Way-Too-Soon 2021 NBA Mock Draft

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterNovember 26, 2020

Way-Too-Soon 2021 NBA Mock Draft

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Scouts are making the quick transition to evaluating for the 2021 NBA draft.

    College basketball and the international leagues are already running. There are still questions about how many games they'll get in, and what that the season will look like for the G League Ignite team that features multiple potential lottery picks.

    But scouts sound excited about getting back to work, especially to evaluate this potential class, which could have a number of All-Stars and franchise-altering players.

    We used FanDuel's championship odds to create the mock draft order.  

1. New York Knicks: Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG, Freshman)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The projected 2021 draft class likely discouraged the New York Knicks from trying to make any expensive, quick-fix signings in free agency. With Cade Cunningham becoming eligible, winning next year's lottery could change everything for the franchise. 

    Lost years spent trying to develop Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. would arguably have been worth it. Cunningham projects as a 6'8", 220-pound lead guard, special for his positional size and spectacular passing skills/IQ. 

    Flashes of shot-creation for scoring and shot-making raise his ceiling and should help further fuel comparisons to Luka Doncic. 

2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    While it was tougher to see Tyler Herro's NBA scoring potential during his one year at Kentucky, Brandon Boston Jr.'s should immediately pop.

    At 6'7", he's an advanced shot-creator and shot-maker who much of the Wildcats offense seems likely to run through. 

    "Needs to add strength" will be written on every scouting report, but Boston's skinny body doesn't hinder him around the perimeter, where he's developed all sorts of dribble moves to separate into pull-up and step-back jumpers. 

    He'll compete for looks with more explosive guards and wings. Boston's skill level should give him an edge.

3. Detroit Pistons: Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Teams are still asking whether there will be a G League season or if the Ignite will operate separately on some custom schedule. Regardless, Jalen Green won't require many games to secure his draft stock, just as James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball didn't. 

    Scouts are aware of and excited about Green, an explosive guard whose ball skills and shooting have gradually improved. A transition weapon and slashing scorer, Green jumped up rankings with a tighter handle for shot-creation and playmaking. And his jump shot and range appear to be making strides as well. 

    Decision-making and inefficiency are concerns worth monitoring, but they won't keep Green from drawing top-three interest.

4. Charlotte Hornets: Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Charlotte Hornets' backcourt is set after drafting LaMelo Ball and Devonte' Graham's breakout. The front office likely already has eyes on Evan Mobley, whose skill set and defensive versatility check the right boxes for a modern-day center. 

    The initial appeal to Mobley stems from 7'0" size and mobility to block shots and guard in space. He moves more like a traditional forward while possessing height, length and athleticism for rim protection. 

    Flashes of ball-handling and attacking closeouts, as well as promising shooting touch, also hint at more offensive upside, other than what comes from his finishing and post play.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder: Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG, Freshman)

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    Keon Johnson will earn fans with athleticism and energy that he uses at both ends of the floor.

    He'll make most of his impact by putting pressure on opponents with his explosive attacking and defensive aggression. But enough flashes of shooting and playmaking could lead to teams betting on his potential in the top five, the way the Chicago Bulls did with Patrick Williams. 

    Aside from his expected transition play, slashing and exciting finishes, Johnson shows combo-guard potential with his passing IQ and improving jump shot. His freshman teammate Jaden Springer may appear more polished, but Johnson's upside should pop easier.

6. Washington Wizards: Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SF, Freshman)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Despite no McDonald's All-American Game, Nike Hoop Summit or Jordan Brand Classic to scout, NBA teams won't have trouble identifying Ziaire Williams.

    His skill set for a 6'8" forward should quickly grab scouts' attention. Williams separates himself from other combo forwards with perimeter shot-making versatility and range. He'll immediately pose as a three-point threat capable of using the dribble and elevating for pull-ups. 

    Foot speed and length also create enticing defensive potential for Williams, whose floor and trajectory point to a surefire lottery pick.

