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NBA Mock Draft 2021: Edition 1 (Early Edition)

Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State to Houston

It's been just about half a year since the extremely atypical 2020 NBA Draft, but already the 2021 cycle is kicking into high gear. Many of the big names have announced their decisions to go pro long ago, but there are several waiting on feedback to determine whether they will keep their name in the Draft or return to school. We don't know the draft order just yet, but the lottery is already beginning to shape up. Here's my first crack at a mock draft for the 2021 season:

1. Houston Rockets

Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State

The consensus No. 1 overall selection is Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham, who didn't disappoint in his lone collegiate season. He led the Cowboys to a four seed before being upset by Oregon State in the second round, showcasing scoring ability, passing skills, and defensive prowess. If Houston does indeed win the lottery, Cunningham immediately becomes the new face of the franchise.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Evan Mobley, F/C, USC

Evan Mobley is the type of new-school big man that NBA teams covet. He's a seven-footer with a feathery touch around the rim, but he can also run the floor and shoot the three at an impressive rate. Mobley will have to add some weight to survive in the NBA but the 19-year old has just about every raw skill needed to be a productive big for a long time in the pros.

3. Detroit Pistons

Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga

Even before his shocking last-second shot in the Final Four to overcome UCLA, Jalen Suggs had asserted himself as one of the best basketball players in college basketball. He's a superb athlete and competitor, and you can tell he played quarterback in high school with some of the passes he's able to make. Detroit needs just about everything on this roster, so this type of talent is a good starting point.

4. Orlando Magic

Jalen Green, G/F, G League

Jalen Green is a fascinating case study on the differences between college basketball and the G League route. He opted to gain professional experience by spending a year in the G League and played well, but you wonder if he would've gained further exposure and recognition by playing college ball. He's still likely to land somewhere in the Top 5, but his chances of rising to No. 1 pick territory are slim.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Jonathan Kuminga, G/F, G League

Another player to opted to head pro instead of playing college ball, Jonathan Kuminga is an intriguing prospect. He's a wiry, 6'8" forward with elite athleticism and the physical gifts to be a superstar at the next level. However, he's still incredibly raw in most areas of his game, but you would expect that from a kid who is still just 18. He's worthy of a high selection, but he's the type of guy that will need to land into a favorable situation to really succeed.

6. Golden State Warriors

Keon Johnson, G, Tennessee

There's a drop-off after the Top 5 selections here, but it's unclear just how significant that drop-off is, at least not yet. Keon Johnson could still offer plenty of value at pick six, as the former Tennessee Volunteer flashed a nice skillset and can play both ways. The Warriors received this selection because the Timberwolves are likely to drop out of the first three picks and they could certainly use fresh young talent.

7. Toronto Raptors

Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor

Mitchell's play down the stretch was a major reason why Baylor ended the season as National Champions and he played his way into the lottery. After a surprisingly disappointing season, the Raptors could use somebody with Mitchell's scoring ability, especially in isolation. He doesn't have the high ceiling of others in this Draft, but also has a higher floor.

8. Sacramento Kings

Scottie Barnes, G/F, Florida State

Playing on a veteran Florida State team, Scottie Barnes didn't get as much national attention as other freshman this cycle. However, he still did enough to likely assure himself as a Top 10 pick, particularly with how much this Draft drops off after those No. 5. Barnes will have to work on his jump shot, but he has an ideal frame and is a tremendous defender.

9. Orlando Magic

Jalen Johnson, F, Duke

Jalen Johnson's mid-season opt-out at Duke caused national headlines for the timing of the decision, but the former five-star recruit still projects as a lottery selection. He was awfully streaky during his time in college, but offers elite athleticism and other tools you don't always see from forwards his age. Johnson's a terrific ball-handler for his size and a decent passer. 

10. New Orleans Pelicans

Franz Wagner, G/F, Michigan

Although he technically wasn't the "star" on Michigan's No. 1 seed 2020-21 team, Franz Wagner offered the most as an NBA prospect. For one, he has great size and is incredibly long, with the ability to play and defend nearly any position. He also possesses a smooth offensive game and can be a strong shooter, although consistency has been a problem.

