Palestra Back’s Top 75 College Basketball Prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft

I’ve published draft rankings in some form or another every year since 2015. The first few years, I was a more flawed talent evaluator than I am now.


For one, I’ve grown to better understand which skills translate from college basketball to the NBA. As the kind of draft nerd who is coming from the college side, there’s always going to be some cloudiness in terms of which players who did great things in NCAA play can actually build on that success and do so at the next level. It’s far from a perfect science, but this is a key component.

Additionally, I was certainly more afraid of going out on a limb half a decade ago. Sure, my rankings would not be a carbon copy of the consensus opinion of the internet. Yet I definitely had an eye out there, afraid to step outside the box. Even two years ago, I had Keldon Johnson 3rd on my Big Board all year long, only sliding him down to 6th after reading and watching so many other evaluators ding him for his athleticism. Many other scouts had a second round grade on Johnson, who was excellent for the Spurs and now will play for Team USA in the Olympics. Yes, I have been super wrong in the other direction as well, but with Keldon Johnson as my witness, I will provide you with my honest, unique rankings here today.

Lastly, I have decided to keep things within my scope. The first few years that I provided draft rankings, I was including the entire draft pool, fully aware that I was basing my evaluation on a sub-optimal amount of tape. For prospects like Luka Doncic, Dragan Bender, and Kristaps Porzingis (all expected top five picks), I did as much research as I could. For others, expected to be late first or second round picks, I was ill-equipped to give a complete opinion.

So, just as I did last year, I will only be ranking players who participated in college basketball last season. In the 2021 Draft, that’s a very limiting scope. At least two, but as many as five, non-college players will be selected in the lottery. The products of the G-League Ignite program are reported to be very exciting prospects, as is Josh Giddey (aka NBA Chalamet) of Australia. Due to other projects on my plate (follow me on Twitter for my weekly PGA Tour picks…), I don’t have the resources or bandwidth to offer a proper evaluation of those players. I’d rather go way overboard on the guys on whom I am confident in my evaluation.

With all of that out of the way, let’s rank.

1. Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

One of the most important things that I have taken away from this year’s NBA Playoffs is the importance of a perimeter creator. Teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets struggled without a guard (or ball-handler) that was capable of creating a bucket in the closing moments of the game (to be fair, Denver typically has Jamal Murray for that purpose, but he was injured. The Sixers on the other hand, ….(deep sigh). Let’s move on).

The top of the NBA Draft should start to more closely resemble the top of the NFL Draft. Teams should be prioritizing any player with creation and scoring ability, in search of their “quarterback”. A basketball team can have more than one of these so-called QBs, but without one in place, a team’s offense is adrift and makes far less sense in crunch time.

Cade Cunningham is a basketball quarterback, and a damn good one. He could functionally play point guard in the NBA, and did so for much of his time at Oklahoma State. He can also likely guard forwards, guards, and potentially small-ball centers. His versatility is a weapon at the next level.

Cunningham’s skills lie somewhere on a spectrum between that of Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons. He can’t score quite like Tatum, yet he’s a far better and more willing passer. He’s not as big or athletic as Simmons, but he can (and does) shoot from all three levels of the defense.

I would be surprised if Cade Cunningham never makes an NBA All-Star team.

Plays Like…(these are rough comparisons that will start complimentary and drop-off towards a player’s floor): Taller Grant Hill, Jayson Tatum with Better Court Vision, Pre-Injury Shaun Livingston

2. Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

In a ranking that included Jalen Green of the G-League Ignite program, Suggs may drop a spot, but among the college players in this draft, he’s firmly the second best prospect available. Suggs is an otherwordly athlete and was the key cog in a Gonzaga team that performed as one of the ten or fifteen best college basketball teams of the last decade.

He’s a gamer, a fighter, and a worker. Put those on top of his physical tools and you have a player with an incredibly high floor.

His ceiling stands to be unlocked by his jump shooting. This season at Gonzaga, Suggs shot just 33.7 percent from beyond the collegiate 3-point line. Exclude his 7-for-10 hot night against Iowa and that percentage drops to an ugly 29.7 percent. He was, however, a 75 percent free throw shooter, indicative of a strong shooting stroke.

If he can shoot somewhere near the NBA average from beyond the arc, mostly off the catch with the occasional shot off the dribble, Suggs can be a starter at the next level. If he can continue to grow as a shooter, he can be an All-Star.

