After the longest and one of the strangest draft processes in NBA history the 2020 NBA Draft class had to endure, we finally are able to move on and focus on the 2021 draft. This upcoming class is entirely the opposite of last year, last year was viewed as questionable at the top but incredibly deep with high-end role players, while this class seems to be LOADED at the top but there’s a drop-off after the late lottery. Even though this may be the least scouted draft in years, we have a strong sample size of many prospects, giving analysts a feel of where they could eventually get selected in this upcoming draft. Here is my first mock draft of this year (it’ll expand to full first round and potentially beyond as we approach the draft);
- Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunnungham (PG, Oklahoma State, Freshman)
The Pistons are the worst team in the league right now and they’d be lucky to have the chance to land a talent like Cade Cunningham to build around, Yes, they drafted Killian Hayes in the lottery last year, but they can’t afford to take the best talent in a loaded draft, considering how rare of an opportunity it is to land the #1 pick. Cade has no weakness in his game, great size at 6’8″, very good vision, can defend four positions and can score from all three levels. The question I have about his game at times is his passive aggressiveness, but I’m nitpicking, even that is a glaring concern. Some, including myself, questioned his shooting, but he’s shooting over 38% from three and 80% from the line, he’s put those concerns to bed. Cade has the highest floor in the draft and an even higher ceiling.
Comparison: Grant Hill/Luka Doncic
2. Wizards: Evan Mobley (C/PF, USC, Freshman)
Cunningham is the top prospect in this draft, but Mobley isn’t far behind. Mobley may be the best big prospect since Karl-Anthony Towns, at 7’1″, he is a really good defender. He is a premier rim protector at 2.9 BPG, he also can switch on guards. Offensively, he can shoot at a solid clip from three (35% this year), really good in the post, he is also a better passer than his 1.9 APG suggest. He can pass out of the post and we’ve seen glimpses of him making reads while handling it in transition. He’s a true unicorn and whether the Wizards keep Beal or not, he’s a good fit in Washington and a must take at #2.
Comparison: Anthony Davis
3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonathon Kuminga (SF/PF, G-League Ignite, 19 years old)
Once again, the Timberwolves werwolves have struggled with injuries of their best players, Karl-Anthony Towns dislocated his risk and got COVID, Ricky Rubio got COVID and D’Angelo Russell has been banged up. It’s worth noting the Timberwolves traded a top three protected 2021 pick to the Warriors in the D’Lo-Andrew Wiggins deal and if it goes top three, the pick goes unprotected in 2022. If the Wolves continue to play this bad with KAT, D’Lo, Malik Beasley and Anthony Edwards, this could become a very undesirable destination for the top prospects… but if they stay there, Kuminga makes the most sense. The Timberwolves like playing a scheme with three wings on the court, at 6’8” with that frame and defensive potential, he could play next to Towns. He is also showing spurts as a shot maker as he lead the G-League Ignite in scoring in the two scrimmages they played in, averaging 23 PPG. This is a situation where talent meets need, making him a good fit in Minnesota.
Comparison: Jaylen Brown
4. New Orleans Pelicans: Jalen Suggs (PG, Gonzaga, Freshman)
The Pelicans have been one of the more disappointing teams in the league season. With an ascending core of Zion Williamson, Branson Ingram, Lonzo Ball, there were expectations of growth from this core but we haven’t seen that. Due to that, they may have a chance to add another major piece to this young core and Jalen Suggs would be a great addition. Lonzo Ball has been reportedly in trade talks and they never agreed to an extension this summer, which could suggest he isn’t a long-term solution in Charlotte. This makes taking Suggs much more of a possibility, somebody that can replace Lonzo Ball as a facilitator and defender, but he also gives the scoring punch, swagger and defense Lonzo hasn’t displayed. Suggs would be a great addition to that Pelicans core and can help create a culture alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
Comparison: Jamal Murray/Jrue Holiday
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Green (SG, G-League Ignite, 19 years old)
Yes, the Thunder have Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, which makes questioning the Jalen Green fit questionable, but Green is above and beyond the best player available. We also have to remember, SGA was initially taken as a point guard, he and Green can play off each other. Green is a fantastic talent, he’s showtime in transition due to his incredible explosiveness and ability to run off and on the ball. He’s a three level scorer that can get his shot off from anywhere and he can really pass. You can make a legit conversation for Green being a top two pick, having him fall to five shows how loaded at the top this draft is!
Comparison: Zach Lavine
6. Kings: Jalen Johnson (PF/SF, Duke, Freshman)
Jalen Johnson is what you want in a modern forward. At 6’9″, he can handle the rock, finish inside, find others, rebound an elite level and defend multiple positions. Per 36, he is averaging an absurd 22.4 PPG, 13.1 RPG, and 3.8 APG. His shot needs to improve greatly as a 30.8% shooter from deep and 60.7% from the line, his ceiling will be greatly influenced by how well he can shoot. In Sacramento, between Haliburton, Fox and Johnson, the playmaking between those three would be fantastic.
