Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:58 AM
NBA Draft Prospect Rankings
- Ja Morant, 6-3, 19 y/o, Murray State: Although his athleticism is off the charts, it's his vision that separates him. It will be interesting to how that translates since he'll be tested night after night against stronger, longer athletes in a way that was impossible in the Ohio Valley Conference.
2.Coby White, 6-5, 19 y/o, North Carolina: His ability to shoot it makes him a fabulous combo option that can kill you with his speed on the break or pull up in transition. If he can improve his decision-making as he matures, he can take the reins of any offense and potentially surpass Morant as the top guard in this draft.
- Darius Garland, 6-3, 19 y/o, Vanderbilt: A meniscus tear limited him to five college games, but he'll still go in the top half of the lottery as one of this draft's top shooters even if he falls out of the No. 4 spot. There's a lot of confidence that the son of former pro Winston Garland won't be hindered long-term by the knee injury or lack of college experience since his skills and IQ appears to be legitimate.
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker, 6-5, 20 y/o, Virginia Tech: The Canadian really came into his own helping fill in for an injured Justin Robinson, so don't let a poor NCAA Tournament cloud your opinion of him. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's cousin should have a long-career as a versatile asset in a backcourt rotation.
- Ky Bowman, 6-1, 21 y/o, Boston College: He didn’t have enough help last season but is my sleeper in this draft as a late first-rounder. He scored 37 or more points three times despite being the focus of every defensive game plan and has better defensive instincts than he put on display at BC considering how much of the offensive load was on his shoulders.
- Carsen Edwards, 6-1, 21 y/o, Purdue: He consistently dominated at the college level and will now look to convince a team that he's worthy of a first-round pick. There are concerns about his size and ability to defend but he could carve out a niche as a scoring guard off the bench.
- Jaylen Hands, 6-3, 20 y/o, UCLA: His ability to emerge as a standout defender will get him opportunities but he has significant work to do on his shooting and decision-making to take advantage of his athleticism and give himself a chance to land consistent minutes. He’s raw enough that he can make significant improvement in terms of consistency, standing out as a steal.
- Justin Robinson, 6-2, 21 y/o, Virginia Tech: The Hokies missed him terribly in spite of Alexander-Walker stepping up while he was on the mend with a foot injury. The Virginia native is smart and can shoot, defend and distribute, so expect to see him drafted in the second round.
- Ty Jerome, 6-5, 21 y/o, Virginia: After helping the ‘Hoos win a national title, the lanky guard has impressed in workouts and may sneak into the first round if a team trusts that the game won’t be too fast for his defense and his offensive skills will help him fit right in and even flourish. He had a 6-to-1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in the NCAAs and shot the ball well from 3-point range.
- Shamorie Ponds, 6-1, 20 y/o, St. John's: Continuing to work on his jumper remains a priority for the Brooklyn native, who has put together some big games over the past few years but needs to become more consistent and efficient. His scoring prowess in Queens may have overshadowed his skill as a passer, which he’s looked to show off in workouts.
- Justin Wright-Foreman, 6-2, 21 y/o, Hofstra: There are concerns over his ability to defend effectively but his ability to make plays made him one of the most productive scorers in the college game over the past few years. That’s an underrated skill, but it remains to be seen whether he can improve other parts of his game in order to stick.
- Tremont Waters, 5-11, 21 y/o, LSU: He'll have to overcome his lack of size to cut it at the pro level but has the quickness to help him get by. He can look to the likes of D.J. Augustin for inspiration that it’s possible, especially since he’s got the hops too. Becoming a consistent 3-point shooter would give him a chance.
- RJ Barrett, 6’7, 19 y/o, Duke: He was my preseason Player of the Year and ended up overshadowed by Zion Williamson, but that doesn’t mean he won’t ultimately become the best player out of this class. He’s endeared himself to Knicks fans by saying that’s where he wants to be since his grandfather was a long-suffering fan, so he hasn’t worked out for anyone else given the likelihood he’ll be there for them at No. 3.
