2021 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections with Regular Season Complete

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 17, 2021

2021 NBA Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections with Regular Season Complete

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The NBA regular season is complete and the draft lottery odds are in. 

    The Houston Rockets finished with the worst record and own the best chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick. 

    The Minnesota Timberwolves, who traded a top-three protected pick to the Golden State Warriors, will now need to catch a lucky break during the lottery to keep their selection. The Chicago Bulls will also lose their pick to the Orlando Magic if it lands outside the top four. 

1. Houston Rockets: Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Jerry Larson/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 14.0 percent

    Odds at top four: 52.1 percent

    The NBA's worst record and some lottery luck could bring the Houston Rockets Cade Cunningham to join Christian Wood and jumpstart the rebuild. 

    John Wall isn't likely going anywhere, but he won't affect the Rockets' draft decision. The front office should still see a fit Cunningham, who can operate as another creator and shooter from the 2-guard spot.

    Houston's offense will eventually run through the 6'8" ball-handler, who's an advanced isolation scorer, shot-maker and passer.

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

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    Odds at No. 1 overall: 14.0 percent

    Odds at top four: 52.1 percent

    Jalen Green versus Evan Mobley will be an interesting debate within the Detroit Pistons' front office. There is a case to be made for each, given Green's comfort level scoring against current/former pros in the G League and Mobley's profound two-way impact at USC. 

    Team needs and the emergence of center Isaiah Stewart may give Green an edge with Detroit. The rotation could really use another creator and shot-maker like Green to take pressure off Killian Hayes and Jerami Grant. An outstanding athlete, the 19-year-old earned scouts' approval in the bubble with his improved ball-handling, advanced one-on-one package, three-point shooting and efficient production.

    Aside from Cade Cunningham, Green represents the most seamless fit for the lineup that Detroit has started building, while recent draft history warns teams about passing on elite guards and wings for bigs with a top-three pick. Unless Detroit is convinced Mobley is another Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid or Anthony Davis, heavy confidence in Green's scoring ability translating could tip the scale in his favor. 

3. Orlando Magic: Evan Mobley (USC, PF/C, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 14.0 percent

    Odds at top four: 52.1 percent

    Promising signs from Wendell Carter Jr. and Mohamed Bamba won't prevent the Orlando Magic from taking Evan Mobley.

    He'd become the team's top priority and prospect, with elite defensive potential and the right skills for a big man in today's NBA.

    Opponents had trouble scoring against USC because of Mobley's outstanding timing as a shot-blocker and lateral quickness for containing wings or guards in space. But it's flashes of ball-handling in transition, face-up moves from the arc, shooting touch and passing that suggest Mobley could develop into a two-way All-Star center.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 11.5 percent

    Odds at top four: 45.1 percent

    The Oklahoma City Thunder could pair Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with Jalen Suggs, an uptempo playmaker who showed at Gonzaga he can also score alongside other ball-handlers.

    He quickly became a consensus top-five prospect due to his open-floor burst and passing skills and impressive pull-up and floater games. But he also used his athleticism off the ball for cuts and handoffs. 

    And he was a pesky defender, thanks to his quickness at the point of attack and instincts/anticipation for forcing turnovers. Between Gilgeous-Alexander, Suggs and Luguentz Dort, opponents would have a tough time penetrating against the Thunder.

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

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    Odds at No. 1 overall: 11.5 percent

    Odds at top four: 45.1 percent

    With defensive cornerstones at the 3 (Isaac Okoro) and 5 (Jarrett Allen) positions for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jonathan Kuminga could provide scoring from the 4 spot.

    At 6'8", 220 pounds, he got his shot off in a variety of ways in the G League bubble, flashing impressive creation fluidity off the dribble and shot-making ability out to the arc.

    At No. 5, the Cavaliers could also be thinking trade, ideally for an established veteran to help expedite Cleveland's rebuild. Moving down for a shooting specialist like Corey Kispert is also worth thinking about for the NBA's 30th-ranked team in three-point percentage. 

6. Golden State Warriors (via Timberwolves): Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG, Fr.)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 9.0 percent

    Odds at top four: 37.2 percent

    Wins in April and May could cost the Minnesota Timberwolves their pick, which goes to the Golden State Warriors if it lands outside the top three. 

