With the NBA draft lottery completed, teams will now be finalizing their draft boards. Each team will have a few guys they are looking at in their range, and it is a good time to review the strengths and weaknesses of each prospect.
NOTE: In my NBA comparisons, I focused primarily on play style as reason for why i chose the NBA comparisons I did. So, while these prospects may end up being greater or lesser than the comparisons I chose for them, stylistically, they remain similar.
1. Cade Cunningham
Cunningham is universally recognized as the top prospect in this year’s draft, with good reason. Most often, the distinction between which of any given two prospects comes down to a lack of weaknesses. All players in a draft have their own strengths, but most have weaknesses which are a separating factor. Cunningham has no weaknesses. He has a compact shot form with a high release, a smooth handle where he keeps the ball in complete control, and the vision to read the court on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Additionally, Cunningham has the physical tools at 6’8 220 lbs. to be an immediate impact defender. Perhaps most enticing however, is that while Cunningham is elite with the ball in his hands, he has a solid ability to play off ball with some regularity. He truly would be a great fit for any team.
NBA comparison: Brandon Roy
2. Jalen Green
In my opinion, Jalen Green has the highest ceiling in this draft and will be top 10 player five years from now. Green has athleticism which comes around once every five drafts; with elite elevation and a special ability to contort his body in midair, Green assuredly will be great at finishing in the paint. Green’s jumpshot has a solid foundation, though there are a few ways he can improve it. His release point is a little low and out in front of him, and he elevates a lot on his jumpshots which may lead to fatigue late in games. That said, the form itself is clean and compact, and with minor adjustments, should be fine. Green shows defensive potential with his athleticism and aniticipation, but looks far away from being a polished and consistent NBA defender. Green has a tendency for tunnel vision due to his mentality of scoring first. This will be a give an take with him, as his scoring mentality paired with his ability will lend himself to being elite, but in certain spots in a game, his tunnel vision may hurt his team.
NBA comparison: Zach Lavine
3. Evan Mobley
Mobley, like Cunningham, would fit with any team in the league given his skillset. A 7 footer with excellent fluidity to his game, Mobley does not face the same questions other center prospects do. Mobley’s 7’4 wingspan is great, but more than that, he knows how to use his length. Offensively, Mobley’s soft hands and wingspan allow him to have much better ball security than a typical NBA draft prospect. Defensively, Mobley’s length and lightness on his feet make him agile enough to defend at the rim while being competent on the perimeter. Mobley’s lack of strength is a concern however, and it will take time for him to build up his NBA body. Mobley has not maintained consistent defensive focus yet, which will be a huge step for him to take in order to become a star and not just a good player. Mobley has an elite handle for a big man and a fluid looking mid-range jumpshot, which lends itself well to late shot clock bailout shots. While not his strong suit, Mobley has shown the ability to see open teammates and deliver accurate passes. Tunnel vision not a concern.
NBA comparison: Boston Kevin Garnett
4. Jalen Suggs
As a Gonzaga alum, it saddens me to put Jalen Suggs this low. I view him as the top 5 prospect with the lowest ceiling and highest floor. Suggs is an elite playmaker and floor general. He has the vision, anticipation, and passing accuracy to instantly make teammates better. He has the physical tools to be a very good perimeter defender. His jumpshot is fluid and I anticipate he will be an average 3 point shooter who hovers around 35-38% from three most of his career. While a great floor general, Suggs has shown the ability to play off ball. He is a great locker room guy and should be an immediate impact player in the league. All these things are great, but there is an anticipated cap to what Jalen Suggs can be that does not exist for the other four top 5 prospects. He fits very well on any team, but like Kuminga, I don’t anticipate Suggs can be the best player on a championship team. He is however the type of player any contender would have on their team.