7. Chicago Bulls: Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)

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    After passing on point guards in the 2020 draft, the Chicago Bulls could target one in 2021. Next in line after Cunningham, Jalen Suggs is expected to be Gonzaga's second one-and-done freshman (after Zach Collins), likely to produce and create buzz with his well-rounded offense and defensive toughness. 

    A 6'4", 205 pounds, Suggs has an NBA body, which helps his case. And he uses it at both ends, driving through contract and pressuring opposing ball-handlers.

    While the knock on Suggs is a lack of an elite skill, he offers a balanced mix of athleticism, strength, passing and shot-making.

8. San Antonio Spurs: Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)

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    Jonathan Kuminga reclassified to become eligible for the 2021 draft and join the G League Ignite team. And scouts still aren't sure what type of season or role he'll experience.

    NBA teams also aren't as familiar with Kuminga, who hasn't played FIBA and skipped last season's Basketball Without Borders camp. 

    Still, the basic eye test sees a 6'8" scorer, capable of creating his own shot as a driver and pull-up shooter. For a player his size, his shot-making is an obvious draw.

    Depending on the number of games he plays and how he's used, it may be tough for him to answer questions about shot selection and motor. But his talent and skill set should look convincing enough for Kuminga to remain in the top-10 discussion, regardless of how the G League season plays out.

9. Sacramento Kings: Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    At 6'9", 220 pounds, Jalen Johnson arrived at Duke with an NBA power forward body. But it's his ability to handle and play-make that could generate top-10 interest in the draft.

    While his strength and athleticism will lead to buckets off the ball, Johnson's highlight reel for NBA teams will feature his grab-and-go ability in transition and passing off the dribble.

    Defensive versatility is another major plus on the scouting report, given his tools and speed for guarding bigs and wings.

    Johnson's potential to rise further up the board will come down to his shooting and whether his jumper looks capable or too far away.

10. Orlando Magic: Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The combination of shooting and defense just helped Devin Vassell crack the lottery, and it could do the same for Moses Moody in 2021.      

    Moody looks further ahead offensively at the same age, however, particularly with his shot-making and ability to finish transition opportunities and drives. 

    Playing off Cunningham and Scottie Barnes at Montverde Academy, Moody seems comfortable in a spot-up role. But with Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones having left Arkansas for the NBA, the incoming freshman could see more on-ball reps, which could either illuminate untapped scoring and playmaking skills or expose limited creation ability.

Late Lottery

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    11. Golden State Warriors (via Timberwolves): Scottie Barnes (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Barnes could play some point forward for Florida State, mixing 6'9" size and rare ball-handling and passing skills. Between his playmaking and defensive versatility, Barnes shouldn't drift from the 2021 first-round discussion.    


    12. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)

    While there is some debate about whether Springer projects as a lead initiator or secondary playmaker, he's a well-rounded offensive guard with the quickness, body and instincts to defend both backcourt positions. 


    13. New Orleans Pelicans: Terrence Clarke (Kentucky, SG/SF, Freshman)

    A 6'7" forward, Clarke looks the part physically with enticing perimeter skill for creating and shot-making. Showing he can comfortably play off the ball and still efficiently produce should keep him relevant in the first-round discussion.


    14. Portland Trail Blazers: Caleb Love (North Carolina, PG/SG, Freshman)

    A strong, athletic combo guard, Love has developed into a tough scorer with his physical drives and pull-up shooting. How comfortable and savvy he looks running an offense, making decisions and involving teammates could determine whether teams view him as a lottery point guard or a combo guard worth taking in the Nos. 15-30 range.

Nos. 15-20

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    Matt Stamey/Associated Press

    15. Indiana Pacers: Daishen Nix (G League Ignite, PG, 2002)

    Nix earned an invite to play for the Ignite with passing IQ and decision-making over scoring, athleticism or flash. He'll facilitate for Green, Kuminga and the veterans, and an NBA team should be drawn to Nix's ability to play-make, efficiently run offense and impact winning. 


    16. Atlanta Hawks: Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, PF/C, 2002)

    Though Garuba has struggled offensively early in the season, teams will still see first-round value in his passing IQ, defensive impact and hustle. Making enough spot-up threes to create hope for his shooting could earn Garuba lottery looks.


