2021 NBA Mock Draft: Early Predictions for Next Year's Class

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 18, 2020

2021 NBA Mock Draft: Early Predictions for Next Year's Class

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The 2021 NBA draft is expected to be different from Wednesday's 2020 edition in a few ways.

    As of now, there is a clear-cut No. 1 overall prospect in Cade Cunningham, who was named an Associated Press preseason All-American before he played a minute for Oklahoma State. 

    The expected one-and-done star headlines a class that will have some players who are taking unique avenues to prepare for life in the NBA.

    Jalen Green chose to play for the G League's Ignite team, and potential top-five pick Jonathan Kuminga joined him on the roster that will be coached by Brian Shaw. Green is one of the top candidates to follow Cunningham directly in the draft order next summer. 

    However, the projected order could change in the coming months depending on the performances at the collegiate level and in the G League.

    One extreme situation in the 2020 NBA draft class involved Cole Anthony, who went from potential top pick to likely not being a lottery selection. 

Early 2021 NBA Mock Draft

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    1. Cade Cunningham, PG/SG, Oklahoma State

    2. Jalen Green, SG, G League

    3. Evan Mobley, PF, USC

    4. Jonathan Kuminga, SF/PF, G League

    5. Jalen Suggs, PG/SG, Gonzaga

    6. Jalen Johnson, SF, Duke

    7. Ziaire Williams, SF/PF. Stanford

    8. Usman Garuba, PF, Spain

    9. BJ Boston, SG, Kentucky

    10. Terrence Clarke, SG, Kentucky

    11. Greg Brown, PF, Texas

    12. Scottie Barnes, SF, Florida State

    13. Terrence Shannon Jr., SG, Texas Tech

    14. Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

    15. Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee

    16. Keyontae Johnson, SG/SF, Florida

    17. Roko Prkacin, PF, Croatia

    18. Caleb Love, PG, North Carolina

    19. DJ Steward, SG, Duke

    20. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, SG, Villanova

    21. Will Richardson, PG, Oregon

    22. David Johnson, PG, Louisville

    23. Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State

    24. Joel Ayayi, PG/SG, Gonzaga

    25. Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan

    26. Wendell Moore, SF, Duke

    27, Trayce Jackson-Davis, C, Indiana

    28. Scottie Lewis, SG/SF, Florida

    29. Chris Smith, SF/PF, UCLA

    30. Bryan Antoine, SG, Villanova

Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The buildup to the 2021 NBA draft will feel more like the 2019 selection process headlined by Zion Williamson.

    Cunningham is the clear-cut top pick going into the college basketball season and should boost Oklahoma State's profile on the national stage. 

    If Cunningham lives up to his potential with the Cowboys, there should be little discussion regarding which player should be the first pick, unlike 2020 where one of three stars were in the conversation.

    Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman delivered an early look into Cunningham's talents in May.

    "Aside from the triple-doubles, his size and skill set are built to rack up, he'll be defined by his ability to make the game easier for teammates," he wrote. "Comparisons to Luka Doncic are coming, particularly based on his ability to control and take over games without needing ultra-athleticism or speed.". 

    Cunningham will have plenty of opportunities to test himself in the Big 12, which could once again be one of the toughest leagues in college basketball with the Kansas Jayhawks and Baylor Bears at the top.

    Due to the limited nonconference schedule, Cunningham's biggest tests outside the Big 12 will come against the Marquette Golden Eagles and Arkansas Razorbacks. 

    If he refines his skills under head coach Mike Boynton, Cunningham should vault himself from college to the No. 1 pick and potentially into the title of most prepared rookie to take on the rigors of the NBA. 

Jalen Green, G League

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    NBA scouting personnel will have to look over to the G League to get an idea of how Green's game translates to the top professional level. 

    Green led the charge of players not committing to college programs to refine their games in the G League system before entering the draft. 

    It will be viewed as a risky strategy since it has never been done before, but LaMelo Ball did try a unique route through the National Basketball League and his talent kept him on the list of the top three prospects. 

    The California native has been a part of two gold-medal winning sides with USA Basketball at the U17 and U19 levels and will get a chance to develop under Shaw, a three-time NBA champion. 

    Wasserman noted that Green's playmaking skills will be intriguing, no matter how many games he plays for the G League's Ignite squad. 

    "Regardless of how the level of play or competition looks, Green's talent should still pop," he wrote. "He might not shoot a high percentage, but for an 18-year-old athlete of his caliber, he's made persuasive progress as a shot-creator, shot-maker and playmaker." 

    Green and the other prospects on the Ignite squad will be joined by a handful of veteran players, including Amir Johnson and Brandon Ashley. 

    The team is expected to play 10-12 games that will not count toward the G League standings. Those contests will give NBA franchises the best chances to look at the progression made by Green and others. 

    As long as Green continues on an upward trajectory, he should be in the mix for the top three picks in the next draft. 

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