NBA comparison: Chauncey Billups
5. Jonathan Kuminga
Kuminga has the skills and body of the prototypical wing that is so highly valued in today’s league. At 6’8 220 lbs. Kuminga has the length and strength to be an immediate impact defender. To match, Kuminga is cerebral and tough enough in his approach to not suffer the inconsistencies most rookies do to near the extent of other top prospects. While his jumpshot is a concern in today’s league, Kuminga has a talent to play off ball and know the right opportunities to cut to the basket. While I do not view Kuminga as someone who can one day be the best player on a championship tam like I do the top 3 prospects, he is the type of player any championship team would need as their second or third best player. Kuminga is the likeliest of the top 5 prospects to have a steady progression as an NBA players, as opposed to a sudden leap or a stagnation after his rookie season. He fits well most anywhere, due to the high demand of two way wings. I don’t anticipate Kuminga to be one who puts up monster stat lines, but as someone who any contending team would hope to trade for. Kuminga lands fifth only because of the concern for his three point jumpshot. In today’s league, that is essentially a requirement, and Kuminga’s jumpshot is somewhat disjointed.
NBA comparison: Denver Andre Iguodala
6. Keon Johnson
Johnson has an NBA body at 6’5 190 lbs, and shows potential of being a defensive stopper. With an obvious fiestiness to his game, Johnson has the mentality to match his physical tools. He has elite athleticism in this draft, probably second to Jalen Green, with a particular affinity for two foot plant jumps in the lane. This allows Johnson to go up strong to the rim and finish over, around, or through tough defenders. His jumpshot is a pretty significant concern. Most notably, Keon’s feet are far too close together on his release, causing inconsistencies in the flight of the ball. He will need to fix that up as soon as possible and become a competent open shot maker. Keon has shown an ability to move off ball on offense and know when to cut, which pairs nicely with his two foot jumping in the paint. His proactiveness on offense also allows him to be quite a good offensive rebounder. His energy and pursuit of the ball on defense is where perhaps greatest ability lies. Keon Johnson has the chance to become a Marcus Smart type of player, with a knack for hitting timely shots and being unafraid of the moment.
NBA comparison: Norm Powell
7. Scottie Barnes
Though not a top playmaker in the draft, Barnes has shown consistency in his decision making, often times reading the floor and finding the open man. Perhaps Barnes’s best attribute is his ability to switch seamlessly on screen actions. With how the league plays today, switchability on defense is coveted by every team. Regardless of who he switches on to, Barnes is elite at getting steals with his 7’2 wingspan. Though not an explosive athlete, Barnes attacks the rim with conviction and fluidity. Though he has a slow release and inconsistent jumpshot, Barnes should be able to hit the NBA three at an average rate considering the space he will be given.
NBA comparison: Nicolas Batum
8. Davion Mitchell
Davion is a winner with a winner’s mentality. That means something right off the bat. His jumpshot looks like a clone of Donovan Mitchell’s; the mechanics are there. He is a combo guard with a team oriented, and a strong, determined competitor. Athletically, Mitchell has more than enough to get by in the NBA, but he can't be labeled as a freak. Best driving the ball with a head of steam going down hill. Very physical and uses his strength to get over screens on defense. He has quick feet and can defend both guard positions extremely well. Davion is an average ball handler, but has very good ball security. Davion makes the simple pass and is a good decision maker.
NBA comparison: Marcus Smart
9. Franz Wagner
An ideal forward in today’s NBA, Wagner stands 6’9 and weighs in at 215 lbs. Wagner shows versatility on defense, with the ability to guard 2-4 at a respectable level. He has a very nice handle for a guy his size and shows good enough athleticism to get to the rim. And, once he gets to the rim, he has shown the ability to finish at a very high rate. While his shot form looks okay, he shot a disappointing 34% from three at Michigan this last season. He can come into the league as a very good team defender. Understanding passing lanes, lateral movement, and shading on screens, Wagner should be able to fit into a defensive scheme well. Wagner also has a very low turnover rate, which make one confident he will not suffer the mistakes most rookies do at the same rate. Wagner leaves some things to be desired, his rebounding and playmaking to name a few. One would have hoped for a greater jump in his second season at Michigan, but his capabilities were still on display in his sophomore season and he should land around pick 10.