Plays Like: Jrue Holiday, Derrick Rose, Derrick White

3. Evan Mobley, USC

Here is where the quarterback thing pops up again. Mobley is insanely skilled. He was the first player to win Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Player of the Year in a power conference since Anthony Davis. He can be a major force on the defensive end and has the skillset to be a difference maker defensively.

The question marks arise from his mentality as a freshman at USC. Mobley, for most of the season, was passive and shied away from taking over games. That was most apparent during a January win over Utah in which Mobley played 31 minutes and did not attempt a shot from the floor. It was one of five games this season in which Mobley took six or fewer field goals, two of which came in the NCAA Tournament.

Evan Mobley reminds me, at times, of Kevin Garnett. But Kevin Garnett was Kevin Garnett in large part because he would kill an opponent for a rebound. Mobley has not shown anything close to that mindset yet.

For him to reach his potential, Mobley needs to gain at least 25 pounds, filling out his body so he can bang with NBA big men in the paint. If he fails to do so, Mobley will have a tough time on both ends of the floor.

If he can grow into his body and find a mean streak, the sky is the limit.

Plays Like: Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Myles Turner

4. Scottie Barnes, Florida State

This is where excluding non-collegiate players leads to a significant drop off in talent. Barnes is a very intriguing prospect, yet would not be expected to be one of the two best players on a contending team once he crests into his prime.

He’s better billed as a Swiss Army Knife super role player. The bastard child of Draymond Green, Manu Ginobili, and Scottie Pippen. Yeah, that’s a wild player.

Barnes is long, rangy, athletic, and smart. He can pass exceptionally well for his size. He’s not going to make his money as a scorer, and that’s OK!

He reminds me of OG Annunoby of the Toronto Raptors, but I believe Barnes is more skilled and could have a higher upside than Annunoby. That’s worth a pick in the top half of the lottery in this class.

Plays Like: Scottie Pippen, OG Anunoby, Matisse Thybulle with some offense

5. Moses Moody, Arkansas

He just turned 19-years old and averaged 16 points and 6 rebounds in the SEC this season. Moses Moody is a basketball player, full stop.

He hit the “Freshman Wall” a bit late in the year and was a less effective scorer in the postseason than he had been earlier in the season. That’s fine.

I’m hard pressed to think of an NBA team where Moody would not be a welcome and significant contributor next season. That’s high praise for a man born in 2002.

Plays Like: Paul George, Allan Houston, Reggie Bullock

6. James Bouknight, UConn

Connecticut’s James Bouknight in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The group of six players starting above with Barnes and ending with our #9 ranked player is a very difficult tier to order correctly.

When push comes to shove, Bouknight emerges over the three players directly behind him because he can flat out score. He was one of the most dangerous power conference players last season and did so with virtually no help from his teammates. The stat du jour for Bouknight? He took nine uncontested jump shots last season. NINE, out of more than 200 field goal attempts. Defenses were constantly focused on Bouknight and he still put the ball in the basket.

I worry about him landing in a bad situation and settling into a life as a “Good Stats, Bad Team” player. Picture Zach Lavine or Collin Sexton. If he slots into a team that can use his scoring correctly, he can be as good as almost anyone in this class.

Plays Like: Zach Lavine, Jamal Crawford, Jeremy Lamb

7. Davion Mitchell, Baylor

An absolute pitbull.

If he plays enough minutes, there’s no reason he can’t be First Team All-Defense as a rookie. He can be Marcus Smart with a better jump shot and more creation ability off the bounce.

That makes a hell of a player.

There are doubts, though. It’s concerning to see a player make a leap when playing college basketball as a 22-year old. He shot 44 percent from beyond the arc last year, after hitting just 31 percent in his first two years. His free throw shooting stayed below 65 percent, making some scouts wonder if his shooting is sustainable.

If the shooting disappears, he’ll still stick as a starter based purely on his defense.

Plays Like: Gary Payton, Marcus Smart, Patrick Beverly

8. Jaden Springer, Tennessee

9. Keon Johnson, Tennessee

Let’s cover the two Tennessee freshman together.

If you wanted to build a basketball player from the ground up, you might start with Keon Johnson’s body. He’s 6-foot-5 in shoes, with a 6-foot-7 wingspan. He not only broke, but shattered the all-time NBA Combine vertical leap record. He is a specimen.