11. Washington Wizards

Moses Moody, G/F, Arkansas

After a solid one year stop at Arkansas, Moses Moody is off to the NBA and likely to be a lottery selection. He fits perfectly into the modern NBA as a 6'5" wing with a seven-foot wingspan who can defend multiple positions. He wasn't always known as a shooter throughout his playing career, but shot 36% from three on the year. Moody could be the long-term replacement for Bradley Beal, as trade rumors continue to swirl around the high-scoring guard.

12. Indiana Pacers

James Bouknight, G, UConn

Even as he struggled through an injury-plagued season while UConn dealt with multiple COVID pauses, James Bouknight developed into one of the Big East's best players. He has proven to possess a diverse offensive game with a polished jumper and solid passing abilities. He'll have to bulk up to survive at the next level but the tools are in place.

13. San Antonio Spurs

Corey Kispert, G/F, Gonzaga

Jalen Suggs received plenty of attention for his play on Gonzaga this season and rightfully so, but Kispert wrapped up his time in Spokane as one of the most accomplished players in school history. Kispert racked up the awards over the last two seasons, including winning Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year in '20-'21, while demonstrating a smooth offensive game. Being 22 at the time of the Draft, teams might drop him slightly, but he's good enough to land somewhere in the mid-first round.

14. Memphis Grizzlies

Alperen Sengun, C, Turkey

The international class for the 2021 NBA Draft is really fascinating. There's no real star of the class, but several players could work themselves into the late lottery, or even possibly the Top 10. Alperen Sengun is one of them, a Turkish big who is starting to gain attention. At 6'10", 240 pounds he looks like a professional center but has some of the best footwork and touch around the rim you'll see for somebody of his age.

15. Charlotte Hornets

Kai Jones, F/C, Texas

A lot of attention on Texas was given to true freshman Greg Brown, a former high-profile recruit, but it is his Longhorn counterpart that is likely to go higher, Kai Jones. Jones is an elite athlete for the position and a superb rim runner, although he will need to develop other parts of his game. He reminds me a lot of a younger, explosive DeAndre Jordan.

16. Golden State Warriors

Ziaire Williams, F, Stanford

It's not all the time we see someone of Ziaire Williams' caliber head to Stanford for one season of college basketball, but he put up solid enough numbers to land somewhere around the mid-first. He's long and athletic with some of the natural tools to be a real offensive force. Williams will need to become a better shooter to be worthy of this selection, but could play a Jerami Grant-esque role on an NBA roster.

17. Boston Celtics

Usman Garuba, F, Spain

A combo forward with a 7'2" wingspan, Usman Garuba could be a formidable defensive presence at the next level. Although his shot mechanics aren't perfect, he has a fairly nice jump shot and shoots them at nice percentages. He could bring a nice developmental piece to this Boston frontcourt and he is just 19 years old.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder

Tre Mann, G, Florida

If you're looking for a prospect to pay attention to that could fall out of the lottery or even possibly the Top 20, keep an eye on Tre Mann. The Florida product was a knockdown shooter in college, but also is a skilled ball-handler and tremendous athlete. Defensively he needs work, but the offensive pieces are eye-catching.

19. Atlanta Hawks

Cam Thomas, G, LSU

Isolation scoring is obviously crucial in the NBA, which works out just fine for LSU's Cam Thomas. In just one season in Baton Rouge, he evolved into a dominant iso scorer who could knock down some of the toughest shots you'll see a college player hit. I'm not sure what his ceiling is compared to others in this cycle, but players with his skills don't come around often.

20. Houston Rockets

Isaiah Jackson, F/C, Kentucky

After landing Cade Cunningham early on, Houston goes after a traditional big in the form of Isaiah Jackson. Jackson has the defensive awareness and length to evolve into an elite rim protector and while he's somewhat limited on offense, he could be an effective rim runner. There's a fairly good chance Jackson is the first Kentucky Wildcat off the board in the 2021 NBA Draft, a far cry from some of the best John Calipari years.