    17. Phoenix Suns: James Bouknight (Connecticut, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    Bouknight averaged 17.2 points over his final 13 games as a freshman, leading to breakout projections  in 2021 for the 6'4" combo guard. Quick and sharp off the dribble, he'll look to build on his floor game and distance shooting.


    18. Utah Jazz: Keyontae Johnson (Florida, SF, Junior)

    Strong and athletic, Johnson made a notable jump skill-wise last season, finishing at 38.0 percent from three with a 62.1 true shooting percentage, per Sports Reference. Along with terrific tools for defending, rebounding and finishing, Johnson appears on track to develop enough outside touch and scoring ability.


    19. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Rockets): Day'Ron Sharpe (North Carolina, C, Freshman)

    At 6'11" and 265 pounds, Sharpe can be overpowering around the basket with his finishing, offensive rebounding and shot-blocking. But flashes of passing and touch could help elevate him into the first-round discussion.


    20. Golden State Warriors: Romeo Weems (DePaul, SF, Sophomore)

    Teams looking for wing defenders could be tempted by Weems, even if he's still limited offensively. Long, athletic and high-energy, he'll be looking to make a jump this season with his shooting after hitting 27 threes at a 36.5 percent clip as a freshman.

Nos. 21-30

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    21. Philadelphia 76ers: Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG, Freshman)

    Christopher's athleticism, creation and shot-making should lead to explosive scoring outputs at Arizona State. He's a lottery talent who could be there in the 20s if his shot selection and motor scare teams off.


    22. Toronto Raptors: Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)

    Turning 18 years old on Thanksgiving, Prkacin has been productive early in Croatia and the Adriatic League, showcasing an attractive mix of shooting, slashing and general scoring versatility for a 6'9" forward. 


    23. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Jeremy Roach (Duke, PG, Freshman)

    A two-way playmaker, Roach will earn fans with his passing and defensive pressure. With his explosiveness seemingly back following an ACL tear, Roach's shooting development could be the swing skill for his 2021 draft stock.


    24. Denver Nuggets: Franz Wagner (Michigan, SG, Sophomore)

    More shooting consistency should help Wagner draw NBA looks in 2021. The eye test, his previous numbers in Germany and last year's 83.3 free-throw percentage suggest his three-ball should make a jump from 31.1 percent. Otherwise, Wagner, a 6'8" wing who turned 19 in August, has shown he can score in different ways with transition, pick-and-roll ball-handling and cutting.


    25. Houston Rockets (via Heat): Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

    Butler would have had second-round suitors had he kept his name in the 2020 draft. An exceptional ball-handler and versatile shot-maker, he should draw first-round interest in 2021 by improving his playmaking and three-point numbers.


    26. Boston Celtics: DJ Steward (Duke, SG, Freshman)

    Despite an underwhelming 6'2" frame, Steward could build a case with his shot-making versatility and secondary playmaking. He'll have to find ways to consistently produce in a crowded backcourt and rotation. 


    27. Los Angeles Clippers: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Sophomore)

    A skilled, high-IQ forward, Robinson-Earl could break onto first-round radars by complementing his post game with more outside shooting. He has touch (81.4 percent FT) and a projectable stroke, which he'll need to offset concerns over his lack of speed and explosion. 


    28. Brooklyn Nets: Greg Brown (Texas, PF, Freshman)

    Explosive leaping separates Brown, who'll just have to show sporadic glimpses of skill to draw first-round interest. Aside from the easy baskets and highlights he'll generate high above the rim, Brown has flashed shooting potential, key for his stock and ability to stretch the floor as a 4.


    29. Milwaukee Bucks: Scottie Lewis (Florida, SG/SF, Sophomore)

    Scouts already acknowledge Lewis' athleticism and effort on defense. But for a first-round wing, they want to see more creation and threatening shooting as a sophomore. 


    30. Los Angeles Lakers: Mojave King (Cairns Taipans, SG, 2002)

    King passed on major college offers for the NBL in Australia, where he should be able to draw NBA attention with his clean shooting stroke and strong frame and athleticism for defense.  


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