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Breaking down the top 2021 NBA draft prospects: Rankings, player comparisons and more

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Potential top-five draft picks for the 2021 NBA draft played this past weekend in the biggest high school showcase of the year, the Hoophall Classic. The small arena at Springfield College was packed all weekend with fans eager to see future NBA players take the court. Notable alumni from the Hall of Fame event include Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson. 

We take a look at the players projected to be top picks, where they’re headed next year and how they played this past weekend. 

1. Cade Cunningham - 6-foot-8, 215 pounds

Position: Point guard

High School: Montverde Academy (Florida)

College: Oklahoma State

Cunningham’s older brother Cannen is an assistant coach in Stillwater so it wasn’t a shock when Cade chose the Pokes over schools like Duke, North Carolina, Florida and Washington. 

How he played: Cunningham is the star player on the No. 1 high school team in the country. In the two games over the weekend, he had 36 points, 12 assists and was the high scorer in both games. There is not a lot the senior guard can’t do on the court. Cunningham scores when he wants, he’s a phenomenal passer and can guard three positions around the perimeter. “If Cade were in the draft this year, I think he’d be the No. 1 pick,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports.  

NBA comparison: Evan Turner or a right-handed, better-shooting Ben Simmons

Montverde Academy's Cade Cunningham #1 in action against IMG Academy during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic, Sunday, January 19, 2020, in Springfield, MA. Montverde won the game. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

2. Jalen Green - 6-foot-5, 180 pounds

Position: Combo guard

High School: Prolific Prep (California)

College choice: Undecided

Green doesn’t have an official list of schools but has visited Memphis, Auburn, USC, Oregon and Fresno State. Rumors circulated recently that Green was considering playing one year overseas but he told reporters this past weekend that he’s absolutely playing college basketball. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported back in November that Green will be making his college decision after the high school season. 

How he played: If teams are looking for a long, deep-shooting, high-flying guard, Green is it. In the one game his school played on Sunday, Green had 26 points while shooting 4-for-6 from the three in a win. “I grew up watching Kevin Durant play and trying to model my game after him. I just remember watching his jumper and how smooth it was and I wanted to shoot like that,” Green said. 

NBA Comp: Zach LaVine

3. Ziaire Williams - 6-foot-8, 190 pounds

Position: Small forward

High School: Sierra Canyon (California)

College choice: Undecided

Williams has visited Arizona, USC, North Carolina, Stanford and has said he wants to visit Oregon before he makes his college decision. 

How he played: Williams has only played seven games this season after sitting out due to inter-conference transfer rules. The five-star wing transferred from Notre Dame High School to Sierra Canyon this past summer. Williams has scored double-digits in every game since he returned, finishing with a solid 29 points in two games over the weekend. Williams has extreme upside with his length and touch around the rim. He is a modern-day NBA wing at 6-foot-8 and has already caught the eye of NBA scouts due to ESPN airing 15 Sierra Canyon games this season. “Ziaire is a playmaker, he can shoot from range and rebound. What’s not to like about him? I know there are some teams that wish he was coming out this year,” an NBA scout said. 

NBA Comp: Brandon Ingram 

4. B.J. Boston - 6-foot-6, 180 pounds

Position: Shooting guard

High School: Sierra Canyon (California)

College choice: Kentucky

Boston was the first player to commit to John Calipari and caused a snowball effect of top players to join, including five-stars Terrence Clarke, Devin Askew and Isaiah Jackson. Kentucky has the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation and Boston will bring much-needed outside shooting to the Wildcats next year. The guard, originally from Atlanta, chose Kentucky over Auburn, Duke, Florida and Oregon. 

How he played: Boston is the other piece of two-player tandem Sierra Canyon brought in this season. He is one of the most improved players from the summer and his stock continues to rise as he dominates at the high school level. There’s a lot of pressure that comes with playing with LeBron James’ son and Boston has not only embraced it, but excelled in his role. Over the weekend, Boston had a double-double in the first game with 17 points and 10 assists. With NBA teams targeting playmaking guards with an outside shot, Boston is a dream pick for any NBA team if he continues to thrive at Kentucky next year. 

Player Comp: Jeremy Lamb

Norcross' Brandon Boston #11 in action against Roselle Catholic during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic, Saturday, January 19, 2019, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

5. Evan Mobley - 7-foot, 205 pounds

Position: Center

High School: Rancho Christian (California)

College choice: USC

Mobley’s older brother, Isaiah, is a freshman at USC and his father is an assistant coach so no one was surprised when he picked the Trojans. 

How he played: Mobley struggled this weekend despite recording a double-double in the first game, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds. For most of the year, Mobley has been regarded as the No. 1 player in America, but when looking at the NBA game today, he could fall a little bit in next year’s draft. 

Player comp: A taller Myles Turner

More players to watch 

D.J. Steward - 6-foot-4, 170 pounds

Position: Combo guard

High School: Whitney Young (Illinois)

College choice: Duke

Steward is a sharp-shooting guard who knocked down six 3-pointers in one game this past weekend, finishing with 28 points. NBA scouts got a first glimpse of Steward at the USA Basketball training camp this past October and his draft stock will continue to rise as he takes the backcourt for Mike Krzyzewski next season. 

Jonathan Kuminga - 6-foot-9, 205 pounds

Position: Power forward 

High School: The Patrick School (New Jersey)

College choice: Undecided 

Kuminga is currently a junior in high school but there are reports that he could reclassify to the 2020 high school class. Definitely keep an eye on this player. Right now, Kuminga is slotted as the No. 1 junior in the country with all the blue-blood schools vying for a commitment. Duke and Kentucky are deep in the mix and so are Memphis, Florida State, UConn and Texas Tech. Kuminga is a man among boys on the court and has no business playing another year of high school basketball. 

Scottie Barnes - 6-foot-8, 210 pounds

Position: Power forward

High School: Montverde Academy (Florida) 

College choice: Florida State

A native of Florida, Barnes chose Florida State over Oregon, Florida, Kentucky and LSU. Head coach Leonard Hamilton has signed a five-star prospect in five of his last six seasons and Barnes is the next in line to choose the Seminoles. He’s a defensive force in the lane and challenges every shot. Barnes is always running his mouth on the court and will do anything to make a play on offense. He had 16 points and five rebounds in a win over IMG Academy this past weekend. 

Makur Maker - 6-foot-11, 220 pounds

Position: Power forward 

High School: Hillcrest Prep (Arizona)

College choice: Undecided

The cousin of NBA center Thon Maker, Makur is entertaining the idea of going pro this year. Most scouts will agree that after this past weekend, Maker should explore the college route for one year instead. His team, Hillcrest Prep, is a mess and no one is playing well. They had an embarrassing 91-48 loss to Sunrise Christian Prep School (Kansas) over the weekend and Maker only scored eight points. With things not going as planned this season, look for Maker to explore overseas and college options at the end of the season. If Makur can find the right system and reach his potential, he will have a long career in the NBA. 

Jeremy Roach - 6-foot-2, 180 pounds

Position: Point guard

High school: Paul VI Catholic School (Virginia)

College choice: Duke

After sitting out his junior year due to an ACL injury, Roach looked better than ever this past weekend. The lighting-fast point guard caused problems for Sierra Canyon on Monday as Roach dropped 16 points and seven assists in a 70-62 win in front of LeBron James. With Tre Jones likely leaving Duke this year, look for Roach to seamlessly fill the role next season. 

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