21. New York Knicks

Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

Following their best season in a long time (no matter what happens in the postseason) it will be interesting to see how aggressive the Knicks are over the off-season. They might swing at some big-name free agents, or instead choose to continue developing their young talent. Either way, Sharife Cooper would be a valuable addition as a flashy, high-scoring point guard. I'm not sure how ideal of a fit he would be with Tom Thibodeau, but he's worth the risk in the later-half of the first.

22. Los Angeles Lakers

Josh Christopher, G/F, Arizona State

Playing on a very disappointing Arizona State team, Josh Christopher didn't receive much attention despite being a big-name recruit. His numbers in Tempe weren't bad, but he struggled to shoot the ball and was maddeningly inconsistent. Christopher is still worth a flier somewhere in the 20s and the Lakers don't have much to lose.

23. New York Knicks

Greg Brown, F/C, Texas

A wiry athlete you can throw down jaw-dropping slams, Greg Brown garners a lot of attention. In his lone season with Shaka Smart at Texas, Brown had his moments, but still showed he has to further develop his all-around game. This is another name you're drafting because of his potential and overall upside and he could learn a lot from Julius Randle and the other pieces in the Knick frontcourt.

24. Houston Rockets

Josh Giddey, PG, Australia

With their third selection of the first round, this one from Milwaukee, Houston again adds a nice backcourt piece. Giddey, who played for the Adelaide 36ers of the NBL, is a certified playmaker with a great feel for the game and general command of the offense. Don't expect him to score 30 a game, but he is a traditional, pass-first PG.

25. Denver Nuggets

Johnny Juzang, F, UCLA

Johnny Juzang's dominating play down the stretch for UCLA this season was a major reason for their Final Four run and he could sneak somewhere in the first round. He's always been a great scorer, demonstrating a nice mix of athleticism with toughness and the ability to fight through contact. A team like Denver could definitely use his scoring punch off the bench.

26. Los Angeles Clippers

Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee

Another former five-star recruit who put up solid numbers during his lone season in Knoxville, Jaden Springer should have an interesting range. There are some that view him as a lottery pick, but there also remains a chance he could slide into the very end of the first round depending on how the Draft shapes up. Springer is an excellent two-way player with excellent defensive abilities, but you wonder if he has the athleticism to hang with some of the elite backcourt players in the NBA.

27. Philadelphia 76ers

Chris Duarte, G, Oregon

After a strong freshman campaign in Eugene, Chris Duarte showed significant growth in his sophomore season for an Oregon team that made the Sweet 16. He proved to be much more efficient offensively, shooting the ball at a higher clip and making better decisions with the ball. Duarte is the type of steady combo guard that offers depth in the late first to a contender.

28. Phoenix Suns

B.J. Boston, G/F, Kentucky

Prior to the 2020-21 season, B.J. Boston came to school as a former huge name on the recruiting trail and likely Top 10 selection. He endured a frustrating season for a Kentucky team that obviously struggled, as his field goal percentage came in at just 36% and he struggled to shoot the three. He still has a lot of the physical tools you look for and you hope he can regain his shot in the long-term. Boston's still worth a flier in the late first and the Suns have never shied away from Kentucky products.

29. Utah Jazz

Day'Ron Sharpe, F/C, UNC

Although Day'Ron Sharpe primarily came off the bench during his freshman season in Chapel Hill he still flashed enough to garner NBA attention. At 6'11", 265 pounds he's a load to handle in the low post, but also demonstrated soft hands and a feathery touch around the rim. Sharpe has to work on his conditioning and further develop but a low-pressure situation like Utah would be ideal for him.

30. Brooklyn Nets

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Villanova

Even on a star-studded roster like Brooklyn, you can never use enough quality role players. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl should have no troubles filling that role as a well-rounded, polished player who shoots the ball at a nice clip. He's most likely a small forward at the next level but has enough size and length to essentially fill a combo forward role.

1 comment:

Spot Wallet said...

Still expecting Jalen Green to move up to the no 1 spot here. Some odd makers and egames online already made a bet on that. still a long way though let's see when the season ends.

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