On the court, however, Springer is a better basketball player. He has a better feel for the game. He’s more skilled. Springer is a better passer and better shooter than Johnson. Despite the delta in their athletic gifts, Springer is just as effective attacking the rim. Johnson looks the part. Springer intuits the game.

I’ve been wrong with this line of thinking before. I didn’t see Jaylen Brown developing his skills the way that he has. Johnson could do the same, and arguably has a stronger physical foundation to build upon than Brown, but I’d feel safer betting on Springer.

If I’m going to be wrong, I’d rather be wrong because I believed what I saw from basketball players on the basketball court, not what was hiding in the combine and the measurables.

Springer Plays Like: Victor Oladipo, Brandon Roy, Shooting Guard Version of Jalen Brunson

Johnson Plays Like: Tracy McGrady, Terrence Ross, Derrick Jones Jr.

10. Chris Duarte, Oregon

Do you remember two paragraphs ago when I said it might be a problem that Davion Mitchell is 22-years old? Funny!

Chris Duarte just turned 24 and yet, I can’t talk myself into moving him down these rankings. This man is OLD. He’s older than Brandon Ingram. Devin Booker is also 24 years old. So are Jamal Murry and Ben Simmons. Duarte is older than Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and Bam Adebayo.

Admittedly, Duarte is a late bloomer who played two excellent seasons at Oregon after a junior college career. He would not be the first older draft pick to succeed, following recent success stories like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.

Last season, Duarte shot 53 percent from the field, 42 percent from outside the arc (on 5.5 attempts per game), and 81 percent from the free throw line. He attacked the rim more off the dribble and made smart passes as part of Dana Altman’s offense. Most importantly, he was one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball last season.

Duarte’s ceiling is a low-end starter on a title contender. His floor, however, is a contributor in your rotation. That’s hard to pass up once the lottery has ended.

Plays Like: Jimmy Butler, Richard Jefferson, Robert Covington

11. Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

The best shooter in this draft and one of the 20 best shooters alive. That’s enough to make it in the NBA, but there are great, great shooters who don’t survive in the pros for other reasons. Kispert’s destiny hinges on his ability to defend his position and attack a close-out. Kyle Korver is Kyle Korver because he’s almost 6-foot-9 and can somewhat reliably guard his man.

Against Baylor in the National Championship, Kispert did not look prepared for life at the next level. Baylor’s athleticism was too much for him, at both ends of the floor. I tend to think that was more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. Gonzaga’s first four games last season came against power conference opponents (three of which would go on to make the NCAA Tournament). Kispert averaged 20 points and 2.5 assists in those contests. He made 9 threes against Virginia.

As a senior, he developed from a very good shooter who takes advantages of open space into the kind of great shooter that creates spacing by taking shots from all distances and angles.

Plays Like: Kyle Korver, Buddy Hield, Jason Kopono

12. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova

I am unable to fathom a world in which Jeremiah Robinson-Earl fails in the NBA. He’s a perfect modern stretch four or small ball five man. He can shoot. He passes well. When Collin Gillespie got hurt, he played point guard for a half just because why not?

He might be a step slower than more mobile bigs, but I’d rather bet on his skills, basketball IQ, and craftiness to win out in the long term.

Plays Like: Carlos Boozer, Bobby Portis, Kelly Olynyk

13. Sharife Cooper, Auburn

I got overly excited about Cooper this season. I’ll be the first to admit that. I compared him to Allen Iverson and was drooling over his effect on a not-so-great Auburn team.

With that being said, he was also the most dangerous player in the SEC as a freshman and made opposing defenses look silly at times. He made the kinds of passes that suggest he is not just a logical passer, but a court-vision-savant.

He has some Trae Young in him, though Young (who is overrated as a shooter) is a better shooter than Cooper. I’m encouraged by Cooper’s high free throw shooting percentage and well aware that he was not taking open jumpers off the catch regularly. If he can’t shoot the ball at all, he’ll still have a role as a waterbug-quick offensive creator. He can turn an outlet pass into a fast break better than any other prospect in this draft.

His defense is an issue, mostly due to his diminutive size. A contending team has no use for a 20-year old, 170 pound backup point guard. Someone else looking to build a playoff roster could develop Cooper into a useful NBA player.

