2021 NBA Draft
(Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

After the 2021 NBA Draft lottery this past week, the Detroit Pistons are set to make the first overall selection in this year’s draft on July 29th. With the draft order finalized, here is my latest update to the Vendetta NBA Mock Draft. Again, for the sake of simplicity, potential draft night trades are not included. If you want to read my NBA Mock Draft 1.0 for comparison, click here.

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

This should not be a surprise. Cade Cunningham has the highest floor in the 2021 NBA Draft and is the consensus top prospect. Detroit still doesn’t have a good option at point guard, and Cunningham’s combination of potential, shooting, and court vision seriously elevates a franchise that is coming off a solid 2020 Draft. Winning the Draft Lottery this year was a serious plus for Detroit because of how good of a prospect this guy is.

2. Houston Rockets – Evan Mobley, 7-0 Center, USC

Evan Mobley is the best center prospect in the last two drafts. This is a very guard-heavy draft, which actually raises the USC product’s overall stock. He’s really good defensively and has rare skills for a seven-footer, so most scouts are convinced that his versatility will allow him to survive in an NBA that has moved away from post-dominant players. The Rockets have a lot of needs, so taking the best player available here is the best move. Evan Mobley and Christian Wood projects to be a formidable duo down low.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jalen Green, 6-6 Guard, G League Ignite

The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best lottery luck of all time. I’m very high on Jalen Green and have said that he has the highest ceiling of any player in the 2021 NBA Draft. As far as scoring and athleticism go, Green is already an elite prospect. Factor in his defensive potential and playmaking flashes and you have a no-doubt top-five guy. The Cavaliers are reportedly looking at trade offers for Collin Sexton, but I think after his good season they would be better off keeping him and sliding Green alongside him. That’s a nasty offensive tandem right there.

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

Kyle Lowry is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and it’s not worth it to pay a boatload of money to a 35-year-old point guard. Toronto should look to completely retool after a miserable season, and Jalen Suggs is a worthy replacement. He’s athletic, he can hit shots, and he has the X-factor that makes a potential franchise cornerstone. His heroics in the NCAA Tournament raised his draft stock and cemented him as a certain top-five selection.

5. Orlando Magic – Jonathan Kuminga, 6-8 Forward, G League Ignite

His season with the G League Ignite team made a lot of people realize that Kuminga is probably more of a project than originally believed. There’s a chance he falls outside of the top five, but I honestly think his potential is high enough that this will not happen. He will only be 18 years old when drafted and presents a tantalizing combination of size and athleticism. Jonathan Kuminga’s game tape shows evidence that he can develop into a plus defender and shooter, but these are aspects of his game that need work. The Magic stripped everything down to the bones this past season, and Kuminga is a solid option to put in the frontcourt with Jonathan Isaac to begin the rebuild.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder – Scottie Barnes, 6-9 Forward, Florida State

Scottie Barnes is sort of what you would get if Ben Simmons realized he shouldn’t try to run an offense and just leaned into being a power forward from the start. Barnes is super versatile and has a really clean all-around game for a forward. He’s got some great court vision and point forward potential, but his primary role right now is a slasher and lob threat. The former five-star prospect can also guard pretty much any position on the floor. If OKC draft enough high-ceiling players with their million draft picks, one of them should hit.

7. Golden State Warriors (via Minnesota) – Moses Moody, 6-6 Guard, Arkansas

The Warriors need backup guard depth, and Moody is a fantastic option for their first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Arkansas guard is a good shooter and defender who will look really nice in the Warriors system. Moses Moody can get a bucket at pretty much any time he wants, and putting a scorer on the court when Steph Curry is off would be big for Golden State.

8. Orlando Magic (via Chicago) – James Bouknight, 6-5 Guard, UConn

Orlando snagged Cole Anthony in the 2020 Draft, and it would do them well to get another scoring guard in the 2021 NBA Draft. While Bouknight would probably be better at shooting guard than point guard due to his limited playmaking, he’s an excellent scorer who averaged 18.1 points per game in his sophomore season. He’s very good at creating shots for himself and once he learns to do it for others, he will be an excellent piece for a rebuilding Magic team.

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

Tyrese Haliburton was a hit for the Kings in last year’s draft, so they now have the task of surrounding him with reliable pieces. Sacramento is thin at small forward so this is a pick that makes a lot of sense. Franz Wagner doesn’t have a ton of bust potential and is a high-IQ player who can really shoot the basketball. He’ll also improve the Kings on the defensive side of the ball as he’s long enough to have success guarding multiple positions.

