2021 NBA Mock Draft: Did NCAA Tournament Hurt Any College Prospects?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 13, 2021

2021 NBA Mock Draft: Did NCAA Tournament Hurt Any College Prospects?

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    With the NCAA tournament complete, NBA prospects are in the process of looking for draft feedback and making decisions on whether to declare. 

    Some have been quick to hire agents. We already have a good feel for who'll be eligible on July 29.

    International leagues are still going strong. But over the next month, draft fans may want to focus on the NBA standings ahead of the lottery on June 22.

    The order was based on the standings heading into April 12. Players included have either declared or are expected to declare.

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

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    At full strength with D'Angelo Russell back in the lineup, the Minnesota Timberwolves are starting to deliver signs of hope. Adding Cade Cunningham to this roster suddenly gives it believable upside, especially with Anthony Edwards getting comfortable and fellow rookie Jaden McDaniels looking like a steal. 

    Minnesota won't worry about how Cunningham fits. He's too versatile and positionally interchangeable with his 6'8" size, ball-handling, playmaking and shooting. The Wolves could play Russell with Cunningham at the 2 and Edwards at small forward, where he's spent 60 percent of his possessions this season. 

    With Russell, Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Malik Beasley, Cunningham could focus more on facilitating than he did at Oklahoma State. Though it was his isolation scoring that generated so much buzz this season, it's his passing that has always separated him and could be a difference-making addition to this Timberwolves roster.

2. Houston Rockets: Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    With Cade Cunningham off the board, the Houston Rockets will be thinking about Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs and Jalen Green. They won't be worrying about needs with the roster focused on rebuilding.

    Mobley still seems to have the edge for scouts at No. 2. Questions about Suggs' half-court creation and shooting and Green's shot selection and playmaking could be too tough to ignore with Mobley available. 

    He'd give the Rockets a defensive centerpiece fueled by shot-blocking prowess and unique switchability. Additionally, he delivered enough glimpses of open-floor ball-handling, face-up moves, shooting touch and finishing for the Rockets to feel confident in his scoring potential. 

    The front office would see an easy-enough fit with Mobley and Christian Wood coexisting up front.

3. Detroit Pistons: Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Jalen Green may fill the biggest need with his scoring for this particular roster. But it's too far away for general manager Troy Weaver to think about plugging holes, especially since he can't feel overly confident that he knows what the Detroit Pistons have yet in Killian Hayes.

    Jalen Suggs could have a stronger best-player-available case with easier-to-feel impact from his passing, defense and effort plays. Green will wind up averaging more points per game, but there is a growing sense that Suggs is the guard who'll make his team better.

    He still averaged 14.4 points on 50.3 percent shooting, ranking in the 93rd percentile on dribble jumpers while using his athleticism and floater touch on takes to the basket.

    Adding another ball-handler like Suggs could help take pressure off the 19-year-old Hayes, who (despite a hip injury) hasn't looked as ready as most of the 2020 lottery picks.

4. Orlando Magic: Jalen Green (G League Elite, SG, 2002)

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    The Orlando Magic will only be thinking about drafting the best player available after trading Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. Its front office never seemed to care about filing needs in the draft, even before its recent decision to reset the roster. 

    Jalen Green would give Orlando its first major cornerstone to build around. His scoring potential is as high as any prospect's in this field, given his quickness off the bounce, explosiveness at the rim, shot-creation skills and three-level shot-making ability.

    He was the G League Ignite's top producer and most consistent weapon against former/current NBA pros and recent draft picks.

    Adding bulk should allow Green to log minutes at the 3 and play with Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz. 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)

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    Kevin Love is back, but Jonathan Kuminga would give the Cleveland Cavaliers a more athletic, three-level scorer.

    Of Love's first 87 shots, 59 have been threes. Kuminga would bring a new dimension of creation and power to the Cavaliers' frontcourt. He made noise in the G League bubble with his open-floor speed as well as his ability to handle and shake or separate into specialty jumpers.

    With Jarrett Allen there to protect the rim and Isaac Okoro bringing wing defense, Kuminga jumps out as a fit for his shot-making and potential to emerge as a go-to option.

6. Washington Wizards: Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG/SF, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Scouts sound willing to look past Keon Johnson's limited production and three-point shooting. His age (19), physical profile, athleticism and defense buy him time to continue developing his ball skills and jumper. 

