2021 NBA Draft: July Edition Big Board Primer

Max Feldman

Usually, I feel no need to release a primer-related story on an updated Big Board. The newly minted July Edition requires additional background and explanation. Here is a broader look at the Board including measurements and classification.

Weighing Recent Breakouts

Slotting Josh Primo, Josh Christopher, JT Thor & Joe Wieskamp where they are certainly opens up the potential for push-back following the development over the last week, but their current ranking still aligns with the story I released June 15th, prior to the 2021 NBA combine. Refer to the previously mentioned, “Planting My Flag”, story to gather a broader view on my current stock of the aforementioned prospects. In the listing of ranges for all four prospects, just one prospect is outside that range in the updated Big Board, and that is a one spot bump of Joshua Primo to 10th overall, rather than the 11-14 range. Otherwise, each prospect lands in the previously deemed range from prior to the combine. In simple, these breakout prospects were those I was already exceedingly high on compared to the consensus. Tre Mann and Terrence Shannon Jr garnered some additional attention over the last week and remain in the ranges I listed weeks ago, but the recognition on the level of the others listed.

The Legitimate Breakouts

While I had already been extraordinarily high on the previous group for weeks, the combine did turn my head on multiple second round prospects. Jason Preston, David Johnson and AJ Lawson made their reappearances on the Big Board after stints on the fringe earlier in the season, while Jericho Sims made his debut. Preston’s ability to control tempo, change speeds and manipulate defenses as a pick and roll handler scream rotational guard, with hints of Delon Wright making him worthy of a top 50 slot. David Johnson’s processing, frame and overall balance as a prospect again do not illustrate extreme upside, but with the importance of filling out rosters with high-feel players with the ability to contribute on both ends, it is hard to keep Johnson off the board. I have been watching AJ Lawson since his Prep days in Canada, and while the upside has always been there, he’s showing flashes of putting it together now. His measurements were off the charts and there was proof in the pudding after massive performances in live scrimmages. Jericho Sims cracks the top after being neglected through the evaluation process due to the attention on Kai Jones and Greg Brown. A rim running big with legitimate size and consistent production on both ends. He’s not an upside shot, but has the tools to be a rotational contributor with energy.

Fallers

Davion Mitchell, Keon Johnson and Cam Thomas are the standout prospects I am 10 or more slots lower on than the current consensus. A hinge point that I beat over and over last cycle was Obi Toppin’s age and his potential trajectory, and while Mitchell is a completely different prospect, it simply is very ominous to project prospects older than 23 years old to see massive development. At 6-1 with quickness, a sturdy frame and premier toughness, Mitchell is a strong bet to stick in the league for a decade, but a top 14 slot requires a bigger upside swing in my eyes. Keon Johnson measured in smaller than most expected but simultaneously obliterated a 20 year maximum vertical leap record. The lack of offensive polish provides some fear but his defensive upside guarding the 1-3 is simply too strong to push him outside the top 20. Polishing his handle would be a vital bridging piece of development towards making him a top 10 or 14 prospect in this class. Outside of transition, where he landed in just the 17th percentile overall according to Synergy, I am unsure where Johnson will contribute offensively for the time being. Cam Thomas will likely land in the first round potentially with a contender desperate for wing shooting, an area I can see him making a living. The lively scorer is one more desperate for a smooth fit than others in his range because of how vital I believe his environment will be. Crafting a Big Board with no team concept at all is incredibly difficult, but the simplest way I can put my take on Thomas is that if I am in the Lakers front office, he is a top 20 prospect. If I am in the Rockets front office, he’s merely a top 40 prospect. Creating a board with no team context forces me to slot closer to the middle because I see his environment heavily weighing on his early development compared to others.

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