Credit: Bleacher Report

With the draft in a few weeks, teams agree they would rather be in the 7-15 range in this draft then be in the top 3. This draft does not have the star power we are used to seeing, but it does have plenty of guys who have potential to be very good players in the league. There are some key headliners when it comes to this draft. The most popular one being LaMelo Ball. We also have 2 Euro darlings, a few crazy athletes, and a few guys in the top 15 who most of you would have never heard of during the regular season.

This class is loaded with potentially promising guards and there could also be a few hidden gems that could surprise some people in the second round.

Before I get into this, I suggest using a good mock draft if you’re unfamiliar with certain players and which players are projected to go where. For me, I trust NBADraft.net. Every year this is the one that, for me, is the highest quality. But remember, this is NOT a mock draft. This is a ranking of the players in the draft based off my own criteria.

This will in no way be the order of the draft because every teams need is different and every prospect has skills that some teams may value over others. So… here are the rankings:

  1. Deni Avdija: (6-9/210… SF-Israel/Euro): What!?! If you have watched college basketball you’re probably wondering “who’s that?” and even if you haven’t but keep up with Euro basketball you’re still probably wondering “who’s that?” because seriously…. who is that? You are going to learn who this kid is relatively quickly. He is the best player in the draft *bold take*. He is a 2-time Israel league champion and has made a huge splash at the FIBA U20 European Championships by winning MVP (he’s only 19). He is an extremely above average passer and transition player. At 6-9, he is a good rebounder and pushes the tempo on transition opportunities so quickly. He is a nightmare for transition defenses. He is exceptional with dynamic cutting in off ball situations which is pretty rare in players as young as he is. If you don’t know what I mean by dynamic cutting, go put on a Raptors game and watch Pascal Siakam the entire time and you’ll see what I’m driving at. He is, however, a streaky shooter. His jump shot is fine looking but his percentages can fluctuate. This will be sure to balance out once he gets consistency in the league. He is much better on catch and shoot opportunities but that shouldn’t be a concern from scouts. His defense also isn’t anything to go crazy over. He is an ideal point-forward in today’s league. He is pretty skinny and could struggle with post defense but again, it’s something he’ll learn as he works on his body. He’s kind of like Ben Simmons if you took away Ben’s defense and gave him a jump shot.
  2. Killian Hayes: (6-5/195…PG-France): Hayes has undoubted translation at the next level. If he ends up being the best prospect in the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Him and Cole Anthony are the two best finishers around the rim in this draft. The only hole in his game is he isn’t super athletic. The lefty has a decent frame but isn’t a crazy athlete. However, he makes up for it with his poise in transition. He has excellent hands on the defensive end too and will definitely be an immediate impact player. He reminds me so much of a young Dragic its crazy. His 3 point percentage may not be where scouts would like it to be but he has recently gotten his free throw percentage up to 86% which, if you ask any basketball person, is extremely promising for prospects who are streaky shooters. This should tell teams his shooting fluctuations will level out with time. His poise and IQ are the strongest aspects of his game. I would be surprised if he didn’t make some sort of impact immediately in the league.
  3. James Wiseman: (7-1/235…C-Memphis): Coming out of high school I was a little bit skeptical of Wiseman. He seemed to me like a big who just wanted to shoot 3’s all the time and wanted no part of being big. However, Penny Hardaway turned that around pretty quickly. Yes, he only played 3 games due to the terrible rules of the NCAA. However, in those 3 games he played like what I imagine it was like watching Wilt Chamberlain play against all the short dudes way back in the 60s. It was completely unfair. The reason Wiseman was so dominant was because Penny Hardaway put Wiseman into a system. He will likely be the kind of player who will be extremely effective in some sort of triangle/horns system. He seriously must have dunked the ball almost 20 times in those 3 games he played. There was nobody who even wanted to try guarding him. He will be, of course, an elite shot blocker due to his elite athleticism and size which gives him tremendous defensive upside. His ability to shoot the 3 is nice but it could also hurt him if he decides to start shooting them on a consistent basis. We’ve seen how this has worked for guys like Embiid (not well at all). I have no evidence to back this up but I really think the Warriors have him highlighted in big letters on all their boards. if they draft him and put him with Steph, Klay, Wiggins, and Draymond, that will immediately put them back in the hunt. I expect Golden State, however, to trade their pick.
