With the order set following the NBA Draft lottery, here are the latest 1st round projections in our 2021 NBA Mock Draft.
Following the 2021 NBA Draft lottery, the Detroit Pistons own the top overall pick and are in a prime position to take Oklahoma State point guard Cade Cunningham. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors both jumped into the top four as well, causing the Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors to slide back.
While the new order has created shakeups in this mock draft itself, there is new data that is causing other players to rise and fall. LSU’s Cam Thomas and Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson both withdrew from this week’s NBA Combine, hinting that both may have received a first-round promise.
Baylor’s Jared Butler, originally projected to be a lottery pick in our first mock draft, has fallen out of the first round after being referred to the NBA’s Fitness-To-Play Panel. That means doctors at the NBA Combine discovered a medical condition and he’s currently ineligible to play until cleared by that panel.
How do all those changes impact our brand-new mock draft? Here are our updated projections for the entire first round:
—NBA Draft 2021 Big Board
—Programs awaiting multiple NBA Draft decisions
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1) Detroit Pistons
Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State – 6-8, 220 lbs
The Pistons shouldn’t overthink this. Detroit is rebuilding and hit on most of its picks in last year’s draft. However, the Pistons still need a reliable point guard, and Cunningham is the best point guard and prospect in this draft. His vision and unselfishness make his teammates better, and he has the size and skill to play a variety of positions. Detroit is going to want to put the ball in his hands.
2) Houston Rockets
Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite – 6-5, 180 lbs
Houston might be very tempted to go with Evan Mobley here. In fact, it wouldn’t be a shock if they did. That said, it’s much more difficult to build around a frontcourt player than it is around a perimeter player, and Green has superstar potential. He’s an elite scorer and brings an alpha mentality, which Houston needs.
3) Cleveland Cavaliers
Evan Mobley, PF/C, USC – 7-0, 210 lbs
This would be perfect for the Cavs, who have their backcourt secured with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland but have a need at center. Mobley is an elite defensive prospect that doesn’t come around very often. The rarity of his size/skill/athleticism combination holds enough value for Cleveland to lean this direction.
4) Toronto Raptors
Jalen Suggs, PG/SG, Gonzaga – 6-4, 205 lbs
The Raptors have shown a preference of taking the best player available and figuring the rest out later. In this case, it’s Suggs, who will provide needed scoring and playmaking to Toronto’s backcourt – and would be the replacement for Kyle Lowry, who is a free agent.
5) Orlando Magic
Scottie Barnes, SF, Florida State – 6-9, 227 lbs
Forget perfect fit, Scottie Barnes can be that for whoever drafts him. He has the size and wingspan to play center, but also has the ball-handling and vision to play point guard, which he did for the Seminoles in his lone college season. It just so happens that Orlando needs help on the wing and is building an identity based on length and defense. Barnes fits that to a tee.
6) Oklahoma City Thunder
Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G League Ignite – 6-8, 210 lbs
The Thunder have enough needs and draft picks over the next decade that they will be able to take the best player available. In this case, it’s Kuminga – a high-upside prospect who will make an immediate impact defensively with this size and quickness.
7) Golden State Warriors (via Minnesota Timberwolves) Toronto Raptors
Davion Mitchell, PG/SG, Baylor – 6-2, 205 lbs
Golden State could use some backcourt depth and likes role players with a 3-and-D focus. Enter Mitchell, who will immediately help in both areas and is the best perimeter defender in this draft. He has the athleticism to excel in Golden State’s up-temo system, too.
8) Orlando Magic (via Chicago Bulls)
Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas – 6-6, 205 lbs
After landing Barnes, Orlando gets another excellent fit who excels on the wing in Moody. The Arkansas product is a certified scorer who can play anywhere along the perimeter and has a good deal of defensive upside.
9) Sacramento Kings
Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee – 6-5, 186 lbs
Buddy Hield isn’t happy in Sacramento, so why not look at a potential replacement in Johnson? The former Vol is an elite athlete with tremendous upside.
10) New Orleans Pelicans
Jalen Johnson, SF/PF, Duke – 6-9, 220 lbs
Johnson is a tough prospect to peg. A five-star player coming out of high school, he underperformed at Duke due to some inconsistent shooting and nagging injuries and left the team before the conclusion of the season. However, he would make sense in New Orleans, a team that needs help on the wing and might need to find another playmaker if they lose Lonzo Ball in free agency. Johnson is a point forward who fills both needs.
11) Charlotte Hornets
Kai Jones, PF/C, Texas – 6-11, 220 lbs
This feels high for Jones but at the same time, he might be one of the gems of this class. He’s a springy athlete, which helps him excel in the lob-catching/rim-protecting role. He is also quick enough to defend on the perimeter and has developed a reliable perimeter shot. Charlotte needs a long-term answer in the middle and Jones feels like a perfect fit. Plus, it would be a ton of fun watching him catch lobs from LaMelo Ball.
12) San Antonio Spurs
Josh Giddey, SG/SF, Adelaide 36ers – 6-8, 205 lbs
San Antonio’s affinity for international prospects is well known, and Giddey also checks the box as one of the smartest players in this class. He has point-guard vision at 6-8 and has the kind of all-around game that makes him a triple-double threat every night. Gregg Popovich would love a player with this kind of versatility.
13) Indiana Pacers
Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan – 6-8, 205 lbs
Many think Wagner could end up going in the top 10, so getting him at this point would feel like a steal for the Pacers. The Michigan sophomore has tremendous size, giving him defensive versatility, and is a dynamic offensive player with a soft shooting touch.
