Hard-nosed, high motor, relentless on both ends, impressive early defensively, can handily guard the 1 and 2
NBA ready frame at 6-4 and 205, has room for more muscle
Polished scorer with range, can get to his spots with ease, knifes through lane to finish with athleticism and premier touch
Elite playmaking, high IQ handler who passed his teammates open, flourishes as a passer when dealing with more attention
Free throw percentage
Freakish motor has lead him to foul a bit too much
Not necessarily weak, but has development to do with his middle game, elite shooting + finishing will force him to be a threat in the intermediate level
I have said it before and I will say it again, Jalen Suggs should be atop every single Big Board. Jalen Suggs has proved to not just have minimal weaknesses within his game, but he has shown a prominence in every major category as a future NBA lead guard. Thus far, he has dwarfed what I thought he’d be coming out of Minnehaha, with questions concerning his playmaking and overall impact on winning basketball. I have a hard time poking any holes in his game.
An uber athletic lead guard with advanced ball handling, a high IQ, a flamethrower from deep when given the space and a deadly first step that collapses a defense with ease. Suggs has natural touch that extends, countering his impressive IQ as just a Freshman. Skip passes, drop offs and live ball swing passes have led to high assist numbers. Defensively, he’s a fighter and has phenomenal instincts. Long arms and quick feet have allowed Suggs to rack up steals.
NBA spacing and tempo should only serve to benefit Jalen Suggs from the jump. He will be an instant impact playmaker, scorer and defender. The 19 year old provides organizational direction with an All-Star level ceiling. In a PnR heavy league, Suggs should touch near 20 point and 8 assist per game marks while using his energy and athleticism to lockdown opposing guards. Feel for the game for young players not only bodes well for their instant impact, but Suggs will be polished at a younger age than most. He should approach stardom within just a few seasons and only improve as a decision maker. He is the cream of the crop within the 2021 field.
If it is not obvious yet, I am higher on Dalano Banton than just about anyone. Banton, a native Canadian, is the absolute premium example of how to impact winning basketball as a prospect. Over the last few draft results, the public is now opening their eyes to the idea that the top overall picks are not always those who put up the biggest numbers at the college level. Banton’s scoring does not make him an NBA player, but the vast amount of categories in which Banton brings production in an efficient manner should surely open eyes. At 6-9 and 205 pounds, Banton lands in the 85th percentile as a PnR ball handler. Yes, ball handler. The Cornhusker swiss army knife already has one triple-double on the season and comes pretty close to one a nightly basis. His shot still has some ironing out to do, but his massive improvement from the free throw line, heightened volume from beyond the arc and natural intermediate game lend plenty of optimism for his shooting outlook. For a wiry wing, you might think he’d struggle on the defensive end especially against B10 opponents. Yet, here are just a few major statistics to show Banton’s defensive versatility: 2 steals, 1.5 blocks and 10.6 rebounds per 40 minutes, 75th percentile guarding spot ups and 71st percentile guarding PnR ball handlers. Banton showed flashes as a Hilltopper and has now become a star with Nebraska. Simply put, Banton excels in essentially every category. As he puts on weight and gets up to near 220 pounds as expected early in his NBA career, and raises his shooting percentage to near 38% from three, currently 33%, Banton’s provides the two way impact every organization seeks on the wing with an even more unique skillset as a playmaker. You will rarely ever see a 6-9 wing averaging 5.5 assists on over a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Moses Moody’s Quick Trigger
Filling the holes left by Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones is no easy task. Moses Moody has done that and so more, leading the Razorbacks to a quick 8-0 start. I do not think I have ever seen a player expand his role from high school to a Freshman year in high major college basketball, but that’s what playing with Montverde Academy will do. Moody is shooting a healthy 10 field goal attempts per game while getting to the line 5 times per game, an area I thought he could have low volume in. Moody does not hesitate to let it go when given space, connecting on 42% of his deep balls which account for nearly half his shot attempts. The Little Rock native uses a natural pump fake and a fluid hesitation move to get to his spots with ease. He is not an overwhelming athlete, but the manner in which he scores the ball with ease from all three levels relying on touch and a slithery ability to separate is nearly reminiscent Bradley Beal, though Moody has three inches on the former 3rd overall pick in 2012. It’s still early, but landing in the 88th percentile off of spot up opportunities bodes extremely well for his stock. In addition, Moody has been better defensively than advertised, using instincts and overall IQ producing a heightened defensive win share and PnR ball handling defense efficiency. The level of polish from an 18 year old is beyond impressive, and he is just getting started.
Keon Johnson’s Burst
It was always going to be a bit difficult to get a full grasp on what Keon Johnson would be at the next level in one year at Tennessee with the amount of talent they have, but the 6-5 guard’s athleticism and motor jump off the screen. Johnson comes off the bench to play just 18 minutes per game, but immediately speeds up the tempo of the game with the build to guard multiple positions and a knack to find the ball. Per 40 minutes, Johnson is averaging 3.3 steals, 6.5 boards and 1.5 steals. He has struggled shooting the rock and taking care of the ball, but the polishing of his game will likely be a longterm project. But for now, his burst remains constantly portrayed on the defensive end with an impressive +/- on that end and thus far is placed in the 99th percentile as a spot up defender and the 90th percentile as an overall defender. More highlights are surely to come with transition flushes and acrobatic finishes, but come draft time the excitement will stem from Johnson’s athletic burst and activity on the defensive end.
