By Max Feldman
As long as Brandon Boston Jr stays healthy in his one season under John Calipari, he will be FOG’s top overall prospect for the long run. The 6-7 and 190 pound wing has all the makes of a franchise cornerstone that FOG would look for in a top overall pick. There are currently no other platforms or outlets favoring Boston as the top prospect, with Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green being amongst the favorites. FOG is putting an early stamp on Boston as the most talented player in the 2021 field.
There is no doubt that the talent in the 2021 NBA Draft is elite. Stamping Boston atop the board is not diminishing the talent of Cunningham, Green, Mobley, Suggs or Kuminga, but rather a supreme, legitimate confidence that BJ Boston is a longterm face of the NBA and a multi-time All-Star.
Prior to getting into what drives my confidence for the Norcross, Georgia native, I do want to put out some of hesitations on other top prospects for reference, because after all, every high draft pick carries measurable risk. Cade Cunningham’s size and playmaking is as unique of a skillset as we’ve seen in college basketball, but his struggle to separate at times as well as deep shooting question marks keep him as my second ranked prospect. Jalen Green’s narrow frame makes him an awkward fit defensively at the NBA level, as well as a slight tendency to fade out of a game if he doesn’t have a large usage rate. His impact on winning basketball is something we will not be able to evaluate this season, but I am not completely sold on his ability to elevate his teammates and defend multiple spots. Evan Mobley has long been a favorite of FOG, and while I do not have extreme worries about his skillset, he has plenty of physical development to work on in order to compete in the paint at the NBA level. Jalen Suggs brings about little to no questions whatsoever, but I favor Boston’s top end potential, although both project as franchise cornerstones for FOG. Kuminga is an elite athlete and my favorite defender in this class by a fair margin, but his offense is raw and he needs to improve his handle.
BJ Boston has and will continue to show many skillset tendencies that both Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum showed while they were at Duke. Lanky wings with frames that make you hesitate while simultaneously drooling at what it can develop into because of their immense feel as scorers. Tatum and Ingram showed wildly impressive scoring flashes at the college level, but had questions regarding their playmaking and defense. Now, both are functional playmakers (both average 3.0+ assists per game) and have become positive defenders, an area where Tatum in specific has excelled (3.7 Defensive Win Shares last season). Getting 20-25 pounds onto Boston will be a project over the next 2-3 seasons, but one that will greatly reward him as a finisher at the rim and as a ball handler who loves to snake around screens against “ice” PnR coverages to get to his spots.
Boston is an incredible athlete with the ability to finish with power, but what impresses me athletically is his ability to hang in the air on finishes and mid-range jumpers while maintaining his elite touch. Boston’s polish and fluidity speaks for itself, and was essentially all he needed to display at Sierra Canyon playing alongside a loaded roster to win game after game. The versatile wing has the ball handling talent to be a secondary playmaker at the next level and while his assist numbers have never been extremely high, his threat as a scorer at all three levels and natural IQ to find his spots should allow for his playmaking to open up when he’s given extra attention defensively. Boston has illustrated early on with Kentucky that he thrives on drawing contact on slashes, a trait that is rare for a young, wiry wing.
Boston is the not the top shooter in this class. Nor the best athlete. Or the best playmaker. But, his outlook as an all around scorer and versatile defender due to his length and IQ give him the most appeal out of any prospect in this field for FOG. For any franchise lacking complete direction at the top of the lottery, pouring the level of stock that the top pick has into a incredibly talented playmaker with scoring question marks could be putting all your eggs into one basket as playmaking does not always translate to a tee. Consequently, using the top pick towards a generational athlete with a shallow body of work and minimal areas of impact within a game might not be the best organizational move. BJ Boston is my answer and will continue to be due to the immense flashes he shows in every impactful area.
I expect some struggles for Boston this season in Lexington. A wing who’s close to 6-8 with a near 7-0 wingspan who’s primary skillset offensively is his craftiness can breed some inefficiency due to the lack of spacing in college basketball, but will allow him to focus on developing a quicker release and a strong pull up jumper off close outs. The offense struggles thus far already have created inefficiency. Kentucky has a lack of shot creators outside of Terrence Clarke and Devin Askew, both of which have struggled separating offensively. Maximizing his ability to get to his spots now and use his length to finish with little to no spacing will provide mass value at the next level down the line.
After evaluating the 2020 NBA Draft class for over a year, my long term projected ended with 1-2 All-Stars within the class. My early projection for the 2021 NBA Draft class is 5 eventual All-Stars. Of my current top 5 prospects, Jalen Suggs is the only one that I project to fface a constant upswing in terms of his stock. Cunningham and OSU will have their struggles in the win column and some scoring concerns for Cade may arise. Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga should be quiet all season long as they develop in the G-League program. Evan Mobley’s USC Trojans will surely face adversity within a relatively weak roster outside the Mobley brothers. So, as incredibly impressive as this class is, I do not necessarily project any of them to be the NCAA’s Naismith Player of the Year or become a massive favorite to be the top pick in 2021.
BJ Boston has plenty of room to grow this season in Lexington, but his body of work to this point and the his developmental path provide me more than enough fuel to peg his name atop the 2021 NBA Draft Big Board. Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley will be the only two competitors to supplant Boston due to their hefty swing traits, but in all, Boston’s versatility, natural feel for the game and elite touch make him the very early FOG Favorite.