  4. Anthony Edwards: (6-5/225…SG-Georgia): I’m going to be honest, I am not a huge Anthony Edwards guy. He is, however, the most athletic player in the draft and it’s not close. He is extremely streaky. Not just with his shooting but also with his overall effort. When he gets down, you can see it all over his face. This is obviously a huge red flag. However, he is extremely young and could develop into a perennial all star if he reaches his ceiling. His coaches say he is extremely coach-able which contradicts his on court body language at times. He has huge defensive upside and has an interesting NBA comp. If this comparison is worth anything… he has the good attributes of Wiggins and the bad ones of Westbrook. Yeah… that’s kind of scary. But, on the other end, there were time where I watched this guy and saw Dwayne Wade. Nobody has any idea what this guy is going to be in 5 years. On the bright side, he will probably go number 1 because every team in the draft picks their players on one factor above all: Potential.
  5. Tyrese Haliburton: (6-5/185…PG-Iowa State): Here we have a floor general who has great court vision, excellent box-out ability, and has a weird looking jumper that goes in most of the time. Sound like anyone in the league you can think of? I swear when I saw him this year I thought Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was actually wearing an Iowa State jersey. Is his shot weird? Yes. But what if I told you he shot 42% on 3s this year? You would probably say it’s because the volume isn’t there because if you’ve seen his shot you wonder “how does that go in?”. However, this dude shot 42% on 5.6 attempts a game… In the Big 12… that’s pretty damn good. So all in all, the guards in this class are pretty loaded. Side note, Haliburton is the best pick and role point guard in the country. There isnt anyone around Iowa State who does not rant and rave about how amazing of a person and teammate he is. He is a mature player and a great guy. He is one of my favorite players in this draft.
  6. Onyeka Okongwu: (6-9/235)…PF-USC): This dude just keeps rising. He went from nobody knowing who he is to being a top 7 pick. He is big, athletic, and isn’t afraid to go at any defender. He is an excellent shot blocker and can guard the perimeter very very well. With the ascent of Bam Adebayo this season and being the best player in the East Finals, teams all over the league are looking for someone with a similar frame and ability. Look no further than this guy. I am not saying he will be Bam right away, but he has potential to do everything Bam does. He can be extremely valuable for an NBA team. He is pretty talented in the post with a high IQ to rebound. Should be a solid big for some teams trying to contend.
  7. Cole Anthony: (6-2/180…PG-North Carolina): I am a HUGE Cole Anthony truther. Until all of his injuries and before the start of the college season, Cole was my number 1 pick and I, quite frankly, didn’t think it was even close. I watch a lot of high school/AAU basketball and he is one of the best, if not the best, high school guard I have ever seen. In fact, he is one of the best high school players ever in a lot of statistical categories. Cole Anthony is one of the three most talented offensive player in this draft. He is a highly above average finisher around the basket, passer, and rebounder (for his size). His basketball IQ is off the charts and he is one the most confident players in this draft. His knee injury was catastrophic to an already weak UNC team. He played, and played well, against some of the best defensive and veteran guards in the country like Zavier Simpson, Tre Jones, Payton Pritchard, Kihei Clark, and Devin Vassell. Seriously, go look at how good these guys are on defense at the college level. Few guards in college basketball finished better through contact than Cole. People will look at Cole Anthony and be suspicious because of his inefficient percentages; and that is a completely fair argument. However, you have to understand something… Cole played on a bad UNC team. This is a similar situation to the problem people had with R.J. Barrett 2 seasons ago. The reason his percentages aren’t so great is because he had to take more shots than usual because his teammates really weren’t capable of creating their own shots. This kid is legit. He is going to fall in the 15-20 range, and in a draft where there is no stand-out superstars, why not take the person who has the second highest ceiling? For the record, I think he is a top 3 talent in this draft. If he can get into the right situation and clean up his shot selection, he can be an elite player. I will die on this hill.
  8. Obi Toppin: (6-9/220…PF-Dayton): Okay don’t freak out… I know I don’t have him in the top 5 like the rest of America does. I know basketball is position-less these days but I really have no idea what position this dude is. I love the Obi Toppin story. Dayton’s offense was extremely fun to watch this year and Obi really came into his own. We’ve seen Obi Toppin-like players before except there is one difference: Obi can shoot. That’s great! Although I have a good, but maybe disappointing, comp for Toppin: He has Brandon Clarke’s athleticism and has Brice Johnson’s skills around the basket. Those two guys couldn’t shoot at all and Obi can shoot a little bit, which helps. However, he really isn’t as great a shooter as people think he is. He is good, but not great. His vertical athleticism is great but his horizontal agility is kind of robotic. He is a nightmare defender when switches happen and guards blow by him with ease. He isn’t big enough to play a true 4 and isn’t skillful enough to play the 3. I worry about him being able to switch on defense. He is, for sure, a very interesting prospect. I just don’t see him translating his sensational season into the league like I think everyone expects. He will be a solid player in this league because of his confidence and he has the “it” factor.
