we saw from him every game this season: The kid knows how to play winning basketball. Coming in as a freshman, Suggs immediately made his presence felt in a veteran locker room. He plays with poise and a mesmerizing control over the tempo of the game.
High basketball IQ with confidence to spare, Suggs can score for himself as well as get others going. Suggs might just be the most NBA ready prospect this year. He will immediately come in and find a pretty big role for himself on whatever team he gets drafted to. The one lingering question that remains while watching him play is his three point shooting effectiveness and efficiency.
NBA DRAFT 2021: Evan Mobley C 7’0” 215 Lbs USC
Evan Mobley is a hot commodity this upcoming draft due to his intriguing blend of size, length, and offensive refinement. Though he may not be the stud athlete that James Wiseman was last year, Mobley makes up for it with his advanced offensive ability. In addition to his smooth offensive game, Mobley finished inside the top ten for blocks per game this past season. He averaged an eye opening three blocks per game. Mobley isn’t just a shot blocking scorer mind you. He displayed his unselfishness time and time again when operating as a facilitator from both elbows. Similar to Nikola Jokic or Bam Adebayo.
The knocks on Mobley are pretty clear to the naked eye. He’s got a pretty wiry frame. And after seeing how James Wiseman struggled this season against bruising bigs down low, that does raise some alarm bells. He also has an almost nonexistent low post game. That is sure to rile up the basketball boomers of the world. Ultimately, Mobley projects as an offensive engine for a team, while also providing reliable interior shot blocking.
NBA DRAFT 2021: Jalen Green SG 6’5” 170 Lbs G-League Ignite
Jalen Green made headlines this year when he and three other highly touted high schoolers opted to play for the NBA’s experimental new G-League team, the Ignite. The team was created with the purpose of having a domestic pro option for high schoolers who wanted to skip college and get paid without having to play as an “amateur” for a season in the NCAA. Green was the most heralded out of the four high schoolers. One of which is Jonathan Kuminga who will round out this list at fifth overall. Green quickly took the reins and proved that he was the alpha number one option on offense. With his electric athleticism, streaky shooting, and crafty finishing Green proved he had a lot more polish to his game than originally thought.
He displayed a willingness to pass that many thought he did not have due to his attacking score first style of play. He projects to be an NBA starting two guard that can extend the floor with his three point shooting. A huge plus to Green’s game is that if his shot is not falling he’ll attack the rim and look to get contact. That invariably leadsto easy points at the free throw line. The only downside to Green is his slender frame. But that shouldn’t be an issue as long as he’s matched up against a back court player. Ultimately, if you’re a GM that needs a bucket better, Green is an easy choice in the top end of the lottery.
NBA DRAFT 2021: Jonathan Kuminga F 6’8” 220 Lbs G-League Ignite
Jonathan Kuminga, one of the other star recruits to play with Green on the G-League Ignite this past year, is a powerfully built freak of nature. Though he’s listed at the same height and weight as Cade Cunningham, the difference in build is noticeable. Kuminga is a wide bodied athlete first, basketball player second. His defense is arguably already NBA ready. And he’s got the potential to be further developed into an All-Defense team regular. Offensively, Kuminga is about as raw as a nice tenderloin from your local butcher. Meaning the quality and potential is there, it’s just up to the chef to cook it right. If Kuminga is placed in a rotation where he’s surrounded by facilitators early on, he’ll have a nice introduction to the league and it’s speed.
Teams will want to start him right away because of his aforementioned defensive prowess. But, many fear that this will stunt his offensive growth and confidence in his shot. The worst case floor for Kuminga projects to be a valuable wing defender that can switch in pick scenarios. While also being able to clean the glass like a window cleaner. Out of the top 5, Kuminga is by far the biggest project. He will need an ample amount of time to gel into the flow of NBA basketball.
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