A lifetime of Wizards fandom has taught me that whenever you’re down about the team, you always have one shining light in the distance to look to for hope: the NBA draft lottery. If you just want something positive to look forward to, well, you’re in luck. The 2021 NBA Draft is going to be really good at the top.
There’s been a lot of recent talk about whether or not the Wizards should start the rebuild process by “blowing it up.” Osman Baig recently wrote an article in favor of that. On this week’s Bleav in Wizards podcast, Larry Hughes and I advocated for holding off on making that decision (for now) based on the extenuating circumstances with COVID limiting the team’s ability to gel and integrate new pieces. Although, we both aren’t opposed to the idea if things continue to look dire come the trade deadline.
As of right now, that decision doesn’t really impact the Wizards’ draft position. The Wizards would currently have the first pick in the draft if the season ended today. The Wizards have had some luck at #1 in the past, selecting John Wall in 2010. They also took Kwame Brown #1 on 2001 but I try not to think about that.
Trading Beal away may guarantee they end up with a high pick but if things continue the way they’ve been going they might be destined for a top 5 pick regardless. I’m not arguing in favor of one path or the other here.
This is simply intended to give everyone an idea of who might be available if the Wizards find themselves in the lottery for whatever reason. These are also my personal rankings based on what I have seen so far, although they are reasonably consistent with the major draft evaluators. Specifically, the top 5 picks seem to be common across most draft boards at this point in the evaluation process.
I’ve provided a capsule on each player, and Kevin Broom added on a look at where his stat-based draft tool Ye Olde Draft Analyzer (YODA for short) has each player slotted so far this season:
14. Drew Timme, 6-11ish, Gonzaga
Drew Timme is probably the only guy on my list that isn’t going to show up on most mock drafts. He’s not an explosive athlete and that will lead some to question his fit in the NBA. But for me, Timme is just too skilled to not include here, at least based on the way he’s looked so far this season compared to the competition.
Timme is so skilled around the basket, with such good touch, that I think he’ll eventually end up being able to make shots from the NBA three-point line. He is also shooting 73% from the free throw line which is a pretty good indicator as well. Timme does certain things well that I really like: he runs the floor really hard (think Thomas Bryant), he’s a really good ball-handler for his size (grab-and-go potential), he seals well, and he finds his way to the right spots on the floor whether on offense or defense.
YODA says: late lottery
13. Corey Kispert, 6-7ish, Gonzaga
I’m going to make the lazy white guy to white guy comparison but Kispert seems like a more athletic Joe Harris. He’s a good all-around scorer, the best perimeter shooter in this draft (over 49% from three on 6.4 attempts), is a respectable defender, and arguably the best player on by far the best team in college basketball. Even though he’s a senior, I think some team will talk themselves into taking him around the lottery given the ongoing need for shooters.
YODA says: late lottery, ahead of Timme
12. Jaden Springer, 6-4ish, Tennessee
Jaden Springer is one of those guys that even college basketball fans might not know a lot about yet. He isn’t even the starting point guard on his college team right now and is only averaging 10 points and 2.4 assists. However, Tennessee is a deep and veteran-driven team.
Similar to the way Florida State players haven’t put up big numbers in past years, that’s preventing Springer and fellow freshman Keon Johnson from looking as good on paper. But Spring has good size, good vision, makes 56% of his threes (on limited attempts) with a good looking jumpshot, and is a pest defensively.
YODA says: late first — in the 20s
11. Moses Moody, 6-6ish, Arkansas
Teams love 3-and-D wings and Moses Moody can do both things at a high level. As a freshman, Moody is averaging 17.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal. He’s making 36% of his threes on 5 attempts and makings 82% of his free throws. He’s an advanced defender for his age and has the physical tools to guard most NBA wings.
