The day has finally arrived. The NBA Draft is one of the most exciting times of the offseason because it gives struggling franchises hope and fans the potential to see a blockbuster trade. For now, we aren’t worried about transactions, just prospects. The Detroit Pistons own the No. 1 overall pick, while teams like the Rockets, Cavaliers, Magic, and Raptors look to rebuild with new talent.
The 2021-2022 season will be here before we know it. Traditionally, these prospects would have had July and August to participate in summer ball. Instead, we will get a limited view of these players before they suit up for their respective teams. With that said, these 10 players may not be listed from 10 - 1 as the top NBA prospects; however, they will be the 10 players that will immediately help their teams next season.
10. Franz Wagner (Michigan)
College Stats: 12.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.0 APG
Wagner was overshadowed by Luka Garza and Ayo Dosunmu in the Big 10 Conference last season. In the end, Wagner will get the last laugh over both players. Wagner is the younger brother of Mo Wagner, who also played for Michigan, and has played for several NBA teams. Out of all Big 10 players, Wagner is the most NBA-ready.
Only 19 years old, Wagner is one of the stronger rebounding small forwards. He shot over 80% from the free-throw line last year and is known for making plays with the ball in his hand. Not to mention, he is an NBA-ready defensive player. His three-point field goal percentage is lackluster, but for a team needing NBA-ready players, Wagner can play a role like Matisse Thybulle or Kyle Anderson.
9. Jalen Johnson (Duke)
College Stats: 11.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.2 APG
In February, Johnson shocked the college basketball world when he announced he would opt out the rest of the season to focus on preparing for the NBA draft. With Duke coming off one of their worst seasons in recent memory, Johnson’s stock took a hit. Had Johnson stayed for the full season, he might be considered a top-10 pick and not a top-15 selection.
Johnson struggled in 13 games before he quit, there is some benefit of the doubt given how last year was conducted with the pandemic. There are some scouts that believe he has a ceiling as high as Tobias Harris. Johnson is a combo forward that has guard skills. He is a great player in transition and is considered one of the better passing players in the draft. If he truly focused on getting NBA-ready, he will help a team next season.
8. Jared Butler (Baylor)
College Stats: 16.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.8 APG
Butler was quietly the Final Four Most Outstanding Player that helped lead Baylor’s offense to a national championship last season. There were times that it looked like Kemba Walker was playing, a point guard who won a national championship at UConn. Butler has been compared to Bryn Forbes as a player, but his ability to operate in tight spaces and shoot close to 40% from three makes him a steal.
Butler is projected to go in the mid-firstSome scouts believe round, which will be a steal for whoever picks him up. There are teams frightened by a heart condition that could complicate his future ability to play. As of last season, he was medically cleared to play, so in the short term, he could be a quality backup point guard right away.
7. Scottie Barnes (Florida State)
College Stats: 10.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.1 APG
In some mock drafts, Barnes is projected to be a top-5 draft pick. Some scouts believe he has a ceiling as high as Ben Simmons. That might be a little too high, but that comparison could be for Barnes’ defensive abilities. He can guard all five positions but also owns great passing skills.
If Barnes can shoot, and bring that type of defense to the table, he will be like Simmons. The comparison is smooth because he shot 27.5% from the three-point range and 62.1% from the free-throw line. Either way, there will be plenty of teams needing a stretch defender to come off the bench.
6. Evan Mobley (USC)
College Stats: 16.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.4 APG
Some scouts have called Mobley the next Chris Bosh. Maybe after two to three years. These rankings are calling for players that can help right now. Mobley’s issue will be the team that he plays for as most mock drafts predict that Mobley will be drafted at No. 3 by the Cavaliers. The team will likely be re-signing Jarrett Allen, while Kevin Love is still on the roster.
Mobley has a remarkable upside. The 7-footer is an impact defender that can rim protect and get up and down the floor. If the Cavaliers are willing to move either Allen or Mobley out of their traditional center position, the frontcourt tandem could be really good. We will have to see how this all plays out, but Mobley could move up this list really quick.
5. Davion Mitchell (Baylor)
College Stats: 14.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.5 APG
The career 65.7% shooting from the free-throw line is a red flag for a point guard. Mitchell is ranked near the bottom of the top-10, while other mock drafts have him around 12th overall. If Mitchell were to drop to No. 14, and the Warriors kept their pick, he could be a player that would slide right into their system.
Mitchell is an excellent on-the-ball defender, with some scouts saying “elite.” When it comes to pro comparison, some believe he could be someone like Donovan Mitchell. Last year, Mitchell shot 44.7% from the three-point range. Mitchell’s stats may not pop out as much as Butler, but Mitchell is the more NBA-ready prospect. For a team needing defense from the second unit, he can help a team right away.
4. Moses Moody (Arkansas)
College Stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 APG
Moody is the biggest sleeper in this draft. At 18 years old, he was potentially the SEC’s best player. He is regarded as a 3-and-D player, similar to Mikal Bridges. For a team needing a player to impact both ends of the floor, Moody is the player that a team needs.
Now, Moody is not going to explode or create his shot. He is an ultimate role player. He may never make an All-Star team. However, Moody can help a team right now on the ring and in transition. Many scouts see him falling to the Magic, but an ideal fit would be the Grizzlies at No. 10.
3. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga)
College Stats: 14.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.5 APG
The comparison for Suggs is George Hill, which is a very nice compliment. For the majority of Hill’s career, he has been dealt at the trade deadline numerous times because he can impact the game in so many ways. Suggs is a gritty guard that could ultimately be Kyle Lowry’s replacement if he falls to No. 4 overall.
Suggs almost feels like a sure-fire bet to go to the Raptors, which is why he will immediately make an impact next season. Suggs is a fierce competitor and was a key part of Gonzaga’s runner-up finish. Lowry will always be remembered in Toronto if he leaves, but the transition will be easier if a replica player in Suggs fills the slot.
2. Jalen Green (G-League)
College Stats: 17.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG
Some scouts see Green as the next Zach LaVine. If that is the case, the Rockets have their first foundational piece, post-James Harden. Green opted to play in the G-League instead of college last season, putting up respectable pro stats in 15 games. Green can create, score, and explode on all levels. He is a true modern-day 2-guard.
All signs point to Green being selected by the Rockets. With a massive rebuild on the horizon, Green will get an immediate starting job. When it comes to impact players, Green will likely be the team’s best player next season.
1. Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State)
College Stats: 20.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.5 APG
Cunningham is the guaranteed No. 1 overall pick after he visited only the Detroit Pistons franchise. Cunningham is the best overall player in this draft. He has excellent size for a point guard. He can create offense and does the most damage with the ball in his hand. When it comes to iso ball, Cunningham is the best out of this draft.
It’s going to be a season featuring growing pains. The Pistons don’t have a strong roster outside of Jerami Grant, who could be traded this offseason. If that happens, Cunningham will be the team’s best offensive option. When it is all said and done, his impact might be good enough to land him Rookie of the Year.