10. New Orleans Pelicans – Davion Mitchell, 6-2 Guard, Baylor

Davion Mitchell is the ideal prospect for the Pelicans. He’s an excellent defender who showed off high-level shooting last season. The Pelicans are a disaster in terms of defense and three-point shooting. Mitchell’s perimeter game would fit well alongside Brandon Ingram’s slashing playstyle and Zion Williamson’s paint dominance. At 22, he’s older than the average prospect, but New Orleans could use players who are ready to go right away.

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

Kai Jones to the Hornets might be one of the best fits I have on this entire mock draft. He’s a great defender and can run in transition extremely well. Getting another runner and lob threat for LaMelo Ball who can also hold down the paint would be huge for a Charlotte team that seems to have already gotten its franchise cornerstone. Jones also has shown flashes of stretch big potential during his time at Texas.

12. San Antonio Spurs – Ziaire Williams, 6-8 Forward, Stanford

It seems like the Spurs want to stick with their current backcourt, so it’s likely they take a frontcourt player in the lottery. Ziaire Williams is a very versatile player who puts forth a ton of effort on defense and creates open shots for himself on offense. His shots didn’t fall during his freshman season at Stanford and the stats don’t reflect Williams’ ability to get buckets.

13. Indiana Pacers – Jalen Johnson, 6-9 Forward, Duke

Jalen Johnson is a tough prospect to evaluate because he pretty much quit partway through his year at Duke. He’s probably still a lottery pick, but his stock fluctuated a bit because no one got to see as much tape on him as for other guys. Johnson is a good two-way player who rebounds well and plays good defense. He’s another frontcourt player who needs to work on his shot to have a more complete game, but all indications are that the potential is there. Letting Jalen Johnson develop behind T.J. Warren and Domantas Sabonis will make the Pacers a deeper, more complete team.

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

Golden State will likely address their needs for a backup guard with their earlier lottery pick, leaving the No. 14 pick for depth purposes. Kispert is an elite shooter who shot over 50% from the field and 44% from three as a senior for Gonzaga. Shooting runs the NBA, and Kispert should stick around the league as a flamethrower. He needs to work on his defense if he wants to play on the wing consistently, but adding another knockdown shooter to a lineup that features Steph Curry and Klay Thompson certainly wouldn’t hurt Golden State. Like, just look at this guy:

15. Washington Wizards – Josh Giddey, 6-8 Guard, Australia

Josh Giddey has been flying up draft boards in the last few months, even getting into the top 10 in some mock drafts. He’s an exceptional floor general with good court vision and passing instincts. The Wizards don’t have any reliable creators off the bench, and Giddey has the skill to overcome his lack of explosive athleticism and make a splash in the NBA.

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

Johnson just set the NBA Combine record in the Vertical Jump with a 48″ vertical. That’s certainly impressive, but I’m not sold on Keon Johnson as a top-10 prospect like many other mock drafts are projecting. He’s an exceptional athlete and good defender, but he isn’t a good shooter or playmaker right now, shooting 27.1% from three last season while averaging more turnovers than assists. OKC’s whole draft strategy over the next few years will be to rebuild through drafting high upside prospects, and Johnson is a high-risk, high-reward type of player.

17. Memphis Grizzlies – Cameron Thomas, 6-4 Guard, LSU

I stand by this pick from Mock Draft 1.0. Other than Ja Morant, who on the Grizzlies can you trust to get a bucket? Cam Thomas will give you buckets and absolutely nothing else. Averaging 23 points a game as a freshman, his scoring ability alone is enough to make him a first-rounder. Memphis showed that they are on the path to success with their tough playoff series against the Utah Jazz. They should look to snag a true scorer and hope their team-oriented play covers up his weaknesses.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami) – Alperen Sengun, 6-10 Center, Turkey

Sengun is another international prospect who has received increasing hype as the 2021 NBA Draft approaches. He’s a little slower and plays more like a traditional five, but his skill and shooting touch are such that those things can be overlooked. He has a fantastic IQ for an 18-year-old and plays well around the rim on offense and defense. Sengun is not a very refined prospect, but he’s another high-ceiling player for the Thunder to take a risk on or use as a trade piece.

19. New York Knicks – Isaiah Jackson, 6-11 Forward, Kentucky

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.

20. Atlanta Hawks – Ayo Dosunmu, 6-4 Guard, Illinois

Ayo Dosunmu played his best basketball out of the pick-and-roll while with Illinois, which means the Hawks would probably be a great landing spot for him. Trae Young also makes a lot of things happen out of P&R sets, so the system will already play to Dosunmu’s strengths. He is a good-not-great playmaker who needs to learn how to limit his turnovers and erratic play at the next level. However, his scoring, passing, and length are good enough to make him stick.

