NBA Draft 2021: OPR Standouts

Aditya Fuldeore

When evaluating NBA Draft prospects, teams consider everything from athleticism and measurements to off the court activities. However, one of the primary things that evaluators can look at is on-court pure production and efficiency. Seeing how college players produced in-game, and how those skills translate to the NBA can be crucial in determine which prospects to pick. Here, I use amateur metric Opportunity Production Rating (OPR), which attempts to calculate a player’s pure production and efficiency on the court, to get the most productive college players on FOG’s big board. I have taken the top 6 players in OPR from FOG’s June big board, and will break down their skills and how they translate to the NBA. The following is the latest update of the implementation of OPR.

Honorable Mentions:

These players had high OPRs, but did not play in enough games to qualify for the list.

Sharife Cooper – Guard, Auburn

  • FOG Big Board #12 (SWING prospect)
  • 23.93 OPR
  • 12 Games, 33.1 MPG, 20.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 8.1 APG, 39.1 FG% / 22.8 3P% / 82.5 FT%

A shifty passer, Cooper is a little undersized, but projects as a high-level playmaker at the NBA stage.

Jalen Johnson – Wing, Duke

  • FOG Big Board #16 (SWING)
  • 21.09 OPR
  • 13 Games, 21.4 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 52.3 FG% / 44.4 3P% / 63.2 FT%

Johnson flashed potential as a three-level scorer at Duke. He can be a forward that can score from all over the court for an NBA team.

Most Productive Prospects

Charles Bassey – Big, Western Kentucky

  • FOG Big Board #43 (STABILITY)
  • 26.35 OPR
  • 28 Games, 30.4 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 0.7 APG, 59 FG% / 31 3P% / 76 FT%

At Western Kentucky, Bassey did not face high – level competition as often as prospects on highly ranked teams, but he was productive in several aspects of the game. Bassey was not only effective around the rim, but he could also make outside shots free throws, something bigs at the college level sometimes lack. He also made an impact around the rim defensively, with an 11.5 Block %. An advantage of not being on a top tier Division 1 team for Bassey was that he was more of a focal point for the team sometimes, and therefore got more room to spread out his game. Bassey now has experience being a top option for a team and was a highly productive rim runner that can take outside shots and sink free throws, contributing to his high Opportunity Production Rating. At the NBA level, Bassey will translate as a rim runner, likely receiving low playing time at first, similar to a Bruno Fernando. He will be a rebounder, but is less likely to receive opportunity shooting the ball from outside unless playing time opens up for him. While he can make outside shots, that skill is less likely to translate to the NBA level due to higher level competition, and the less role flexibility he will have as an outside-the-lottery center with a rim-running specialty. His free throw-making ability will be more useful however, as he can get physical around the rim, get fouled, and sink free throws at a more accurate clip than other bigs. With Bassey, an NBA team will receive a productive big around the rim with a high floor, but a less likely chance of meeting a ceiling due to his still raw talent as a college junior and injury history.

Cam Thomas – Guard, LSU

  • FOG Big Board #35 (HYBRID)
  • 20.77 OPR
  • 29 Games, 34 MPG, 23 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 41 FG% / 33 3P% / 88 FT%

Cam Thomas is an outside scorer, taking about 7 of his 17 field goal attempts from 3-point range. At LSU, Thomas’ production came primarily from this outside shooting, as well as mid-range shots. He was also an excellent free throw shooter, drawing contact and becoming one of LSU’s most dependable players from the line. He put up over 20 points per game, all with a high usage rate of 31.6%. Thomas’ dependability from the free throw line and his large volume of 3-point shots led to his high OPR. A freshman with high potential, Thomas can make an impact as a scorer for an NBA team. While he is unlikely to get the same usage in the NBA that he got at LSU immediately, he has the tools to become an outside scoring option at the next level, and his size most likely puts him at the 2-guard as an off the ball scorer. It may take some time for Thomas’s shooting to translate as he was not as efficient a 3-point shooter as teams may have liked, he may start off as a streaky, Landry Shamet type of player. However, Thomas has shown he can outright get buckets, and his skills as a shooter will most certainly be developed further by his NBA team. With the increasing need for shooting from outside and consistency from the free throw line, Cam Thomas has the appeal to be relevant at the next level.

Ayo Dosunmu – Guard, Illinois

  • FOG Big Board #29 (STABILITY)
  • 21.26 OPR
  • 28 Games, 35.1 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 49 FG% / 39 3P% / 78 FT%

Bob Cousy Award winner Ayo Dosunmu was Illinois’ best player his 3 years of college. He was a high volume scorer while improving his decision making skills throughout his college career. As Illinois’ alpha, Dosunmu produced as a ball distributer, rebounder, and three-level scorer. Posting a 29% Assist %, Dosunmu drew defenses to him and hit open teammates for shots. His physicality allowed him to score in the paint and grab rebounds. From outside, Dosunmu had periods of struggle through college, but solidified his shot selection and became more accurate as a 3-point shooter this past year. While most of his pure on-court production came from his scoring, his length also allowed him to defend guards and wings, posting 1.1 steals per game this past season. Dosunmu had an excellent and highly productive college game, but teams may question how his game can translate to the NBA level. He was a little inconsistent as a playmaker to be a starting Point Guard, and does not yet have a consistent outside shot. However, his size, scoring ability, and “clutch gene” will land him on a roster where he can contribute immediately as a role player anywhere from the 1 to 3 spots on the court. Dosunmu’s shooting and ball-handling may not translate immediately due to inconsistencies in college, but his ability to get to the rim, athleticism, and versatility will provide immediate help to whichever NBA team selects him.

