NBA Draft 2021: Latest Mock Draft Ahead of NCAA Tournament

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMarch 15, 2021

NBA Draft 2021: Latest Mock Draft Ahead of NCAA Tournament

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The field for the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament is set, and 68 teams will now battle it out to try to end the season as national champions.

    For some leading players, this also represents the final few weeks of their college careers before taking their game to the next level.

    It's unclear when the 2021 NBA draft will take place, but the annual talent grab usually occurs shortly after the NBA Finals, which are set to finish on July 22 this year. So while there's some uncertainty about the timeline, there's more certainty regarding who the top players are in this year's draft class.

    Some of the top NBA draft prospects will be in action during March Madness, which will provide them opportunities to boost their stock while playing against some top-level college competition.

    Here's an early mock draft, predicting how the top players could come off the board later this year (Note: The order shown is based on reverse order of records, per Tankathon, but that could change significantly during the second half of the 2020-21 season, based on results and the draft lottery).

Latest Mock Draft

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cade Cunningham, PG/SG, Oklahoma State

    2. Detroit Pistons: Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga

    3. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, SG, G League

    4. Orlando Magic: Evan Mobley, PF/C, USC

    5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G League

    6. Washington Wizards: Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

    7. Sacramento Kings: Scottie Barnes, SF, Florida State

    8. Toronto Raptors: James Bouknight, SG, UConn

    9. Oklahoma City Thunder: Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee

    10. New Orleans Pelicans: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

    11. Indiana Pacers: Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

    12. Chicago Bulls: Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford

    13. Memphis Grizzlies: Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan

    14. Golden State Warriors: Jalen Johnson, SF/PF, Duke

    15. Atlanta Hawks: Kai Jones, PF/C, Texas

    16. New York Knicks: Jaden Springer, PG/SG, Tennessee

    17. Charlotte Hornets: Isaiah Jackson, PF/C, Kentucky

    18. Boston Celtics: Usman Garuba, PF, Real Madrid

    19. New York Knicks (via Dallas Mavericks): Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State

    20. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami Heat): Greg Brown, PF, Texas

    21. San Antonio Spurs: Day'Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina

    22. Houston Rockets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Alperen Sengun, PF, Beskitas

    23. Denver Nuggets: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

    24. Los Angeles Clippers: Ayo Dosunmu, SG, Illinois

    25. Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Butler, PG, Baylor

    26. Los Angeles Lakers: Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor

    27. Brooklyn Nets: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU

    28. Phoenix Suns: Daishen Nix, PG, G League

    29. Philadelphia 76ers: Terrence Shannon Jr., SG, Texas Tech

    30. Utah Jazz: Marcus Bagley, SF, Arizona State

Cunningham Will Be Top Available Player in Class

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    Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

    It's long been expected that Cade Cunningham will only play one college season before moving on to the NBA. And while the top prospect hasn't made that official, he's proved he's worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick if he decides to turn pro.

    The 19-year-old is averaging 20.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals through Oklahoma State's first 25 games of the season. The 6'8" guard was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, and he helped the Cowboys reach the championship game of the conference tournament.

    Although Oklahoma State lost to Texas, Cunningham had 29 points on 11-for-23 shooting, going 5-for-12 from three-point range. He'll now look to lead the Cowboys on a deep run through the NCAA tournament. They're a No. 4 seed and will be taking on No. 13-seeded Liberty in the first round on Friday.

    In addition to having "excellent size," Cunningham is a "fluid athlete who plays at different speeds, passes and handles with both hands and plays a selfless style," according to ESPN's Jonathan Givony.

    No matter which team ends up with the No. 1 overall pick, they can likely find a way to make a player as talented as Cunningham fit on their roster.

Pair of Gonzaga Players Could Go in Top 10

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Gonzaga is 26-0, and after winning the West Coast Conference tournament championship, it received the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

    The Bulldogs are now looking to become the first team to win the national title and finish unbeaten since Indiana in 1975-76.

    It's possible Gonzaga could make more program history when the NBA draft arrives. It has a pair of top draft prospects in freshman guard Jalen Suggs and senior forward Corey Kispert, and the two could become the first Bulldogs teammates to get selected in the top 10 of the same draft.

    Suggs has been terrific in his first (and likely only) season with the team. He's averaging 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 24 games, while shooting 51.2 percent from the field.

    Meanwhile, Kispert has continued to improve throughout time at Gonzaga, and he has career highs this season in points per game (19.2), rebounds per game (4.9) and field-goal percentage (54.4) while playing in all 26 games.

    While Suggs is likely to be drafted before Kispert, both should come off the board early. And they could continue to boost their stock if the Bulldogs play deep into March Madness.

Mobley Likely to Be First Big Man Taken in Draft

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    While Cunningham is the clear top guard in this year's NBA draft class, USC power forward/center Evan Mobley is likely the top post player.

    The 7-footer should also be turning pro after only one college season, but he's made an impact during his lone year with the Trojans.

    Mobley is averaging 16.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 29 games, while shooting 58.4 percent from the field. He led USC to the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament and will now look to lead the Trojans, who are a No. 6 seed, past the winner of the First Four matchup between Wichita State and Drake (which will decide the No. 11 seed) in the first round on Saturday.

    "Ideal physical profile for a modern big man," ESPN's Mike Schmitz wrote of Mobley. "Outstanding coordination for his size. Quick off his feet. Explosive leaper in space. Finishes above the rim with ease. Lob threat. Tools make him a factor on the offensive glass."

    Depending on how the draft lottery unfolds, Mobley could be selected as high as No. 2 overall behind Cunningham. At the least, he should be a top-five pick, as he has the potential to develop into a dominant big man at the next level.