Comparison: Deni Avdija/Ben Simmons lite
7. Bulls: Sharife Cooper (PG, Auburn, Freshman)
The Bulls essentially have every starting spot potentially filled so at this pick, they can’t worry about fit and to me, Cooper is the best available player. In six games this year, Cooper is averaging an impressive 22.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 8.7 APG. He is the best passer in the draft, he’s always able to find the open man and especially has incredible touch when throwing alley-oops, which could be fun with Zach Lavine. He’s only shooting 18.5% from deep so far, if that keeps up, that could really limit his ceiling at only 6’1″, but I think that’ll improve. The Bulls may have White, but he may be best suited as a microwave scorer off the bench, Cooper could be the primary playmaker that offense desperately needs.
Comparison: Raymond Felton/Chris Paul
8. Hornets: Scottie Barnes (PF, Florida State, Freshman)
The Hornets are at a weird spot here, they would love to take a big, but this isn’t a center heavy draft and players like Day’Ron Sharpe seem like a reach at this spot. With Lamelo, it’s a smart bet to surround him with capable defenders and Barnes may be the best defender in the draft. He plays with a crazy motor, can defend four+ positions, he has legit defensive anchor potential. Offensively, he is a good finisher around the basket and as the assist per game leader of Florida State, he can really pass and be a secondary facilitator of that Charlotte offense. The main issue with him is he’s an awful shooter, he shoots only 48.5% from the line and 29.6% from three. His scoring may have a ceiling, but the intangibles he brings to a team are extremely impactful.
Comparison: Draymond Green
9. Toronto Raptors: James Bouknight (SG, UConn, Sophomore)
The Raptors have played better since their incredibly slow start but if they stay here, James Bouknight makes a ton of sense. James Bouknight passes the eye test ad a scorers, he has an NBA caliber package that should have him translate as a scorer immediately. He haWith Lowry aging, Bouknight could be a good back court mate to Fred VanVleet with the upside to become the primary scoring option. Bouknight needs to tighten his handle and execute some of his moves quicker but he’s a top 10 talent in this class.
Comparison: Jeremy Lamb/Devin Booker lite
10. New York Knicks: Moses Moody (SG, Arkansas, Freshman)
The Knicks are currently 24th in 3 poultry percentage, it’s clear they need to add floor spacers around RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Julia Randle. Moody only has shot 35.7% from deep, but he has a pure stroke that suggests that number will go up. Moody can get his shot off in catch and shoot situation, get to the basket and is a solid defender. Moody would add an extra scoring punch off the bench similar to what Quickly is doing right now.
Comparison: Malik Beasley
11. Thunder (Rockets): Zaire Williams (SF, Stanford, Freshman)
Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG
With the Thunder focused on a hard rebuild with their 17 first round picks over the next six years, considering their Aleksej Pokusevski pick last year, it seems like they could want to take players with the best upside available and Williams qualities as that. Even though Williams is shooting 36.7/32.1/83.7 splits, Williams has shown flashes as a fluid 6’8” wing that can create and score at a string level from all three levels. Defensively, he has strong physical tools that give him a chance to be outstanding on that end. Williams will need to take better shots, get stronger, and attack the rim more, he gets jumper happy and that certainly affects his efficiency. There is boom or bust potential with this pick but the Thunder have enough draft capital to afford to take this risk.
Comparison: Cam Reddish
12. Houston Rockets: Jaden Springer (PG, Tennessee, Freshman)
Jaden Springer has had a very solid freshman season on one of the better teams in the country in Tennessee. He’s a physical guard that likes to bully his way to the rim, he has shot very well from deep this year (56.4% from three), reads the court well and a great defender with real upside on that end. A question about Springer is his scoring upside since he doesn’t have a strong ability to create desperation off of his defenders, yet at least. Nonetheless, a very solid, high floor prospect who can become an immediate contributor off the bench for the Rockets.
Comparison: Dejounte Murray
13. New York Knicks (Via Mavericks): Corey Kisbert (SF, Gonzaga, Senior)
Like mentioned earlier in this article, New York needs spacing, in this mock, they add a ton of it by drafting Moses Moody and now Corey Kisbert. Kisbert has been one of the best player in all of college basketball, averaging 20.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 2.0 APG on ridiculous 58.2/49/89.4 splits. Kisbert is the best shooter in the draft, he has beyond NBA range and he’s able to get that shot off off the catch, off the dribble, basically in any form. He also has some life off the dribble, occasionally able to create separation inside, he has a strong motor, and is a better athlete than given credit for. He would be another legitimate rotational piece for New York who can provide spacing for RJ Barrett and the rest of the crew there.
Comparison: Doug McDermott
14. San Antonio Spurs: Greg Brown (PF, Texas, Freshman)
The Spurs are an odd situation because they are still a competitive squad with Demar Derozan and Lamarcus Aldridge at the helm, but they need to rebuild sooner than later. Assuming those two aren’t in Spurs uniforms next year, the Spurs should focus on grabbing high upside prospects wherever they pick and at this spot, Greg Brown makes sense. Brown is a super explosive forward that can finish around the rim, handle in transition, rebound, and can hit an open shot. He will need to become more consistent from outside (30.4% from deep), get stronger as well as improve his 2-way decision making, but San Antonio is a great spot for him to develop alongside Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell.
Comparison: Derrick Jones Jr.