14) Golden State Warriors
Tre Mann, PG, Florida – 6-5, 190 lbs
Golden State continues to bolster their bench with versatile players who fit their play style. Mann won’t be a star, but he has the size to play either guard position and can both shoot (40.2 percent from three) and facilitate.
15) Washington Wizards
James Bouknight, SG, UConn – 6-5, 190 lbs
We don’t know what the futures of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal will hold but Washington needs a lot of help just about everywhere else. That should lead to the best-player-available approach, and Bouknight is easily the choice at this point in the draft. He’s an elite athlete and scorer who should excel in the NBA’s wide-open style of play.
16) Oklahoma City Thunder (via Boston Celtics)
Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU – 6-4, 210 lbs
Oklahoma City has roughly 8 million first round picks over the next five years (OK, not really, it just feels like it), so they can package some picks to move up in the lottery or to trade for a proven young player. That said, if they keep the pick, Thomas makes sense as an elite scorer – something the Thunder need. He’ll be able to contribute immediately off the bench at worst.
17) Memphis Grizzlies
Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga – 6-7, 220 lbs
Memphis is at a point where it is fine-tuning a young, talented roster, so I’d expect the Grizzlies to take a player who can contribute right away over a long-term project. Enter Kispert, who might be the best shooter in this draft.
18) Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami Heat)
Isaiah Jackson, PF, Kentucky – 6-10, 205 lbs
I already mentioned Oklahoma City’s ability and desire to gamble on high-upside prospects with its picks. This makes a perfect match for Jackson, who has special athleticism for someone his size. Jackson is still raw offensively but showed flashes of being an elite defender.
19) New York Knicks
Jaden Springer, PG/SG, Tennessee – 6-4, 205 lbs
The Knicks would be best served to add backcourt help in the draft and Springer is the kind of high-upside prospect with the athleticism, three-point shooting chops (43.5 percent), and versatility that should be appealing.
20) Atlanta Hawks
Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford – 6-8, 185 lbs
The Hawks have built their roster around shooting and Williams, a top five prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, is an excellent one. It’s hard to find a player with his skill, size, and upside at this point in the draft, so Atlanta should be thrilled.
21) New York Knicks (via Dallas Mavericks)
Usman Garuba, PF, Real Madrid – 6-8, 230 lbs
After adding to their backcourt two picks earlier, New York lands a long-term frontcourt piece here. While Garuba may not be an immediate starter, the 19-year-old has an NBA body and years of professional experience under his belt. He has the potential to be a real defensive star.
22) Los Angeles Lakers
Trey Murphy III, SG/SF, Virginia – 6-9, 205 lbs
The Lakers have worked to add shooting around LeBron James and certainly don’t have as much as they would like, which is part of the reason why they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Murphy has tremendous size, is a knockdown shooter (43.3 percent from three), and quality defender with all-around upside.
23) Houston Rockets (via Portland Trail Blazers)
Daishen Nix, PG, G League Ignite – 6-5, 225 lbs
Nix’s stock fell in the G League as both Green and Kuminga had more prominent roles, yet his physical tools and floor-general nature lead me to believe someone will gamble on him in the first round. Enter the Rockets, which need help everywhere and can gamble on Nix’s upside.
24) Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee Bucks)
Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas – 6-10, 240 lbs
Houston’s aforementioned rebuild means it can afford to be patient with some high-upside projects. That makes them a perfect landing spot for Sengun, an 18-year-old who has excelled down low in Europe but may need time to adjust to the pace and physicality of the NBA.
25) Los Angeles Clippers
Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn – 6-1, 180 lbs
Another team in need of a point guard, the Clippers land a good one here at the end of the first round in Cooper. He is lightning quick and an elite passer with a phenomenal feel for the game. He needs to improve as a shooter but can make an impact with LA’s second unit.
26) Denver Nuggets
Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon – 6-6, 190 lbs
Denver simply needs to fine-tune its roster and find players who can contribute right away. That might lead them to trade this pick for a veteran but, if not, Duarte’s maturity, high basketball IQ, and offensive ability make him a good fit.
27) Brooklyn Nets
Neemias Queta, C, Utah State – 7-0, 225 lbs
Scoring is not a problem for these Brooklyn Nets. Defensive help is warranted, however, particularly on the inside after trading Jarrett Allen and with DeAndre Jordan losing minutes. Queta fills that need as the best shot-blocker in this class.
28) Philadelphia 76ers
Nah’Shon ‘Bones’ Hyland, PG/SG, VCU – 6-3, 173 lbs
Philadelphia’s frontcourt play remains strong and the franchise has worked to improve its backcourt, though depth remains something of a concern. Hyland fits the bill there while adding much needed three-point shooting (career 39.9 percent shooter at VCU). He needs to add strength and mature physically, but he has the skills and athleticism to be an effective NBA player – and this would be an excellent fit.
29) Phoenix Suns
Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois – 6-5, 185 lbs
The Suns are a team full of young talent and don’t have a ton of needs after their breakout season. However, Chris Paul isn’t going to play forever, and they could use some help behind him. We have them adding that backcourt help in Dosunmu, a combo guard with excellent defensive potential who excels at attacking the rim.
30) Utah Jazz
Joel Ayayi, PG/SG, Gonzaga – 6-5, 190 lbs
Utah could probably use another point guard to groom long-term, so I have them taking a flyer on the versatile Ayayi. He can play either guard position and is equally effective playing both on and off the ball. Ayayi is a quality playmaker, reliable defender, and has developed into a solid three-point shooter.