    At No. 6, the Warriors can grab a wing defender in Keon Johnson. His offense will take longer to come alive, but he did show signs of skill and improvement the last two months of the season. And while his handle and shot take time to develop, he should still be able to contribute with his explosiveness for transition and slashing, passing off the dribble and defensive pressure. 

    As a rookie, he'd play the role of second-unit energizer off the bench.

7. Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes (Florida State, PF, Freshman)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 7.5 percent

    Odds at top four: 31.9 percent

    Despite some flaws in Scottie Barnes' scouting report, teams will overlook them for his unique, translatable and potentially impactful strengths.

    The Toronto Raptors front office won't worry about how he'll fit into a lineup with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. It will just be excited about adding a multiposition defender and excellent passer who's drawn rave reviews for his intangibles.

    With Siakam, Anunoby and Barnes, a 6'9", 227-pound forward who can pressure full court and guard ball screens, the Raptors' defensive frontcourt would create problems for opposing offenses.

8. Orlando Magic (via Bulls): Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 4.5 percent

    Odds at top four: 20.3 percent

    With the Chicago Bulls pick, the Orlando Magic will just keep looking to add talent for their rebuild. Needs still shouldn't come into play for a roster this far away. And Jalen Johnson should have a best-player-available case with his 6'9", 220-pound frame and athleticism, face-up playmaking, paint scoring and defensive versatility. 

    It's reasonable to think his ball-handling and agility will be better suited for the NBA's space and pace.

    Between Johnson, Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac, Orlando would have a strong frontcourt core of interchangeable bigs.

    Interviews will ultimately be important for teams and Johnson, who opted out of the season midway after he started losing minutes.

9. New Orleans Pelicans: Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 4.5 percent

    Odds at top four: 20.3 percent

    While Lonzo Ball's impending free agency could factor into the New Orleans Pelicans' decision here, a desire to re-sign him won't deter them from drafting Davion Mitchell. 

    The breakout junior played on and off the ball next to Jared Butler at Baylor. New Orleans could see an interchangeable guard capable of playmaking, spot-up shooting and defending undersized thanks to his strength, effort and pressure. 

    There are questions about the upside of a prospect turning 23 years old in September. But the Pelicans may like the idea of adding a rookie who can immediately play impactful minutes with his explosiveness off the dribble and defensive toughness. 

10. Sacramento Kings: Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF/PF, Sophomore)

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Odds at No. 1 overall: 4.5 percent

    Odds at top four: 20.3 percent

    Set in the backcourt after adding Tyrese Haliburton to join De'Aaron Fox, the Sacramento Kings could target Franz Wagner for his versatility from either forward spot. 

    At 6'9", he's shown he can slash or make plays as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, catch-and-shoot from three and defend multiple positions. 

    Still 19 years old, Wagner ranked No. 3 in the nation in defensive plus-minus, and the Kings ranked last in the NBA in defensive efficiency.

Late Lottery

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    11. Charlotte Hornets: Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Teams see Moody as an easy fit with his shot-making, off-ball scoring and defensive tools. A three-and-D wing is the obvious projection, but it's a limiting label. Moody, whose 16.8 points ranked fourth among, did flash pick-and-roll ball-handling and pull-up shooting.  

    12. San Antonio Spurs: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)

    Different for 6'8" positional size and passing instincts, Giddey leads the NBL in assists at 18 years old. His playmaking skills are ahead of his scoring, but signs of shooting potential have appeared, while Giddey's rebounding should lead to grab-and-go transition opportunities and triple-doubles.

    13. Indiana Pacers: James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)

    Athletic finishes, advanced creation moves, tough shot-making and 18.7 points per game have helped scouts look past Bouknight's lack of playmaking vision. He'll have teams picturing a starting 2-guard who can get his own shot and carry an offense for stretches with three-level scoring.

    14. Memphis Grizzles: Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)

    Teams looking to plug an immediate hole with instant shot-making could target Kispert. Rebuilding franchises may want a younger, perceived higher-upside prospect. But the Grizzlies, who'll be trying to strengthen their playoff seeding, could see Kispert upgrading their 2021-22 offense with guaranteed shooting and efficient off-ball scoring.

Nos. 15-20

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    15. Washington Wizards: Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)

    Lottery teams will be debating Sengun, MVP of the Turkish BSL at 18 years old. There are questions about his upside in the NBA game, given his lack of shooting and tools for a center. But he's been too effective against pros to nitpick at, using his footwork, timing and motor to consistently score off post-ups, rolls, putbacks and finishes.