Plays Like: Trae Young, Allen Iverson, Earl Boykins, Tyler Ulis

14. Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

One of the best players in college basketball. I understand his limitations in translating to the next level. Dosumnu is not necessarily elite at any one skill. He’s a good shooter. He can get to the rim. His midrange game is developed. He defends his position. He’s not a high flier or a burner in transition. That’s all fine.

Dosunmu also doesn’t really have any glaring flaws and, most importantly, is a scorer with a killer instinct. I would not bet against him.

Plays Like: DeMar DeRozan, Tim Hardaway Jr., Donte DiVencenzo,

15. Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga

Welcome to the deep end. We have officially left orbit and entered uncharted space.

All year long I believed Ayayi was college basketball’s most underappreciated player and now I believe he is the sleeper of this draft class.

He was surrounded by talent at Gonzaga. Suggs is a stud. Kispert is a generational shooter. Drew Timme is the favorite to win National Player of the Year. Andrew Nembhard will play professional basketball someday. None of that should obscure how effective Ayayi was as a role player, decision maker, defender, and winner. He made the plays that made life easier for Suggs, Kispert, and Timme.

Ayayi averaged 8.8 rebounds per 40 minutes in college, while standing just 6-foot-5. He nabbed 18 rebounds and added 6 assists against Iowa last season. He can shoot, pass, rebound, and defend. He’s an excellent cutter without the ball in his hands, perhaps the best in this draft.

Every playoff team should want a player like Joel Ayayi.

Plays Like: Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Corey Brewer

16. Franz Wagner, Michigan

This is the first player on these rankings that I am much lower on that the collective draft evaluation community. I struggled to see Wagner affect games to a degree that suggested he could do so at the NBA level.

He’s a good, switchable defender. I’m not sure he’ll be an elite or can’t-miss defender in the pros. Wagner can see the floor, though I’m not sure he’s the type of passer who can create offense for others, especially since he is not beating NBA defenders off the dribble.

In two years at Michigan, he only made 32.5 percent of his 3-point attempts. In six career postseason games, Wagner was just 6 of 28 from outside the arc.

In his final collegiate game, in the Elite Eight, Wagner scored 4 points on 1 of 10 shooting, including an airball in the final moments of the game.

I believe Wagner is getting some credit for being a recognizable name (his brother Mo plays for the Chicago Bulls) and is more of a late first round pick than a lottery talent.

Plays Like: Jerami Grant, Moe Harkless, Anthony Randolph

17. Jalen Johnson, Duke

This one is a bag of worms. What’s to say?

Johnson absolutely has the size and skill of a lottery pick. He probably has the highest upside outside of the top three on this ranking. He’s built like an All-Star and has the tools to grow into one.

He also left Duke abruptly midseason, unhappy with his situation and fighting an injury. Duke then started to play MUCH better basketball without him on the floor. Some of that was just shooting luck and some of it was Coach K figuring out his lineup a little bit more clearly. Yet the team also played with more heart and cohesion in Johnson’s absence.

Johnson is also not a shooter and had more turnovers than assists. Eventually, a GM will talk themselves into not being able to pass on his talent. I’d bet it happens earlier than we might expect.

Plays Like: Rudy Gay, A Morris Twin

18. Cam Thomas, LSU

Might be the best scorer in the draft. That’s not hyperbole. Thomas can absolutely fill it up.

The questions lie behind his ability to score. He’s a volume shooter and he doesn’t go about his scoring in an efficient way. He’s not a passer, nor a defender. If he’s not going to be a primary offensive option (unlikely due to his size and the whole “not passing” thing), then he’s destined to be a spark plug scorer off the bench.

But he has to defend in order to stick around in the league.

Plays Like: Lou Williams, Shake Milton

19. Bones Hyland, VCU

Hyland averaged 20 points and 2 steals a game this season as one of the premier mid-major stars in college basketball. He can absolutely hang offensively in the NBA, thanks to 40 percent shooting from outside the arc and a quick first step.

There are questions about his chances defensively. Hyland was a fierce defender in college, shutting down opposing guards. His nickname (“Bones”) is based on his thin frame. At the combine, he measured 6-foot-3 and just 169 pounds. That would make him the 2nd lightest player in the NBA, following only Sixers rookie Isaiah Joe. Mike Conley, Chris Paul, and Ja Morant are all listed under 180 lbs., but also all play the point guard position. Hyland tracks more as a 2-guard.

