NBA Draft 2021: Latest Mock Draft with NCAA Tournament Underway
In the last five years, only two No. 1 overall NBA draft picks have participated in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham will likely join Deandre Ayton and Zion Williamson in that category since his run through the Big 12 solidified his place atop draft boards.
Unlike Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, Cunningham guided his team into the Big Dance, and he has a chance to take the Cowboys far. Although there was not an NCAA tournament in 2020, Anthony Edwards was not on track to make the field with Georgia.
Cunningham leads a large list of potential lottery picks who will be chasing a national championship over the next few weeks in Indianapolis.
USC's Evan Mobley and Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs could go second and third behind Cunningham, while Florida State's Scottie Barnes and Arkansas' Moses Moody are among the players who could boost their draft stock into the top five before their teams are eliminated.
2021 NBA 1st-Round Mock Draft
1. Minnesota: Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State
2. Detroit: Evan Mobley, C, USC
3. Houston: Jalen Suggs, PG/SG. Gonzaga
4. Orlando: Jalen Green, SG, G-League Ignite
5. Washington: Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G-League Ignite
6. Cleveland: Scottie Barnes, PF, Florida State
7. Sacramento: Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas
8. New Orleans: Jalen Johnson, SF/PF, Duke
9. Oklahoma City: Corey Kispert, PF, Gonzaga
10. Toronto: Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford
11. Indiana: James Bouknight, SG, UConn
12. Chicago: Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee
13. Memphis: Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn
14. Golden State: Jaden Springer, PG/SG, Tennessee
15. Boston: Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan
16. Charlotte: Usman Garuba, PF, Real Madrid
17. New York: Isaiah Jackson, PF/C, Kentucky
18. Atlanta: Terrence Shannon Jr., SG, Texas Tech
19. Oklahoma City (from Miami): Kai Jones, PF/C, Texas
20. New York (From Dallas): Day'Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina
21. San Antonio: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon
22. Houston (from Portland): Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State
23. Denver: Jared Butler, SG, Baylor
24. Los Angeles Clippers: Daishen Nix, PG, G-League Ignite
25. Houston (from Milwaukee): Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas
26. Phoenix: Greg Brown, PF, Texas
27. Philadelphia: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU
28. Los Angeles Lakers: Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois
29. Brooklyn: Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor
30. Utah: Neemias Queta, C, Utah State
Latest draft order via Tankathon.com.
Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State
Cunningham was spectacular in February and early March for Oklahoma State as it made a run to the Big 12 tournament final.
The likely No. 1 overall pick had seven 20-point games in the last month-and-a-half, including a 40-point outburst against the Oklahoma Sooners on February 27.
During that run, Cunningham flexed his ability in clutch situations, from three-point range and on the boards.
He added 11 rebounds to the 40-point showing in Bedlam, and he knocked down nine three-pointers in the last two games of the Big 12 tournament.
If Oklahoma State avoids an upset in the first two rounds, it would give Cunningham the ultimate draft showcase against fellow National Player of the Year candidate Ayo Dosunmu from Illinois.
If Cunningham wins that potential head-to-head showdown, he could further solidify his position atop NBA draft boards.
We should see Cunningham play in at least two March Madness contests. Since Oklahoma State has been much more consistent than Tennessee and Oregon State, it should make it out of its pod in the Midwest Region.
It appears Cunningham will be headed to Minnesota, Detroit or Houston to start his NBA career. If he lands with the Wolves, he would pair with Edwards to form a young backcourt that should support Karl-Anthony Towns in a quest to get back up the Western Conference standings.
The Pistons and Rockets both have greater needs at guard, and both of them would love to build around Cunningham as they begin the next evolutions of their respective franchises.
With the new lottery odds system in place, Minnesota, Detroit and Houston would all have a 14 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick if they remain in the league's bottom three.
Evan Mobley, C, USC
Mobley did not receive as much attention as Cunningham during the regular season because he plays in the Pac-12.
The freshman center has a chance to showcase to casual college basketball fans what they missed over the last few months.
For those of us who have stayed up to watch many USC games, we know how controlling Mobley can be in the paint. He averages 16.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Mobley closed the Pac-12 campaign with consecutive 26-point, nine-rebound games in the Pac-12 tournament. He recorded a double-double in the regular-season finale against UCLA.
In the last five games, Mobley has come one or two rebounds away from a double-double in four contests, so he appears to be in position to control most frontcourt battles he faces in the West Region.
Just like Cunningham, Mobley has a potential showdown in front of him that could provide another boost to his draft stock. USC might play Iowa and National Player of the Year front-runner Luka Garza in the Sweet 16.
If the bottom three teams in the NBA continue to lose, Mobley's best fit would be with Detroit, who lost Andre Drummond and Christian Wood in the last two years.
Mobley would be an instant upgrade over Mason Plumlee, and he could be a dominant paint presence who Dennis Smith Jr., Saddiq Bey and others could complement as the Pistons try to grow their young core.
Minnesota would not make too much sense, just like it did last year with James Wiseman, since Towns is in place as the starting center.
Houston would be an intriguing landing spot for Mobley, but the Rockets may prefer to chase a young guard with Wood established as their top big man.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.