  9. LaMelo Ball: (6-8/180…PG-Australia): About half a year ago I probably would have had LaMelo just inside of or just outside of the top 10. His shooting ability, ball handling, and finishing around the basket has always been good. Now, the cause for concern would be his thin frame as well as his idle defense. But as most top prospects eventually learn (unless you’re Andrew Wiggins or Trae Young) how to told your own on defense as time goes on. His IQ, like his brother’s, is very good. If he can keep his energy up on defense and bulk up some, he should turn into a fine player. HOWEVER…. however… I personally want no part of him on my team. He has never played in a structural system where he had to adhere to team dynamics. Everybody who is everybody watched him play in high school. If you watched those games, it was an absolute circus. He would take horrible shots and shoot from half-court. Unlike Lonzo, he did not get to go play for a college coach to learn how to function in a system. When he went to Australia, it was more of the same. When he went there, he impressed in highlights but the games themselves were abysmal. He was able to take ridiculous shots once again. It is kind of like the kid who is always able to do whatever he wants because his dad is the coach. Look, his ability to see the floor is better than the majority of people his age. He is an absolute wizard with the ball in his hands and has potential to be a high-level play-maker. He has all the intangibles but I seriously worry for his lack of structure over his entire life. I would not touch him, if I am being honest.
  10. Isaac Okoro: (6-6/215…SG-Auburn): I actually think Okoro’s offensive skill set is much better than he gets credit for. His percentages can be misleading to his importance to Auburn this year. He was arguably the most important person to their team in all of college basketball. He has a great looking jumper and is a good decision maker on and off the ball. He can easily be a role player for several teams right away and he can evolve beyond that into a great shooter if he keeps working on his consistency. He has the size and skill set to be a good NBA shooting guard. The strongest case for him is he is the best wing defender in the draft. He moves his feet exceptionally and he has good role player written all over him. He kinda reminds me of a guy like Covington if he can tweak his jumper consistency with potential to be more.
  11. Patrick Williams: (6-8/215…PF-Florida State): I love love love this guy as a prospect. I am just going to come out and say he has huge Beta Al Horford potential. He can switch 1 through 5 and has excellent feet while rolling to the rim. He is a strong physical presence and he is still developing. He shot 84% on free throws… 84! That is really good for this player type. He is developing a 3-pointer and he really does have huge upside. He is definitely on my list of steals in this draft and he is one of my favorites.
  12. Tyrell Terry: (6-3/175…PG/SG-Stanford): This is another guy I absolutely LOVE. He is excellent and crafty around the basket, is an elite shooter, and battles super hard on defense. Like Haliburton, he is a high character guy who has been putting in a ton of work during the pandemic and pre-draft stuff. He has gained 15 pounds of muscle and all I hear about this kid is how much of a gym rat he is. He is the kind of player that is very very easy to root for. He is another guy who has that “it” factor about him and is probably not as high in most boards. He shoots 41% from 3 and 89% at the line. I absolutely love this guy.
  13. Aaron Nesmith: (6-6/213…SG/SF Vanderbilt): Buddy Hield, Buddy Hield, Buddy Hield. This dude can shoot from any spot in the gym. He took 115 3’s over the course of the season and shot 52.2%… Yeah, you read that right. He can play for any team right now and help them on the perimeter. His shot selection is very smart despite his range. He is elite catch and shoot and also off the dribble. The main thing about him is he is very conscious about what he can do and understands what he cannot. He is developing as a defender and is learning to be more crafty on drives. His ball fake should be registered as a lethal weapon. He is an absolute flamethrower.
  14. Devin Vassell: (6-7/195… PG-Florida State): This guy is going to be a really good role player in the league. His jump shot is horrendously ugly, but he is one of the best defenders in this draft. He can, despite his size, switch 1 through 5. He will absolutely thrive in good system. He is definitely a Spur-type. Video surfaced of his jump shot recently and it was… horrid to say the least. I don’t know if he was messing around in the video of not but the jump shot is laughably terrible looking. Regardless, he has a lot of heart and was exceptional at Florida State.

