2021 Draft Watch: Analyzing Ziaire Williams, B.J. Boston, and Evan Mobley
August 5th, 2020
by Alan Lu
With the 2020 NBA Draft having been pushed back to October 16th, I have decided to go ahead and watch some of the top prospects for the 2021 draft. One player at the top of this list is Rancho Christian’s 6-11 center Evan Mobley, whose interior play on both ends of the floor combined with his basketball IQ has gained him early traction to compete to be the top pick for next season. Another contender for the top spot in 2021 is Sierra Canyon’s 6-8 forward, Ziaire Williams, who was especially impressive in the U19 World Cup in 2019 last summer.
I sat out to watch the two teams play against each other in a January 11th game that I saw with thanks to YouTube via KDOC-TV Los Angeles. Both players played well, but the player that stole the show was Sierra Canyon’s 6-6 guard, B.J. Boston, who especially excelled by displaying his superb sharpshooting skills and scoring prowess, and he also made some rangy defensive plays in this game. Here are my thoughts on how Williams, Boston, and Mobley fared, as well as what we could expect from them heading into next season.
Ziaire Williams is an athletic, versatile swingman that excelled at making plays on both ends of the floor to help his team get the win. He is a versatile scorer that can make shots in a variety of ways, he is a solid playmaker that can ably run the point, and he is also a rangy defender that can guard multiple positions.
Williams did a very good job of knocking down jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team. He can make deep threes off the catch or dribble, and he showed a penchant for making pull-up jumpers from the mid-range to score the basketball. He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays, as he would often score on thunderous jams off of cuts and by running the floor to get the ball in transition. He also was able to score on a quick put back.
He also displayed adequate low post scoring skills. On one play, he sealed off his man when getting the ball on the block, and he proceeded to draw a foul upon the catch. However, Williams generally struggled to score in one-on-one situations when he would take the ball all the way to the basket, as he would occasionally miss on contested shots when trying to score off the dribble.
Also, Williams displayed solid playmaking skills. He is a very good passer that would tend to throw crisp, long outlet passes to set up scores for his teammates on the break, and he would often throw timely passes to shooters to set up scoring chances for them. Sometimes though, he would throw passes that would get dropped by his teammates that would result in turnovers.
Plus, Williams did a great job of rebounding the basketball. He was very active at crashing the glass to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and sometimes he would bring the ball up after getting defensive rebounds. In addition, Williams played solid defense. He would intercept passes and jump on loose balls to get a plethora of steals, and he also used a back-tap move to poke a ball away to nearly get another. He also managed to block a shot off of a drive to himself, and he possesses good length, timing, and athleticism to successfully challenge shots. Sometimes though, he would be late to rotate or to pick up a man, which would put his team in compromising situations.
All in all, Ziaire Williams is a very athletic, skilled basketball player that possesses a strong all-around game. He has a very good mid-range game, and he is a talented playmaker that can play off the ball or be the team’s point forward on the court. He is a versatile player that could contend to be the top pick in 2021, and he is a high-upside player that has All-Star potential at the NBA level.
B.J. Boston had a stellar showing in his team’s win over Rancho Christian. He did a great job of knocking down outside shots to provide floor spacing for his team, and he would often make pull-up jumpers from downtown and the mid-range to score the basketball. He can seamlessly use a step back move to knock down a deep three off the dribble, and he also excelled at driving to his right to score on smooth layups when he would get all the way to the basket. In addition, he did a good job of scoring in the post, as he would get deep position and then promptly score quickly at the rim.
He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays. Boston was able to score on a put back dunk, and he also ran off of a curl cut to score on a runner while getting an extra free throw. Plus, he also ran the floor to score on a thunderous, 180 degree dunk in transition. On the downside, sometimes he would rush his shots on the break, which would lead to some misses.
Boston is a score-first player that would often look to score the basketball, but he was also fairly turnover prone in this game. For the positives, Boston would sometimes find open shooters to set up scoring chances for his teammates. Sometimes he would throw inaccurate passes, as his teammate dropped a lob pass out of bounds, and Boston also threw another pass that sailed out of bounds another time. On a separate play, he tried to score on a backdoor cut, but he ended up having the ball poked away from him.
Also, he was able to get boards on both ends of the floor. Boston played adequate defense in this game. He is an active, rangy defender that can cover plenty of ground on the defensive end. He was able to block a three-point shot to a teammate due to possessing good leaping ability and timing, and he also jumped a pass to get a steal. He also would close out hard on three-point shooters to force misses. On the downside, sometimes he would give up too much space to his man, which would allow opponents to score on jumpers. There was also another play where he was defending a drive, but then got beat on a hesitation move, which led him to foul his opponent on the play.
In general, Boston is a sharpshooting swingman that can flat out shoot the basketball, and his ability to make shots from all over the floor makes him one of the best prospects heading into the 2021 draft. He has a good combination of having solid athleticism and handles to go along with having a tremendous ability to shoot the basketball, and he also can play solid defense on his man. Right now, he looks to be a strong contender to be a top 5 pick in 2021 or at least to go in the lottery, and Kentucky fans will be thrilled to see him play next season.
Evan Mobley was the primary focus of my viewing experience heading into this game, as he is an athletic big man that can provide solid inside scoring, rebounding, and interior defensive play for his team. He didn’t exactly have his best game, but he was able to do some good things for his team on both ends of the court.
Mobley excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He would tend to score off of put backs after getting offensive rebounds, and he would run the floor to score on fast breaks. He also managed to catch a long pass to score on a powerful dunk in transition early on. Plus, defenders feared his ability to score in the post, as he would tend to draw fouls upon them right after catching the basketball.
