A Look Ahead to the 2021 NBA Draft
Former NBA scout Matt McKay shares some insight to give a sneak peek at some of the top prospects from the 2020 high school class as we look ahead toward the 2021 NBA Draft.
McKay is the owner and founder of the grassroots basketball-focused company Pro Insight. He created www.prospectiveinsight.com after a 12-year tenure working for a handful of college and NBA teams, most recently serving as a scout for the Charlotte Hornets. Since 2018, McKay and the Pro Insight team have become one of the industry’s premier outlets for quality coverage and information on the game’s up-and-coming standouts.
Even without the steady stream of re-classifications throughout this past calendar year, the high school class of 2020 has long projected to be quite formidable, both in potential star power and with overall depth. Standouts like Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jonathan Kuminga, and Jalen Green have already become household names, and they headline a group of prospects that project as possible future NBA franchise cornerstones. Below, we’ll introduce what may ultimately wind up becoming just a fraction of the pros from this year’s graduating high school class. Let’s get right to it. Here’s a look at 15 projected 2021 first-round draftees from the 2020 high school class (in alphabetical order):
6’8” / 225 lbs. / 7’2” WS / Big / 18.9
High School: Montverde Academy (FL)
AAU: Nightrydas Elite (FL) / Nike College: Florida State
Barnes has been the high school version of Draymond Green for the last few years. With three gold medals to his name already as part of USA Basketball’s Junior National Team, he’s the type of player that impacts winning on any team, at any level. Barnes embodies the modern frontcourt basketball player in just about every way, aside from consistent outside shooting: a positionless player that a team can run their sets through on offense while matching up 1-through-5 on the defensive end. He’s incredibly versatile on both sides of the ball with a mature feel for the game well beyond his years. His top-notch length, skill level, basketball IQ, and motor should alone allow him to stick in the league for a long time.
By the numbers: Barnes boasted a 2.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio throughout the 2019 Nike EYBL season with Nightrydas Elite.
Brandon Boston, Jr.
6’6” / 180 lbs. / 6’10.25” WS / Wing / 18.7
High School: Sierra Canyon School (CA)
AAU: AOT (GA) / Nike
Boston is one of the most talented natural scorers in the country. He’ll be a guy from day one at Kentucky that can go out and manufacture offense on command, either for himself or others. A high-level playmaker with excellent positional size and versatility, Boston is comfortable playing on or off the ball. He’s also an elite ball-handler and space-creator for someone his size and it’s hard to imagine many defenders staying in front of him in the SEC. He does a commendable job on the glass for someone with such a slender frame, as well. If he continues to naturally fill out and develop, Boston projects as someone with NBA all-star potential.
By the numbers: Boston shot an otherworldly 14-20 (70%) from deep at the 2018 Peach Jam for AOT, where he was named the Co-Underclassmen of the Session.
Greg Brown III
6’8” / 200 lbs. / 6’10” WS / Forward / 18.9
High School: Vandegrift HS (TX)
AAU: Texas Titans (TX) / Nike
Claiming Brown checks the “physical tools” box would be a large understatement. The hometown hero is a freak-of-nature type of vertical athlete that appears to be playing on a trampoline at times. He’s a major lob threat, both in transition and as a slipper/roller out of pick-and-rolls in the halfcourt. His face-up game and perimeter skillset is still in the development stage (like 99% of most 18-year-olds), but once everything clicks and Brown gains some inevitable functional strength — watch out — as he will look to become the latest top-10 pick out of Austin in the past few years, following Mo Bamba (2018), and Jaxon Hayes (2019).
By the numbers: During the 2016-17 season, Brown posted his first triple-double as a freshman with 15 points, 14 rebounds, and a school-record 18 blocked shots in a one-point victory over Hutto High School.
6’4.5” / 215 lbs. / 6’9” WS / Guard / 18.6
High School: Mayfair HS (CA)
AAU: Vegas Elite (NV) / Nike
College: Arizona State
Christopher is a dynamo capable of playing in spurts at any perimeter position. His physicality, powerful athleticism, fearlessness, and confidence are separators for him. He’s turned into a scary transition finisher and is always a threat to put someone on a poster, even in the halfcourt setting. Christopher has become an effective playmaker and loves getting downhill — he projects as someone that will live at the free-throw line due to his propensity to draw contact in the paint. If the last name ‘Christopher’ sounds familiar in the Pac-12, it’s because his oldest brother Patrick played for Cal prior to a stint in the NBA. “Jaygup” will now join his other brother, Caleb, at ASU in what should be an entertaining six months of hoops in Tempe.
By the numbers: Christopher is known by most of his 750K Instagram followers for his offensive flair and fashion sense, but he’s also an impressive positional rebounder and stat sheet stuffer… he put up 11.2 rebounds, 3.5 steals, and 1.7 blocks during his senior season at Mayfair.
