NBA draft 2021: Ranking the top 30 prospects based on stats and scouting

Does Thursday’s NBA draft (8 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC) grade out as well statistically as in the evaluation of league scouts?

Not by my projections, which combine statistical projections based on player performance in college or other professional leagues with how players rank in our top 100 prospects. By those measures, there’s no prospect in this year’s draft who rates as strong combined as LaMelo Ball did last season and Rookie of the Year runners-up Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton also rated ahead of this year’s highly touted top four prospects.

Still, this looks like a solid lottery with four players who rank in the top 10 of my stats-only projections and in our top 10 — typically a recipe for a strong career — plus a handful of others who narrowly miss out in one category or the other. For more on how my projections work and past examples, see here.

Otherwise, let’s break down this year’s top 30 and a couple of notable omissions.

1. Alperen Sengun

Center | Besiktas
Top 100: No. 15
Stats: No. 1

Consensus: 4.2 WARP

This year’s top-rated prospect won’t surprise anyone who’s followed Sengun’s domination of the Basketball Super League in his native Turkey. At age 18 (he turned 19 on Sunday), Sengun led the league with 8.9 WARP, nearly 3.5 more than any other player. He was chosen as MVP, producing the third-best stats-only projection in my database behind Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis.

It’s understandable that scouts question whether that production will entirely translate. Sengun’s stats-only projection is in the same ballpark as DeJuan Blair and Kenneth Faried, who enjoyed solid careers as role players but were never NBA stars. Still, there’s little precedent for anyone as productive as Sengun truly failing as a pro.

2. Cade Cunningham

Guard | Oklahoma State
Top 100: No. 1
Stats: No. 18

Consensus: 2.6 WARP

Cunningham’s statistics during his one season at Oklahoma State aren’t quite as effusive as scouts are about his potential. Cunningham had a relatively high turnover rate and shot just 46% inside the arc. His stats-only projection is on the low end for recent No. 1 picks along with Edwards and Andrew Wiggins. Still, the strong predictive value of being the top-rated player puts him atop the group of players likely to be drafted with the first four picks.

3. Jalen Green

Guard | G League Ignite
Top 100: No. 2
Stats: No. 12

Consensus: 2.7 WARP

For a teenager competing against players shuttling back and forth from the NBA, Green held his own as part of G League Ignite, an encouraging sign for his long-term prospects. He rated as an above-average player in the G League thanks to efficient scoring (.592 true shooting) while using 23% of Ignite’s plays. Green just misses the stats-only top 10.

4. Evan Mobley

Forward/Center | USC
Top 100: No. 3
Stats: No. 8

Consensus: 2.4 WARP

Among the top four prospects, Mobley was the most productive last season, though that’s to be expected for a big man. The higher replacement level for post players is one reason Mobley’s stats-only rating is more modest. Nonetheless, Mobley looks like the rare big man who justifies a top-five pick because of his versatility and dominant paint defense.

5. Josh Giddey

Guard | Adelaide
Top 100: No. 7
Stats: No. 3

Consensus: 2.2 WARP

The versatile Giddey led the NBL in his native Australia with 7.5 APG last season, ahead of former NBA players Scott Machado and Bryce Cotton, while also averaging 7.4 RPG. If Giddey can improve his shooting after making just 29% of his 3-pointers and 69% of his free throws last season, he’s likely to be a valuable NBA contributor. He’s the first of the four players in the top 10 by both components of my projections.

6. Jalen Suggs

Guard | Gonzaga
Top 100: No. 4
Stats: No. 9

Consensus: 2.4 WARP

Along with Cunningham, Suggs is one of three prospects in the top 30 without any statistical weaknesses — meaning ranking in the bottom 25% of NBA-bound players at his position in a key skill-based category. Suggs’ steal rate is also best among players in the top 50, an important indicator of NBA success.

7. Jonathan Kuminga

Forward | G League Ignite
Top 100: No. 5
Stats: No. 7

Consensus: 2.1 WARP

As compared to Green, Kuminga wasn’t as effective in the G League, rating around replacement level in that competition because of a dismal .466 true shooting percentage. He rates as well as he does in the stats-only projections largely due to age. Kuminga won’t turn 18 until October. He and Giddey are the two youngest prospects in the top 20.

8. Usman Garuba

Forward | Real Madrid
Top 100: No. 14
Stats: No. 2

Consensus: 2.3 WARP

Garuba was a key contributor for Real Madrid in EuroLeague and ACB competition last season as a teenager. Among draft prospects, only Rokas Jokubaitis saw more EuroLeague minutes. Because of his quality teammates, who included NBA veterans Rudy Fernandez and Anthony Randolph, Garuba has the lowest projected usage rate among prospects in the top 80. He’s ready to fill a role with his strong rebounding (projected second only to Sengun) and defense.

