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NBA Draft 2021: A Big Board of the Top 25 prospects for the Wizards to monitor

25 prospects I like in this year’s NBA Draft and what I like about them.

Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals
James Bouknight dunking against DePaul
Photo by Porter Binks

This is not a mock draft. This is not the order I think they will or should go. This is simply the guys I like and would want to select — at an appropriate point in the draft, if I were an NBA general manager. Since I don’t enjoy being critical of the players I’m focusing my effort, and wordcount, on the guys I believe in.

If I omitted someone who the general consensus is high on it doesn’t mean I think they’ll be an outright bust or anything that extreme. Most likely, they have some question mark(s) that worry me enough to make me pass. Or the things they’re good at are things I don’t personally value as much in a prospect. (Sorry, Alperen Sengun fans!)

Being 20th here doesn’t mean I think they should go 20th in the draft, just that they are somewhere on my “should draft” list under the right circumstances (right place in the draft, fills a need, etc.). Typically, only 20 or so players end up being worth drafting in most years. This is my personal list of those players.

That way I’m on the record about “my guys” in the prospect class. It’ll be something to reference in future drafts for the next time I inevitably make a terrible call like declaring Malik Monk as a sure-fire top five player back in 2017.

So without further ado, here is the Big Board of 25 prospects for the Wizards to monitor in the 2021 NBA Draft.

25) Jason Preston, 6-4, Ohio, junior: 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 39% 3P%, 59.6% FT%

Shooting is a real concern but he’s a big playmaker and the NBA loves those. Plus, he’s maybe the best personal story in the draft and not the kind of guy I would count out at this point.

Jason Preston taking on Ayo Dosunmu
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

24) Brandon Boston Jr., 6-7, Kentucky, freshman: 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 30% 3P%, 78.5% FT%

This season was mostly a disaster but he has tools that led to all the hype in the first place. If you can take a flier on a guy like this in the second round, you do it. If he pans out, you might have a steal on your hands. If not, people have used second round picks on less worthwhile prospects in the past (cough Issuf Sanon cough).

23) Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, 6-3, VCU, sophomore: 19.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 37% 3P%, 86.2% FT%

He projects as a combo guard who can shoot, distribute, and defend. He’s got long arms and a quick first step. He shot just 37% from three this season but on super high volume as the focal point of most defensive scouting reports. He also made 43.4% the previous season and the jump shot looks really good to me.

22) Isaiah Todd, 6-10, G League Ignite, rookie: 12.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 36% 3P%, 82.4% FT%

He’s long, tall, and skilled. His coaches raved about his work ethic and desire to learn this year. Worth a shot late in the first round or early in the second.

21) Isaiah Jackson, 6-10, Kentucky, freshman: 8.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 70% FT%

He’s long and super springy so everyone talks about his potential as a shot-blocking big. I think there’s potential as a Shawn Marion-type who can switch onto the perimeter and capably stay in front of quicker guys. That would require him to shoot some corner threes at a respectable clip, which I’m not sure he can do, but it’s worth the shot late in the first.

State Farm Champions Classic
Isaiah Jackson contesting a shot against Kansas
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

20) Jalen Johnson, 6-9, Duke, freshman: 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 44.4% 3P% (on 1.4 attempts), 63.2% FT%

Worst case scenario I think he’s a much more athletic Kyle Anderson. Best case is a poor man’s Lamar Odom. His “off-court issues” sound mostly like immaturity and not especially toxic so I wouldn’t let that deter me in the 20s.

19) Davion Mitchell, 6-0, Baylor, junior: 14 points, 2.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.9 steals, 44.7% 3P%, 64.1% FT%

The shooting worries me enough that I wouldn’t want to spend a lottery pick on him but he’s a pit-bull on defense. I miss watching NBA guys play defense so I hope he’s successful.

18) Kai Jones, 6-11, Texas, sophomore: 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 38.2% 3P% (1.3 attempts), 68.9% FT%

In highlights, he looks like a future NBA All-Star. Unfortunately, he’s extremely inconsistent. I don’t typically don’t fall for the “tease” players but Jones is fun to watch when he’s comfortable and involved. Going to a team that makes his development and engagement a priority might help him unlock that potential. He’s a latecomer to the sport and improved immensely in a short time. I’d make a bet outside the lottery that he continues to develop.

17) Josh Giddey, 6-8, Adelaide 36ers, rookie: 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 29.3% 3P%, 69.1% FT%

Giddey confuses me to the point that I almost left him off the list. I don’t buy the shooting or the defense. But the passing is special and some of the nuance stuff he does is intriguing. He throws those John Wall-esque one hand crosscourt passes to shooters always hits teammates in their shooting pocket. Teams always love the idea of big playmakers so he’s going to get every opportunity to succeed. Tomas Satoransky might be a reasonable comp for the caliber of player. Giddey is bigger and has better vision but Satoransky is a better athlete with a better shot.

16) Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6-8, Villanova, sophomore: 15.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 28% 3P%, 71.4% FT%

In every draft there should be a Thaddeus Young Award winner for the player who is never going to be an All-Star but plays a decade and somehow ends being one of the more productive players in the draft. Robinson-Earl seems like a good candidate for that this year.

North Texas v Villanova
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl showing off his mid-range game
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

15) Trey Murphy, 6-9, Virginia, junior: 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 43.3% 3P%, 92.7% FT%

Projects as the exact type of role player that NBA teams covet and he seems ready to fill that role out of the gate. He’s bouncy, he’s long, and he really shoots it. What’s not to like? (Assuming you’re never going to rely on him to dribble or do much else).

