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2021 NBA Draft

(Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

2021 NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Final Pre-Draft Projections

2021 NBA Draft
(Frank Franklin II/Associated Press)

It’s almost time for the 2021 NBA Draft! Here is my final mock draft predicting how all the selections will go. For the sake of simplicity, draft day trades are not included. If you would like to look at my Mock Draft 2.0 or Mock Draft 1.0 for comparison, click on the respective draft for the link.

1. Detroit Pistons – Cade Cunningham, 6-8 Guard, Oklahoma State

This has been expected for what feels like forever. It looks like Woj confirmed it many hours before the pick. Cunningham is a great option for the Pistons as they look for guys to turn their franchise around. He has a fantastic all-around game highlighted by playmaking and shooting.

2. Houston Rockets – Jalen Green, 6-6 Guard, G League Ignite

This pick also looks like a done deal. While Evan Mobley is the No. 2 prospect on a ton of big boards, I can’t fault this pick at all. I’ve said Jalen Green has the highest ceiling in the draft and Houston will really benefit from having his electrifying athleticism and scoring punch.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers – Evan Mobley, 7-0 Center, USC

Mobley likely falls to the Cavaliers. Whether or not they are committed to Jarrett Allen should be a non-issue. The USC product might be the best big man prospect since Anthony Davis. Really solid selection for Cleveland, especially considering that their backcourt started to come around this past season.

4. Toronto Raptors – Jalen Suggs, 6-4 Guard, Gonzaga

Suggs himself believes that he has the highest ceiling in the draft. After an impressive freshman season with national runner-up Gonzaga, he might have a case. With Kyle Lowry likely on his way out soon, Toronto have the opportunity to get his replacement in Jalen Suggs. His transition game and offensive skillset have the potential to revitalize a Raptors offense that looked really rough this past season.

5. Orlando Magic – Scottie Barnes, 6-9 Forward, Florida State

Scottie Barnes is an extremely versatile player who could probably fit in with any team. That trait alone makes him worthy of a top 10 selection, and multiple reports have linked him to the Magic at No. 5 overall. Slotting him on the wing alongside Jonathan Isaac gives the Magic a formidable defensive tandem, and Barnes has some playmaking chops to benefit Orlando as well.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder – James Bouknight, 6-5 Guard, UConn

Alex Cervantes wrote a really fantastic scouting report on Bouknight, who is one of the best scorers available in the 2021 NBA Draft. If there are any aspects of his game that need significant work, that’s completely okay for an OKC team with a lengthy timeline to future success. All you need to know about Bouknight is summed up in this Tweet:

7. Golden State Warriors (via Minnesota) – Jonathan Kuminga, 6-8 Forward, G League Ignite

It’s unclear how far Kuminga will fall in the draft, but it does seem like he has fallen outside of the top five selections. A report came out that the Warriors are high on him, so I think this pick makes the most sense based on the information we have. He can make an immediate impact on the defensive end, but any team that selects Kuminga will pray he hits his offensive ceiling. High-risk, high-reward pick for the Warriors while their championship window continues to get smaller.

8. Orlando Magic (via Chicago) – Moses Moody, 6-6 Guard, Arkansas

Moody is one of my favorite prospects in the 2021 NBA Draft. He’s an excellent shooter and defender with the length to guard a variety of positions. He is also just 19 years old. Adding the Arkansas product gives the Magic perimeter play that they desperately need. With his young draft age, Moody’s ceiling is one worth investing in with a top 10 pick.

9. Sacramento Kings – Franz Wagner, 6-9 Forward, Michigan

Scouts really like Franz Wagner for his overall versatility on both ends of the floor. He’s been linked as a guy for the Kings for a while now. Probably the best option for the Kings anyway given their lack of forward depth. After Tyrese Haliburton looked solid in his rookie year, I like Sacramento to take the forward out of Michigan.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (via New Orleans) – Josh Giddey, 6-8 Guard, Australia

Word on the street is that the Grizzlies traded up to No. 10 with Giddey in mind. I believe he will still be there for them, and I think this is a pretty solid selection for them to make. Memphis needs a secondary playmaker behind Ja Morant. Giddey is one of the best passers in the draft. His offensive game still needs some work, but he has some real upside as a facilitator with professional experience in Australia.

11. Charlotte Hornets – Kai Jones, 6-10 Forward, Texas

At this point, Kai Jones might be a bit of a reach at No. 11, but I think the fit is too good to pass up. Jones would be an amazing lob threat to pair with LaMelo Ball, and I think he has an underrated ceiling as a two-way prospect. Jones is mocked anywhere from 10 to 20, so all it will take is a team to really buy in on him for him to be selected here.