21. New York Knicks (via Dallas) – Usman Garuba, 6-8 Forward, Spain

Garuba is more of a project than some of the other international players in the draft, but he already has a fair amount of professional experience. He has reportedly started to work on his shot a bit, but the main reason a team would draft him would be for his exceptional defense. It doesn’t seem like he’ll be ready to play consistent NBA minutes immediately, but giving him some run on an up-and-coming Knicks team is a worthwhile investment.

22. Los Angeles Lakers – Tre Mann, 6-5 Guard, Florida

Dennis Schroder’s return is questionable and Tre Mann is probably the best option to replace him at this point in the 2021 NBA Draft. He can shoot and facilitate at a high level, averaging 16.0 points and 3.5 assists on 45.9% from the field and over 40% from three-point range last season. After an injury-riddled season, the Lakers need to reload. Getting a fantastic playmaker with the No. 22 pick will help them do that.

23. Houston Rockets (via Portland) – Jaden Springer, 6-4 Guard, Tennessee

Springer is just 18 years old, so he’s not a player who is likely to play immediately. At Tennessee, he facilitated well and shot with efficiency. Springer also showed promising defensive IQ at the guard position. The Rockets are a team that can afford to give him minutes and that should help him adapt to the next level.

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

Bones Hyland played his way into the first round during the 2021 NBA Draft Combine. He’s played extremely well in scrimmages and has showed why he is probably a top-three shooter in this draft class. Hyland is athletic, skilled, and can really score the ball. It’s unclear whether he will be a point guard or shooting guard at the next level, but he is a no-doubt first rounder that is worth a look for a rebuilding team like Houston.

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

Long story short, the Clippers can’t rely on Rajon Rondo and Reggie Jackson for their playmaking forever. They need to get some young facilitators in the building to make things happen. Despite being undersized, Sharife Cooper averaged over 20 points and eight assists for Auburn last season. Concerns about his size will likely result in him slipping towards the back half of the first round, but he’s a great offensive talent that can establish a role for himself.

26. Denver Nuggets – Greg Brown, 6-9 Forward, Texas

Greg Brown has had some obvious struggles during scrimmages at the 2021 NBA Draft Combine. He’s struggled to get up and down the floor and has not looked NBA-ready at all. I’m not sure how much his stock will slip due to this small sample size and would still consider him a first-rounder for now. He’s a very raw player with a ton of upside, which will probably cause a team to buy in on him in the late first round. The Nuggets have the lineup in place to be able to invest in a project like Brown.

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

Brooklyn’s one hole on the roster is a quality big. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan both sort of filled the role this past season, but they are getting older and will not be reliable options for the future. Sharpe would add a lot to this team, including paint scoring and playmaking chops. Landing a guy who can hold down the inside at a high level would make Brooklyn basically unstoppable.

28. Philadelphia 76ers – Chris Duarte, 6-6 Guard, Oregon

If the playoffs made one thing clear, it’s that the 76ers are in serious need of another guard that can shoot, and they need one right away. Ben Simmons might (should) get moved, which will open up a ton of minutes for other backcourt options. It seems like a veteran player always gets selected in the late first round, and Duarte is right on the bubble between the first and second round. He’s a fantastic shooter and plus defender who will be ready to go right away. The Oregon senior is a great option for a late first-round pick.

29. Phoenix Suns – Roko Prkacin, 6-9 Forward, Croatia

Roko Prkacin is a less established international player than someone like Alperen Sengun, but he’s also extremely skilled. Other than his passing and court vision, the Croatian doesn’t have any exceptional aspects to his game, but he has a good enough all-around skillset to provide a solid base for future development. The Phoenix Suns have arrived quicker than most people expected, and adding another experienced shot creator to the bench unit would make them even better.

30. Utah Jazz – Brandon Boston Jr., 6-7 Guard, Kentucky

Despite Brandon Boston’s rough freshman season, I still think he should be a first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Given Utah’s success this season as the Western Conference No. 1 seed, they will likely look to run it back. Taking a former lottery projection who still has good upside as a scoring wing wouldn’t be a bad draft strategy given how solid this team is already. Boston showed some improvement at the end of last season, and it’s not like people were high on him initially for no reason. Last season’s struggles were more likely than not an aberration, and Boston still has a shot to develop into a reliable NBA player.

2021 NBA Draft First Round Bubble: Jared Butler (Baylor)*, Josh Christopher (Arizona State), Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech), Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky), Trey Murphy III (Virginia), Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga)

*Jared Butler was just referred to the NBA’s Fitness-to-Play Panel due to a medical condition that makes him ineligible to play until cleared. Considering this, he has fallen out of the first round of my mock despite being No. 21 in my first edition.

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