NBA Draft 2021: Five “Mid-To-Late” First Round Gems

The 2021 NBA Draft is right around the corner on Thursday, July 29, at 8 p.m. ET. Everyone knows what to expect from the first few handfuls of picks, but after that, the crystal ball is a little more cloudy, and that’s when teams catapult from potential playoff teams to champions and dynasties. Every team from the late-lottery to the end of the first round will be looking for their diamond in the rough, and I’ll cover five players that I think fit that description. First, let’s cover some current NBA stars who were drafted at the tenth pick or later.

Current NBA Stars Drafted in Mid-To-Late First (and Second) Round:

  • Kawhi Leonard (pick #15)
  • Nikola Jokic (pick #41)
  • Paul George (pick #10)
  • Jimmy Butler (pick #30)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (pick #15)
  • Devin Booker (pick #13)
  • Donovan Mitchell (pick #13)
  • Klay Thompson (pick #11)
  • Bam Adebayo (pick #14)
  • Zach LaVine (pick #13)
  • Rudy Gobert (pick #27)
  • CJ McCollum (pick #10)
  • Domantas Sabonis (pick #11)
  • Draymond Green (pick #35)

Are you starting to see the trend? When you realize how many stars are drafted outside of the first few picks, you begin to value the importance of every single pick. It takes a lot of skill and a little bit of luck to draft consistently well, but we have seen teams do this, which can end up creating dynasties. Think of the Golden State Warriors; the Warriors drafted Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. The Oklahoma City Thunder that made the 2012 NBA Finals and lost to the Miami Heat. The Thunder had Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City just as quickly could have had Greg Oden (had the Trailblazers went with KD instead), Tyreke Evans (drafted right after Harden), and O.J. Mayo (drafted right before Westbrook) with less drafting prowess. Now, let’s go over my picks for players that could be future stars at the next level.

Note: This list does not include consistently ranked players in the top 10 of most mock drafts. The eight players that always appear on every mock’s Top 10 list include Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, Davion Mitchell, and Keon Johnson.

Ayo Dosunmu (CG): Projected Range #20-30

Dosunmu is a 6-foot-5 combo guard with a near 6-foot-11 wingspan. He led Illinois to a one-seed in the NCAA tournament and a spectacular record in a very competitive Big Ten. Ayo averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game on roughly 49/39/78 shooting splits. So, Ayo is a big guard with great athleticism and isolation talent who can shoot the ball, rebound, and pass. What’s the catch? I don’t know. That’s my honest answer. There are scouts whose contention is that Ayo is a streaky shooter that will struggle at the next level. I don’t see that. Ayo is sound mechanically for the most part, with no major hitches in his shot, and he’s even proved his range is transferable. He rebounds, passes, and creates for himself and others at a high level.

James Bouknight (CG): Projected Range #10-20

I’m not entirely sure what Bouknight’s eligibility is on this list as he has skyrocketed up draft boards recently, but I have always been high on him, so he will still be considered. James is a pure combo-guard scorer with a mechanical jump shot. Every shot looks the same. From end to end, Bouknight is absolute lightning. If he sees the rim in transition, he’s not looking to stop. In the halfcourt, he’s so technically sound, using hesitations, off-steps, and unprecedented change of speed to get open jumpers or to the rim. His growth in all aspects of his game has shown maturity, commitment, and most of all, potential. Bouknight has one of the highest ceilings in the draft, especially considering he may go outside the Top 10.

Usman Garuba (PF/C): Projected Range #15-20

Outside of Garuba’s family and friends, there is not one person who will like what I’m about to say. Usman Garuba is a sort of reincarnation (without the death) of Ben Wallace. He’s only 19, and I must admit, I get hot flashes watching him contest at the rim with explosive athleticism, despite being an undersized tweener. And, like it or not, the NBA is trending to a small-ball league with bigs that have to be able to step out and shoot and have some sort of lateral quickness and defensive switchability.

Moses Moody (SG): Projected Range #10-15

If Moody doesn’t get scooped in the top 10 picks, that would be truly unbelievable. He reminds me a great deal of Bradley Beal because he’s a smooth shooter who plays at his speed and can get to his spots no matter who is in front of him. Moody enters the draft as one of the most polished players even though he only just turned 19.

Ziaire Williams (SF): Projected Range #15-25

Ziaire is a pure upside pick. His freshman year didn’t quite go as planned, but this will enable a team to take a flier on a potential diamond in the middle of the first round. Ziaire grew between his last measurements and most recent measurements. He now stands at 6-foot-10 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. This is a highly valued measurement, and it’s important to remember, Williams is still only 19 years old.

Summary

In summary, I’m a big fan of all of these players, as each brings their uniqueness to the game and has a chance to stand out at the next level. James Bouknight and Moses Moody both have eventual primary scoring upside in the future. Bouknight has an impressive combination of athleticism and isolation ability that should give him one of the highest ceilings in the draft. Moses Moody has a level of polish that only a few players rival in the draft, even though he just turned 19. Ziaire Williams has significant upside, even if it’s only as a secondary or tertiary scoring option in the future.

He will see the floor because his length, size, and raw athleticism project him to have limitless versatility on defense. Usman Garuba is another very undervalued player who will be a huge steal in the draft this year. His ability to contest at the rim and move laterally to stay in front of guards on the perimeter is quite elite, despite still being a teen. Lastly, Ayo Dosunmu provides a combination of rare length and height, fills up the stat sheet with a significant amount of points, rebounds, and assists on solid shooting splits and efficiency. All of these players have weaknesses that they need to tend to, but all-in-all, they are all extraordinarily undervalued and could be the next NBA stars.

Andrew has watched sports since as young as he can remember and was fortunate enough to play college basketball. As a kid, he would sneak his Space Jam Michael Jordan jersey into his pre-school so he could wear it every day. Mom was not a happy camper when she found out.

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