2021 NBA mock draft: Top prospects, top landing spots
With the 2020-21 NBA Finals now a thing of the past, teams are moving on to the offseason. It’s in this phase that NBA Mock Draft season is getting going big time. Based on the lottery results , here’s our final 2021 NBA mock draft heading into the annual event later this week.
1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, guard, Oklahoma State
The 6-foot-8 Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 40% from distance for the Cowboys a season ago. He’s an elite prospect and a future NBA All-Star at either guard position. Heck, Cunningham could end up becoming a better version of Ben Simmons as a potential point forward.
While there’s been some talk that Detroit could look in another direction or trade down, we just don’t see that happening. If the Houston Rockets don’t offer up the farm and a whole lot more, expect Cunningham to be a member of the Pistons Thursday evening.
2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, guard, NBA G-League
The 6-foot-5 Green was absolutely brilliant for the Ignite during the NBA G-League season, averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 37% shooting from distance. In terms of his prospect status, the wing is ascending the draft boards in a big way. He’d be a tremendous fit in Houston next to frontcourt players Christian Wood and Jae’Sean Tate for the rebuilding Rockets.
Green is also only planning for visits with the Pistons and Rockets, leading to speculation that he expects to go within the top two. Short of Houston making a blockbuster trade up for the first pick, the tea leaves are pointing in the direction of general manager Rafael Stone and Co. going with Green at two.Also Read:
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3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, center, USC
A top-three recruit in 2020, the 7-foot Mobley more than lived up to that with USC. He averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks on 58% shooting as a freshman. Mobley looks to be a franchise cornerstone-type player and is seen by many to be more talented than 2020 No. 2 pick James Wiseman.
If Cleveland holds on to this pick and doesn’t trade down, he’d make a ton of sense for the rebuilding franchise. Depending on the status of Collin Sexton and restricted free agent Jarrett Allen, this would create a core five of Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Sexton, Allen and Mobley. That’s a pretty darn good way to expedite a rebuild.
4. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Suggs, guard, Gonzaga
This 6-foot-4 combo guard is seen as a great two-way player. As a freshman for the Bulldogs, he averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals on 50% shooting. Suggs makes perfect sense next to impressive guard Fred VanVleet, especially if Kyle Lowry does in fact leave via free agency this summer.
The other option for Toronto is potentially trading down from this selection in an attempt to find more NBA-ready assets. It’s going to be a very difficult decision for front office head Masai Ujiri. That is to say, either attempting to stay competitive over the short-term or blowing it up and starting anew with a rebuild. The status of star forward Pascal Siakam will likely play a huge role in whatever decision is made come Thursday evening.Also Read:
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5. Orlando Magic: Scottie Barnes, forward, Florida State
A top-five recruit in 2020, Barnes was super impressive as a freshman for the Seminoles. He averaged north of 10 points and four rebounds on 50% shooting from the field. Add in 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals, and he looks like a true all-around player.
The Magic are in need of help out on the wing after trading away franchise stalwart Evan Fournier back in March. Barnes would be a great addition to go with recent acquisition R.J. Hampton out on the wing. He’s been compared by some to a younger version of Draymond Green with higher ceiling on offense. That’s not bad for the first of two top-eight selections for new head coach Jamahl Mosley.Also Read:
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6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonathan Kuminga, forward, NBA G-League
Kuminga made an impact in the NBA G-League after deciding to opt out of playing college basketball. He averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in the Orlando Bubble. This is just the latest example of the 6-foot-6 wing proving himself to be an elite-level youngster.
Comparisons to Kevin Durant might be overblown. But the ability of the Thunder to add someone who can play both forward positions could loom large to go with stud guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Oklahoma City front office head Sam Presti has so many draft assets moving forward that taking a chance on the high ceiling Kuminga offers makes sense here.Also Read:
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7. Golden State Warriors (from Minnesota): James Bouknight, guard, Connecticut
Bouknight was among the best scorers in college basketball a season ago. He averaged 18.7 points on 45% shooting from the field for the Huskies. The two-guard would be a tremendous long-term fit in Golden State.
The question here is two-fold. Will Golden State look to move off both the seventh and 14th picks in the draft? Rumors suggest this could be in the cards. If so, former first-round pick Jordan Poole would likely be included in a blockbuster trade. If not, the Dubs might look to go in another direction with someone like Davion Mitchell at seven.Also Read:
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8. Orlando Magic (from Chicago): Keon Johnson, guard, Tennessee
The Magic really like what they have in 2020 first-round pick Cole Anthony at point guard. They will also return Markelle Fultz next season after he missed a vast majority of the 2020-21 campaign with a torn ACL . Getting a traditional two-guard has to be in the cards here. That’s where the 6-foot-5 Johnson comes into play. He averaged 11.3 points on 45% shooting from the field as a freshman last season. The dude boasts a ton of untapped potential, too.Also Read:
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9. Sacramento Kings: Franz Wagner, forward, Michigan
The Sacramento Kings have been linked to wings leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft. We previously had them going with Corey Kispert from Gonzaga. However, finding someone who is more capable on the defensive end of the court seems to make more sense here.