Day’Ron Sharpe’s Motor
Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks and Walker Kessler are keeping Sharpe, the most talented of the bunch, from stacking up more than 18 minutes per game. When Sharpe is on the court, he does not hesitate to make his presence felt. Per 40 minutes, Sharpe puts up 16 boards and 3 blocks per game. Another Montverde alumni, Sharpe entered his collegiate career at a mature 6-11 and 265 pounds. For a massive big, he can move extremely well on both ends and uses his broad shoulders to carve out space in the paint. He is also active in the passing lanes, putting up 3.1 steals per game. The numbers are strong in a broader perspective, but just watching UNC when Sharpe is on the floor makes them look like a different team. The amount of activity put forth on the glass can swing a game in the Tar Heels direction and the energy is undoubtedly contagious to his teammates. Brooks and Bacot both have pretty polished post games with their back to the basket, whereas Sharpe is primarily a rim runner with flashes of a post game due to advanced footwork. Energy translates, and I quickly have fell in love with Sharpe’s outlook as a two way big. Think a more athletic Wendell Carter or a less versatile Bam Adebayo.
Justin Powell’s Confidence
By now, Powell should be everyone’s radar. A few weeks ago? Probably no one’s. The 6-6 Auburn Freshman carries an incredibly fluid scoring package with an undeniable confidence that jumps off the screen. Not only is Powell a shot creator, at 9 attempts from the field and 3 from the line each game, but he is a shot maker, shooting 51% from three (19/37 through 8 games), 49% from the field and 76% from the free throw line. He currently slots in at the 99th percentile against a zone defense, 96th percentile as a spot up scorer and 92nd percentile overall offensively. The analytics are sky high. There is a certain sort of swagger that oozes off the Goshen, Kentucky native on the offensive end. Powell is hard-nosed, gritty and shows an obvious pride in playing winning basketball. He was ranked outside the top 150 nationally as a recruit, and if there is such thing as better than advertised, that is Justin Powell. The entire nation including myself slept on Powell and he continues to prove himself game in and game out. Powell leads the Auburn Tigers in points, rebounds and assists per game. He remains a fringe top 30 prospect for me, because I want to see him compete against SEC competition on a relatively weak Auburn team, but at this point, I refuse to count out a potential leap. Think a right handed Luke Kennard with dare I say it, some hints of Tyler Herro as a versatile shot creator.
Jalen Sugg’s IQ & Feel for the Game
My love for BJ Boston is obvious. It was laid out in depth in my spotlight piece on the Kentucky Freshman. I bring that up because Jalen Suggs will now be atop my debut 2021 Big Board, because there is absolutely no reason anyone can be placed above him. Not only has Suggs not shown weakness in any specific area, he has shown a prominent strength in every aspect of the lead guard position. Suggs is averaged 8.6 assists and 8.4 rebounds per 40 minutes while hitting 50% of his 3’s and placing in the 81st percentile in overall defense. I had no doubt Suggs’ scoring would translate and he’d be a deadly transition weapon because of his athleticism, but I simply did not expect near this level of playmaking with Nembhard and Ayayi in the same backcourt. They are in extremely different situations, but the way that Suggs is elevating his team on both ends and setting up teammates in positions to thrive is what I expected from Cade Cunningham, who’s carrying a miserable 1:1 assist to turnover ratio. Cunningham will be special as a ball dominant creator with size, feel and a unique playmaking ability. I have a hard time keeping Evan Mobley out of the top spot simply due to the prominence of big men in the current NBA along with his special two way ability as a rim protector and all around scorer. As previously mentioned, I remain higher on BJ Boston than just about anyone because I am confident he will click sooner than later as he is far too talented. With all that, Jalen Suggs two way dominance and stardom game in and game out on the nation’s most talented roster is too difficult to ignore. The manner in which Suggs has grasped college basketball so quickly and not only had the ability to fill up the box score, but make his team much better when he is on the floor and dominate the opposition is the most impressive transition from High School to College that I have witnessed. We have yet to see a moment where Suggs does not look in control of the game. FOG loves to provide a unique lens and perspective on all prospects, especially at the top of the board, but there is absolutely no reason that Jalen Suggs shouldn’t be the top prospect on every 2021 NBA Draft Big Board.
How can a player’s production be measured based on opportunities and risks taken? There are many metrics adjusted and created to account for NBA player metrics. The one I created and am about to introduce is called Opportunity Production Rating (OPR). The goal of this statistic is to take into account player roles and shooting opportunities taken and see if they are making the most of them. In other words, it is a rating that shows a player’s pure production to the team per 100 possessions, adjusted to show scoring efficiency given the opportunities and risks a player takes when shooting.
For this statistic, I used per 100 possession statistics from the 2019-2020 NBA season from Basketball Reference. In order to help calculate player production, I used accessible stats in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, and personal fouls, as well as shooting attempts stats and Box plus/minus. In order to see how efficient players are with the shot opportunities they take, I scaled their points in this according way:
Scaled Points rewards the player for taking more threes and drawing more fouls (shown via free throw attempts). Multiplying points by a combined and adjusted field goal and free throw percentage gives scaled points, adjusted to reward players for more taking more risks with more threes and drawing more fouls with free throws.