9. Franz Wagner

Forward | Michigan
Top 100: No. 11
Stats: No. 4

Consensus: 2.0 WARP

Another promising role player, Wagner filled out the box score with 3.0 APG and at least one steal and block per game as a sophomore at Michigan. Despite playing two years of college hoops, Wagner is two months younger than Mobley. And his strong free throw shooting (83.5%) suggests development in store after he topped out at 34% beyond the arc in college.

10. Moses Moody

Guard | Arkansas
Top 100: No. 16
Stats: No. 5

Consensus: 1.9 WARP

Moody’s combination of excellent positional length (his wingspan was measured at more than 7 feet at the NBA draft combine) and shooting ability looks ideal for an NBA wing. He also excelled at the AAU level in the 2019 Nike EYBL, posting the best per-minute rating of any prospect from that group in the 2021 draft.

11. Trey Murphy III

Forward | Virginia
Top 100: No. 18
Stats: No. 6

Consensus: 1.7 WARP

Murphy’s apparent recent rise up draft boards is justified by his strong performance as a transfer at Virginia last season, including 62% shooting inside the arc and 43% on 3s. His long-term projection for 3-point accuracy is best of any player in the top 60.

12. Jalen Johnson

Forward | Duke
Top 100: No. 12
Stats: No. 16

Consensus: 1.5 WARP

Johnson’s projection might have benefited had he played out his lone season at Duke. On a per-minute basis, Johnson was more impressive than his overall projection, which regressed to the mean (and his weaker EYBL play) heavily because he logged just 278 total minutes.

13. Scottie Barnes

Forward | Florida State
Top 100: No. 6
Stats: No. 27

Consensus: 1.5 WARP

There’s not much in Barnes’ box-score stats to explain the growing expectation he’ll go no later than sixth on Thursday. He’s older than Johnson and rated as less effective last season. At the same time, the box score doesn’t capture Barnes’ greatest strength, his on-ball defense.

14. Joshua Primo

Guard | Alabama
Top 100: No. 25
Stats: No. 14

Consensus: 1.3 WARP

Age is the biggest selling point for Primo, the youngest player in this year’s top 100. He won’t turn 19 until December. Given how much younger he was than his opponents, Primo was effective at Alabama as a part-time starter, knocking down 38% of his 3-point attempts.

15. JT Thor

Forward | Auburn
Top 100: No. 28
Stats: No. 11

Consensus: 1.3 WARP

Another player who will be drafted at age 18, Thor could be a long-term project as he works to stretch out his game after shooting 30% from the NCAA 3-point line. If he gets there, Thor’s potential to space the floor and provide rim protection as a power forward is intriguing.

16. Nah’Shon Hyland

Guard | VCU
Top 100: No. 30
Stats: No. 15

Consensus: 1.1 WARP

Better known as “Bones” because of his skinny frame, Hyland has deep range, having made 1.4 3-pointers per game from beyond 25 feet according to He also posted above-average steal rates for a perimeter player and has the ability and size to play either guard position.

17. Corey Kispert

Forward | Gonzaga
Top 100: No. 13
Stats: No. 29

Consensus: 1.1 WARP

The highest-ranked four-year player in the projections, Kispert ranks as the next-best shooter likely to be drafted after Murphy. He particularly excelled as a senior with Suggs helping set him up, making 63% of his 2-point attempts and 44% of his 3s. That’s hardly a fluke but Kispert wasn’t as prolific in previous seasons, which along with his age and below-average rebounding and steal rates for a wing accounts for his middling stats-only rank.

18. Joe Wieskamp

Forward | Iowa
Top 100: No. 52
Stats: No. 13

Consensus: 0.9 WARP

Given the nearly 40-spot difference between Kispert and Wieskamp in the top 100, their statistical projections are remarkably similar — and even favor Wieskamp defensively. He was the slightly better catch-and-shoot option, shooting an effective 65% on such attempts last season according to Synergy Sports, good for 10th among players with at least 100 attempts. (Kispert was 18th at 63%.)

19. Charles Bassey

Center | Western Kentucky
Top 100: No. 35
Stats: No. 17

Consensus: 0.9 WARP

After a down sophomore year, Bassey bounced back with a strong junior campaign, winning Conference USA Player of the Year after averaging 17.6 PPG, 11.6 RPG and 3.1 BPG on 65% 2-point shooting. His six statistical strengths — categories in the top 25% of NBA-bound prospects — are tied for second-most among players in this year’s draft behind Sengun.

20. Day’Ron Sharpe

Center | North Carolina
Top 100: No. 31
Stats: No. 20

Consensus: 0.9 WARP

A super-sub at North Carolina behind more experienced starters Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks, Sharpe piled up rebounds and steals at an above-average rate for a center. To justify this projection, he’ll have to improve on 52% 2-point shooting and 50.5% accuracy from the foul line.

Forward | Pittsburgh
Top 100: No. 69
Stats: No. 10

Consensus: 0.9 WARP

The highest-rated prospect outside the ESPN top 60, Champagnie excelled as an undersized power forward at Pitt but will likely have to move to the perimeter in the pros. He improved from 26% from 3-point range as a freshman to 31% as a sophomore and his 74.5% foul shooting shows decent promise for improvement.