YODA says: mid-first, just outside the lottery
10. Greg Brown, 6-9ish, Texas
Greg Brown could probably play some 3 and some 5 in the NBA but I see mostly as a hyper-athletic 4. He’s still pretty raw but he reminds me of a more athletic Jerami Grant. Brown’s a little out of control at times but the flashes of perimeter ability are really encouraging. He doesn’t have a clearly defined archetype he fits into and that lack of clarity might scare some teams but encourage others.
His ceiling is as high as some of the top guys but the floor is also lower. If there are in-person workouts before this draft, some team will fall in love with his athleticism and I could see him being the guy to sneak up draft boards late in the process.
Also, keep an eye on his teammate, sophomore Kai Jones. Jones is another inconsistent, raw big who flashes tremendous upside. I'm actually more of a fan of Jones than Brown personally but I would expect to see Brown go higher on draft night.
YODA says: don’t draft
9. Scottie Barnes, 6-8ish, Florida State
Scottie Barnes is a hard guy to come up with a comparison for. He’s got a grown man’s body like last year’s freshman standout Patrick Williams. He isn’t much of a shooter but he can push the ball and really facilitate for his size. If he can fix the jumper then his stock increases dramatically because he brings defense and playmaking.
He reminds me of Deni Avdija in the sense that he’s a big facilitator who could spend a little time at multiple positions. Avdija’s jumpshot has been good in his short NBA career but he had similar questions going into the draft.
Barnes is already a better defender, however. Every year you hear at least one prospect who could be “the next Draymond Green” and I think Barnes is the closest I’ve seen to that so far. Letting him facilitate and defend as a small-ball center would be pretty interesting to see.
YODA says: late teens
8. Jalen Johnson, 6-9ish, Duke
I have no idea what Jalen Johnson is but he can be really fun to watch. Like Barnes, he’s a big forward who can create for others and defend multiple positions. He’s pretty athletic, doesn’t mind playing physical basketball, could likely defend most positions on the court, is a good rebounder, and is a really creative passer (especially in transition).
Based on that, I’ve seen some Ben Simmons comparisons. Similar to Simmons, he struggles to shoot the ball outside the paint. Johnson has made 33% of his threes this year but on 1.7 attempts per game. His 59% from the free throw line is even more alarming. But the shot doesn’t look totally broken and if he ever figures that out he could be a steal even around the 8th pick.
YODA says: late teens, behind Barnes
7. Ziaire Williams, 6-8ish, Stanford
With the success of players like Kevin Durant, Brandon Ingram, and even Jonathan Isaac, everyone wants a tall, lithe wing with guard skills. If you had asked me at the start of the college season, I would not have understood why Williams was drawing lottery buzz. But he’s started to put it together more and show the flashes that made him such a prized recruit.
He’s pretty mobile, projects as a good NBA defender if he gets stronger, gets to his spots offensively, and looks like he will be able to make shots at a high-level long term. He’s only making 32% of his threes right now, and slightly more of his twos, but I think some of that has to do with the personnel around him and his shot selection. He’s making 84% of his free throws which is very encouraging.
YODA says: don’t draft
6. James Bouknight, 6-5ish, Connecticut
I love this dude. Give me all of the Bouknight stock. He’s the clear focal point of defensive scouting reports and teams still can’t stop him (although he has missed the last several games after having elbow surgery). I see the ways he scores translating to the pro game really well. He’s just so advanced as a scorer that I feel more confident in projecting a role for him than some of the freshmen we just talked about.
His three-point percentage has dipped to 32% this season but he’s had to take some tougher shots. The shot looks good to me and his 81% from the free throw line is also a good indicator. He doesn’t really do much else besides score right now but he’s so good at it that I think he’ll have a long, productive NBA career.
YODA says: second round, maybe late first
5. Jalen Green, 6-5ish, G League Ignite Team
Jalen Green is the prospect on this list that I’ve probably seen the least of. Here’s what I know: he’s a freak athlete. Even by NBA standards, he’s a special athlete. His shot looks a little off to me and he’s very skinny. Based on that I can’t justify putting him ahead of the next four guys on this list. But every major draft analyst seems so adamant that he belongs in this tier that I also can’t justify moving him out of the top 5.