Enter into the equation Franz Wagner. He’s been ascending the rankings since finishing out a two-year run with Michigan that saw him average 12.0 points and 6.1 rebounds on 47% shooting from the field. Wagner would be a perfect fit in Indiana.Also Read:
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10. Memphis Grizzlies (from New Orleans): Moses Moody, guard, Arkansas
Following the blockbuster trade that sent Jonas Valanciunas to the New Orleans Pelicans for Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe, this team now has an opportunity to find a legitimate frontcourt partner for Ja Morant. That could very well come in the form of Moses Moody.
This former Arkansas star was tremendous during his brief career with the Razorbacks, averaging 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds on 37% shooting from distance. As with others outside of the elite in this class, the question here is upside. Is Moody going to be an average three-and-D wing or will he accelerate his career path by becoming a lesser version of someone like Devin Booker?
11. Charlotte Hornets: Day’Ron Sharpe, center, North Carolina
With our first out of the blue pick of this NBA mock draft, Charlotte goes need and upside with hometown star Day’Ron Sharpe. Obviously, center is a huge need for Charlotte given how stacked it is in the backcourt and out on the wing.
As for Sharpe, he averaged 9.5 points and 7.6 rebounds on 52% shooting from the field for the Tar Heels last season. Sharpe has untapped potential following a one-year college career. A bit raw, Sharpe is below other big men experts have ranked higher than him. But he could carve out a nice role within two or three years.
12. San Antonio Spurs: Alperen Şengün, center, Turkey
The Spurs need more size and skill in the frontcourt, and it could very well come in the form of this Turkish teenage sensation, who ESPN has ranked as its 14th overall prospect . Sengun averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals in 28 minutes per game for Besiktas in the Turkish league. He shot 65% from the field and 81% from the free throw line.
As an aside, San Antonio has had a ton of success going after international stars in the past. It’s something the team has gone away from in recent years. As Gregg Popovich and Co. look to remain relevant in the Western Conference Playoff race, going in this direction again makes sense.Also Read:
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13. Indiana Pacers: Corey Kispert, forward, Gonzaga
Indiana was missing production out on the wing with T.J. Warren suiting up in just four games this past season due to injury. It impacted the team during what was a down campaign for the Pacers. This is an area Indiana must address with its lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
As for what Kispert can bring to the table, he’s a dynamic offensive threat. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 18.6 points and 5.0 rebounds on 44% shooting from distance for the Bulldogs this past season. He’d be a tremendous fit out on the wing next to the likes of Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert.
14. Golden State Warriors: Davion Mitchell, guard, Baylor
There’s a chance that the Warriors look to move this lottery pick. However, we’re not projecting trades in this NBA mock draft. Instead, we predict in this NBA mock draft that the Warriors go with an ascending talent from the defending champion Baylor Bears.
Mitchell is more of your traditional point guard to work behind Stephen Curry off the bench — creating much-needed depth. Also, who better for Mitchell to learn behind than the Chef? Rumors continue to link Mitchell to the Warriors, and we seeing it as almost inevitable barring a blockbuster trade.Also Read:
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15. Washington Wizards: Usman Garuba, forward/center, Spain
While Thomas Bryant has been impressive in limited action, he remains an injury concern. The former second-round pick has played in just 56 games over the past two seasons. Washington just can’t rely on him. That’s where this Spaniard comes into play. Garuba, 19, was named the 2020-2021 EuroLeague Rising Star, an award just recently won by Luka Doncic.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Boston): Josh Giddey, guard, Australia
Among the top NBA prospects from overseas in some time, Giddey has an absolutely amazing skillset on the offensive end of the court. At 6-foot-8 and manning the point guard position for the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers, Giddey is a mismatch waiting to happen. He’s similar to Ben Simmons in that he can play point forward.
The biggest issue here is range. Giddey shot just 29% from distance in the NBL last season. He must improve in this area to be seen as one of the elite NBA Draft prospects of 2021. Even then, the Thunder get a steal with our sixth-ranked prospect heading into the draft.Also Read:
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17. New Orleans Pelicans (from Memphis): Jalen Johnson, forward, Duke
Some say that Johnson’s decision to opt out of the remainder of the season at Duke might impact his draft stock. I am just not seeing it. The Blue Devils were going nowhere. Why risk injury or COVID? A top-11 recruit last year, the 6-foot-9 Johnson more than proved enough to be a lottery pick. He averaged 11.2 points and 6.1 rebounds on 53% shooting as a freshman. As for New Orleans, it needs to find more frontcourt talent to team up with Zion Williamson, especially if Brandon Ingram is dealt.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Miami): Cameron Thomas, guard, LSU
OKC would love to find a score-first two-guard to team up with the aforementioned SGA. This is where the 6-foot-4 Thomas comes into play. He’s a score-first two-guard (averaged 23.0 points as a freshman for LSU). Thomas also averaged a whopping 28.5 points on 50% shooting from the field during the NCAA Tournament. Sure his shot making needs some improvement, but this would be a steal at 18 in our latest NBA Mock Draft.Also Read:
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19. New York Knicks: Sharife Cooper, guard, Auburn
The former Auburn star averaged north of 20 points and 8.1 assists per game as a freshman, so Cooper had a huge part to play as a scorer and in setting up his teammates. While he has limited range, great ball distribution skills and a good mid-range game makes up for that. He’d work well with Immanuel Quickley in the Knicks’ backcourt.Also Read:
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20. Atlanta Hawks: Chris Duarte, guard, Oregon
The 6-foot-6 Duarte was absolutely tremendous for Oregon last season, averaging 17.1 points and 4.6 rebounds on 42% shooting from distance. Just imagine him teaming up with Hawks star Trae Young in the backcourt. That would be almost impossible for opposing teams to guard. What a steal this would be.
