There are just over three weeks left until the 2021 NBA Draft. So with the Draft Combine in our rearview and the NCAA's withdrawal deadline looming Wednesday, a more complete picture of this year's draft class is beginning to take shape.
Now all that's left for us to do is rank the class.
We're doing exactly that today with an expanded Big Board from a top 75 to top 100 ahead of the July 29 draft. The top remains the same led by Cade Cunningham at No. 1. However, there is significant movement in our top 10 with Jalen Green trading places with Jalen Suggs and UConn bucket-getter James Bouknight supplanting Jonathan Kuminga at No. 5. Kuminga is next up to help round out our top 10, coming in at No. 6 as he narrowly edges out fast-rising forward Scottie Barnes as well as Davion Mitchell, Josh Giddey and Franz Wagner.
CBS Sports Big Board rank: No. 2
There is one question I hearken back to when evaluating top prospects that serves as a guiding philosophy for me and can help differentiate between preference in talents like at the top of this year's draft: Which player has the highest long-term ceiling? Getting to the heart of that question is how and why LaMelo Ball last year was ranked No. 1 on the CBS Sports Big Board for months leading up to the draft. So using that philosophy, Green is the biggest mover in our top five from No. 4 to No. 2.
It's hard to envision a world in which he isn't one of the draft's top two players if he reaches his full potential. For starters, he has an obvious NBA role early because of his scoring ability. He averaged 17.9 points on 46.1% field-goal shooting and 36.5% from 3 playing for the G League Ignite. He also has top-end athleticism that, in time, should allow him to grow into a formidable defender when you factor in his length and mobility. And, finally, when you consider the way the NBA places a premium on big guards who can score the way he does, I can't reasonably talk myself into having him below Suggs and Mobley. I remain high on both, as evidenced by their continued stay within the top five of our Big Board. But I'm planting my flag here with Green and think he could be the biggest hit of the non-Cunningham prospects.
CBS Sports Big Board rank: No. 5
Being high on Jalen Green means, by default, I am high on James Bouknight. The two are similar in several ways with Bouknight's leaping ability jumping off the page similar toGreen's. Bouknight's feel and finesse as a pure bucket-getter also helps separate him as one of the best scorers in this draft. The knock here with him is that his efficiency isn't quite up to snuff: he hit 29.3% from 3 last season, 44.7% from the field and has, for two seasons, had a higher turnover rate than assist rate. How much of a creator will he be in the NBA? And if his best trait as a prospect is scoring, why are we buying someone who was so inefficient?
There's layers to that onion. Most importantly, we have to keep in mind that those numbers aren't totally representative of his impact on UConn overall. He had an in-season elbow injury that ultimately required surgery. Then, when he came back, he really wasn't quite 100%. There's also the context to his own situation worth considering; he was UConn's leading scorer and the way in which he scored -- taking tough shots, serving as Chief of Late-Shot-Clock Bail Outs -- was a huge reason why, statistically, his shooting stats aren't quite what you'd want to see from a top-five prospect.
Taking all those factors into account, I think there is so much to like about his game, his skill and his long-term projection that I've moved him to No. 5 on my board. He turned real heads at his recent pro day in Chicago, particularly with his shot-making. He'll be a sparkplug offensive weapon in the NBA and a really, really good one for a long time.
James Bouknight had a great showing at the @NBA combine. He measured well and posted an impressive performance in his pro day in #Chicago— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) June 29, 2021
See where the 6-5 + 20-year-old lands in @DraftExpress' latest mock 2021 #nbadraft on ESPN >> https://t.co/p4ss4GZqYn pic.twitter.com/muqcuJfUHP
CBS Sports Big Board rank: No. 17
With Primo officially bypassing his remaining college eligibility -- which up until the Combine was not a certainty -- he now lands comfortably in our first-round projections. The 6-foot-5 Alabama guard measured with a 6-foot-9 wingspan at the Combine and showed real pizazz at the event with the ball in his hands. He was creating for others and attacking off the bounce, which we rarely saw in his brief stint with the Tide.
There's a lot of untapped potential here that scouts were hoping to see and indeed did witness. Whether you buy the upside or not the outside scoring package and youth (he's the youngest player in the draft) is reason to believe in him as a role-player ... and why I'm buying the long-term upside, even if we didn't see it much in college.
CBS Sports Big Board rank: No. 6
For months there has been a near consensus that there are five players in the top tier of this draft -- rounded out by Kuminga -- who are locks to go top five in some order. Yet as the draft has approached, Kuminga has fallen away from that bunch of Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Suggs in the eyes of teams. It coincides with Scottie Barnes' recent rise and Bouknight's own flail to the finish line of the G League season.
He doesn't fall far here -- just one spot to No. 6 -- but it's a development worth monitoring with Bouknight, Barnes and others all making late pushes. It's hard to imagine he goes higher than No. 5 in this draft, but if Barnes goes fifth, I can't imagine Kuminga slips past the Thunder at six, either. So, at least for right now, he's No. 6 on our board with a draft range that's between 5 and 6.
CBS Sports Big Board rank: No. 13
Breaking a Combine vertical leap record helped Keon Johnson turn heads last month, but he's out of our top 10 and down to No. 13. There's no question the athleticism helps his case, and finishing the season strong helped him prove that there's still a lot left in his development track. However, there's real concern here with where he's at right now. There is no question he's among the best athletes in the draft, and his tenacity as a defender suggests he could in time grow into a two-way terror. But he's so raw on offense as a decision-maker and scorer that if I'm someone picking in the mid-to-late lottery, there are other players with more defined role-playing potential that project as safer options.
Even if I'm debating his potential long-term ceiling, I think the risk he eventually doesn't pan out as a prospect is worrisome enough that I'd stay away in the top two. Ultimately, though, a two-way wing with his leaping ability and perceived upside won't last long in this draft so he's hanging on just inside the lottery for me.
CBS Sports Big Board rank: No. 49
After leading UCLA on a Final Four run as an 11 seed with incredible shot-making, Juzang looked to be prepared to assert himself into the first-round discussion at the Combine. Instead, he went just 5-of-21 shooting in two games, and he didn't quite catch a rhythm. I don't want to be too overreactive, but it's worth accounting for, so he slides down to the middle of our second round projections after an uninspiring Combine, making him one of the more fascinating prospects with a decision to make as the underclassmen withdrawal deadline approaches. Should he return to college, he'd be the face of a Bruins team with a strong case to be considered as a preseason top-three team.