James Bouknight
James Bouknight enters the 2021 NBA Draft as one of the best shot creators and scorers available. He averaged 18.7 PPG for UConn last season. (Photo Credit: Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

James Bouknight 2021 NBA Draft Scouting Report

As one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2021 NBA draft class, James Bouknight should expect to hear his name called somewhere in the first round – likely during the lottery. Where exactly he will fall within the lottery is still up in the air, but the UConn guard’s scoring and playmaking prowess will have scouts and GMs tempted to select him. He is an intriguing prospect with good size and a great offensive skill set, but his streakiness could worry some teams. On most draft boards, however, he is a top 10 prospect, and he can immediately perform at a high level for a number of teams in the NBA. In a league that is high paced and demands offensive versatility, Bouknight checks the boxes, and he could make a team very happy in the near future.

  • Height/Weight: 6’5″/190 pounds
  • Primary Position: Shooting Guard
  • Most Recent Stats: 15 Games, 18.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 44.7% FG, 29.3% 3PT, 77.8% FT, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 2.8 TOPG

Strengths: Athleticism, Scoring, Shot Creation

Although he was hampered with an elbow injury last season that held him to just 15 games, Bouknight still displayed the offensive repertoire that propelled him to his projected lottery standing. The Husky guard dazzled commentators and spectators alike with his high-flying put-back dunks and transition finishing.

He is a good ball handler and frequently blew by defenders in college, either finishing at the rim or finagling his way into a pull-up jumper. He displayed a good finishing package with both hands and I expect that to translate to the NBA. As the No. 1 option for UConn last season, his shot creation off the bounce was the essence of his game. Bouknight’s combo moves and quick first step allow him to create a variety of shots for himself, whether they be step-back threes, floaters, or mid-range shots. Teams will likely not need him to create his own shot as a rookie, but he is an isolation scorer at heart and can do so if needed.

Weaknesses: Shot Selection, Turnovers, Reliance on Dribbling

The issues on every scout’s mind will be Bouknight’s shot selection, which can be poor at times, and his turnovers, which may have been a byproduct of his role at UConn but may also be an indication of his nature as a basketball player. While Bouknight can certainly pull off acrobatic finishes and improbable jumpers, his athleticism led him to take some uber-contested shots that did a number on his stat sheet. The glaring 29.3% shooting mark from three – a five percent drop from his freshman season – will worry some scouts. He can obviously hit the shot, but whether or not he can do so efficiently is still unclear, and his efficiency is especially important this season because he will not get 15 shots a game like he did at UConn. The nearly three turnovers a game is also worrisome. Was it a result of him being on the ball for most UConn possessions – his 30.4% usage rate was highest in the Big East – or is it poor decision making? There is an argument for either. Finally, his reliance on dribbling can plague his games. Bouknight likes to put the ball on the floor and if teams want him to be a reliable catch-and-shoot guard, there may be an issue.

Best Fit: Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic

I would love to see what a Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and James Bouknight attack in Golden State would look like. While his floor spacing is questionable at this point, Bouknight’s scoring prowess makes him an intriguing option at both the 7th and 14th pick – although he will likely be off the board at that point. His shot creation would alleviate some of the pressure on Curry and could also allow for more corner and wing shots for Thompson if Bouknight can set those up. Orlando is a good fit too, as Bouknight has an existing connection with Cole Anthony after the two played on the AAU circuit together, and the Magic are in the process of a rebuild. Adding another versatile wing scorer to the youngers in Orlando would certainly be a plus.

NBA Comparison: Poor Man’s Zach Lavine

Both are absurdly athletic shooting guards and are good at creating their own shot off the bounce. Lavine is now an Olympian, which is why Bouknight gets the “Poor Man’s” label, but he nevertheless has the potential to be a standout player in the NBA. Bouknight must continue to develop his shooting as Lavine has done, but if he can become a catch-and-shoot threat along with his attacking ability, the 20-year-old will be a weapon for any team that picks him.

Draft Projection: Lottery Pick

James Bouknight is easily a lottery pick. His offensive game alone will spark interest from NBA front offices and his ceiling as a prospect is one of the highest in this class. While the location of his selection in the lottery is still up in the air, do not be surprised if Bouknight goes in the 6-8 range or if he falls into the 11-14 range. His age may cause some teams to waver, but he should go in the lottery and will be a good offensive weapon for any team that picks him.

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