Next, I got the formula for Opportunity Production Rating by first performing a model regression (in R programming) on Box plus/minus using points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, turnovers, and personal fouls. Box plus/minus (BPM)1 is a rate stat on Basketball Reference that estimates a player’s contribution in points above league average per 100 possessions played. I used it because it is a close indicator of what OPR is trying to find and would be useful in finding a balance of how much of each stat I used would contribute to a player’s production. To perform the regression, I used the per 100 possessions stats of players who played in more than 40 games for the 2019-2020 NBA season. As a result of this linear regression model, I got 0.32(PTS), 0.3(REB), 0.6(AST), 0.7(BLK), 1.2(STL), -1.6(TOV), -0.2(Fouls) as coefficients, meaning this is approximately how much each stat contributes to BPM for each player (not including any advanced calculations or additions that BPM may consider). So, I used all of these coefficients in my formula for OPR, except for points, where I multiplied that coefficient by 2.5 (0.32 * 2.5 = 0.8) in order reinforce rewarding players for riskier shots and shot opportunities taken as I used Scaled Points, not just points. The ultimate formula for OPR I found is:
Based on this formula, here are player averages I found for listed positions for each player in the 2019-2020 NBA season:
Position Group (as listed on Basketball Reference)
Average OPR (> 40 games played)
Additionally, here are the top players in OPR (>40 games played) from the 2019-2020 NBA season:
Here are lowest players (> 40 games played) in OPR from the 2019-20 NBA season:
It was generally found that an OPR above 22 is superstar level production, while an OPR from 11-15 is about average production, and an OPR below 8 was inefficient and underperforming player production. Most players were in the 8-15 OPR range.
One player with a surprisingly high OPR was Christian Wood with a 20.99. Wood was an efficient shooter and scorer, while he was a force around the rim as a rebounder and blocker, which likely led to amplified stats per 100 possessions, giving him a high OPR. Other surprising players with high OPR were guard Shaquille Harrison with a 17.3 OPR, and Boban Marjanovic with a 21.18. Both had roles with limited minutes coming off the bench for their teams and were highly efficient when on the court. Harrison was a great defender and efficient in other aspects of the game when on the court, leading to his high OPR. Marjanovic was an extremely productive rebounder, and a solid 2-point shooter and defender, leading to his high OPR. One player with surprisingly low OPR was Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, with a 7.32 OPR. Garland was an O.K. shooter, but struggled defensively and did not get to the free throw line as much, likely leading to the low OPR.
In general, Opportunity Production Rating gives a rating for player production throughout the season per 100 possessions. OPR is similar to the Game Score stat from John Hollinger2 in that it attempts to calculate a player’s pure production, but is different in that it calculates production per 100 possessions and adjusts for risks and opportunities taken. As more information is gathered from player production in the NBA, OPR could be adjusted further to incorporate mid-range shots, layups, contested shots, and more all separately. More advanced stats could also be used in the OPR formula to get a more holistic rating. As the 2020-2021 NBA season gets underway, it will be interesting to see how accurate OPR may be in showing which players are most productive for their teams, and it can be adjusted according to accuracy and new situations that may be beneficial to account for in the stat. For now, OPR uses accessible stats on Basketball Reference to calculate player production adjusted for risks and opportunities taken. It can best be used to see how productive and how efficient with risks and opportunities taken a player is.
The following image is the top performers in terms of OPR from the 2019-20 season.
*This stat is per 100 possessions with stats and player information from the 2019-2020 NBA season from Basketball Reference, calculations made in RStudio
The 2021 NBA Draft Big Board is nearing a debut, but there is still plenty of evaluation ahead. One and done’s busting onto the scene while collegiate veterans show improvement and international play gets going with film slowly but surely becoming available. Full breakdowns on a ton of prospects will be released throughout the pre-draft process similar to last year, but here are a few notes, or a brief stock report, on each of FOG’s top 40 prospects. The list below is not in cemented order.