Chris Duarte – Guard, Oregon

  • FOG Big Board #25 (STABILITY)
  • 20.9 OPR
  • 26 Games, 34.1 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 53 FG% / 42 3P% / 81 FT%

Chris Duarte was a key piece on Oregon’s sweet 16 team in 2021. An older college player, Duarte showed maturity his second year at Oregon. He shot over 50% last season, including 42% from three, and was a hounding defender, averaging 1.9 steals per game. The majority of Duarte’s productivity came from his knock-down shooting, with a consistent jump shot and diverse shot-making ability. He also rebounds well and can be a good decision maker in the backcourt passing the ball. Defensively, he is a solid on-ball defender, with the ability to produce 2 steals nearly every game. At 24, Duarte has plenty of basketball experience he can bring to the next level. His jump shot and defense look to be the most transferable skills to the NBA. Shooting is always a valuable commodity in the NBA, and Duarte can hit from outside the arc and mid-range. Defense is also a valuable skill that could push Duarte from a role-player off the bench into starter territory. He isn’t as quick as other guards in the draft class (like Dosunmu), and his age will likely cause some teams to pass on him. However, he is an experienced effective guard who can be an immediate producer either for a team looking to contend or a team looking to build.

Corey Kispert – Wing, Gonzaga

  • FOG Big Board #21 (STABILITY)
  • 20.64 OPR
  • 32 Games, 31.8 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 53 FG% / 44 3P% / 88 FT%

Corey Kispert starred on a Gonzaga team filled with NBA – level prospects. Helping Gonzaga to the NCAA finals, Kispert tore through defenses on the perimeter. His production stemmed from outside shooting and ability to make free throws, coming close to a 50-40-90 season. He was also a solid rebounder and was able to help set up shots for teammates on a deeply talented team. As a college senior, Kispert has plenty of experience and is debatably considered the best shooter of the draft class. His size allows him to cut to the basket inside, as well as get off mid-range shots over smaller wings. While he isn’t a lockdown defender, he can take on wings on the perimeter with his physicality. Kispert’s archetype is becoming more and more sought after in the NBA as a wing 3-point sniper with size. Joe Harris, Duncan Robinson, and Danny Green show the type of player Kispert can become. His outside shooting will translate to the NBA level, while his basketball IQ will be valuable to the NBA team that drafts him. His lack of burst may impact his ability to create his own shot, and it remains to be seen if his defensive toughness will translate to guarding bigger competition in the NBA. Kispert has the tools to excel as a sharpshooting wing, he could start out as a high-volume shooting role player in the NBA.

Evan Mobley – Big, USC

  • FOG Big Board #2 (SWING)
  • 23.98 OPR
  • 33 Games, 33.9 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 56 FG% / 30 3P% / 69 FT%

Mobley helped lead USC to an Elite Eight berth in the NCAA tournament, while playing like one of the best bigs in the country. Mobley’s production came from his scoring from both around the rim and outside the arc, his volume of free throw attempts and makes, his rebounding, defense, and even his passing as a big. He is an athletic big good for rim protection (nearly 3 blocks per game) and quality shots around the basket. He was also a solid rebounder and had good passing vision, with a 14.1% Assist %, ranking above most college bigs. His ability to take shots outside the paint also helped space the floor. At the NBA level, Mobley will translate as a two-way big with volume scoring opportunity as an offensive centerpiece. His ability to take outside shots will help an NBA team with spacing, and his length will allow him to grab rebounds at a high rate and defend the paint well. His 30% 3-point shooting isn’t as high as teams may have liked, but he has shown the ability to knock down shots from both outside and mid-range, while his free throw shooting is also a trait that can swing positive for him. Mobley will need to sharpen his shooting to translate it better to the NBA game, but he is already a good shooter as a big. He can translate as a 4 or 5 (more likely a 5) in the NBA with athleticism and movement that will give him the flexibility to move to spots all over the court as an offensive focal point. Mobley is young big that showcased a lot of production at USC, and is likely to be a top 4 pick with his upside in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Ultimately, it is not a coincidence 4 out of 6 of these players are “Stability” prospects – guys like Bassey, Dosunmu, Duarte, and Kispert played multiple years in college and have the production and experience to be role players at the very least at the next level. All 6 were productive scorers, with usage rates all above 22%, scoring is the quickest way to get a high OPR. College productivity does not always translate to the NBA level, but it is a good gage for seeing how skills may translate to the NBA. All of these guys have the ability to make an impact at the next level.

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