With an NBA diet and weight program, Hyland should develop his body. Even with a few more pounds, I believe in his tenacity can keep him afloat defensively.

Plays Like: Trey Burke, Willie Green, Hamadou Diallo

20. JT Thor, Auburn

It’s been a meteoric rise for Thor since Auburn’s season ended. Many expected him to test the draft waters but few saw him as a viable draft prospect in the 2021 class. At 6-foot-9, with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and only weighing 200 pounds, Thor has some room to grow physically. As scouts saw him in person and dug into his tape, however, his stock rose.

His game also needs to expand beyond what we saw his freshman year at Auburn. He only scored 9.4 points per game in college, existing in the background for most of the season. Teams envision Thor playing as a rangy, stretch four. Yet on tape, that skillset is mostly theoretical. He has a great shooting stroke, even though he made under 30 percent of his outside shots this season. Thor was an effective foul shooter, on limited attempts thanks to a tendency to drift to the perimeter rather than attack the paint.

JT Thor is a project for the franchise that wants to develop him into a rotation player. He has yet to even turn 19 years old, so there is reason for optimism. There’s a long way for Thor to go. Can a team extract that value during his rookie contract?

Plays Like: Hakim Warrick with a jumper, Dewayne Dedmon

21. Matthew Hurt, Duke

He’s tall and he can shoot. Hurt is not a good shooter for a tall guy. He’s just a straight up great shooter. Throw him in the corner and make him run pick-and-pop. He’ll make shots. These blurbs have to start getting shorter at some point.

Plays Like: Dollar Store Dumpster Larry Bird, Duncan Robinson, Vladimir Radmanovic

22. Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky

The Kentucky freshman posted 2.6 blocks per game and the 8th highest block rate in the nation last season. His offense is a long way from anything useful in the NBA, except for catching lob dunks. As a rim-running center, sometimes that’s enough. Set a good screen, jump high, dunk ball. Then go anchor the defense. Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela. That’s the ticket for Jackson.

Plays Like: Mitchell Robinson, Robert Williams

23. Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga, kinda

The exception that proves the rule. I said this list would only include prospects who played college basketball last season, which Petrusev did not. He did, however, star at Gonzaga in 2019 and 2020 before pursing a professional career at home in Serbia.

His final season at Gonzaga, Petrusev was an All-American and one of the best low post big men in the nation. He was top five in the nation in drawing fouls, punishing opposing bigs with a flurry of post moves. In two years as a Zag, he only attempted 41 shots from outside the arc and his defense was a bit porous. Perhaps most notably, it would appear that his decision to head to the professional ranks was influenced by the presence of Drew Timme behind him on the Gonzaga roster. It’s not a great sign that he turned pro to clear the way for a better (collegiate) player.

Alternatively, maybe that decision was mutually beneficially for all. Petrusev got to live in his homeland during the pandemic and became a star. He was MVP and scoring leader of the Adriatic League. He attempted 62 threes and made better than 41 percent of those attempts.

Playing against grown men, he looked the part. The style of the NBA will be a challenge for him, yet he’s clearly a talented player who can find a role.

Plays Like: A Lopez Twin, Nikola Mirotic

24. Aaron Henry, Michigan State

Very weird case. I have moved Henry eight spots up and eight spots down these rankings and settled him here, kind of by default. His junior season was very up-and-down, as Henry developed as a slasher but struggled to connect as a shooter. With a future as a 3-and-D player on the horizon, that is concerning.

The 2020-21 Michigan State Spartans were a mess and a disappointment. Some of that falls on Henry, though he was also bogged down by a lack of spacing and movement offensively.

Henry has the body and the innate skills to be successful as a role player in the pros. He’ll defend and make open shots.

Plays Like: Diet Harrison Barnes, Gerald Henderson

25. Ziaire Williams, Stanford

Amidst a rocky COVID-affected year that led Stanford away from campus and through a hellish season, Williams was, quite frankly, a bit of a disaster. He averaged more than 4 turnovers per 20 minutes, shooting 29 percent on 3-pointers and just 43 percent on 2-pointers.

Williams, however, is a 19-year old 6-foot-8 guard with tons of skills and clear upside. His ceiling eventually becomes worth a selection, even if his floor is rock bottom basement.

Plays Like: Hmmmm, pass. Too little information.