The handle, assertiveness and wildly unique skillset continue to jump off the page
Knocking down shots from every level while blocking a high volume of shots, ultra valuable 1+ three and 1+ block per game
Frame remains narrow, but has not shown an area of glaring weakness
Less turnovers and a boost in FT% are key areas to watch
Providing the all around impact that most expected but has plenty of work to do
In my eyes, it did not really matter what I see from Cade this year because his game screams NBA fit over NCAAB fit
Labeled as a playmaker, Cade’s assist to turnover ratio is barely over 1:1 has to take care of the ball no matter how high his volume shoots up
Shooting was my expected area of struggle, but 41% from three thus far is a great sign
Started the season in the top two for FOG, shuffled up to one and now back to three
Still remains a future All-Star and the safest two way option
Kentucky’s lack of spacing and CBB overall is having a negative impact on Boston’s film and evaluation, he will learn valuable lessons and greatly improve from this year under Coach Cal, but he may have been drafted higher if he opted for the professional route
Not overly worried about his %’s because mechanics remain fantastic and the flashes are there, but UK’s lack of lead guard play is hurting Boston and Clarke’s efficiency
Nearly the opposite case from Boston, fantastic decision to play CBB rather than professional route
Lead guard and high volume initiator for the best team in CBB bodes well for leadership and playmaking traits
Had personal concerns over whether he was a natural playmaker or better fit off ball, but he’s answered all those questions with a sky high assist to turnover ratio while playing alongside Ayayi much of the time
Nearly nothing to nit pick at this point, very safe bet to be a top 3-5 pick because of how special he appears on both ends
Film coming from the G-League scrimmages make it appear that he is dominating much like he did at Prolific Prep
Very intrigued to see how he measures out whenever it might be, frame appears nearly identical to High School but I had hoped for some weight to be put on
We will never get to see how he impacts winning basketball prior to being an NBA player, which is essentially my one and only question concerning Jalen Green
All signs point towards Green being safe in the top 5 and making the right decision to skip CBB
Scoring efficiency and shooting have been more impressive than I expected from the few scrimmage box scores released to the public
Will likely be the youngest player in the entire draft and is heading towards a 6-8 and 220 pound frame with elite athleticism
Scoring skillset needs polishing and looks like it is being smoothened out, mid-range face up game is a go-to
Far and away, Kuminga has the highest two-way potential; Already my favorite defender in the class
Barnes has forced the issue a bit too much early on, resulting in a ton of fluctuation for FOG
Defensively, his intensity, motor, versatility and feet have been incredibly impressive
Shooting was my expected struggle and is clear, 22% from three and 42% from the line is unacceptable
Ball handling, vision and feeling have been elite, as expected
Both 5 star FR come off the bench for the Vols who have plenty of depth so Johnson’s volume remains low
Defensive win shares and steals are sky high; athleticism has immediately translated to that end of the floor
Unlikely to get a great feel on his offensive skillset because of shallow volume this entire year outside of flashes
Very intrigued by his offense, deadly in transition, but questions as a shooter still
The highest ranked non-one-and-done and is likely to stay there for the long run
Deadly scorer, elite athlete and an extremely polished scoring package
High volume shooter, but questions as a playmaker and impact on winning
A 1:2 assist to turnover ratio is a glaring issue for a high volume ball handler
Started off with a bang in an efficient scoring manner, but has really cooled off
Off the bounce scoring has translated and has been effective with his length but is struggling in essentially every numerical area
Ball handling, shot selection, playmaking are glaring areas of weakness
Struggling to separate and not getting to the FT line, starting to have a clear trajectory as a high level role player or secondary scorer rather than go-to option
Duke looked it’s best with Johnson off the floor due to injury, which has him out indefinitely
Ability to clean the glass and lead the break with a strong handle are exciting but he is not taking care of the ball at 5 turnover per 36 minutes
33% from 3pt is not horrible, but teams have been choosing to give him open looks because he is not a consistent threat from there
Athleticism, motor, defensive versatility, mid-range and finishing scoring are all standout strengths thus far
Debatably the most polished and NBA ready prospect in the field
Has some work to do defensively, but strong footwork provides evidence for versatility at the next level
Extremely technical and disciplined, shows through shot selection but turns the ball over a bit too much
Efficient as a scorer, strong rebounder and potentially has the highest IQ of any prospect with a subtle athleticism
Slowly becoming VERY intriguing
UNC’s depth in the front court will never give me evaluators the full look at Sharpe that is wanted, but his appeal oozes more and more each time I see him
His motor is absolutely off the charts, prominent athlete with an NBA ready frame
A 19 year old with his size rarely has the instincts, athleticism and overall toughness
Has wildly improved from his last two seasons at Illinois
IQ, playmaking, feel and defense are proving to be strong points
Up to 206 pounds, seeking contact at the rim, touch in the mid-range should translate from day one
Will be key to see how Dosunmu deals with double teams and defensive attention in B10 play; Assist to turnover ratio has improved and if it does from here on out, Ayo will continue to rise
Unexpected, but Jones is Texas’ top NBA prospect
Efficiency has been phenomenal, knows his spots and gets to them
Elite athlete with defensive instincts and quick feet, should be extremely versatile as a switcher
Shooting volume is low, and likely always will be relatively low, but impacts the game in nearly every key category, showing massive improvement
Has shown massive improvement, centerpiece on both ends for WKU
Two way producer, footwork as a screener is great, physically imposing
Tangible traits have always been fantastic but has slowly learned how to dominate by developing his motor and extending his touch
Sky high usage rate as a big man won’t translate but will be a key piece of his evolution, fearless defender as well
Struggled in the expected areas: shooting, efficiency, playmaking and physicality of the game
Atrocious 0:4 assist to turnover ratio per 36
Extremely sped up and forcing the issue, has a role at the next level as a pogo stick athlete with flashes of touch and a transition weapon but remains raw
Shaka Smart will not be able to solve these issues and smoothen out Greg Brown’s game in one year, and he should not come back to college, but wherever he falls to should expect 2-4 years of purely development and polishing
Beginning to absolutely love Moody’s floor as a scoring wing with good size
Most fellow highly touted FR have failed to slow the game down but Moody has played to his own pace from day one, phenomenal at changing speeds and getting to his spots
Shooting efficiently from the field, from three and from the line, extremely natural, fluid and smooth scorer
Would have been a top 30 prospect for me last year, and has improved a ton in his SR year
Spot up shooting has been the standout trait for years but continues to improve as a shot creator off the bounce, volume is shooting up which will bode well for long term evaluation
Defensive efficiency has not been as high, but physical development and advanced impact in combination with measurements give him an elite level role player trajectory
Current events surrounding COVID-19 are trending in the right direction for the 2021 McDonald’s All American Game, usually scheduled for late March. The 2020 MCDAAG was cancelled due to the pandemic, although the selections retained their All-American status. The annual All-American game gives evaluators an initial opportunity to analyze the nation’s top high school talent competing against one another through the practices, televised scrimmage and game. A year ago, FOG only missed on three selections in the 2020 MCDAAG Predictions.
