We are coming up on 24 hours away from one of my favorite days of the basketball calendar year- the NBA Draft. If you're anything like me, you've spent a lot of time on twitter and podcasts lately, consuming all of the latest scuttlebutt on trades, free agency rumors, and of course, mock NBA Drafts.
After consuming all of this draft content, I couldn't help myself anymore, so I had to jump on and give my 2021 Mock NBA Draft and analysis. A reminder- there WILL be trades, so this order is going to change. Nevertheless, let's dive in, friends.
1. Detroit - Cade Cunningham, G/F Oklahoma State
Detroit is reportedly still mulling all of their options, eyeing Cade, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley and taking a variety of offers from many teams for the number 1 overall pick. In my opinion, they'd be making a mistake doing anything other than just taking the best player in this draft, and that's the supersized guard from my Alma Mater, Cade Cunningham.
Cade is a rare breed in that he really does not have a weakness in his game. He can play point guard or off the ball, on the wing. He can pass, run the offense, create his own shot, hit threes, and defend any position on the court. He's a strong leader who can be relied upon to be the face of a franchise, and Detroit has waited for a player like Cade to come along for a long time. There's reports that Detroit is still mulling Jalen Green and Evan Mobley in addition to Cade...Don't screw this up, Pistons. Take the best guy.
2. Houston - Jalen Green, G-League
The worst kept secret of the draft is Jalen Green going to Houston at number 2. The Rockets are looking for their next superstar after James Harden's unceremonious exit to Brooklyn, and the young, explosive wing appears to be who they favor.
Jalen Green has a unique scoring ability that no other player in this draft has. He's explosive off the dribble, can beat his man off the dribble with consistency, and can rise over defenders to hit any shot he wants. Green has the potential to average over 25 points/game in this league, and may just end up the best player in his class. He has the highest potential ceiling of just about any prospect, and I think he goes to Houston at 2.
3. Cleveland - Evan Mobley, C USC
Evan Mobley is the kind of player that would have gone number 1 in almost any draft in the past, and there are many scouts that think the modern Trojan big man will end up being the best player in this class. Evoking comparisons to Chris Bosh, Mobley has an inside-out game that allows him to stretch the floor and hit threes, thrive in the pick and roll, or score with his back to the basket.
Defensively, Mobley is a straight up monster. He can hold his own on the perimeter with his lateral quickness and freakish wingspan, and is a shot eraser at the rim. He's the perfect big man, IF you can get him to lock in on a consistent basis. Mobley does have the tendency to float a little bit, but in the right situation, Mobley could be one of the very best big men of his generation. If you're the Cavs, you don't worry too much about having Jarrett Allen already- you take the best player available when you're drafting at no. 3, and in this case, that's Evan Mobley.
4. Toronto - Jalen Suggs, G Gonzaga
Jalen Suggs is a winner through and through. The high-flying point guard from Gonzaga led a loaded Bulldogs team to the title game, showing his incredible poise and athleticism in his one season of college ball.
Suggs' shortcoming is his ability to shoot consistently, but there's a ton to love other than that. Suggs' Westbrook-level athleticism makes him a difference-maker on both ends of the floor: on offense, Suggs is nearly impossible to keep out of the lane, attacking the basket, creating open shots for his teammates, and wreaking havoc on the defense.
Suggs on defense will be a difference-maker from the jump. He can provide cover for other guards, jump into passing lanes, rotate effectively, and challenge shots on the perimeter. I absolutely love this kid and I think he's going to be a star- Toronto would be lucky to get him at 4, and Suggs would be sliding into an ideal situation to thrive with such a smart organization, excellent head coach, and talented roster.
5. Orlando - Scottie Barnes, F Florida State
Oh, Orlando. Doesn't Barnes just feel perfect for the Magic? Long, rangy, a playmaker... and he can't shoot. Scouts love Scottie's length and defensive tenacity, comparing him to Draymond Green in his ability to direct his teammates, be a vocal leader, protect the rim, defend on the perimeter, and pass the ball on offense.
I really like Barnes as a third or fourth banana on the right team, but I don't love this fit in Orlando with where their roster is at. Nonetheless, I think they are going to end up taking Barnes here at 5.
6. Oklahoma City - James Bouknight, G UConn
There's been a lot of buzz in recent days that Bouknight has risen all the way from a guy projected in the teens, to a top 10 lock, to potentially the guy Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder have their eye on at the 6th pick in the 2021 NBA draft. There was even talk last year that the Thunder tried to convince him to enter the 2020 draft, if that tells you anything about how they feel about him.