    In the meantime, he'd give the Washington Wizards an aggressive slasher, plus-passer, pressure defender and high-energy wing. But over the course of this season, he started to look more confident with his creation attempts and shot-making. 

    Johnson should ultimately be interchangeable between the 2 and 3. He's an appealing option for the Wizards, given his ability to fit with the current group or offer longer-term upside for a franchise that may eventually have to reset and go young. 

7. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Jalen Johnson's physical profile and versatility are too enticing for his midseason opt-out to cause teams to pass. 

    His ball-handling and athleticism for a 6'8", 220-pound forward could look even more dangerous in a faster NBA. A playmaking 4, Johnson will cause problems with his ability to grab-and-go, face up and drive or pass on the move.

    And he projects favorably on defense with the tools to guard different positions and play-make.

    Johnson isn't a shooter, which will cause more hesitation from teams than his decision to leave Duke early after returning from an injury. He still made 8-of-18 threes in 13 games, leaving some room for optimism.

8. Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Scottie Barnes won't be for everyone, but one general manager is bound to see an out-of-the-box outlier. 

    Not every player needs to score or shoot at a high clip to produce lottery value. Barnes' identity will revolve around defensive versatility and passing. At 6'9", 227 pounds, he's wired to guard every position, both physically and mentally. And despite big-man size, he registered a monster 31.6 assist percentage, demonstrating unique ball-handling skills and vision for a player his height.

    He'd give the Toronto Raptors a playmaking 4 who can initiate fast breaks, attack his man in space, move the ball, finish and defend all over the floor. Just becoming a capable open shooter (11 threes in 24 games) could ultimately be huge for his value.

9. Sacramento Kings: Kai Jones (Texas, F/C, Sophomore)

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Set in the backcourt with De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, the Sacramento Kings could favor frontcourt players this draft.

    Despite playing a limited role at Texas, Kai Jones has been in the lottery discussion for most of the season and stands out as a potential riser during the predraft process. Workouts represent an opportunity to showcase the shooting and ball skills that were often masked in a lineup featuring veteran guards and senior Jericho Sims. 

    Interesting at baseline for his 6'11" frame, athleticism and motor (46 dunks playing just 22.8 minutes a game), Jones flashed glimpses of upside with three-point range, drives past closeouts, highlight blocks and eye-opening defensive mobility/switchability. 

10. Orlando Magic (via Bulls): Davion Mitchell (Baylor, G, Junior)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    There are believers and skeptics of Davion Mitchell's breakout season and NCAA tournament. But all it takes is one believer. With two potential lottery picks, the Orlando Magic could use their second to grab the 22-year-old who, at the least, figures to immediately offer defensive pressure and explosiveness to the backcourt.

    With Markelle Fultz coming off a torn ACL and the franchise still unsure what kind of guard it has in Cole Anthony, it's worth adding another ball-handler and combo guard. Aside from his blow-by burst and knack for forcing turnovers, Mitchell made notable improvements to his shooting and playmaking skills this year.

    History says to be wary about drafting players his age in the lottery, but more often than not lately, a team still does it. 

Late Lottery

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    11. New Orleans Pelicans: Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)

    Moody's three-and-D profile should interest the New Orleans Pelicans, who rank No. 23 in three-point shooting and No. 28 defensively. With an ability to score off the ball, not needing isolation dribbles, he's a strong fit for a lineup built around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

    12. Golden State Warriors: Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF/PF, Sophomore)

    Wagner's two-way versatility has become a selling point to scouts, and it should be a persuasive one for the Warriors. They'll be able to use him in different actions from any position, assuming he continues to improve his shot, slash from the arc, live-dribble pass and defend ball-handlers, wings and forwards.

    13. Indiana Pacers: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)

    Averaging 14.0 points, 9.9 assists and 7.7 rebounds since March, Giddey has looked incredibly comfortable for an 18-year-old in a physical NBL. But the bigger development has been his 42.3 percent shooting from three over his last 12 games. The draw to Giddey stems from his 6'8" size for a ball-handler and unteachable passing/feel for the game. A reliable jump shot helps alleviate concerns over his lack of burst and strength inside the arc. 

    14. San Antonio Spurs: Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)

    Top three in the Turkish BSL in scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking, Sengun has made himself easy to identify with his production and standout skill level. His effectiveness against pros at 18 years old should have the Spurs willing too look past the idea that his post-up heavy game doesn't traditionally scream upside. 

