NBA Draft on ABC: Who are the top players in the 2021 draft class?

Catch up on this year's draft class, which is filled with incredible basketball talent from across the globe!
NBA Draft on ABC: Who are the top players in the 2021 draft class?

The 2021 NBA Draft is just hours away, so now is the best time to catch up on the most intriguing prospects in the class. You can catch the draft live on KAPP-KVEW (ABC) starting at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 29!

Widely considered one of the deepest drafts in years, top basketball talent from the NCAA, G League, and international pro leagues are prepared to take their first steps into the limelight. Here are the top players you should know about before this life-changing event for 60 young men.

CONSENSUS NO. 1 PICK: For people in the know, it’s been pretty obvious that Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham is on track to be the top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. In fact, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday morning that the Detroit Pistons have already settled on Cunningham as their top target; barring an exceptional trade offer.

Cunningham presents a unique blend of size, skill, and athleticism. Listed at 6-foot-8, Cunningham has the strength and stature of a small forward with the ball-handling and passing talent of a point guard. The expectation is that he’ll be able to shoot, drive, pass, and defend at a high level as soon as his NBA career begins. If anyone but Cunningham goes No. 1 overall, it’d be a massive shock to the basketball world.

AN UNUSUAL PATH: For the first time, the NBA offered young players out of high school an alternative to college or international play before entering the draft pool: The G League select team. This path allows young prospects to spend a year in the NBA’s developmental league on a team competing against other grown men while being given a chance to get paid.

The top player to choose this route is Jalen Green, a dazzling 19-year-old whose athleticism and shot creation make him one of the top players in the class. Green can handle the ball well and create space for jump shots or a ferocious attack on the basket. There are questions about his ability to pass and defend at the next level, but the upside is far too high for him to slip outside of the top three in this year’s draft.

Another prospect, 6-foot-8 forward Jonathan Kuminga of the Congo, also joined Green on the G League Ignite team. Though he didn’t shine as brightly, Kuminga brings NBA size and athleticism from the jump while steadily growing as a scorer and defender. Earlier in the draft process, he was grouped into the top five in this class, but he may slip later into the lottery due to concerns about his fundamental understanding of the game.

A TRANSFORMATIVE DEFENDER: USC’s Evan Mobley is a 7-foot center with a plethora of guard skills and incredible defensive ability. In the modern game, big men are asked to defend on the perimeter and switch onto smaller opponents near the 3-point line. It’s an uphill battle for most, but Mobley has proven himself a worthy competitor who’s up for the challenge. Though Cunningham is widely regarded as the No. 1 pick, there’s a smaller yet loud sector of draft analysts who believe Mobley is the most impactful player in the draft class. His scoring near the basket, superb passing for a player of his size, tenacious rebounding, and rocksteady defense make him an easy top-three pick.

ZAGS IN THE NBA DRAFT: We’ve already highlighted the three Gonzaga Bulldogs in the 2021 NBA Draft class, so if you’d like to read more detailed analysis on them, click here.

However, NCAA Tourney star Jalen Suggs is a crafty and firey point guard who provides a steady presence on the court. He’s unselfish, communicative, and has basketball IQ beyond his years, so whichever team lands him will surely be glad they took a swing on the Zags’ star. Additionally, sharpshooter Corey Kispert is expected to go in the mid-to-late first round. Touted as one of the best shooters in the draft, Kispert provides a steady presence from the 3-point line and never gives up on a play. Plus, whichever team drafts him will get his bulldog, Stu, as well:

SUMMING UP SOME OF THE OTHER TOP PROSPECTS: Cunningham, Green, Mobley, and Suggs are likely to be the top picks tonight, but there’s a ton of exceptional talent. Here are some shorter summaries of who’s available.

  • SCOTTIE BARNES: An exceptional defender and passer at the forward position, Barnes doesn’t have a traditional playstyle by any means. He projects to be an incredible teammate who keeps the ball moving and ensures that the right play is made every time he touches the ball. However, his poor shooting and overall lackluster scoring ability in college make some wary of how he’ll translate to the NBA.
  • DAVION MITCHELL: Zags fans may remember Mitchell for his stellar performance through the NCAA Tournament and in the Championship game. A 6-foot point guard with excellent quickness and a nice jump shot, Mitchell’s bread and butter in college were his defense and shot creation. Mitchell’s size is a real concern, but if he can overcome it like so many great guards before him, he’s going to be a problem for his opponents at the next level of the sport.
  • JOSH GIDDEY: One of the youngest players in the draft, ‘point forward’ Josh Giddey is another intriguing prospect with the size of a small forward and the passing chops of a point guard. He averaged roughly 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in Australia’s National Basketball League this past year. He’ll need to add muscle and learn how to play NBA defense, but Giddey has the fundamentals and work ethic of a player who will make a serious impact for a long time in this league.
  • ALPEREN SENGUN: The reigning MVP of the Turkish Basketball Super League, Sengun is a talented big man who plays a more traditional post-up style. His footwork and fundamentals are excellent, but his poor defense and questionable size for a center have many draft analysts nervous. However, if he hits, Sengun certainly has All-Star potential.

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