James Bouknight is a 6'5 guard who's an incredibly high level scorer, showing an ability to score at all three levels, play on or off ball, and probably has a lower 3-point percentage than his true prowess as a three-point shooter by playing through an injury towards the end of last season.
He's also not quite the best playmaker, but playing alongside Shai and Lu Dort, he could really thrive and grow into a CJ McCollum type of player down the road for OKC. If they cannot trade up, I think Bouknight will be the pick at 6.
7. Golden State (from Minnesota) - Moses Moody, G Arkansas
Talk about a match made in heaven. Golden State is getting Klay Thompson back in the fold after missing him for the entire 2020-2021 season, and is reportedly circling the Bradley Beal situation in Washington like a vulture. In the meantime, they still have the 7 and 14 picks in this draft, and they'll target two guys that can step in and play immediately.
Enter Moses Moody. The 6'6 wing from Arkansas is a knockdown three-point shooter, a smart player playing off the ball, and can guard multiple positions with his ridiculous wingspan. In other words- a perfect Warrior. Moody might not be the 7th best player in this draft, but I love this fit with Golden State and have no doubt Moody would be a productive pro with Golden State.
8. Orlando (from Chicago) - Jonathon Kuminga, G-League
Unbelievably, I think Kuminga slides to 8 after spending most of the last year assumed to be a top 5 lock. Kuminga is a 6'8 wing that has all the tools that you could want in a future superstar. He's a big wing that is incredibly athletic, can score at all levels, and be a tremendous defender when he feels like it. The only problem? He rarely feels like it...
The G-League Bubble uncovered quite a few warts for Kuminga, who struggled to play within an offense, shot poorly from 3, and was often lazy and disinterested on the defensive end of the floor. Jalen Green shone much brighter than Kuminga and there now seems to be some hesitancy around Kuminga. Regardless, Orlando would be silly to pass on the talent here at 8.
9. Sacramento - Franz Wagner, F Michigan
Wagner is a totally different beast from his older brother Moe. Wagner is a big, 6'9 wing that can defend, play with a very high IQ, pick and roll, cut hard to the rim, and even shoot the 3 a little bit. I think Wagner is going to be a high level role player and it's not a secret the Kings want him at 9. I feel good about this one.
10. Memphis - Josh Giddey, G/F Australia
Giddey has some Lamelo Ball in his game. Giddey showed a ton of tantalizing potential as a passer in the Australian league this year as an 18 year old, able to run an offense, work magic in the pick and roll, and play his butt off on almost every possession.
There's a lot of talk that Memphis specifically traded up to 10 to get Giddey, and I would not be surprised if he's the pick here. I think he'd be a really interesting secondary play-maker to Ja Morant.
11. Charlotte - Davion Mitchell, G Baylor
It's hard to know what Charlotte will do here, but this feels like spot for Davion Mitchell. The Baylor guard is an absolute bowling ball with a tremendously quick first step, and will defend his tail off. He'd be a great compliment to Lamelo, able to take the defensive assignment on best guard on the other team any given night. The question will be is if his 40+% 3-point shooting season last year was real or fake.
12. San Antonio - Alperin Sengun, F Beskitas
The 19 year old big man was the MVP of the Turkish League, showing a throwback post game and ability to pass in the post that was very impressive and caught the eye of NBA scouts early on. Sengun is a total Spur, and I think the Kevin Love comps are very real- this would be a steal of a pick in my opinion at 12.
13. Indiana - Corey Kispert, G/F Gonzaga
The Gonzaga wing was the best 3-point shooter in college last season, showing an ability to shoot off the dribble, shoot coming off screens, move off the ball, re-locate, and in general, be a tremendously valuable offensive player. He's going to be a productive NBA player immediately, and if he does not go here to Indiana, I'd bet he'd go to Golden State at the next pick.
14. Golden State - Chris Duarte, G Oregon
If Kispert is off the board, Duarte feels perfect for Golden State. He may be 24 years old already, but the Oregon guard is an absolute killer on offense, a deadeye shooter, an incredibly hard worker, and would be devastating playing off of the Splash Brothers.
15. Washington - Trey Murphy, F Virginia
The 6'9 Virginia wing is another guy who's shot up draft boards this season after transferring from Rice, showing an ability to shoot around 40% from 3 and defend wings. These guys are like gold in today's NBA, and he'd be a great piece to add playing next to the current roster in Washington.
16. Oklahoma City (from Boston) - Usman Garuba, F Real Madrid
This is a total Sam Presti pick- the 6'8 wing/forward from Real Madrid is probably the most ready made defender in this class, with size, athleticism, and strength to guard anyone on the floor. He's also got a ridiculous 7'3 wingspan and can play as your small-ball 5 as a rim protector, he's that good.