Don’t forget… we tend to find, especially recently, absolute gems that fall to the middle-late first round. Guys towards the bottom of this first 14 are undoubtedly going to be in that same conversation. I would much rather be in those slots as a drafter then being in the top 3. These are just the best 14 prospects in the draft for lottery purposes. There is, to me, a slight drop-off in some of these guys in the next bunch. The next crop are:

#NameHt/WtSchoolPositionStrength
15Saddiq Bey6-8
216
VillanovaSFExcellent shot-creator. dymanic scorer with tons of tools.
16Precious Achiuwa6-9
225
MemphisPF/CTenacious. Hustle guy with tons of defensive upside.
17Tyrese Maxey6-3
200
KentuckyPGGuy is an absolute dog. Gym rat gym rat gym rat. Raw offensive ability. Steal of the draft. Heat guy.
18Kira Lewis Jr.6-3
170
AlabamaPGSpeedy Point guard who has the “it” factor. Excellent shot creator
19RJ Hampton6-5
188
AustraliaPGExplosive play-making point guard who desperately needs to figure out his jump shot. Was top 5 prospect a few years ago
20Jalen Smith6-10
225
MarylandCA lanky big who can shoot 3s? For some reason, GMs gobble this up
21Vernon Carey Jr.6-10
270
DukeCNo longer 270, he has cut weight and is an elite back to the basket player who is a poised kid willing to learn.
22Josh Green6-5
200
ArizonaSFPotential to be a really good 3 and D
23Jaden McDaniels6-9
200
WashingtonSFThis guy struggled at Washington but is the definition of potential. His ceiling is super high
24Desmond Bane6-6
215
TCUSGHigh-level shooter with excellent pacing
25Nico Mannion6-3
190
ArizonaPGHigh-level passer.
26Isaiah Stewart6-9
250
WashingtonCExtremely high-character guy who runs the floor super well.
27Leandro Bolmaro6-7
180
BarcelonaSFAnother excellent passing forward. Stereotypical skills of good foreign prospects
28Theo Maledon6-4
174
FrancePGGood PnR player. Currently being mentored by Tony Parker
29Tyler Bey6-7
215
ColoradoSF/PFVersatility on both ends
30 Aleksej Pokusevski 7-0/ 201 Olympiacos B C Top 3 potential. Do it all big

Here is a small list of few more guys who will be outside the first round, most likely, but can still impact a team:

  • Cassius Winston: You would be ridiculously insane to not want the greatest guard in Big 10 history on your team. Yeah… I said it. He is so easy to root for and was the heart and soul of Michigan State.
  • Killian Tillie: Okay this dude is literally Davis Bertans. He could help so many teams. I’m looking at you Danny Ainge.
  • I really really like Elijah Hughes. His game translates so easily
  • 3 really good offensive veteran guards with leadership experience (Payton Pritchard, Markus Howard, Devon Dotson)
  • The 2 best defensive guards in the county (Tre Jones and Ashton Hagans)
  • Cassius Stanley is going to be good… eventually. He will be a project.

*All stats, heights, and weights taken from Basketball Reference*