NBA comparison: Hero Turkoglu
10. Moses Moody
A 6’6 shooting guard, Moody has a compact and fluid shot which should translate well in the NBA. He has great feel for the game, and can hit spot ups as well as rhythm dribble jumpers without issue. Does not possess elite athleticism, which might actually help Moody’s rhythmic play style. Moody approaches the game with intent, attacking mismatches when they present themselves. Excellent at getting defenders out of position. A solid rebounder for a guard, he should pile up some long rebounds on three point shots in the league. Moody does not have a quick first step which will limit his isolation ability in the league. A mediocre playmaker, avoiding tunnel vision is a must for Moody.
NBA comparison: CJ McCollum
11. Jalen Johnson
A raw prospect, Johnson shows upside to be an All Star one day, but has a long way to go. Johnson has the prototypical NBA forward body, standing 6’9 220 lbs. Johnson has shown versatility on defense, with the ability to switch on screen actions, but is not a very disciplined defender at this point. He does not have stiff hips and moves well laterally for a guy his size. He shows his versatility on offense as well, being able to play off-ball or on-ball; works primarily around the rim, grabbing boards (6.1 per game). Whether driving with ferocity and finishing at the rim or drawing fouls, Johnson has a knack for scoring in a multitude of ways. He did not shoot the ball much his year at Duke, shooting only 18 attempts, but shows promise as a future floor spacing forward. Johnson is not an elite ball handler, which has caused him to be turnover prone. Ideally, he would play off-ball in the NBA with isolation attacks used sparingly. Johnson shows promise with his jumpsuit, but hovering around 60% from the free throw line is a concern.
NBA comparison: Stephen Jackson
12. Josh Giddey
Point guards who stand 6’8 will always be intriguing, and Josh Giddey is not exception. Giddey has phenomenal court vision, and has shown the ability to both make good decisions and deliver passes accurately. Giddey has great feel for the game, which shows up in his passing as well as his solid floater in the lane. Giddey can finish around the basket, mostly through finesse finishes. His jumpshot is a bit of a concern, as he does not have a quick release and shoots a set shot. In the NBA, just as important as making shots is getting them off while you are still open; Giddey will need to improve that part of his game. Playing in Australia, Giddey can boast his professional experience, similar to a certain point guard from the 2020 draft. Not an explosive athlete, Giddey relies primarily on his feel for the game and reading of situations, though his length allows him to elongate around defenders.
NBA comparison: Ricky Rubio
13. Alperen Sengun
Sengun boasts a man’s body, standing 6’10 weighing in at 240 lbs. While still very raw, Sengun shows high potential as a floor spacing big man in the league. That said, Sengun does not hang around on the perimeter too much, something which plagues many big men in today’s league. Where Sengun really shines is around the rim. Already a master of using leverage, Sengun has shown the ability to box out and rebound very well. He also using his skill of leveraging in occasional post ups, showing a soft touch on hook shots from 3-7 feet. The obvious concern with Sengun is his lack of speed or elite athleticism; he relies on strength and leveraging and is slow on his feet. Will certainly be attacked defensively on the perimeter in the league.
NBA comparison: Aaron Baynes
14. Kai Jones
Jones is an explosive athlete with a high motor. He has great speed for a big man as well, and can run the floor with NBA athletes. He finishes through contact around the rim, and is relentless at grabbing his own misses and putting them back up. While adept at grabbing his own misses, Jones was not the rebounder one would have hoped tie his motor and physical skills, averaging only 5 per game. Respectable from the midrange, he still has quite the hitch in his jumpsuit, and will need to relentlessly work on making it more fluid in order to stretch the floor and be a respectable shooter. Jones shows the ability to switch on the perimeter in the future, with great lateral quickness and length.
NBA comparison: Jaxson Hayes