26. Kai Jones, Texas

I’m very low on Jones, who is a raw athletic freak. That’s great, if he had a place to fit in as a basketball player. He’s far too thin to play center in the NBA and he has no perimeter skills at all.

As a sophomore, Jones averaged 8.8 points per game and 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes. He’s one year older, nearly to the day, than Isaiah Jackson, who was more productive as a freshman (on a worse team) than Jones was as a sophomore. It’s puzzling why teams would consider Jones over Jackson.

Plays Like: I think we’re out of comps. You get the idea.

27. Sandro Mamukelashvilli, Seton Hall

Love Mamu. Truly, love him.

It worries me that he did not make a leap until his senior season, but I think there’s some good explanations for that timing. First, he played his first three seasons with Myles Powell, who is still desperately searching for the first shot he doesn’t think is worth shooting. It makes sense that Mamu’s skills as a passer and creator weren’t unlocked while being swallowed by a galactic Black Hole.

More importantly, I think there were always skills to love, even when he wasn’t carrying the load for Seton Hall. Mamu’s always been a good shooter and a smart defender. A full year as the Pirates’ primary offensive creator showed a side of his game that made him valuable in the NBA. He always could have been a pick-and-pop player, though his defense, athleticism, and foot speed always made that seem more likely to happen overseas. Now that he’s shown he can pass and create, NBA teams will use Mamu as a screener and allow him to attack the defense on short-rolls. One lucky team’s bench unit is going to be fun next year by adding him to the mix.

28. Quentin Grimes, Houston

Former five-star recruit who fizzled in his freshman season at Kansas. He left for Houston and by last year developed into one of the most deadly shooters in the country and led the Cougars to the Final Four. Perfectly suited for a 3-and-D role at the next level.

29. Jared Butler, Baylor

A wise man once said, “Never draft a backup point guard or back up center in the first round of the draft.”

Why? Because the 2nd round is littered with those types. Butler, fresh off an All-American season and National Championship, fits that mold. Any team in search of some creation and shooting off the bench should key in on Butler.

30. Miles “Duce” McBride, West Virginia

Blossomed into a really interesting prospect this season, when he posted 16 points and 5 assists per game, while defending at a high level. He falls to this range because he’s only 6-foot-2 and I’m not sure he’s a pure point guard. For a combo guy off the bench, that’s fine by me. I wouldn’t want him as the primary initiator offensively in most lineups, so Butler sneaks ahead of McBride for the 30th slot here.

31. David Johnson, Louisville

If he shoots like he did as a sophomore, Johnson has a real chance to build a career as a secondary ball-handler that contributes as a bench player.

32. Trendon Watford, LSU

He’s big. He can shoot, a little bit at least. The blurbs have to get shorter. We’re not even halfway.

33. Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky

Former big-time recruit who chose Western Kentucky over traditional powers. Not sure that decision helped his draft stock, but it endeared him to basketball nerds like myself. He dominated defensively in Conference USA. I love him as a rim-to-rim center.

34. Jericho Simms, Texas

Another rim-runner. Had the second highest vertical leap at the combine, which is crazy for a 6-foot-10 center with a standing reach of nearly 9-feet. Combine the leap and the reach and Simms’ fingertips get about 13 feet in the air. That’s high. Toss it up. He’ll dunk it.

35. Joe Wieskamp, Iowa

On an Iowa team built around Luka Garza and dotted with several other shooters and playmakers, Wieskamp was the metronome. He has a crafty mid-range game, hits outside shots, and defends like a reptile. Not sure what that even means, but let’s go with it.

36. Tre Mann, Florida

There’s a lot of love for Mann right now. He’s often mocked in the late first round. I’m not buying into the hype.

He’s a guard who can get to his spot off the dribble and he’s a shot maker. I don’t think he’s an actual shooter, though. In two years at Florida, he shot 42 percent from the field and 34.9 percent on his 3-pointers. Add on just three more career assists than turnovers and I struggle to see the value.

37. Josh Primo, Alabama

He’s a baby, in draft terms. Primo won’t turn 19 until Christmas Eve. Playing college basketball a year before he should have (in theory), Primo was a contributor for a top ten team and could blossom into a starter at the next level.