6’11.5” / 210 lbs. / 7’4” WS / Big / 17.9
High School: Lausanne Collegiate School (TN)
AAU: Expressions Elite (MA) / Nike College: Memphis
One of the best shot blockers in the country, Cisse, originally from Guinea, would be capable of playing spurts in the NBA tonight from a rim protection and rebounding perspective. Oftentimes, high upside prospects will enter draft night without one surefire NBA skill to hang their hat on — this will not be the case with Cisse. He still needs to add some bulk and offensive polish, but with legit center size, length, and timing at his disposal, Cisse is primed to terrorize opposing AAC teams during his brief stay in Memphis.
By the numbers: Cisse easily passes the eye test as an effective rim runner, but his EYBL stats back it up in a big way — he posted an eFG% of 73% in transition in 2019 with Expressions Elite.
6’7” / 190 lbs. / 6’10” WS / Wing / 18.9
High School: Brewster Academy (NH)
AAU: Expressions Elite (MA) / Nike
If you were to create a modern, positionless perimeter scoring machine in a lab, it very well might look like Clarke. His positional size, versatility, ball skills, and natural playmaking ability only begin to tell the story. As one of the most confident scorers in the incoming freshman class, Clarke is a threat to put up 30 on any given night next season in Lexington. Opposing SEC teams will truly have to pick their poison with all of the weapons the Wildcats will be rolling out every night.
By the numbers: Throughout the 2019 EYBL circuit, Clarke put up an impressive all-around stat line of 17.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 1.1 SPG.
6’7” / 215 lbs. / 7’0.25” WS / Guard / 18.8 years old
High School: Montverde Academy (FL)
AAU: Texas Titans (TX) / Nike
College: Oklahoma State
Cunningham is the most polished high school basketball player in America. He makes everything look effortless. His positional size and versatility out on the perimeter are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what makes him special. Cunningham’s basketball IQ and adept playmaking ability are two of his major differentiators. This epitome of a “big guard” is originally from Arlington, Texas but has spent the most recent two years playing for Coach Kevin Boyle at Montverde Academy, who boasts some impressive alumni, including D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and R.J. Barrett. Oklahoma State may not be eligible for the 2021 NCAA Tournament, but this one-and-done lock and potential number-one overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft will give Cowboy fans plenty of reasons to continue to show up to Gallagher-Iba Arena and support their team.
By the numbers: Cunningham finished third in assists per game (T-2 in total assists) at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, playing alongside Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton (who led the tournament in assists).
6’5” / 175 lbs. / 6’7.5” WS / Guard / 18.5
High School: Prolific Prep (CA)
AAU: Team WhyNot (CA) / Nike
Team: G-League Select
Hailing from Fresno, Green made the move out to wine country to complete his high school career at Prolific Prep. The dynamic, explosive, show-stopping athlete regularly brought crowds to their feet this past season, as he was often the best player on the floor while playing a national schedule. Green has proven he’s more than just an athlete, as he’s developed into a legitimate range shooting threat over the years. He’s also become a fixture on the USA Basketball Junior National Team, having already won three gold medals as part of the program (including an MVP performance at the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup). Adding functional strength will be key for this projected top-10 pick.
By the numbers: During his senior campaign, Green broke Prolific Prep’s single-season scoring record with 1,008 points.
6’8” / 215 lbs. / 6’11.5” WS / Wing / 18.6
High School: Nicolet HS (WI)
AAU: Phenom University (WI) / Nike College: Duke
Johnson has the physical tools and matching skill set to quickly become a fan-favorite in Durham. The Wisconsin product is a smooth operator with the feel of a point guard in a modern power forward’s frame. He’s by no means a carbon copy, but Johnson does have some Ben Simmons in his game. Already a big-time handler, passer, and playmaker — if he can become a consistent threat as a range shooter, the sky’s the absolute limit for this point-forward.
By the numbers: after a brief stint at powerhouse IMG Academy, Johnson returned to Nicolet and finished off his high school career with 2019-20 averages of 24.6 PPG on nearly 60% shooting, along with 10.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, and 2.6 “stocks” per game.
6’7” / 220 lbs. / 6’11” WS / Wing / 17.8
High School: The Patrick School (NJ)
AAU: NY Renaissance (NY) / Nike
Team: G-League Select
Kuminga, originally from Congo, is a man amongst boys on the court, despite being the youngest player on this list. He’s a prototypical modern combo forward and an elite athlete with a grown man’s frame at just 17 years old. It’s scary to imagine him playing another year of high school — there just wasn’t much else to prove at that level for Kuminga, hence the reclassification. He’s already very impressive all-around, but this is the type of prospect that could easily have multiple substantial jumps in development before it’s all said and done. Known as a high-level worker, Kuminga should flourish within the G-League system as he prepares to become a likely top-3 pick in the 2021 draft.
By the numbers: When facing off in a 2019 EYBL matchup vs. the Texas Titans — a team headlined by Cade Cunningham and Greg Brown — Kuminga poured in 43 points, including 7-11 from three-point range.
