NBA Draft 2021: Latest 1st-Round Order, Mock Before Final Four
At one time, the 2021 NBA free-agent crop looked like it would be one for the ages.
Then, one notable name after the next jumped out of the free-agent pool by inking an early extension. There are still a few top-shelf players who will hit the market, but since most are expected to re-sign with their current clubs, this former loaded crop could be particularly light on difference-makers.
That leaves teams searching for roster reinforcements with two places to turn: the trade market and the 2021 NBA draft. Since the latter has several potential franchise talents at the top and a shortage of possible plug-and-play role players behind them, that could be where organizations get a lot of their offseason shopping done.
With a few draft prospects getting set to participate in the 2021 men's Final Four, it's the perfect time to lay out the latest draft order, mock the opening round and then spotlight some of the top sleepers (projected outside of the lottery) in the class.
2021 NBA Mock Draft
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cade Cunningham, PG/SG, Oklahoma State
2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Suggs, PG/SG, Gonzaga
3. Detroit Pistons: Evan Mobley, C, USC
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite
5. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G League Ignite
6. Washington Wizards: Keon Johnson, SG/SF, Tennessee
7. Toronto Raptors: Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas
8. Orlando Magic (via Chicago Bulls): Jalen Johnson, PF, Duke
9. Oklahoma City Thunder: Scottie Barnes, SF/PF, Florida State
10. New Orleans Pelicans: James Bouknight, SG, UConn
11. Indiana Pacers: Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan
12. Sacramento Kings: Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford
13. Golden State Warriors: Kai Jones, PF/C, Texas
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga
15. Boston Celtics: Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor
16. New York Knicks (via Dallas Mavericks): Josh Giddey, PG/SG, Adelaide 36ers
17. Atlanta Hawks: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami Heat): Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas
19. Charlotte Hornets: Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
20. San Antonio Spurs: Usman Garuba, C, Real Madrid
21. New York Knicks (via Dallas Mavericks): Josh Christopher, SG/SF, Arizona State
22. Houston Rockets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Brandon Boston Jr., SF, Kentucky
23. Los Angeles Lakers: Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois
24. Denver Nuggets: Tre Mann, PG/SG, Florida
25. Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee Bucks): Greg Brown, PF, Texas
26. Los Angeles Clippers: Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn
27. Philadelphia 76ers: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon
28. Brooklyn Nets: Aaron Henry, SF, Michigan State
29. Phoenix Suns: Jaden Springer, PG/SG, Tennessee
30. Utah Jazz: Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor
Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU
When drafting outside of the top tier, projecting a prospect's role can be almost as important as scouting his skill set.
That's where the appeal lies with Cameron Thomas.
His toolbox is far from perfect. He takes difficult, low-percentage shots and is not at all a ball-mover (1.4 assists against 1.7 turnovers), which takes combo-guard possibilities off of the table for the 6'4" 2-guard. But the guy gets buckets—an absurd amount of them. He paced all freshmen in scoring during the regular season, then popped off for 57 total points in LSU's two NCAA tournament games.
He can create shots for himself and knock down a lot of those tricky ones. Efficiency may always be a struggle—he had a 40.6/32.5/88.2 shooting slash with the Tigers—but it's easy to envision him piling up points in a hurry as an off-the-bench offensive spark.
His hot streaks are fiery enough to envision him helping his NBA employer extend leads or erase deficits. The fact his role feels so projectable and relatively impactful gives him sleeper potential over some higher rated prospects who might have a more well-rounded game but could have more trouble carving out a niche.
Josh Christopher, SG/SF, Arizona State
A decorated recruit for the Sun Devils, Josh Christopher didn't exactly set the hoops world ablaze at Arizona State. For someone who expected to count scoring as his biggest strength, his 14.3 points per game and 43.2/30.5/80.0 shooting slash left much to be desired.
But perhaps that opens the door for some buy-low potential.
He already has an NBA body (6'5", 215 pounds) and some NBA-level maneuvers to evade defenders. He also turned a few heads down the stretch, shooting 44.4 percent from distance over his final seven outings. If teams are willing to buy his potential as a perimeter threat, there might be more to like than his stat sheet would suggest.
"It's worth thinking about if his game is better suited for a more spaced-out, free-flowing NBA," B/R's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "Christopher ranked as one of college hoops' top transition players (92nd percentile), though it's still the ability to get his own shot and hit the tough ones that can separate him."
Christopher has tools to work with at the defensive end, and a decent spike to his three-point connection rate would go a long way toward improving his offensive outlook.
Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois
Given the draft's obsession with youth, upperclassmen prospects often carry around their grade level like a scarlet letter. That's probably the biggest reason Ayo Dosunmu isn't a lottery lock—or even guaranteed to go in the first round.
But he already seems like he could be the one who got away for front offices that let him go by.
He was one of the top players in men's college basketball this season, and while that distinction doesn't necessarily make him a great NBA prospect on its own—just ask AP Player of the Year Luka Garza, who didn't make our first-round cut—Dosunmu's game has no obvious red flags.
"He's a terrific athlete out in transition, has a great sense for the moment in closing games, is a solid passer, rebounds well for his position and defends at a high level," The Athletic's Sam Vecenie wrote. "He profiles really well as a third guard at the NBA level and is regarded by sources in college and the NBA as a high-level worker and high-character player."
Dosunmu took several steps forward this season, ending the campaign with per-game averages of 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, plus a 48.8/38.6/78.3 shooting slash. If he had those numbers as a freshman, he might've been a top-five pick two years back. The fact he posted them as a junior instead seems to knock him more in the scouting community than it probably should.