38. BJ Boston, Kentucky

Boston had one of the most disastrous freshman seasons in recent memory. Kentucky wildly underperformed and he could not score at any level. He shot just 38 percent on 2-point buckets, only 47 percent at the rim, and 30 percent outside the arc. In Kentucky’s first 15 games, he took 50 threes and only made 9 of them. A late season hot streak (somewhat confined to three good games) improved his season percentages, but by the end of the year, he’d completely shut down the rest of his offensive game. His drives into the paint were all dead ends, leading to turnovers or circus shots.

In the back stretch of the season, Kentucky’s final ten games when his 3-point shot began to fall, Boston made just 26 percent of his shots inside the arc. That’s ugly.

He entered last season as a top ten type talent. That is still somewhere in BJ Boston. He has the size and the theoretical ability to be a useful NBA player. I’m not sure he knows the path to a role that makes sense for him or if its worth the effort for the team drafting him.

39. Jalen Crutcher, Dayton

The man they call Jalen “Clutcher” is an enticing player on a two-way contract. I expect him to dominate in the G-League if given that opportunity and hope his competitiveness and drive leads him to a spot on an NBA roster. He has the first step to be a creator in the league.

40. Day’Ron Sharpe, North Carolina

A young big who was burdened by the rest of the size on the Carolina roster. He’s a crafty rebounder and passer and should carve out a spot for himself as a pro.

41. Greg Brown, Texas

The physical tools say lottery pick. Everything else suggests a project that isn’t worth the effort. He only had 10 assists compared to 60 turnovers last season. From December 1 to January 26, Greg Brown played almost 250 minutes of basketball across 11 games and did not record an assist. He’s not supposed to be a creator or anything, but these days they’ll give you an assist if you toss a teammate a pass Tuesday and he scores on Wednesday.

42. Aamir Simms, Clemson

I hope, as a college basketball fan, Simms finds his way onto a playoff team. He can help, with some outside shooting and as a defender and rebounder. He deserved better at Clemson.

43. Derrick Alston, Boise State

6-foot-9. Long arms. Can shoot it. That’s all you need.

44. Jose Alvarado, Georgia Tech

Tasmanian Devil on the defensive end. He was one of only two players last season to record seven games with at least five steals. He was the only player in the nation to have four games with at least six steals. Do you understand what 6 steals can do to a game? That’s Aaron Donald ruining your offense. The game is different because of Alvarado’s presence. I am very excited for a team to get their hands on this weapon and unleash him. He can be like TJ McConnell on steroids.

45. Trey Murphy, Virginia

A team is going to pick Trey Murphy in the top 20 and I do not understand it. They’ll tell you it’s because he can shoot and defend, which is a big deal for a 6-foot-9 player. I’m here to question every piece of that sentence.

He made 43 percent of his 3-point attempts this season at Virginia, playing as the (generously) third or fourth option on that team. The year prior, as a 19-year old sophomore, he made 36 percent of his outside shots while playing in Conference USA for Rice. I am not sure why teams are lining up to draft a guy who scored 13 points per game on 10 field goal attempts per game at RICE two years ago. We’re talking about RICE UNIVERSITY, my dudes.

His defense is definitely an asset, but I question how much of that is helped by the system at Virginia. The Pack Line, especially with Jay Huff protecting the rim behind you, can allow for some more cavalier (pun intended) defense. It’s not like we’re talking about an all-conference defender here.

Lastly, he’s only 6-foot-7 without shoes on. That’s not a huge deal but I said I’d critique every piece of that first paragraph sentence, so there we go.

46. Marcus Garrett, Kansas

Speaking of all-conference defenders, Marcus Garrett. The National Defensive Player of the Year two years ago warrants a 2nd round selection. His defense will translate right away. His offense, not so much.

47. John Petty, Alabama

Shooter who is not afraid to shoot. The blurbs are getting shorter. Is anyone still with me?

48. MaCio Teague, Baylor

Also a shooter. Has a hitch in his shot, but it works. Petty’s 6 months younger and better off the bounce. Teague can defend a little better.

49. Herb Jones, Alabama

Was the ultimate Glue Guy in college. Not sure what that does in the pros.

50. Yves Pons, Tennessee

Human superhero. Lowest body fat percentage at the combine. Sculpted by Poseidon himself.

51. Mitch Ballock, Creighton

One of the best shooters alive. Everything else will be an uphill climb, but GODDAMN, the boy can shoot it.