14) Kessler Edwards, 6-8, Pepperdine, junior: 17.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1 steal, 1.2 blocks, 37.8% 3P%, 87.6% FT%

I have one guy every year that I just sort of gravitate to for whatever reason. Last year it was Paul Reed, this year it’s Edwards. He gets knocked for playing against WCC competition but he largely dominated at that level. If you’re going to play in a weaker a league you have to at least be really productive. And Edwards was. As an insomniac, WCC games were a perfect time for me so I watched a lot of Edwards. He’s never going to be a star but if he turned into a Jae Crowder-level role player I would not be surprised. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t stick in the league.

13) Ziaire Williams, 6-10, Stanford, freshman: 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 29.1% 3P%, 79.6% FT%

A multiyear project who likely won’t contribute until he’s on his second team, which would make me hesitate to draft him too high. However, few guys have the tools he does at his height. I put more faith in his high school career than I do a dysfunctional collegiate season so I’m more inclined to gamble on him than most guys with similarly limited production.

12) Franz Wagner, 6-8, Michigan, sophomore: 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1 block, 34.3% 3P%, 83.5% FT%

I buy the defense, I buy the secondary creation, I buy the feel for the game, and, most importantly for him, I buy the shooting. If you trust “analytics” then Wagner is the guy for you.

UCLA v Michigan
Franz Wagner blocking a shot against UCLA
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

11) Scottie Barnes, 6-8, Florida State, freshman: 10.3 points, 4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 27.5% 3P%, 62.1% FT%

I’m not sure how he averages more than 12 points per game in the NBA unless he really irons out his shot so he’s lower on my list than most. But he’s a special defensive prospect, and he has great vision. That’s enough to get you a spot in the teens on this list.

10) Miles “Deuce” McBride, 6-3, West Virginia, sophomore: 15.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.9 steals, 41.4% 3P%, 81.3% FT%

To me, McBride is everything people want Davion Mitchell to be. He’s a menace defensively and he can really shoot it. Throw in long arms and plus athleticism and I’m buying all the Deuce stock.

9) Jaden Springer, 6-3, Tennessee, freshman: 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 43.5% 3P% (1.8 attempts), 81% FT%

Some people knock him because he played bully ball and they don’t think he can do that at the NBA level. I see it as a positive that a freshman could come in and push around older guys. I’m a fan of the way he plays and I think he’ll carve out a productive niche for himself.

8) Josh Christopher, 6-5, 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 30.5% 3P%, 80% FT%

Christopher is the Kevin Porter Jr. of this draft where everyone who watches enough of him should be able to see how the way he scores will translate in the NBA but they get scared because he’s inconsistent. The difference is, Christopher’s defensive tape is promising as well. When he actually cared to play defense (which is the bigger concern there), he put his athleticism and footspeed to good use.

7) Moses Moody

He’s the most prototypical 3-and-D prospect but I think he has room to grow and add to his offensive game. If he can actually put the ball on the floor he becomes considerably more enticing.

Mississippi Valley State v Arkansas
Moses Moody displaying his length on defense
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

6) James Bouknight, 6-5, Connecticut, sophomore: 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 29.3% 3P%, 77.8% FT%

Apparently, I just love all of the score-first guards in this draft. I’ve had Bouknight sixth on my board all year and the positive buzz about his workout shooting seems a good excuse to leave him there. This might be my Malik Monk take all over again but I’m willing to risk it.

5) Evan Mobley, 6-11, Southern California, freshman: 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.9 blocks, 30% 3P%, 69.4% FT%

People like Chad Ford have been talking about the idea of Mobley being a super-sized wing in the NBA like Kevin Durant. I don’t see it, personally. More likely, Mobley is a Jaren Jackson Jr. level contributor. That’s clearly valuable but not a guy I’d consider taking with the top pick.

4) Jalen Suggs, 6-4, Gonzaga, freshman: 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.9 steals, 33.7% 3P%, 75.4% FT%

I typically try to avoid cliches like this but Suggs seems like a winner. He’s going to be a pest on defense, he gets teammates involved, he plays a complete game, and I’m confident he’ll continue to incrementally improve his shot.

3) Jalen Green, 6-5, G League Ignite, rookie: 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.53 steals, 36.5% 3P%, 82.9% FT%

As the kids say, he’s a bucket. Lots of buckets, actually. I see Zach LaVine in training when I watch Green, which is a good return with the third pick.

2) Jonathan Kuminga, 6-8, G League Ignite, rookie, 15.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1 steals, 24.6% 3P%, 62.5% FT%

I understand this is the one that will get me the most grief. But he’s one of the youngest in the draft, missed crucial development time last year due to injuries, had a less-than-conventional season, and still managed to hold his own against grown men. The hardest part for someone going from high school to the pro ranks is adjusting to the speed of the game.

Kuminga was overhauling his shooting mechanics and wasn’t comfortable enough with it yet during the G League season. Once he doesn’t have to think about that as much, I believe he’ll be a good enough shooter to unlock everything else he brings to the table. He has all of the physical tools to be an elite wing, which every championship caliber team needs. I would roll the dice here. I get that most people wouldn’t, but this also wouldn’t be any fun if we all thought the same things about every prospect.

G League Ignite v Delaware Blue Coats
Kuminga dunking on a fast break for the G League Ignite
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

1) Cade Cunningham, 6-8, Oklahoma State, freshman: 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals, 40% 3P%, 84.6% FT%

He’s big, he’s a creative playmaker, he has the tools to be a good defender, and he shot it at a high level this year. Need I say more?