Nos. 15-20

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    15. New York Knicks: Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)

    Without an obvious answer on the board at No. 15, the Knicks could feel safe and confident with the draft's most credible shooter. Kispert would give them them an immediate shot-maker and floor-spacer, but also an efficient off-ball scorer with promising team-defensive IQ. 

    16. Memphis Grizzlies: James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)

    Bouknight's creation and shot-making should interest the Grizzlies, who rely heavily on Ja Morant to generate offense. Though not a big playmaker, his 6'5" size, shiftiness, dribble-jumper game and athleticism at the rim suggest his scoring should translate. 

    17. Boston Celtics: Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SF, Freshman)

    The Celtics have a history of not looking too deeply into stats of one-and-done freshmen. Williams was a 5-star recruit out of high school whose shooting stroke and ball skills (for perimeter creation and passing) looked more convincing than his scoring and three-point numbers at Stanford.

    18. Charlotte Hornets: Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)

    The Hornets could already picture LaMelo Ball throwing lobs to Jackson, a high-energy leaper around the basket. He looked sharper offensively over the last month of the season, but his value to a team like Charlotte will still revolve around his finishing and rim protection . 

    19. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Heat): Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, C, 2002)

    Garuba has had scouts monitoring Real Madrid for his defensive IQ and toughness. But every so often, he flashes shooting range and a face-up move that hint at more offensive skills and upside to unlock.

    20. Atlanta Hawks: Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    NBA teams value Mann's advanced ball-handling for creation and shooting off the dribble. Scouts aren't as confident in his facilitating for a lead guard, but in Atlanta, he could fill Lou Williams' role as a scorer and secondary playmaker. 

Nos. 21-30

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    21. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

    Even before Baylor's national title run, Butler had improved his draft stock, looking sharper with his shooting, playmaking and defense. Despite questions about his burst and decision-making, teams are having an easier time picturing an NBA combo and his fit playing on or off the ball. 

    22. Houston Rockets (via Blazers): Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)

    After a historic statistical season, Thomas will have suitors who see a scoring specialist. He won't offer any playmaking or defense, but he could still earn a nice role and paycheck for the ability to create his own shot and hit tough jumpers off spot-ups, pull-ups and screens.

    23. Houston Rockets (via Bucks): Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)

    Cooper has a case as the draft's top playmaker after averaging 8.1 assists in 12 games. Teams will likely use him early on as a change-of-pace ball-handler off the bench until he improves his shooting, decision-making and defense. 

    24. Los Angeles Lakers: Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG/SF, Freshman)

    While some scouts have questioned Christopher's one-on-one style and reliance on transition, others have given him a pass for his explosive athleticism, skill level and fit at Arizona State. Capable of picking up easy baskets with his strength and burst, he also flashed advanced creation moves and improved shooting later in the season. 

    25. Denver Nuggets: Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)

    Dosunmu is missing one bankable speciality strength for a junior, but he's become well-rounded enough for scouts to feel comfortable taking him in the first round. At 6'5", he's developed into a threatening driver, playmaker and pull-up shooter.

    26. Los Angeles Clippers: Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)

    While teams are hesitant about Springer's lead-guard potential, he'll draw first-round interest for his versatility and poise. He should wind up offering transition offense, passing IQ, spot-up shooting and defensive toughness in a combo role.

    27. Brooklyn Nets: Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)

    Duarte will turn 24 before the draft, but that shouldn't bother a contender this late in the first round. He should be ready to shoot and defend, as well as offer some self-creation if given enough space or ball screens.

    28. Philadelphia 76ers: Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)

    A 29-point, 15-rebound, nine-assist game in Croatia last week should have helped Prkacin build first-round steam. He's been on the radar for years with offensive versatility (to shoot, pass, attack and finish) suited for the NBA's power forward position.

    29. Phoenix Suns: Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG/SF, Junior)

    Teams looking for perimeter defense figure to highlight Henry on their draft boards. At 6'6", he's physically ready with excellent recovery ability and anticipation, and though he never blew up offensively, Henry started to turn a corner midway through the season with his shooting and runner game. 

    30. Utah Jazz: Marcus Bagley (Arizona State, SF/PF, Freshman)

    Despite averaging just 10.8 points in 12 games, Bagley should have first-round suitors willing to bet on the eye-test results from his shooting stroke, shot-making versatility and defensive tools. He's an easy-to-picture fit with a simple, translatable skill set for spot-up play and off-screen scoring.


    Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, Synergy Sports


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