52. Neemias Queeta, Utah State

He’s large. Mega, mega large. Soft enough hands and quick enough feet for it to matter, too.

53. McKinley Wright IV, Colorado

Mr. 14-5-5. I would love to see him post that next season. Backup point guard, if he can hang on defense, thanks to a beautiful floater game.

54. Kessler Edwards, Pepperdine

He projects well, in terms of skills and traits, but I wish we saw more from him at Pepperdine. He scored this season, though I’d have loved to seen more passing or for him to have popped as a scorer sooner in his career.

55. Duane Washington, Ohio State

I will not allow his performance against Oral Roberts to overshadow the rest of his season.

Mmm. Eighteen points on 21 shots while losing to a 15 seed?

No, Shane. You said you wouldn’t.

56. Aaron Wiggins, Maryland

No relation to Andrew. Very good defender.

57. Justin Champagnie, Pitt

Weird college basketball stat line. Averaged 18 and 11 as a 6-foot-6 forward.

58. Josh Christopher, Arizona State

Watching the Sun Devils was not medically advisable this season. A roster full of shoot-first Gimme Guys. Christopher will need to show what he can do at the G-League level.

59. Isaiah Livers, Michigan

why are there still 20 more guys

60. Luka Garza, Iowa

He doesn’t have a prayer defensively at the next level. There’s not a single NBA lineup that would not scrap their offense or a set play immediately to get Garza into a bad match-up. I don’t care how much he can score (and I’m not sure he can score much at the next level), his defense last season looked like a one-way ticket to basketball overseas.

61. Jay Huff, Virginia

Stretch-five? In this economy??

62. Sam Hauser, Virginia

Sam, just watch Duncan Robinson film. Try to be Duncan Robinson.

63. DJ Steward, Duke

Disappointing season at Duke, but he’s young and talented.

64. Carlik Jones, Louisville

Firmly in the “I’m just scared to bet against this kid” camp.

65. Raiquan Gray, Florida State

The highest body fat percentage at the combine. He’s a rollie-pollie point forward. Is that something NBA teams find themselves needing?

66. MJ Walker, Florida State

He was the alpha dog for the Seminoles and should be able to score and defend at the next level.

67. Moses Wright, Georgia Tech

The most unheralded ACC Player of the Year ever? In the right fit, he can be useful as a big off the bench.

68. DeJon Jarreau, Houston

A scrapper. I think his defense and his first step give him a fighting chance. He got suspended for biting a guy once.

69. Austin Reaves, Oklahoma

Getting some first round buzz. Not sure why. He plays well in pick-and-roll. He shot 27 percent from outside in two years at Oklahoma and just turned 23-years old.

70. Santi Aldama, Loyola (MD)

Loyola! Maryland! Dominated the Patriot League, though I’m not sure how well that will translate to the NBA.

71. Mac McClung, Texas Tech

Super athlete. Does not have an NBA body or high level decision making.

72. Scottie Lewis, Florida

I don’t really understand what Scottie Lewis is supposed to be good at. He’s athletic enough to survive in the league and he can shoot, in theory. He doesn’t think the game in a way that lends itself to a career as a role player.

73. David Duke, Providence

He’s a fighter, which I like. I do not know why he doesn’t go by “Dave”.

74. Eugene Omuruyi, Oregon

He didn’t become a major factor in college basketball until his senior season, when he was 24 years old. That’s not good. I do think he has a chance to hang around as a rebounder and hustle guy.

75. Jason Preston, Ohio

Preston is a great story, which you may have heard during Ohio’s NCAA Tournament run. He scored 2 points per game in high school, then planned to attend UCF as a regular student (while blogging about the Detroit Pistons). A growth spurt and a prep school highlight tape found their way into the right hands and he earned a Division I scholarship.

Great story. I’m rooting for him.

On the other hand, I don’t see his value at the next level. He’s a good but not great shooter. He’s not big enough or fast enough to tangle with NBA guards. His passing is his best skill, but if he can’t get to his spot, there’s no passes to be made.

He’ll turn 22 this year, so upside is limited. The right team might be able to position Preston in a role where he can thrive, but that’s unlikely to happen to a second round pick.


Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and senior writer at He has also contributed to, The Action Network, Rush The Court, Larry Brown Sports, RotoBaller, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. You can find every post from this blog on Twitter by following @PalestraBack.

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