21. New York Knicks (from Dallas): Trey Murphy III, guard, Virginia
Former Virginia wing Trey Murphy III seems to be a target of the Knicks if they are unable to move into the lottery. The 6-foot-9 guard has been ascending the draft boards big time recently after shooting a resounding 43% from three-point range last season. Here, we predict he lands with the team at 21 in an absolute coup.Also Read:
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22. Los Angeles Lakers: Joel Ayayi, guard, Gonzaga
The Lakers could potentially look to package this pick with Kyle Kuzma to find an upgrade at point guard. Recently, Lonzo Ball has come up in NBA trade rumors in a sign-and-trade deal with the Pelicans. If Los Angeles stands point, this combo guard from Gonzaga could make sense. Ayayi averaged 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds on an absurd 58% shooting for the Bulldogs a season ago.Also Read:
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23. Houston Rockets (from Portland): Tre Mann, guard, Florida
After going big with Cade Cunningham at the top of this NBA mock draft, the rebuilding Rockets potentially find an heir-apparent to John Wall at point guard while playing Cunningham off the ball. The 6-foot-5 Mann was brilliant as a sophomore for the Gators last season, averaging 16.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 40% shooting from distance. Being a shoot-first point guard doesn’t hurt here, either.Also Read:
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24. Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee): Neemias Queta, center, Utah State
With their third first-round pick in this mock, the Rockets get an ascending talent in 7-foot center Queta. The big man averaged 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 56% from the field for Utah State last season. He’s been ascending the rankings big time and could be a good fit in the frontcourt next to Tate and Wood for the rebuilding Rockets.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Josh Christopher, guard, Arizona State
The 6-foot-5 Christopher has been compared by some to San Antonio Spurs star wing DeMar DeRozan. For good reason. He’s boasts a tremendous two-way skillset. Last season saw Christopher average 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds while playing great defense. He’d be a great fit for a Clippers team that needs more youngsters in the backcourt.Also Read:
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26. Denver Nuggets: Isaiah Jackson, forward/center, Kentucky
Jackson (6-foot-10 and 206 pounds) was a top-26 recruit in 2020. He also excelled as a freshman with Kentucky last season. He averaged 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds on 54% shooting. While still raw, the Michigan native could very well carve out a great career in the NBA. It’s just going to take some time. Denver goes with best player available, like we’ve seen so much in recent years.Also Read:
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27. Brooklyn Nets: Ziaire Williams, forward, Stanford
While Williams struggled in his only season with the Cardinal, he still has loads of potential. The 6-foot-8 forward was a top-six recruit from Sierra Canyon in Southern California last year. He didn’t lose that potential during a COVID-dominated college basketball season. This would be a great fit for the Nets, who can afford to take a flier on a high-upside prospect like Williams, particularly with their frontcourt in serious need of bodies for next season.Also Read:
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28. Philadelphia 76ers: Matthew Hurt, forward, Duke
Even with Joel Embiid in the mix, Philadelphia could use more depth in the low-post. That could very well come in the form of this 6-foot-10 forward from Duke. Hurt was getting play as a potential lottery pick heading into his sophomore campaign. Despite averaging 18.3 points and 6.2 rebounds for Duke, he’s fallen in the rankings. Look for Daryl Morey to take a chance on the former top recruit.Also Read:
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29. Brooklyn Nets (from Phoenix): Nah’Shon Hyland, guard, Virginia Commonwealth
In the deal acquired from Phoenix for Landry Shamet , Brooklyn picks up this shooting guard out of Virginia Commonwealth. The 6-foot-4 Hyland averaged 19.5 points and 4.7 rebounds on 37% shooting from distance a season ago. If he does remain with Brooklyn, the guard will provide the team with some three-point ability it will be missing via the departure of Shamet.Also Read:
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30. Utah Jazz: Jared Butler, guard, Baylor
One of the cornerstones of the Bears’ national championship team last season, Butler averaged 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 47% shooting from the field. He’s a potential starter in the NBA and can learn from Donovan Mitchell in Utah. It almost makes too much sense.