On the downside, Mobley didn’t call for the ball nearly enough. He showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble. He used a quick ball fake to score on a contested floater, and he has soft touch to score in the paint. Sometimes though, he would struggle to score in traffic, and he would occasionally miss shots wildly around the basket. He also attempted a couple of threes, but he missed both times from beyond the arc.
He also displayed adequate playmaking skills. Mobley is an unselfish player that can pass the ball out of the post as well as off the dribble, and he was able to throw a timely pass to a cutter from the post to set up a scoring opportunity for his teammate. On the downside, sometimes he would throw hasty passes, as he had a couple of them get picked off by his defenders.
He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball. Mobley would frequently leap up to get defensive boards, and he was active at crashing the glass to help his team on both sides of the ball.
Plus, he also played decent defense. He is an active interior defender that would often rotate to contest shots in the paint to force misses, and he also blocked an opponent’s shot off of a put back due to possessing good length, athleticism, and timing. He also managed to tie up an opposing ball handler in the post to nearly get a steal, and he also poked a ball away from an opponent off of a cut to force a turnover late in this game. On the downside, sometimes he would get beat off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores. Another time, he sagged too far off his man, as he then allowed his man to score on a mid-range shot.
Overall, Isaiah Mobley is an athletic, skilled big man that could project to be a solid, two-way player in the NBA. He will need to improve his jump shot and be more assertive on offense, and he may need to improve his shot blocking skills to improve his interior defense even further, but his ability to score in the paint combined with his size, athleticism, and defensive potential may make him a strong candidate to go in the lottery in 2021.
As you may know, the future of the NBA doesn’t stop with the 2021 draft. Some of you may wonder, what are my thoughts on Bronny James? Since he also plays for Sierra Canyon, I took the time to watch the 6-2, high-school freshman guard play against Rancho Christian. He wasn’t in a featured role, but he did get a significant amount of playing time, so I thought it might be a good idea to see if he could end up being the star of the 2024 draft (although predictions probably shouldn’t be made that far in advance).
As James wasn’t really in a featured role, he was used mostly as a 3 and D type of role player for his team, and his primary role on his team was for him to be a defensive specialist on the floor. He played adequate defense in this game.
James is a strong, deceptively agile player that can apply heavy ball pressure upon his man, and he also managed to get a backtap on an opposing ball handler up the court to get a steal. He was able to contest a corner three on the break to force a miss. Late in the game, he helped trap an opposing ball handler in the backcourt, which helped lead to a ball-handling turnover. On the downside, he would also tend to get beat off the dribble, which would lead his team to commit fouls and allow scores. There was also another play where he helped way off of his man, and was too late to rotate back, which led his team to allow an opponent to score on a corner three early on.
On offense, he was asked to spot-up quite a bit, but he missed on both of his three-point attempts off the catch. He also drove to the basket in transition, but he ended up having his shot blocked out of bounds. James did show the ability to throw crisp, long passes to his teammates to set up scoring chances for them, but he also dropped a catchable ball out of bounds in the backcourt late in this game.
On the plus side, James did a good job of grabbing rebounds, as he would often leap up to get offensive boards to help his team on the glass. Overall, it was disappointing that Bronny James didn’t play better, and he didn’t have much of an offensive impact in this game.
In examining the moments that he was on the floor in this game, it’s hard to imagine him becoming the future star of the NBA that he’s been hyped up to be, but this is my first time seeing Bronny play, though. His skill set seemed to be more similar to Houston Rockets’ forward, P.J. Tucker, as James is a strong, athletic player that can actively guard his man, and is largely asked to make spot-up jumpers on offense. It also will be interesting to see if Bronny James will grow and add a couple of more inches to his frame, as a taller version of himself could enable him to be better equipped in guarding taller players at higher levels. Time will tell to see if Bronny James will expand upon his game, but if he stays exactly the way he is, the road to the NBA might be a lot more difficult than we may be led on right now.
I also took the time to watch Sierra Canyon’s 6-3 guard, Zaire Wade, who will take a post-graduate year next season to play at Brewster Academy. I didn’t really expect much since he didn’t receive much playing time at Sierra Canyon this year, and he had his ups and downs in his team’s win over Rancho Christian.
Wade took a lot of shots off the dribble, as he would particularly look to score from mid-range. He was able to use a quick spin move to his left to get a nice score late in this game, but he struggled to consistently make shots off the dribble, and he had trouble making mid-range shots. For the positives, he excelled at intercepting passes to get steals, and he would look to move the ball and grab rebounds in this game. Wade also managed to find a cutter on the move to notch an assist.
Overall, Zaire Wade didn’t get a whole lot of playing time at Sierra Canyon, which was why he decided to take a post-graduate year next season. From what I saw, he will need to significantly improve his jump shot and ability to score off the dribble, but regardless, he is an athletic, energetic playmaker that looked to have the skills to end up playing at either a mid-major or at a low high-major school in NCAA Division 1 college basketball.
I also was able to see Sierra Canyon’s 7-3 high school junior center, Harold Yu play. He didn’t get many chances to score, and he had a propensity to drop lob passes on the break. He also attempted to score off of a cut, but then had the ball poked away to lose it to an opponent. On the bright side, Yu was able to make a mid-range jumper from the left elbow, and he also ran the floor to score on a powerful dunk late in this game.
He didn’t seem to grab many rebounds in this game, but he played solid defense. Yu was active in contesting shots, and he managed to block a shot hard off of a put back, and he also intercepted a pass to get a steal. Though Yu doesn’t possess great lateral mobility, he would put himself in position to contest shots to force misses. Overall, Yu could project to be a defensive specialist in college basketball. He will need to take better care of the basketball and be more assertive on offense, but Yu could be a player to watch sometime down the road.