NBA 2021 Draft: Boom or Bust Predictions

Every year, you can find about 4 busts and 4 booms among the 14 lottery picks in the NBA Draft. Who will it be this year? Read on for The VideoScope’s predictions!

NBA 2021 Boom or Bust 1024x576 - NBA 2021 Draft: Boom or Bust Predictions

It’s finally time for a new NBA draft and for the 5th year running on this website, I’m going to try to predict which soon to be rookies will boom or bust.

In last year’s draft predictions, I gladly managed to have both Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton in the boom category, but I didn’t dare to put LaMelo Ball there as well, which was obviously a mistake. I had been let down by his brother Lonzo in the 2017 draft and let that affect his more talented younger brother. At least I didn’t put LaMelo as a bust.

The youngest of the three Ball brothers was one of many positive surprises from last year’s draft, which seems a lot better than what people had anticipated beforehand. Hardly any players in the lottery looked like busts, even though Golden State Warriors probably regret picking James Wiseman over LaMelo Ball. Along with Edwards, Ball is a burgeoning superstar.

While last year’s draft was seen as a bad one before it happened, this year’s prospects have had way more hype before the draft. That’s not for nothing and everything starts with the player who most likely gets picked as #1 in tonight’s draft, Cade Cunningham.

Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State (Boom)

I wish I had a more spicy take here, but it’s difficult to imagine Cunningham ending up as anything other than boom. Not only because he’s most likely the top pick in the draft, but because there are very few things Cunningham lacks.

Many compare him to Luka Dončić and in some ways you can understand that comparison. Neither of them are explosive athletes, but just about everything else is on point. Cunningham is slightly taller than Dončić at 6’8 and runs the show as a Point Guard.

Cunningham can shoot, pass and dribble the ball at a high level and has shown that he can deliver in clutch time. 40% from 3 is also very encouraging, a number that is much better than what Dončić had as a Euroleague MVP before his draft in 2018.

I still don’t see Cunningham becoming as big of a star as Dončić and maybe not having the star potential of Edwards and LaMelo from last year’s draft. Cunningham is a jack of all trades, but he doesn’t have otherworldly skills like Edwards’ athleticism or LaMelo’s passing ability. Compared to Dončić, he doesn’t have the same low center of gravity that Dončić has used to manipulate defenders all over the world.

Either way, Cunningham is most likely going to be selected to become Detroit Pistons’ savior as the #1 pick and he’ll likely more than live up to that role. He could easily become an All-Star or even an All-NBA player in the not so distant future and he’s the player I rank the highest in a draft with loads of talent at the top.

Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga (Bust)

There are four players who have stuck out as the best prospects in this draft for most people and the guy who’s usually fourth on that list, Jalen Suggs, is the only one of them I don’t picture as an All-Star in the future.

By all means, Suggs is going to become a good player in the NBA, as he has shown in college for Gonzaga, but I don’t think he’ll become the star the team drafting him will expect him to be.

Suggs was very impressive when March Madness made it’s comeback earlier this year, when he led Gonzaga almost all the way in the tournament. Suggs was a leader for the team, despite being only 19 years old at the time, helping them reach the final. This is how he sent them to the finals matchup with Butler, that they ultimately ended up losing:

However, like other good players from Gonzaga, it’s not a sure thing that his play will translate to the top level. The biggest reason Suggs might struggle in the NBA is his shooting. 33% from the college 3 and 75% accuracy on his free throws are OK, but Suggs struggled to consistently knock down his shots in college.

That’s not going to be any easier on an NBA team that most likely will be underdogs in many of their matches. Especially considering Suggs isn’t particularly good at shaking off defenders unless he has a lot of space to run into with his great speed. He’s also going to be forced to use his left hand more, something he tried to avoid in college.

Suggs could easily end up as a player of Tyrese Haliburton’s caliber, but when picking as high as in the top four, you gotta hope for more than that.

Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite (Boom)

Another Jalen, who I actually think has the potential to become a franchise player, is Jalen Green. Contrary to his namesake Suggs, Green is no sure thing in the NBA. In return he has a much higher star potential in my eyes.

Green is both a more spectacular athlete and a better shooter than Suggs, even though he’s not quite as polished yet. But in due time, Green, who doesn’t turn 20 until February, could become a star. He chose to forgo college and rather earn some cash in the G League with the upstart team Ignite, along with a couple other players in this draft.

He might not live up to his “Unicorn” nickname, a term that is designated to far too many players nowadays. However, against older, more experienced basketball players in the G League, Green showed why he’s getting compared to some of Team USAs Olympic players, Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine.

Green is a fantastic athlete who could end up in next season’s Dunk Contest and couple years later in the actual All-Star game. The 19 year old is super quick, springy and can use his skinny body to contort around far bigger opponents.

His skinny frame could end up being a problem however, both defensively and offensively. Offensively he needs to be stronger to absorb contact from opposing defenders and defensively he needs more bulk to defend against NBA’s bigger and stronger guards.

Green has a lot of skills and he’ll know how to better utilize them once he gets more time in the weight room and grows into his body in his first few years in the NBA. By all accounts, Green is a gym rat and a confident guy, something that often separates who busts and who booms in the NBA.

Jonathan Kuminga, SF/PF, G League Ignite and

Scottie Barnes, SF/PF, Florida State (Bust)

Ever since Kawhi Leonard became a beast on both ends after he was drafted, NBA teams have been looking out for the next defensive Forward who they hope can learn how to score in the NBA, just like Kawhi did. Almost every year we get a new player selected high in the draft who fails to do just that. Deni Avdija, Jarrett Culver, Josh Jackson, Stanley Johnson… the list goes on and it keeps getting longer.