12. San Antonio Spurs – Alperen Sengun, 6-10 Center, Turkey

I was torn on whether or not Charlotte would select Sengun at No. 11 because of their need for a mainstay down low. I ultimately went with Kai Jones because of fit, but San Antonio gets a solid player here. Sengun is another player with professional experience overseas. His game is still pretty raw, but he has shown flashes of being a very versatile center. The Spurs have all the guards they need right now, so look for them to take a frontcourt player.

13. Indiana Pacers – Davion Mitchell, 6-2 Guard, Baylor

Davion Mitchell could easily go in the top 10 and I don’t think anyone would be surprised by that. I don’t see any scenario where he falls outside the lottery. If he falls to No. 13, he has to be the pick for the Pacers. His defense and three-point shooting will be huge in an extremely thin backcourt. Our guy Jeremy Rinaldi believes Mitchell has real star potential.

14. Golden State Warriors – Corey Kispert, 6-7 Forward, Gonzaga

Kispert is one of the best shooters in the 2021 NBA Draft, and that alone makes him a lottery pick. He has reportedly impressed in workouts with NBA teams, which should give at least a little optimism to the team that eventually selects him. He’s a leader and a hard worker who would fit in well with the Warriors a year after shooting 52.9% from the field and 44.0% from deep.

15. Washington Wizards – Ziaire Williams, 6-8 Forward, Stanford

I seriously believe that Williams’ rough freshman season was just an aberration, and I believe in his potential going forward. He’s got great length and a well-rounded offensive game. He knows how to create shots and defend his position with tenacity. His freshman stats don’t reflect his ability to get buckets. The Wizards need shot creators, and Ziaire Williams fits the bill.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Boston) – Keon Johnson, 6-5 Guard, Tennessee

Keon Johnson is finally starting to come down on big boards, and I’m proud to say that I was on it first:

I’ll just get it out of the way and say I’m not high on Keon Johnson at all. A lot of mocks put him in the top 10, some even as high as No. 6 overall. I really don’t get what people are seeing here. Johnson is a high-level athlete who plays physical defense, but that’s about where the positives stop for me. For one, he’s a shooting guard who can’t really shoot. A slash line of 44.9%/27.1%/70.3% doesn’t scream top 10 pick to me at all. I don’t see a ton of playmaking upside here either, considering Johnson averaged more turnovers than assists last season.

Karl Heiser, Mock Draft 1.0, April 2021

In any case, OKC’s timeline fits Johnson’s need to develop his offensive game.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (via Memphis) – Chris Duarte, 6-6 Guard, Oregon

New Orleans needs more three-point shooters and better defenders. Duarte fits both of those needs. He’s a great team defender who holds his own on the perimeter. On the offensive side, he shot 53.2% from the field and 42.4% from deep as a senior for Oregon. Teams reportedly like what he brings to the table, and most evaluations have been very positive.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami) – Jalen Johnson, 6-9 Forward, Duke

There are a lot of question marks around Jalen Johnson after he prematurely ended his freshman season at Duke. With some playmaking ability and defensive versatility, the former five-star obviously has some potential as a two-way wing. If there’s really something there, OKC has plenty of time to allow him to come into his own.

19. New York Knicks – Trey Murphy III, 6-9 Guard, Virginia

Trey Murphy III is getting some mocks putting him in the lottery. The New York Knicks would seriously benefit from his size and shot-making ability. He knocked down three-pointers at a 43.3% clip, finishing with a 50/40/90 season for the Virginia Cavaliers. He has gotten serious buzz in recent weeks as a mid-first rounder who could go surprisingly high. NBA teams evidently love his potential.

20. Atlanta Hawks – Tre Mann, 6-5 Guard, Florida

I think Tre Mann is criminally underrated. He is a high-level shooter and facilitator who looks so smooth and fluid with the ball in his hands. The Hawks need more creators other than Trae Young, and I think Tre Mann would thrive in Atlanta pick-and-roll sets. Plus a Trae-Tre backcourt would be fun.