Rather than the East vs. West breakdown from a year ago, the projected 24 players are listed and where they rank in the class due to MCDAAG’s odd system of breaking up the team disregarding geographic location.
Following last years trend, a few highly regarded prospects will likely take the professional route. Doing so makes the prospect ineligible for the MCDAAG. The projected will be listed with an asterisk below.
Patrick Baldwin Jr
*FOG’s 6th ranked prospect in the 2021 Class, Michael Foster, is likely G-League bound.
In the eyes of FOG, the top defenders in the modern NBA are the most versatile, hard-nosed and intelligent defenders. The influx of hard-nosed athletes into the NBA in recent drafts continues to impress. Some major factors that I seek when evaluating potential switch-ability in the PnR heavy modern NBA are lateral quickness, hip flexibility, anticipation/instincts, wingspan, physical maturity, footwork and quick hands. Those who follow FOG analysis closely know, defensive versatility along with feel for the game and the natural ability to produce as well as effect winning basketball on both ends carry extremely heavy weight in Big Board ranking. Below are six 2021 NBA Draft prospects who have high upside trajectories as versatile defenders.
A ton of what I loved about Chicago Bulls rookie, Patrick Williams, aligns with my appeal to Kuminga in the 2021 class. Kuminga will be one of the youngest prospects in the field upon draft night, as he was reclassified up to join the G-League Ignite program. With his youth, Kuminga’s frame is NBA ready at 6-8 and close to 220 pounds. Powerful athletes with this level size should produce defensively very early on in their careers. Kuminga has quick feet and massive arms, with the tools to guard the 1-4 handily. Motor has not been a concern in the past, which can be a theme in such a young, talented prospect. He has flashed the ability to block shots in solid volume and should continue to add to his frame while maintaining athleticism. Kuminga was not included in the recent piece covering the top athletes in the 2021 Draft because he is the headliner in this one, but he is certainly among that group as well. We likely will not see an wink of meaningful competition out of Kuminga prior to his NBA debut, but his defensive versatility makes me more than confident enough to keep him in my top seven while his offense develops.
Barnes has flashed a ton through just a few games with the Seminoles. Not only does Leonard Hamilton produce NBA wings (Malik Beasley, Dwayne Bacon, Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams) but he produces high level defenders very early on. Barnes is next in line and has stunted incredibly quick hands with more advanced instincts than any of the FSU alumni previously listed. Defense is just a portion of what makes him a top ten prospect for me, but his build at 6-9 and 230 pounds with subtle athleticism and guard-like feet will allow him to make impact on that end early on. He’s feel for the game oozes on good and bad nights, a rare trait for a Freshman this early on. Fellow Montverde alumni, Ben Simmons, is a better athlete than Barnes, but I do think they can have a similar defensive impact at their best. The Noles have pegged Barnes as their lead guard and do keep the ball in his hands a ton offensively, putting him in the situation to guard either the opponents best player or a guard who is quicker than him. He has impressed early and will only get better. The sequences of isolated full court pressure provide strong insight to his motor, intensity and toughness. Scottie Barnes is quickly creating quite the resume of intangibles.
Garrett is likely the most talented and impressive perimeter defender in the entire country. This season has been his opportunity to take on more volume offensively, but has essentially taken on the opponents best offensive player since he cracked the Jayhawk rotation Freshman year. Long arms, quick feet, elite instincts, strong athleticism and a relentless motor will make an NBA organization very happy a year from now. He is not a liability offensively, but his production potential is limited, yet he will be difficult to keep out of a rotation because of his defensive value.
Clarke is more raw defensively than the others, but at 6-7 and close to 200 pounds, he has displayed the flashes and has the tools to be a strong, versatile wing defender. Calipari is going to push him to improve his motor and really compete defensively. Kentucky is challenged in pretty much every area, but their three standout Freshman have all shown strong defensive flashes. Isaiah Jackson is an elite rim defender and Boston is highly instinctual, long defender with work to do on his frame. Clarke might end up being the best of the bunch defensively because of his wingspan, lateral quickness, athleticism and motor.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a more impressive and all-around prospect than Saddiq Bey from a year ago. Bey was pegged by many as an elite defender at Villanova, but showed more signs of being a product of an elite defensive scheme rather than a talented individual defender. JRE is both for me, as he is a longer prospect at 6-9 and 235 pounds and is a better athlete. Bey had slow feet at times and tighter hips, whereas JRE has thrived switching on screens and guarding multiple positions. At the next level, I think he will be able to compete with many pure big men but also be able to matchup against the pogo stick 4/5 athletes who are becoming more and more prevalent. Long strides, highly advanced instincts that are natural for any Jay Wright product and a fluid athletic ability make Robinson-Earl a fantastic two-way prospect that I continue to rise on the more I watch.