Scottie Barnes has drawn comparisons to a different defensive giant who was drafted towards the end of the lottery. I’m talking about the man who recently was named the Finals MVP, “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo. You just can’t compare anyone to one of the only players worthy of the “unicorn” label.

Barnes does have great physical attributes and measurements with long arms and big hans, but it’s not comparable to the unique physical traits Giannis has. “The Greek Freak” has a couple inches on Barnes both in terms of height and wingspan and has far more fluid movement than the Florida State prospect too. Barnes is a decent passer, but still has a way to go to match Antetokoumpo’s passing and ball handling. Like Giannis, Barnes can’t really shoot either, with 27% accuracy from 3 and hitting only 62% of his free throws.

Kuminga has similar shooting numbers, but does have more potential than Barnes, at least offensively. At times Kuminga looks like a future star, with the ability to handle the ball despite his strong 6’8, 220 pound frame. The highlights are far too rare however, for an 18 year old who can look clueless on the court.

The Congolese youngster needs to end up in the right situation to reach his potential, as he still has glaring holes offensively and defensively. Kuminga is a very coachable, team oriented guy, but he doesn’t strike me as a confident guy who’ll do anything to succeed.

Evan Mobley, PF/C, USC (Boom)

Evan Mobley might be the player in this draft who’s the closest to justify the moniker of “unicorn”. It’s easy to see why Mobley has the potential to become something special, when you see the 7-feet tall giant with a 7-foot-4 wingspan handle the ball like a guard and shoot from outside the 3 point line.

The long range shots might not go in as much as you’d hope at the moment, as Mobley only hit 30% of his 3’s and 70% of his free throws. The fact that he scored on almost half of his mid-range shots however, means that he has the potential to at least become a competent shooter.

The better Mobley gets at hitting his long range shots, the more space he could get to utilize the skills he has in his arsenal. Despite his lanky body, Mobley is a fluid and great athlete with good fundamental skills. He can grab a defensive rebound and go coast to coast before dunking on even the toughest opponents.

Defensively he also takes advantage of his physical attributes and he’s been compared on that end to Anthony Davis. Mobley averaged almost 3 blocks per game in college and did it without fouling as much as high profile defensive prospects in college usually do. In addition to his long arms and great body control, Mobley’s timing on the defensive end is also special.

The 20 year old is still very skinny and should probably start out as a Power Forward mostly and avoid matchups with the NBAs strongest Centers early in his career, against the likes of Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns. If Mobley gets a stronger core and keeps honing his shot, this huge talent from USC could hang with the biggest stars in the NBA eventually.

Josh Giddey, PG, Australia (Bust)

Something that usually works when I try to figure out who’s gonna bust, is looking at what narratives NBA teams are overcorrecting. In last year’s draft I picked Avdija as a bust because he was getting overrated as a consequence of Luka Dončić’ ascent in the NBA, after many doubted the slovenian superstar going into his draft. Avdija predictably struggled to live up to the lofty comparisons with Dončić and I don’t regret picking Avdija as a bust after seeing him play as a rookie in the NBA.

I already pegged Barnes as a bust, as he became overvalued during Giannis Antetokounmpo’s domination in the playoffs. The new darling in the NBA however, is LaMelo Ball, and naturally people are looking for the next version of him.

LaMelo was drafted as a tall point guard with amazing passes in the Australian NBL and that description also fits Josh Giddey. The 6-foot-7 Australian basketball prodigy is a joy to watch, with some nifty passes that few 18 year old prospects have in their arsenal.

Giddey has the name, hairstyle and personality that fits the stereotype of what you expect an Australian to be. He’s a good friends with Joe Ingles and is naturally compared to his compatriot. As opposed to Ingles, who had to work his way up through different European league to get to the NBA, Giddey is not a good shooter.

You’ve heard it before, but with 30% from 3 and 70% from the free throw line, Giddey has a long way to go to in terms of shooting. Giddey isn’t the most athletic either and as a tall point guard he’ll struggle to keep up with the quick, athletic NBA players he’s been able to avoid in Australia. Defensively he’ll have a hard time in the NBA.

I hope I’m wrong, cause I like the guy and the way he plays, but unfortunately I’m leaning towards Giddey being a bust in the NBA. His future might be as one of the more fun players to watch in European basketball, kinda like Milos Teodosic.

Alperen Şengün, PF/C, Besiktas (Boom)

Thinking that Giddey is likely to bust, bums me out mate. So let’s end on a high note with a player I’ve become very enamored by in this draft, Alperen Şengün from Turkey.

I could mention James Bouknight as well, who’s another player I like in this year’s draft, but most of the things I said about Jalen Green applies to Bouknight as well. He’s a slightly lesser version of Green.

Şengün on the other hand, has skills that no other player in this draft has and I’m very excited to see how he gets on in the NBA. He’s already been dominant in the respected Turkish league, where he was named MVP by averaging 19,2 points and 9,4 rebounds per game. Şengün only turned 19 a couple days before this draft.

His numbers are very impressive, but watching him play is even more impressive. In a draft full of players with physical attributes who need to hone their skills, it’s satisfying to have a player like Şengün who already knows exactly what to do with a basketball in his hands against much older opponents.

The passes, his motor and obviously his low post moves are mouth watering skills. Şengün isn’t the best shooter yet, but some of the shots he’s made and his free throw percentage of 81% is enough for me to hope that he becomes a nearly complete offensive player.

Defensively there is less potential here, but it’s not for a lack of effort. Şengün does everything he can to stop his opponents, going full throttle all the time. At least it’s a start.

Picking up Şengün towards the end of the lottery is an opportunity you shouldn’t waste if you are an NBA team. Players like Moses Moody, Franz Wagner (Moe Wagner’s brother) and Davion Mitchell are solid picks, but none of them have the huge potential that Şengün has.