22. Isaiah Jackson

Forward/Center | Kentucky
Top 100: No. 19
Stats: No. 30

Consensus: 0.9 WARP

The energetic Jackson has the best projected block rate of any player in the top 100. Unfortunately, his foul rate is also highest among this group, suggesting some growing pains early in his career. Jackson could also stand to improve as a defensive rebounder.

23. Jaden Springer

Guard | Tennessee
Top 100: No. 27
Stats: No. 25

Consensus: 0.9 WARP

The more productive of the Vols’ two freshman guards in this year’s draft, Springer could help his cause by becoming more aggressive as a 3-point shooter. He hit 43.5% of his attempts, but took just 20% of his shots from long range.

24. Keon Johnson

Guard | Tennessee
Top 100: No. 10
Stats: No. 44

Consensus: 0.8 WARP

By contrast, Johnson struggled to make 3s, hitting just 27% on the same number of attempts per game as Springer (1.8). He also tended to settle too often for long 2-pointers, which explains how an athletic 6-foot-5 guard shot just 49% inside the arc. Add in more turnovers than assists and Johnson has plenty of development so his production matches his gifts.

25. Kessler Edwards

Forward | Pepperdine
Top 100: No. 44
Stats: No. 21

Consensus: 0.7 WARP

Another prospect who may be asked to move from power forward to the wing in the pros, Edwards showed more shooting range, hitting 39.5% of his 3s in three years at Pepperdine and improving to 88% from the foul line as a senior.

Guard | Baylor
Top 100: No. 21
Stats: No. 35

Consensus: 0.7 WARP

Returning to Synergy Sports’ catch-and-shoot leaderboard, Butler was third among players with at least 100 attempts by shooting an effective 72% on catch-and-shoots. His statistical projection is hurt by modest 2-point accuracy (48% career) and below-average rebounding for a guard.

27. Chris Duarte

Guard | Oregon
Top 100: No. 23
Stats: No. 34

Consensus: 0.7 WARP

At 24, Duarte is an unusually old prospect. There’s precedent for an overage Oregon player being successful in the NBA, however, as Chris Boucher was also 24 when he went undrafted in 2017 before developing into a quality reserve for the Toronto Raptors. Duarte’s efficient scoring and strong steal rate suggest he might be able to contribute more quickly than Boucher.

28. Daishen Nix

Guard | G League Ignite
Top 100: No. 40
Stats: No. 24

Consensus: 0.7 WARP

Nix was about as productive overall as Kuminga for Ignite, handing out 7.1 assists per 36 minutes, though his poor shooting is a major concern. Nix shot just 6-of-34 (18%) during his first experience with the NBA 3-point line.

29. Joel Ayayi

Guard | Gonzaga
Top 100: No. 47
Stats: No. 23

Consensus: 0.6 WARP

As the Zags’ fourth-leading scorer, Ayayi was often overshadowed by two lottery prospects and leading scorer Drew Timme (who withdrew from the draft). He fit seamlessly into a role that saw him play both on and off the ball, making an incredible 68% of his 2-point attempts with frequent layups in transition and off cuts.

30. Mitch Ballock

Guard | Creighton
Top 100: No. 87
Stats: No. 19

Consensus: 0.6 WARP

Given his low top 100 ranking, Ballock is likely headed for a two-way contract. He could contribute in that role along the lines of Garrison Mathews, who started 24 games for the Wizards last season. Ballock was a 40% 3-point shooter in four years at Creighton and plays to his strength: 75% of his attempts came from beyond the arc.

Two top-10 prospects who didn’t crack the top 30:

32. James Bouknight

Guard | UConn
Top 100: No. 9
Stats: No. 62

Consensus: 0.5 WARP

Bouknight’s stats-only projection pegs him worse than replacement level in large part because of iffy outside shooting. He hit just 32% of his 3s in two years at UConn, though 80% free throw shooting is encouraging. Bouknight also had nearly 1.5 times as many turnovers as assists, suggesting concerns about his decision making.

42. Davion Mitchell

Guard | Baylor
Top 100: No. 8
Stats: No. 79

Consensus: 0.2 WARP

Mitchell’s rapid development between his first and second seasons at Baylor (after transferring from Auburn) makes him unique historically. Based solely on his 2020-21 campaign, Mitchell’s consensus rating would rank 16th overall. But as a redshirt sophomore, Mitchell looked like a non-prospect, hitting just 32% of his 3s before jumping to 45% as a junior. The fact that Mitchell showed no improvement from the line (where he was a 66% career shooter) makes me skeptical that leap is real.

Mitchell isn’t getting enough credit for his on-ball defense here, and his development as a pick-and-roll ball handler last season is more likely to sustain him, but I wouldn’t be comfortable drafting him in the lottery.

Here are the full projections for the top 100 and unranked prospects in the top 60:

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