Terrence Shannon jr
Shannon is a powerful athlete with a mature frame and is a product of the Chris Beard defensive scheme. Most know my affinity for Jahmi’us Ramsey last go around. Jarrett Culver’s defense the draft prior was an incredibly sought after skillset, and Nimari Burnett will likely be the same in 2022. The Chicago native has an NBA ready frame at 6-6 and 210 pounds but his feet move much quicker than you’d expect. Different than others listed, I would not peg him as a guy who can guard 4-5 positions at the next level, but I do think he can be an elite wing defender pretty early on. Beard teaches wings how to defend with physicality, anticipation and footwork largely depending on lateral quickness to keep the ball out of the paint. Ice coverages continue to become more popular in NBA schemes, a trend that should serve Shannon well.
FOG has consistently preached the heightened value of highly skilled, high IQ prospects in the Pre-Draft evaluation system, but there will always be a place in the NBA for premier athletes who make their presence felt because of their speed, vertical ability and power. At the wing spots, athleticism is extremely sought after because of how it can quickly translate on the defensive end and how productive shooting coaches continue to prove to be with young players. Essentially, shooting can be taught later, whereas athleticism can not. For big men, the value of rim runners continues to increase. Vertical floor spacers and strong, physical screen setters who can dive to the rim provide a safety net for easy dump offs. In a space and pace modern NBA, rim defense is a pre-requisite for any competing roster. The following group of six is the next influx of elite athletes on the wing and the front court.
Jalen Green is a generational athlete and potentially one of the most talented prospects to enter the NBA in recent years. Green opted for the G-League route, and we will likely never see him play in a minute of competitive action prior to his NBA debut. The 6-5 and 180 pound scorer is a consensus top five prospect and if he does choose to participate in the combine next off-season, he will be a competitor for the 46 inch record. Green is the most impressive high school prospect I have seen in the person outside of Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram largely due to due his extraordinarily unique combination of skill and athleticism. He thrives as a slasher, rising up and slithering around big men to finish with elite touch. Green’s body control and ability to hit a launch pad when attacking the rim bode well for his long term scoring outlook. Long arms, strong lateral quickness and massive strides provide optimism for Green’s defensive potential, but he still has plenty of work to do there. Jalen Green’s athletic ability is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his skillset for FOG. He will be one of the premier athletes in the entire NBA from the minute he steps on the court.
Far too many people still do not know who Keon Johnson is, but they will. The Freshman has an abrupt, powerful athletic ability that does not stand out as much as others because of his tendency to lean on his craftiness. At 6-5 and 190 pounds, Johnson uses massive strides to finish with his head above the rim in transition. A major swing trait that I am watching for all season long is Johnson’s ability to hit perimeter shots simply due to the uncapped potential he has a closeout attacker. A smooth, fluid athlete who uses his power when needed creates the necessary blend for NBA execs to trust his development as a starting level, two-way combo guard. His explosive ability off drives and potential defensive versatility make him a top 10 prospect for FOG.
The 6-5 and 185 Frenchman is more raw than the previously mentioned combo guards, but might be the most hard-nosed of the bunch. At this point, Begarin is essentially a non-shooter, but remains in the top 15 for FOG because of his body of work as a versatile, athletic defender and powerful slashing ability. Begarin is the prime example of how execs will trust his athletic ability and consequently trust their developmental staff to figure out the shot later on. There are hints of Emmanuel Mudiay, but it is a gamble that plenty of execs will be willing to take in the top 20 because of the rare athletic ability. Teams with flexibility and patience will find a ton of appeal in Begarin’s athleticism.
There is no hiding that Greg Brown has struggled thus far. Texas appears to be deeper and more talented than any roster yet under Shaka Smart, and while Greg Brown has had strong volume and remains a key piece, he has a long ways to go become a productive, two-way piece. Shooting 33% from the field through 5 games is woeful, but Brown remains one of the most explosive athletes in the 2021 Draft by a fair margin. Poster slams, high rising rebounds and flair in transition should be staples throughout the season giving him enough juice to be an eventual first round pick. The transition from high school ball to high major NCAA competition is a large obstacle for a wiry, 6-9 and 205 pound Freshman who relies heavily on his athletic ability. His speed, verticality and motor made him a 5 star prospect in the class of 2020, but when he’s on the court with other elite athletes, he does not stick out nearly as much. He’s not the first case of this scenario, and will not be the last. Nassir Little, Andrew Wiggins, Ben McLemore and Kahlil Whitney all stick out as similar stories in the previous few seasons. The key developmental points for Greg Brown are obvious, and it might take a few years of polishing before he becomes more than just an athletic, vertical threat.
Hunt is a FOG favorite. I absolutely love this kids athletic ability, body control, defensive versatility, pogo stick jumping ability and overall grit on both ends. At 6-8 and 200 pounds, Hunt would have been in FOG’s Top 50 on the 2020 Big Board had he kept his name in the field. 2021 is a far stronger field, and he will likely be a part of the top 40. The SMU Mustang is Derrick Jones Jr with solid touch out to the arc to me. He is a prototypical four man in the modern NBA because his ability to guard all five positions and bring rebounding production due to his relentless motor. As a Junior now, Hunt is a high IQ cutter who makes defenses pay for collapsing too aggressively on ball handlers with a high volume of back door lob finishes. He could use more strength and more proof of development as a shooter, but is one of the AAC’s best players and one of the most slept on prospects in the 2021 Draft.