21. New York Knicks (via Dallas) – Isaiah Jackson, 6-11 Forward, Kentucky

If the New York Knicks can come away from the 2021 NBA Draft with solid depth pieces to complement their young core, it will be a success. Here’s what I had to say about Jackson in Mock Draft 2.0:

Isaiah Jackson probably has one of the higher ceilings among the frontcourt prospects in this draft class. He’s an awesome defender who rebounds and protects the rim well. His offensive game needs to develop to match his defensive value, but he is athletic enough to be an acceptable finisher at the rim. If he becomes a more reliable scoring option, he could be one of the steals of the draft. I can already see the Quickley-Jackson alley-oop tandem now.

Karl Heiser, Mock Draft 2.0

I might walk back my thoughts on how high Jackson’s ceiling is after watching some more of his film, but he could still be a solid rotational piece for an improving Knicks team.

22. Los Angeles Lakers – Jared Butler, 6-3 Guard, Baylor

Jared Butler was recently cleared to play by the NBA after some health concerns. This skyrocketed him back into the first round of mock drafts and it’s entirely possible and maybe even likely that he is taken in the first 20 picks. He is a leader, a very smart player, and he hits shots at a high level. There’s a lot to like with Jared Butler.

23. Houston Rockets (via Portland) – Usman Garuba, 6-8 Forward, Spain

Up front, I have absolutely no clue where Usman Garuba will be selected in the 2021 NBA Draft. He could be taken in the lottery or the back half of the first round. He has professional experience in Spain, which should help him acclimate to the NBA, and he could be the best defender in the entire class. A defensive glue guy who is reportedly developing a respectable jumper would be a good idea for a rebuilding Houston team.

24. Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee) – Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, 6-3 Guard, VCU

Bones Hyland is one of the best shooters in the 2021 NBA Draft. Over two seasons at VCU, he shot 39.9% from three-point range and averaged 19.5 points per game as a sophomore. Houston is basically starting from scratch. Getting another great scoring prospect like Hyland after selecting Jalen Green will accelerate their rebuild.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Sharife Cooper, 6-1 Guard, Auburn

The Clippers need some more reliable help at the point guard position, and I think Sharife Cooper would be a great option here. Again, given the depth of the draft class, he could go much higher than this depending on what teams are thinking. As a playmaker and scorer, Cooper is excellent. He averaged over 20 points and 8 assists as a freshman for Auburn. Cooper is also very good at getting to the free-throw line, making him a dangerous offensive weapon despite his smaller size.

26. Denver Nuggets – Cameron Thomas, 6-4 Guard, LSU

Cameron Thomas has started to slide down draft boards because scouts are becoming more aware that he only has one elite skill. Thomas scores the ball at an insanely high level, dropping 23 points a game as a freshman. Other than that, he doesn’t do a lot at an elite level. He isn’t a playmaker and doesn’t play a lick of defense. Thomas will still get taken in the first round, and I think the Nuggets could use his bucket-getting ability for the second unit.

27. Brooklyn Nets – Day’Ron Sharpe, 6-11 Center, North Carolina

I’ve mocked this pick like a million times, solely because the Nets need a big man. It’s like the only real hole on their roster. I think Sharpe will be the best big available at this point in the draft. There are rumblings that Brooklyn might move DeAndre Jordan soon, which really just exacerbates this need. If they snag Sharpe, they are getting a versatile center with an underrated ceiling.

28. Philadelphia 76ers – Ayo Dosunmu, 6-4 Guard, Illinois

If Ben Simmons is on his way out of Philadelphia like many believe, there are a lot of minutes at the top of the key that the Sixers will need to replace. Dosunmu is one of the better playmakers in the 2021 NBA Draft who has slipped down draft boards, mostly due to the depth of the draft class and not by any fault of Dosunmu himself. Pick and roll sets with Joel Embiid would be so sick to watch.

29. Phoenix Suns – Jaden Springer, 6-4 Guard, Tennessee

Chris Paul only has one year left on his deal, and he could even opt out in the next couple days. Replacing him in the backcourt should be a priority. Once upon a time, Jaden Springer was getting looks as a lottery pick. If he falls into the back end of the first round like I think he will, the Suns should seriously consider him. Springer is just 18 years old, so his development will take some time.

30. Utah Jazz – Miles McBride, 6-2 Guard, West Virginia

The Jazz could probably use a point guard to develop, and McBride fits the bill at the end of the first round. There’s a chance he goes well before this, but most reports about his stock rising are not definitive. I like him to sneak into the first round with his combination of shotmaking and defensive IQ. He was the go-to guy for WVU and excelled in the creation department.

2021 NBA Draft First Round Bubble: Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky), Joshua Primo (Alabama), JT Thor (Auburn), Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga), Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky)


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