6’3” / 190 lbs. / 6’9” WS / Guard / 18.8
High School: Christian Brothers College HS (MO)
AAU: Bradley Beal Elite (MO) / Nike
College: North Carolina
Love is about as close to a “complete package PG” as one could imagine at this stage. He brings elite positional length as a lead guard with a 6’9” wingspan — that length, combined with his positional size, strength, and toughness will alone allow him to physically compete at the highest level. That said, he has the modern skillset to match his physical toolbox, as he’s someone that can stretch the floor effectively, attack the rack as well as create easy looks for teammates — an equal threat to score and distribute. He will be an impact player from the day he steps on campus in Chapel Hill and he has a real chance to play himself into the top half of the 2021 first round.
By the numbers: Love posted senior year averages of 26.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2.5 steals per game for Christian Brothers College HS.
6’11.5” / 200 lbs. / 7’4” WS / Big / 19.1
High School: Rancho Christian HS (CA)
AAU: Compton Magic (CA) / Adidas
Mobley is one of the most fluid 7-footers possibly ever. A big man that moves like a guard is intriguing off the top, but it’s Mobley’s combination of size, length, agility, timing, and touch that really make him special. This is someone with legitimate number-one-pick-in-the-draft upside. He impacts the game on both ends, often without looking like he’s trying — which causes some to question his motor. Motor running or not, this is a player that will cause nightmares for opposing Pac-12 opponents next year as he takes center stage with his older brother (and fellow 2021 NBA draft prospect) Isaiah Mobley.
By the numbers: in his senior season at Rancho Christian, the California Gatorade Player of the Year averaged 20.5 points, 12.2 rebounds, 5.2 blocks, and 4.6 assists per game.
6’3.75” / 210 lbs. / 6’5.25” WS / Guard / 18.4
High School: Trinity International School (NV)
AAU: Simply Fundamental (NV) / Independent
Team: G-League Select
Originally from Anchorage, Nix will look to become the next in line from Alaska (following in the footsteps of former NBA players Trajan Langdon, Carlos Boozer, and Mario Chalmers) to make it to the NBA. After settling in Vegas where he wrapped up his high school career at Trinity International School, Nix was arguably the most talented passer in high school basketball this past season. The former UCLA-commit is a pure point guard with terrific positional size for a lead guard, measuring at 6’4”. He’s more of a shifty athlete with an improving jump shot, and when engaged he’s an absolute terror for opposing defenses. Expect him to create plenty of easy looks for his G-League teammates en route to making everyone around him better this year.
By the numbers: in October 2019, Nix registered a triple-double with 45 points, 11 assists, and 10 steals in Trinity International’s win over PHH Prep.
6’4” / 195 lbs. / 6’5.5” WS / Guard / 19.1
High School: Minnehaha Academy (MN)
AAU: Grassroots Sizzle (MN) / Under Armour
Suggs is another USA Basketball alum and the third three-time gold medalist on this list. A tough, versatile athlete, Suggs also received plenty of high-major D-1 interest in football as a dual-threat quarterback. The multi-sport star turned down the likes of Ohio State on the gridiron for the chance to take the reins in Spokane as the lead guard for the Bulldogs. Suggs is a true two-way impact player thanks to his functional athleticism and elite feel for the game. He has the size and skill level to play either guard position and projects as a guy who’ll take on the toughest defensive assignment vs. opposing backcourts. He has room for improvement as a range shooter but brings so many other traits to the table that it’ll be near-impossible to keep him off the floor during his time at Gonzaga.
By the numbers: In his senior year, Suggs was recognized as MaxPreps Athlete of the Year for his success in basketball and football. He became the first athlete in Minnesota history to win the state's Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football awards in the same season.
6’8” / 185 lbs. / 6’10.5” WS / Wing / 18.9
High School: Sierra Canyon School (CA)
AAU: Oakland Soldiers (CA) / Nike
Stanford quietly pulled off possibly the biggest coup of the spring with their recent acquisition of Williams. Already an accomplished player, Williams has the type of upside to realistically become the best player on this list at the end of the day. His attributes begin with his positional size and versatility. His confidence and overall scoring prowess really jump off the page, as well. Not many can claim to have averaged north of 20 points per game on the 17U Nike EYBL circuit. He provides legit forward size with a guard skill set. Williams projects as a serious match-up problem as a 3 at the highest level.
By the numbers: Williams scored 1.3 PPP (87th percentile) around the basket while shooting an efficient 62% overall from the field throughout the 2019 EYBL season while playing with the Oakland Soldiers.
For further reading on future NBA draft prospects, Pro Insight has featured the following 2021 draft-eligible players as part of their in-depth Q&A series:
Marcus Bagley - Arizona State, Leonardo Colimerio - Fresno State, Davonte Davis - Arkansas, Joshua Giddey - Adelaide (NBL), Coleman Hawkins - Illinois, Colby Jones - Xavier, Mojave King - Cairns (NBL), Makur Maker - Howard, Bennedict Mathurin - Arizona, Tre Mitchell - UMass, Samson Ruzhentsev - Florida, Mady Sissoko - Michigan State, Julian Strawther - Gonzaga, JT Thor - Auburn, Santiago Vescovi - Tennessee, Mwani Wilkinson - LSU