Jones has made a massive jump in year two under Shaka Smart. When evaluating Texas as a whole thus far, two things stand out. Kai Jones might just be the strongest NBA prospect on the roster at this point. Kai Jones does not play like a 6-11 big man. Quick feet, improved touch and a thickened frame making Jones a strong bet to land in the first round in 2021. A ridiculous 94% from the field and 3 for 3 from deep has brought some rapid attention to the Bahamian big man. Jarrett Allen and Jaxson Hayes stayed pretty under the radar and had limited production during their collegiate careers, but ended up as top 25 selections. Hayes was a more impressive athlete and Allen had more impressive measurements, but Kai Jones might be the most collectively talented prospect of the three.
Since his days at Spire Academy, Isaiah Jackson has always been an eye catching talent with his athleticism. When talking rim runners, Jackson’s skillset and physicality as a rim defending presence and vertical floor spacer, or lob finisher, make him an interesting prospect in the 2021 Draft. At this point, he heavily leans on his athletic ability on both ends, and that is about it. Is that enough? Potentially, because he will debut in the top 50 of the 2021 Big Board. At 6-10 and 206 pounds, he plays much bigger than he is and is extremely mobile on PnR coverages. Wrapping his head around defensive schemes and putting himself in the right place to clean up misses offensively will be the keys to making him a one and done, because no one doubts his extreme athletic ability.
The Florida Sophomore opted to return for another year because evaluators saw him as purely an athlete, rather than collective wing talent. He has work to do as a shot maker and ball handler, but his gargantuan wingspan and explosive athletic ability have been and will be the mainstays of his NBA Draft stock. There are a ton of players alike Lewis in the NBA who have been drafted because of their athleticism like Terrence Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo and Cassius Stanley, but what will elevate him into the first round is an improved jumper and proven scoring ability. With all that, it is impossible to keep an athlete like Scottie Lewis off this list regardless of his skillset flaws.
Perimeter scoring is at an all-time premium in the NBA. The recent contracts for Davis Bertans, Joe Harris, Gordon Hayward and Malik Beasley should show the ample value executives put toward shooting. The 2021 NBA Draft class has plenty of star power at the top, but every roster outside the lottery in compete mode has the need for shooting to space the floor for their stars. The next draft class should provide plenty high level rotational pieces on the perimeter, and here is an early glimpse of the standouts.
If Kispert kept his name in the 2020 NBA Draft, I am confident he would have landed in the first round and certainly would have been a top 30 prospect for FOG. At 6-7 and 220 pounds, Kispert is the absolute premier shooting option in the 2021 NBA Draft class. The Senior is off to a hot start with the Zags, shooting 45% from deep, 86% from the line and a miraculous 60% from the field. The key swing trait with his shooting has been the ability to create and get to his own shoot, as he’s previously been a spot up guy in recent years. He has already shown development in that area and aggressive closeouts all season should force his hand to lock down a strong step back and pull up off the bounce. He was the top rated shooter for FOG the second he took his name out of the previous draft and there is little to no chance that changes in the next 10-11 months. Kispert is a top 20 player for FOG.
Williams is one of the more fluid prospects in the 2021 Draft and is not just a perimeter threat. At 6-8 and 190 pounds, the Stanford Freshman projects as a strong fit on the wing, and for FOG after evaluating Williams for multiple years, has a very similar play style to Louis King, the former Oregon and now Detroit Piston wing, but with plenty more upside. Williams put his pull up game on display early and often, which is a trait incredibly showing for FOG as shown by the heightened value of Cole Anthony in the 2020 evaluation. A smooth, high release with consistency off the catch and off the bounce. The roster around him is solid in his one year in Palo Alto, but will not provide expansive spacing for him to have a high volume of open shots. Williams’ shot versatility, balance and touch at all three levels making him a top ten prospect and premier perimeter weapon.
Another potential one and done, Cam Thomas has been a bucket at every step of the way from Oak Hill to Baton Rouge. A natural creator who can get to his spots with ease off a versatile scoring package and a tight handle, Thomas has had an efficient start to his collegiate career. 49% from the field, 44% from three and 87% from the charity stripe bode well for his Lou Williams type of scoring trajectory. He can heat, and heat up quick, with oozing confidence as shown by 50 field goals through just 3 games. The efficiency could very well end up being a concern at the end of the season considering that 16 field goal per game pace, but with that, he should continue to show monstrous perimeter flashes with plenty of big games.
The Arkansas Freshman has gotten off to a very strong start after shining with the star studded Montverde Academy in High School. Eric Musselman lost Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones to the 2020 NBA Draft, who accounted for nearly 40 points per game for the Razorbacks last year. Plenty of the void will be filled by the 6-6 and 205 pound Freshman who was one of the more dynamic and pure perimeter threats in the 2020 recruiting class. Moody is another guy who is not just a spot up shooter, but improving his efficiency and knocking down shots as a creator at the intermediate and deep level will be keys. The SEC is extremely tough in 2020-2021, and Moody will be the first name on every opponents scouting report. The talent is oozing and if he can pace the Razorbacks at a high rate, he could end up in the lottery.
