2021 NBA Draft Big Board
Welcome to my fourth annual NBA Draft Big Board. I do not watch college basketball* and have spent little time intentionally learning anything about these prospects. I believe that this gives me the best possible perspective on the NBA draft, as the history of the draft makes it clear that people who do watch lots of college basketball are not very good at picking the best players.
* I watched the second half of UConn-USC but I'm not sure if it qualified as "basketball."
These rankings are based entirely on the most important factor in evaluating draft prospects: random information that has wormed its way into my brain via The Internet. As with all prior years, it's important to note that this Big Board is a scientific document; any eventual variance from these results was the fault of the drafting teams, not of my expert analysis.
Last year's Big Board isn't looking so good right now which is a pretty big black mark on the NBA teams that are failing the players who I rightly ranked. Still, I must re-evaluate my methodology and actually that seems like too much work so let's just roll with it.
1. Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
I would like to rank Cade lower so that I could buy affiliate ads saying "You Won't Believe Where This Draft Expert Ranks Cade Cunningham" that would drive those sweet, sweet clicks my way but I can't do it. He's 6'8" and can handle, pass, and shoot? I just can't rank him lower no matter what it would do for my Clout.
2. Jalen Green, Gatorade League Ignite Presented by Stock-X
That I'm putting a 6'5" 2-guard this high is an indication that this class isn't a particularly great one, despite what many people have portrayed it to be. Scoring is good and helpful, at least. If he were 6'8" and 220 lbs he might be number-1 but he's not and so I'm a bit queasy at two.
3. James Bouknight, The Eternal Champions University of Connecticut
Ray Allen. Richard Hamilton. Ben Gordon. Caron Butler. Rudy Gay. Jeremy Lamb.
UConn wings don't fail because they've been trained at the finest Basketball University in the world.
4. Scottie Barnes, State University of Florida
Last year I had Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell in my top-3 and having been proven unquestionably correct in that, I will return to highly rating Florida Man here. Everyone is desperate for 6'8" guys who can defend and dribble and shoot. I know I get two out of three here and if it works it will really work. Going by Scottie instead of the generic Scott also shows he has a flair for marketing which, in the end, is what the NBA exists for.
5. Jonathan Kuminga, NBADL Orlando Ignite
Is Kuminga good? Many people say that no, he is not. Is he 6'8" and athletic while possibly being able to do NBA things? Apparently yes. As with Scott(ie) Barnes, any time you can bet on a sub-30% 3PT shooter in The Modern NBA you have to do it.
6. Evan Mobley, USC
Like R.J. Barrett, DeAndre Ayton, and LaMelo Ball before him, I rank Mobley in this spot because if he busts I can yell "see, I never believed in him" but if he succeeds I can scream "ranking a guy sixth doesn't mean I didn't like him!"
My wife went to UCLA so I'm not including anyone from USC higher than this unless they're exactly 6'8" 225 lbs and shoot 38.5% from 3PT while also being a good defender. I also don't want to draft a center who might not be a center. Is this all Brian Scalabrine erasure? You be the judge.
7. Ziaire Williams, Stamford CT Cardinals
Do you want to guess how tall Ziaire Williams is? I appreciate the audacity of having the letter "i" four times in a single name.
8. Brandon Boston Junior, University of Kentucky and Jack_Michael
Coming into this season there were people who believed that "B.J." was a contender for the top pick. He then went to a school that is notorious for making players like him look like shit and played a garbage season during a pandemic for zero official dollars. Frankly, he's the only person involved with college athletics who treated the season with the disdain it deserved.
Also his name is literally BJ Boston. I mean, come on.
9. Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
Seems good but boring. Ranking him highly will generate zero clicks anywhere outside the Pacific time zone.
10. Usman Garuba, Real Madrid (Evil)
The most NBA-ready defender in this class (source: twitter) who also plays the position of most scarcity. He might not be able to do anything other than defend right now but if he learns how to do other things he'll be a real piece and if he doesn't you can trade him to Sam Presti.
11. Trey Murphy, Virginia
12. Jalen Johnson, Duke
13. Greg Brown, Texas
14. Frank "Franz" Wagner, Michigan
Four guys who are all 6'8"-ish and can do at least one of defend the wing, pass, and shoot. All four have elite NBA names and come from schools that are immediately recognizable with one word. If Wagner was really named Frank and didn't have an NBA sibling with a punchable face he'd be eleven but he's not and he does so he slips down the board.
15. Kai Jones, Texas
16. JT Thor, Auburn
I can't tell if these guys are wings or centers. If they're wings they go in the group above. If they're centers they would go lower. Could I determine this with a bare minimum of research? Maybe, but that would corrupt the entire exercise. I know Thor lived in Alaska at one point. Do you think people ask him if he knows Jewel? Probably not at this point. People probably asked Trajan Langdon that.
17. Moses Moody, Arkansas
18. Cam Thomas, LSU
19. Keon Johnson, Tennessee
20. Chris Duarte, Oregon
21. Quentin Grimes, Houston
These players should all work on being a little bit taller. If they were a little bit taller like, for example, 6'8", I would rank them in the lottery but as they are shorter than that I'm putting them here. I pride myself on being able to pick out who the fake player inserted to catch out unsuspecting Fraud Draftniks is in each class and in this one Cam Thomas is definitely not a real person. That doesn't stop him from being a mid-1st pick, though.
22. Davion Mitchell, Baylor
If Mitchell is drafted in the lottery he will be a bust. If he's drafted at the end of the first he'll be a steal. This is not to say that the perception of his play will differ based on draft slot but that his actual performance will. He will suck if drafted highly and excel if not. It is the Conundrum of the Elder Statesman.
23. Josh Giddey, Uncertain
Is Giddey from Australia or does he just play there? If he's from there I'll put him slightly higher because I have an old friend who lives in Geelong and that would make him happy. If not he goes here. I assume he's actually from Australia and so should put him higher but that would require re-numbering and no one is reading this anyway.
24. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
We've reached the point where I think I only recognize two more names in this draft class and the other is David Duke and that's not for basketball reasons. Kispert is an archetype that the other David Duke (let's be honest though, the basketball one is the real "other" David Duke) probably has a great appreciation for. That's not Kispert's fault, though. He can run around and shoot and is 6'6" instead of 6'4" and so has a chance to be useful.
25. Sharife Cooper, Auburn
Ah-ha! Another name I recognize. Small passer guy who can't do anything else. Possibly bribed the measurement guy at the combine. Sounds like a fun if ultimately pointless player.
Should I put some more names here? Probably... most people try to get to at least thirty ranked players...
26. Tre Mann, Florida
Oh wow there's an actual Florida Mann and I already wasted the joke on Scottie Barnes. I have regrets.
27. Herb Jones, Alabama
Someone asked me about him recently. His name is not one that should exist in this century but then he wasn't born in this century. Jae Crowder type potential.
28. Filip Petrusev, Mega Soccerbet
I am now Lifelong Mega Soccerbet Fan Man. Also don't bet on sports, people.
29. Miles McBride, Spider-man Spiderverse
30. Isaiah Todd, Ignition (Remix)
I like the sound of these names. One has two last names and the other has two first names. Isaiah McBride and Todd Miles would not be NBA prospects.