2.Jarrett Culver, 6’7, 20 y/o, Texas Tech: Lubbock’s finest has a chance to become the draft’s top defender and has been able to score efficiently enough to expect that part of his game to continue developing nicely since he’s got a nice shooting stroke. He might wind up being a smaller Paul George and reportedly has the Hawks seeking out a way to move up to select him after dealing Taurean Prince.
- Cam Reddish, 6’8, 19 y/o, Duke: After playing third-fiddle with the Blue Devils, he’s going to have a chance to be his own man and has been out to prove that he can do a lot more than he was asked to put on display offensively in an effort to move up and secure a spot in the Top-10. His success will hinge on his shooting range making it easier on him to drive past defenders and showcase his versatility in a more efficient manner than he did at Duke.
- Nassir Little, 6’6, 19 y/o, North Carolina: This kid could end up being the poster child for blossoming as a pro after struggling to fit in in college. There was a unique dynamic among the Tar Heels last year, a hierarchy that led to him averaging less than 10 points per game and shooting under 30 percent from 3-point range. He’s really impressed in individual workouts with his 7-foot-1 wingspan and has a chance to get on the floor by being a defensive asset right out of the gate.
- Kevin Porter, Jr., 6’5, 19 y/o, USC: The talented lefty had a rough year in college, playing through an injury and then getting suspended. He ended up playing 21 games and starting just four but is clearly a pro whose shooting stroke and ability to attack the rim could land him in the lottery. He got a green-room invite, so the presumption is he won’t slip outside the top 20.
- Romeo Langford, 6’6, 19 y/o, Indiana: He’s got a 6-foot-11 wingspan and looks to bounce back from a disappointing injury-filled freshman season that ended prematurely and rubbed some Hoosiers fans the wrong way since he sat out the NIT. A torn ligament in his right thumb kept him from working out for teams, but many expected he’d be a lottery pick after a season in Bloomington. Whoever lands him might wind up with a steal sporting a large chip on his shoulder.
- Cameron Johnson, 6’8, 23 y/o, North Carolina: He was excellent in his senior season at UNC after emerging at Pitt and transferring in. His versatility on the offensive end is going to be a tremendous asset. Sure, he’s going to be older than many of his teammates and may have some adventures against quicker players on defense, but he’ll be able to help add another triple-threat to any attack.
- Luguentz Dort, 6’4, 20 y/o, Arizona State: The Canadian is on the smaller side to be solely a wing but powerfully built and will likely be able to get to the hole. He’s got to round out his game by improving his jumper, but he’s effective enough at both ends of the floor that he should have a chance to become a solid pro. He’s looking like a late first or early second-round pick.
- Tyler Herro, 6’6, 19 y/o, Kentucky: We’ll see if having such a small wingspan for his size (6-foot-3) hurts him at the pro level, but he’s among the best shooters available and has earned the reputation of being one of those guys you can’t touch in ‘H-O-R-S-E.’ Count on him being a mid-to-late first-round pick.
- Talen Horton-Tucker, 6’4, 18 y/o, Iowa State: Blessed with a wingspan of over 7 feet and a unique 240-pound frame that should allow him to guard much bigger players, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a next-level P.J. Tucker since he can really shoot it. He’s among the youngest players in the class, so he’ll be a project who will need to land in the right situation.
- Keldon Johnson, 6’6, 19 y/o, Kentucky The former Oak Hill Academy standout had a strong season under John Calipari but there are doubts over his shooting ability that may cause him to slip. Of the 22 players invited to the green room, he may wind up being among the last to hear his name called if he slips out of the lottery.
- Matisse Thybulle, 6’5, 22 y/o, Washington: He’s one of the most tenacious defenders in Pac-12 history and not a product of Mike Hopkins’ zone. If there’s a stopper on the wing worth taking a leap of faith on, he’s the guy, but there’s no question he’s got a lot of work to do to avoid being a liability on the offensive end.
- Zion Williamson, 6’7, 18 y/o, Duke: We’ll see how he fares now that he won’t be able to overwhelm defenders as easily in the pros, but he’s clearly a special player. He’ll have to figure out his spots on the floor and may not be the Rookie of the Year lock many think he’ll end up, but he should breathe new life into New Orleans, which is set to be transformed into one of the teams casual fans will want to see most. The Zion effect has already begun.