Offensively he does not have much developed yet, but if he can even get to a low 30's % 3-point shooter, he's a pencilled in starter in this league.
17. New Orleans - Keon Johnson, G Tennessee
Keon Johnson is going the wrong direction in mock drafts. Once considered a top 6 or 7 pick a few months ago, Keon Johnson has seen his stock fall after scouts have dug deeper into his season at Tenneseee. Johnson has elite athleticism at the guard spot, and will be a very good defender, but the poor guy can't shoot the ball to save his life.
He is a 6'4 off ball guard who can't shoot, and there is not a lot of room for those guys in the NBA. He's a big upside swing, and if he can find a 3-point shot, Keon can be a very productive player... but I wouldn't count on it.
18. Oklahoma City (from Miami via the LA Clippers, Philadelphia, and Phoenix) - Jared Butler, G Baylor
Jared Butler confounds me. I feel like Butler is the better of the two Baylor guards in this first round, despite all the hype around Davion Mitchell. Butler was one of the best guards in the country, showing he can easily score, play off ball, shoot, and finish in the lane against bigger guys.
He's only 6'3, and a reported health condition has teams hesitant about him, but he is cleared to play by doctors and if you think he has a clean bill of health, there's no reason not to take Butler.
19. New York - Cameron Thomas, G LSU
Cam Thomas does one thing- get buckets. The LSU guard scored on anyone and everyone last year in the SEC, and he will be a microwave scorer in the NBA as well. He doesn't pass the ball, doesn't play defense, and he's a little undersized, but there's no denying the scoring potential, and that one skill will keep him in the league for years.
20. Atlanta - Ziaire Williams, F Stanford
Williams was a highly prized recruit out of Sierra Canyon in California, and strangely struggled in his one season at Stanford, dropping his stock from a top 10 guy to probably this range. He's still 6'8 and has the profile of a perfect modern NBA wing, but he needs to prove he can shoot and defend much better than he showed most of his time in college.
21. New York (from Dallas) - Kai Jones, F Texas
If you just watch Kai Jones' 10 minute highlight reel, you'd think Kai was a top 5 pick in the draft. He's a 6'11 wing/big that can dribble, shoot it comfortably, and when he locks in, be a terrifying defender who can hold his own on the perimeter with guards and protect the rim with his vertical leaping ability. Kai could be a future starter at center or could be out of the league in 5 years- who wants to roll the dice?
22. Los Angeles Lakers - Ayo Dosunmu, G Illinois
The Lakers are similar to the Warriors in that they're looking for guys to help them win right now, and Ayo is just that guy. The Illini guard was electric in college basketball last year, and the older, experienced point guard can come off the bench and provide a big spark for the Lakers and be a part of the rotation.
23. Houston (from Portland) - Jalen Johnson, F Duke
Another fast faller, Johnson quit on both his high school team and college team at Duke. Johnson is a 6'8 monster athlete who, quite frankly, doesn't play to his potential due to a lackadaisical effort and low basketball IQ. The talent is there for him to play in the league a long time, but it'll have to be in the right spot with the right coaching staff to pull it out of him.
24. Houston (from Milwaukee) - Sharife Cooper, G Auburn
One of the more interesting guards of the draft, Cooper is an undersized whirling dervish of a point guard. He's barely 6 feet tall, but probably the best ball-handler and one of the best passers in the draft. I don't know if he's going to be able to score in the paint against NBA bigs, but there's a lot of Ty Lawson in his game and I wouldn't bet against him becoming a very nice role player on Houston's bench unit.
25. LA Clippers - Tre Mann, G Florida
Tre Mann can step into the Clippers backcourt and play immediately- the 6'4 guard from Florida shot over 40% from 3, averaged 16 points per game, and can defend well enough to play in the NBA early and often. I think Mann is a great fit for the Clippers, a team that will be looking for multi-talented players to keep afloat without Kawhi for the majority of the upcoming season.
26. Denver - Jaden Springer, G Tennessee
A lot of scouts like Springer more than Keon Johnson, myself included. Springer also cannot shoot the ball well, but ran point, showed impressive athleticism on offense and guarding at a high level at Tennessee, and finishing with explosiveness in the paint. I think Denver can take and develop the young guard and potentially turn him into a really interesting player down the road.
27. Brooklyn - Miles McBride, G West Virginia
If you're a Big 12 fan like I am, you know all about Duece. Miles McBride is absolutely unafraid of any moment, and will go get you a bucket when you need it the most. He plays with an undeniable swagger and I believe KD, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving would love playing alongside this kid. He thinks he's the best player on the court at all times, and can play like it, too.
28. Philadelphia - Quentin Grimes, G Houston