Once we see the G League Ignite team play some games I will be able to have a more fully formed opinion. According to reports from their team scrimmages, Green has looked the part of a top prospect.
YODA could not evaluate because he hasn’t played any G-League games.
4. Evan Mobley, 7-0ish, Southern California
I’ve seen some buzz that Evan Mobley could end up challenging for the number 1 pick. Personally, I don’t think he’s as good as the next three guys on the list but he’s certainly the best big man prospect in this draft and someone will talk themselves into him in the top 3 or 4. He looks like he will be a solid perimeter shooter long-term and he has great length to block shots.
Mobley looks a little awkward to me when he runs but he seems to cover the floor pretty well and has solid lateral quickness for his size. I’ve seen Jaren Jackson Jr. as a comparison for him and I think that’s fair. I would project him to have Myles Turner-level impact in the NBA and maybe slightly higher if he continues to improve his perimeter shooting.
YODA says: mid-lottery — think picks 7-10
3. Jalen Suggs, 6-4ish, Gonzaga
What if Tyrese Haliburton was a really explosive athlete? That’s kind of how I view Suggs. He’s not a “pure” point guard in the traditional sense but he still creates for others and would be really dangerous as a secondary creator. That ability to impact the game whether he’s on or off the ball makes him a nice complementary addition to just about any team in the NBA.
Some of the footwork and timing on things like euro-steps reminds me of Dwyane Wade. Not saying he will be the next Wade, or even plays like him, but I have seen him execute some impressive, Wade-like maneuvers. He passes, he scores, and he defends. It feels like a slam dunk (pun intended) that he goes in the top four.
YODA says: top pick in most drafts
2. Cade Cunningham, 6-7ish, Oklahoma State
Cade Cunningham is number one on pretty much every board right now for a reason. He’s putting up really good numbers as a freshman and made a bad Oklahoma State team relevant. His game seems more suited for the NBA’s style of play and it seems like a no-brainer that he’s at least a good player in the league.
Some of the other freshmen we talked about earlier had point forward potential but Cunningham is a legitimate point guard who just so happens to be 6-7 and solidly built. He’s not an insane athlete like some of the other people in this portion of the lottery but it doesn’t matter.
He’s creative, he’s strong enough to bully smaller guards, he plays with great pace for his age, has great vision, rebounds, and defends. What’s not to love? There were some questions about his shot coming into the year but he’s made 39% of his threes and 82% of his free throws. I’m not sure he’ll be a prolific shooter in the NBA but he should be good enough to allow him to maximize his potential. He’s not #1 on my board but he’s the safe bet to go first on draft day.
YODA says: late teens — outside the lottery
1. Jonathan Kuminga, 6-8ish, G League Ignite Team
Picture OG Anunoby’s defense with Marcus Morris’ offense (the Knicks version). That’s what his game reminds me of right now and I think he has plenty of ceiling left to tap into. He should be a high school senior at the moment but reclassified to join this year’s group. As one of the youngest players in this year’s draft, his upside is even higher than some of his peers. He’s going to improve with NBA-caliber competition and coaching in the G League and early reports indicate he’s looked great in their team scrimmages.
Every year someone gets compared to Kawhi Leonard and Kuminga appears to be that guy this year. Personally, I think he’ll be more of a Paul George-esque player when it’s all said and done. It’s become trendy to hate on George but every team would love to have a 6-8 wing with long arms who can make shots from everywhere on the court and play lockdown defense when needed.
There are some concerns about his jumpshot because he has a slightly unorthodox release but he hit a lot of tough threes at a high percentage during the summer circuit last year. If he can impress against G League players, hit shots at a good rate, and stay locked in defensively the whole time, he might actually overtake Cunningham and Suggs for the top pick.
YODA could not evaluate because he hasn’t played any G-League games.
Some caveats on the YODA scores — they use athletic data from the NBA draft combine, which hasn’t occurred yet. And, the scores are subject to change because the season is still being played.