2. Sekou Doumbouya, 6-9, 18 y/o, Guinea: Blessed with an 8-foot-11 reach, he's drawing comparisons to Toronto’s Pascal Siakam due to similar measurables. He’s got a shooting touch to go with his physical tools, not to mention a terrific motor that makes him a willing defender. It remains to be seen whether he loses confidence against elite competition, but the fact he’s so young really makes him the prospect in this draft that we should be talking more about.
- De'Andre Hunter, 6’7, 21 y/o, Virginia: He’s got an opportunity to be a lockdown defender and made vast improvements on the offensive end as a sophomore to help win a national championship. Let’s not saddle him with Kawhi Leonard comparisons simply because their styles are similar. The potential is there for him to have a great career, but Leonard put in a ton of work to get to his current level. Hopefully Hunter lands in the right situation to begin earning major minutes immediately so he can learn on the job.
- Brandon Clarke, 6’8, 22 y/o, Gonzaga: Wherever he ends up, he’ll be a fan favorite. Few bust it the way he’s shown he can after transferring to Spokane after being a no-name recruit who ended up at San Jose State. You should just watch him in a game sometime if you want to get tired watching someone get after it. His timing on the defensive end is elite, so if that translates to the pro level – given his athleticism, it should – he’ll be an asset even if his offensive game lags.
- Rui Hachimura, 6’8, 21 y/o, Gonzaga: Also a tremendous athlete, he’ll become the first Japanese NBA draftee and may go in the lottery since the big rumor is that he’s received a promise from a team that rhymes with “Limberstolves.” He’s chiseled and looks like the perfect modern combo forward, especially since he’s agile enough to defend smaller wings and create mismatches on the other end. He’s got to continue developing his floor game and outside shot, but should excel in transition.
- P.J. Washington, 6’8, 20 y/o, Kentucky: He was often the UK’s best player last season and saved his best for big games. With a 7-foot-2 wingspan and explosive athleticism, he’s right there with Hachimura in fitting the current prototype for a frontcourt spot. He’s got to extend his range but has a shot to hear his name called anywhere from 11-20.
- KZ Okpala, 6’8, 20 y/o, Stanford: He didn’t have enough help with the Cardinal but definitely stood out with his versatility and 7-foot-2 wingspan. He also has to work on all facets of his offensive game to keep that from limiting his playing time, but he knows how to play the game and might emerge as a steal if he can work on his jumper and grows capable of putting the ball on the floor.
- Isaiah Roby, 6’8, 21 y/o, Nebraska: His versatility really stood out with the Huskers down the stretch, especially after he became their primary frontcourt option due to injury. He’s capable of spreading the floor and being a terror on defense, so it’s no surprise that he excelled at the combine and in workouts. I don’t see him sneaking into Round 1, but it could happen.
- Grant Williams, 6’7, 20 y/o, Tennessee: He’s a bull around the basket and displayed an ability to get where he wanted to late in games. His ability to do that in the NBA will dictate whether he’ll be as successful as he was with the Vols, where he was SEC Player of the Year. Can he become a Paul Millsap-type or fall well below that projection?
- Eric Paschall, 6’9, 22 y/o, Villanova: He’s won a national title and has the perfect temperament and skill set to be a pick-and-pop power forward who should be able to rebound and defend well.
- Chuma Okeke, 6’8, 20 y/o, Auburn: Despite his ACL tear keeping him out until at least December, there’s enough potential here that it’s hard to see him slipping too deep into the 40s. He’s got a versatile game and was improving his shooting range, which combined with an ability to put the ball on the floor, should make him difficult to defend.
- Admiral Schofield, 6’5, 22 y/o, Tennessee: He’s certainly on the smaller side to hang with power pro forwards, but is strong and should be able to produce matchup problems if his improvement as a shooter continues. Darius Bazley, who trained on his own last season, also deserves mention on this list.
