With less than a month to count down until the 2021 NBA Draft, questions are once again afoot as to who will shine among the latest class of college recruits heading to basketball’s big leagues.
Oklahoma State standout Cade Cunningham is the current betting favorite to move off the board No. 1 overall, with the Detroit Pistons in frame to get the first pick come Thursday, July 29.
However, California’s colleges are stacked with young, up-and-coming prospects waiting to be picked from the class of 2021, and SportsWebDaily breaks down the best of this year’s field.
Evan Mobley (USC)
One of only a few players currently in the conversation to challenge Cunningham for the first overall pick this year, seven-foot Evan Mobley comes will enter the Draft with plenty of momentum in his favor.
The 20-year-old center will step into the NBA after only one year at USC, moving on after he was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.
By doing so, he became just the second player to claim that trio of awards from a major NCAA conference, the first being a certain Anthony Davis, who did so in the Southeastern Conference nine years ago:
ABC reported how five-star recruit Mobley announced his eligibility by auctioning off a signed, 21-second NFT (non-fungible token), beginning his NBA career in nothing if not a unique manner
Johnny Juzang (UCLA)
UCLA has a prolific past when it comes to producing NBA talent, the most famous example being 1969’s No. 1 pick Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who enjoyed an illustrious 20-year career among the elite.
Los Angeles native Johnny Juzang can only pray he follows in those gargantuan footsteps, though a nomination to the second-team All-Pac-12 is no small feat in itself.
Shooting guard Juzang was vindicated in his decision to transfer from the Kentucky Wildcats and return to his native Los Angeles for his sophomore year, helping the Bruins reach the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
A well-rounded wing with impressive shot creation, Juzang’s performances during March Madness could see him climb into a surprise first-round spot from mostly second-round projections.
Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine)
Real GM lists only 32 players who have been drafted from Pepperdine over the years, and Kessler Edwards is hoping to become the school’s first NBA pick since the Pistons selected Alex Acker in 2005.
The Waves may not be the prestigious of school teams, but after three years at Pepperdine, Edwards has climbed to first-team All-WCC honors this year, as well as winning MVP at this year’s College Basketball Invitational.
ESPN Draft analyst Jonathan Givony recently judged the 20-year-old small forward as lacking in attack, but his defensive skills more than make up for any shortcomings:
Ziaire Williams (Stanford)
Stanford had second-round selections hailing from their corridors in each of the last two NBA Drafts, with both Tyrell Terry (No. 31 in 2020) and KZ Okpala (No. 32 in 2019) just about missing out on the first round.
Present-day star Ziaire Williams is in the frame to potentially become his school’s first top-30 selection since 2014, particularly if he can improve his finishing.
A 6’8” small forward who offers value as a shot orchestrator, the 19-year-old Williams—who averaged 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in his first college season—will add a lot to his game with a little extra bulk and looks a cert to go first round.
A five-star recruit who was part of the United States’ team that won gold at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Greece two years ago, reported Illinois Gambler.
Honorable Mention: Jalen Green (NBA G League Ignite)
Only an honorable mention due to the fact he’s not a college recruit, Merced-born Jalen Green looks another shoo-in to go early in the 2021 Draft after standing out with the NBA G League’s Ignite:
Despite skipping college, the 19-year-old—who was another member of that gold medal-winning under-19 side in 2019—opted for a lucrative G League contract rather than a college tuition (and there were plenty of offers).
Green averaged 17.9 points per game in the 2020-21 G League regular season and showed huge improvement in his shot-making capability, with only more to come with experience.
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