The Oregon Junior will miss 6 weeks after a thumb surgery just hours prior to the Ducks season opener, but is one of the most slept on, under the radar shooters in the nation. Another Oak Hill alumni, Richardson knocked down an incredible 47% of his threes and 85% of free throws in 30 minutes per game. At 6-5, his ability to handle the ball and shoot off spot ups makes him a near ideal fit as a combo guard at the next level. The smooth southpaw will have the opportunity to fill Payton Pritchard’s role when he is healthy as a PnR creator, providing the chance expand his outlook as a shot creator rather than just shot maker. He is the second best spot up shooter in this class outside of Kispert.
Bagley is a blast to watch, and his shooting efficiency has been better than expected this early into his tenure in Tempe. At 6-8 and 215 pounds, the brother of Kings big Marvin Bagley, has provided far more hope as a one and done than most previously thought. The run and gun system for the Sun Devils fits Bagley very well, allowing him to get easy buckets and use his athleticism, yet even more potent, is his ability to stretch the floor and open up the lane for Josh Christopher and Remy Martin. Bagley’s early ability to set his feet and rise up coming off of pin downs and fades is incredibly unique for a 6-8 freshman. The touch is there and his footwork is NBA ready. Providing a third weapon and versatility to Arizona State as well as proving his ability to guard multiple positions defensively will be swing traits throughout this season, but Bagley’s shot making versatility has been a very pleasant surprise thus far.
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.
Outside of the draft, many teams have made moves to improve their rosters and get a shot at the playoffs and the championship. Free agency is a major factor in improving a team, and retaining and adding players can be the difference between a championship or a lottery pick.
*Win Shares per million (WSPM) = A player’s total win shares from last season / average annual salary
Attempts to measure value of a player in relation to his contract.
Higher WSPM = better deal for the team, WSPM generally around 0.25 for a contract of average value. WSPM may rise for lower-tier players with positive Win Shares due to league-minimum hovering around $1 million, while it lowers for higher-tier players as teams pay premium for superstars. (Examples: 0.8 WSPM for Terrence Mann, 0.23 WSPM for Anthony Davis, -0.61 WSPM for Jordan Poole last season)
(Caveat: Win Shares are partially tied to a player’s games played and team success as well)
The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the more aggressive teams in free agency so far, using their immense cap space to lure free agents to play with Trae Young and the youthful Hawks. Adding Gallinari (0.31 WSPM), Bogdanovic (0.18 WSPM), Rondo (0.19 WSPM), and Dunn (0.46 WSPM) gives the Hawks a solid combination of value and veteran play. Gallinari and Bogdanovic will add wing shooting to a team that needs it outside of Trae Young (ranked 25th in the league in Effective Field Goal %). Meanwhile, Rondo and Dunn will help rectify Trae Young’s defensive struggles in the backcourt and add their combined 3.3 Defensive Win Shares to a lineup that ranked 27th in the league in Defensive Rating. Overall, the Hawks add valuable veteran experience, shooting, and defense, while giving out smart contracts to players that can boost the Hawks when Young is off the court.
The defending champion Lakers seem to have only gotten better this free agency by upgrading the frontcourt and retaining key players. The big free agent add was Harrell, who brings a large 0.74 WSPM to the frontcourt, while Gasol also adds a whopping 1.13 WSPM in pursuit of a ring. Matthews (0.89 WSPM) brings great veteran value to the bench, helping fill the void created by losing Danny Green and Avery Bradley. Harrell and Gasol add to a 5 spot that lost Dwight Howard and was arguably the least stable part of the Lakers’ lineup, and their additions will also allow Anthony Davis to play the 4 more often, where he excels. Re-signing key players in Caldwell-Pope (0.28 WSPM) and Morris (0.6 WSPM) reinforces the Lakers’ lineup further. Rob Pelinka added a lot of value with lesser cap space, not to mention adding Dennis Schröder via trade, likely a result of players taking smaller deals due to the pull of playing with LeBron and the reigning NBA champs.
Key Additions/Retentions: Derrick Jones Jr. (2y/$19M), Rodney Hood (2y/$21M), Harry Giles (1y/$1.68M), Carmelo Anthony (1y/$2.56M),
While it may seem like the Portland Trail Blazers haven’t added much splash value through free agency, they have flown under the radar with their signings. Derrick Jones Jr. (0.46 WSPM) adds defense to the Trail Blazers (along with the trade acquisition of Robert Covington), who ranked 28th in the league in Defensive Rating last year. Big man Harry Giles is another new addition whose high 0.95 WSPM shows that he played some quality minutes when he was on the court, he will be a low risk depth add who could boom in the frontcourt if he develops into a more consistent player. Re-signing Hood (0.1 WSPM) and Carmelo (0.51 WSPM) gives the Blazers shooting back on the wing. Hood only appeared in 21 games last season (thus impacting his Win Shares), so having him for a whole year will especially help the team’s perimeter shooting. Portland re-signed key players while adding new quality talent at good value as well, giving them a solid free agency run.
*Information gathered from Basketball Reference and Spotrac