- Jaxson Hayes, 6’11, 19 y/o, Texas: He’s mobile and agile, so his natural progression will make him a starting center at some point. How quickly he gets there remains to be seen and is kind of important since he must put on a lot of muscle to avoid being pushed around at the pro level. He may not have an immediate impact but should be a solid rim protector and could emerge as one of this draft’s top players down the road if he reaches his potential. You may remember his dad, former Chiefs tight end Jonathan Hayes, a favorite of mine to watch growing up.
2. Bol Bol, 7’2, 19 y/o, Oregon: Missing most of his freshman season after breaking his foot has likely knocked him out of becoming the Top 10 pick he appeared a lock to become, but a lot of teams may be missing out on an amazing talent given his shooting touch and game-changing size. Concerns over his ability to consistently stay on the floor given his frame have forced him to slip, so whoever assumes the risk could be rewarded handsomely if Manute Bol’s son can stay healthy.
- Goga Bitadze, 6’11, 19 y/o, Georgia: He’s a legitimate pick-and-pop threat, showing off an easy shooting stroke well out to 3-point range. He only worked for a handful of teams, so there’s a presumption that he’s received a promise, especially since he got a green room invite. A bulky big kid who will benefit greatly from increased weight training, Bitadze is the reigning EuroLeague Rising Star recipient, an honor bestowed on Luka Doncic the previous two years.
- Mfiondu Kabengele, 6’10, 21 y/o, Florida St.: Dikembe Mutombo’s nephew emerged as a force off the Seminoles’ bench this season, putting the strides he’s made in his game on display. A growth spurt turned the Canadian into a terrific prospect, but it’s his improvement that is really enticing since he was a such a force down the stretch, consistently excelling in ACC play and the NCAAs.
- Nic Claxton, 6’11, 20 y/o, Georgia: He plays with great energy and will make his impact on the defensive end early, but there’s potential for him to be more than just a rim protector and rebounder down the road, which is why he could sneak into the lottery.
- Daniel Gafford, 6’11, 20 y/o, Arkansas: Although his Hogs beat Claxton’s Dawgs in the lone meeting this past season, he’s even more raw than Georgia’s Claxton and is likely to be a second-round pick. He runs the floor extremely well and has a chance to be a solid shot blocker for the next decade.
- Luka Samanic, 6’11, 19 y/o, Croatia: A lanky forward who relies on his jumper more than his low-post game, he’s considered too raw to make an immediate impact in the NBA but could come over immediately if so desired despite being under contract to Olimpija in the Slovenian League.
- Bruno Fernando, 6’10, 20 y/o, Maryland: He needs to avoid foul trouble and refine his game some, but the Angolan is aggressive around the basket and became a more proficient rebounder after testing the waters and returning to school. Expect to hear his name called in the second round.
- Naz Reid, 6’10, 19 y/o, LSU: There are concerns about his motor, but he’s undeniably talented and could be a steal if the light bulb turns on. He’s got a nice shooting touch and can be a legitimate stretch-five. Considering he’s unlikely to land in the first round and will have to fight to make a team by excelling in Summer League and earning a deal, he’ll have to bring the right mindset to the league immediately.
- Tacko Fall, 7’7, 23 y/o, UCF: A lot of teams brought him in for a close look, so my expectation is that he’ll land himself a job in the league as a second-round pick despite concerns that he won’t be able to move well enough to excel at the pro level. If nothing else, his size will make him an asset as a situational player who can help defend inbound passes and give a team a different look for stretches. He deserves a lot of credit for transforming his unique frame in Orlando over the past few years and will now be able to take advantage of his blessings, an 8-foot-2 wingspan and 10-foot-2 standing reach.
- Dewan Hernandez, 6’10, 22 y/o, Miami (FL): The athletic forward didn’t get to play for the ‘Canes this past season due to the NCAA but still has a shot at being drafted in the second round. The former McDonald’s All-American lacked the ability to work away from the basket early in his career in Coral Gables but has had ample time to work on his game.
- Jontay Porter, 6’10, 19 y/o, Missouri: Michael Porter, Jr.’s younger brother tore his ACL and MCL this past season, but his potential to develop into a weapon in the pick-and-roll should get him drafted.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]
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