    16. Boston Celtics: Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SG/SF, Freshman)

    General manager Danny Ainge doesn't put much stock into freshman stats. He could see value here with Williams, a former five-star recruit with 6'8" size, ball-handling skills and a shooting stroke that's much cleaner than the numbers suggest. 

    17. Golden State Warriors: Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

    Butler swayed scouts this year by improving his shooting, playmaking and defense while leading Baylor to a national championship. He comes off as an easy fit anywhere based on his ball-handling for creation and convincing spot-up three-ball. 

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

    A team will target Garuba for his special defensive mobility and IQ. But the arrow is pointing up for the switchable, 19-year-old big man after some impressive scoring outputs and three-pointers this month in the EuroLeague playoffs.

    19. New York Knicks: Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)

    With two first-rounders and an early selection in the 30s (via the Detroit Pistons), the Knicks figure to be active on the phones to package picks and move up. Regardless, Mann could give them extra creation and shot-making with his ball-screen play and off-the-dribble shooting. He still has more to prove as a playmaker, but in the short term, the Knicks figure to target a free-agent veteran to run the offense now that they've suddenly entered win-now mode.

    20. Atlanta Hawks: Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)

    From becoming Oak Hill's all-time leading scorer to leading all NCAA freshman with 23.0 points per game, Thomas has scouts confident in his shot-making. A lack of passing and defense could limit his NBA usage and role, but the Hawks can find good use for his instant offense with Lou Williams on the decline.

Nos. 21-30

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    21. Houston Rockets (via Blazers): Kai Jones (Texas, PF/C, Sophomore)

    Jones could do some swaying in workouts with his ball-handling and shooting, which he only got to occasionally showcase at Texas. The flashes of three-pointers and drives hint at upside, while his athleticism and motor figure to translate to easy baskets, blocked shots and defensive versatility at the least. 

    22. Los Angeles Lakers: Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, PF/C, Freshman)

    Jackson started to come alive offensively in March, an exciting development for an explosive leaper and elite shot-blocker. At baseline, the Lakers could use him to rim-run, finish and protect the rim, though there could be more face-up skill and mid-range touch to unlock long term.

    23. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)

    Though scouts aren't convinced about Springer's lead-guard potential, versatility and defense should earn him minutes and paychecks. Despite lacking blow-by burst, the 18-year-old could become a valuable rotation piece for his spot-up shooting, passing off the dribble and ability to pressure ball-handlers.

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

    The rebuilding Rockets could target Cooper to replace John Wall, who'd make for a fitting mentor early. In the short term, Cooper could operate as a change-of-pace ball-handler off the bench. He struggles with shooting and defense, but his quickness off the dribble and passing skills will translate to playmaking and open looks for teammates.

    25. Denver Nuggets: Josh Primo (Alabama, SG, Freshman)

    Buzz is starting to build about a potential pre-draft rise for Primo, who may offer more creation and scoring skills that were hidden behind Alabama's older guards. The Nuggets could take an upside gamble on the class' youngest prospect with 6'6" size, a convincing shooting stroke (38.1 percent 3PT) and possible untapped potential as a ball-handler and shot-maker. 

    26. Brooklyn Nets: Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)

    Veteran teams could see an immediate rotational guard in Dosunmu, whose creation, shooting and passing skills have improved each season. For a 6'5" ball-handler, he should be a useful pick-and-roll ball-handler and perimeter defender.

    27. Los Angeles Clippers: Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG/SF, Freshman)

    Injuries and losses clouded Christopher's season, but the flashes of explosiveness, creation and shot-making still point to scoring potential. He doesn't come off as NBA-ready, but the Clippers can use free agency to build their 2021-22 rotation and the draft to prepare for the future. 

    28. Philadelphia 76ers: Greg Brown (Texas, PF, Freshman)

    Brown's highlight-reel bounce and perimeter skills could help teams look past a questionable feel for the game. He struggles with turnovers and fouls, but for a 6'9" 19-year-old, Brown's above-the-rim play and shooting potential can be enticing. 

    29. Phoenix Suns: Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)

    A former junior college standout, Duarte caught scouts' attention at Oregon with his shooting, creation flashes for scoring and defensive toughness. He'll be a 24-year-old rookie, but a contender looking for short-term value may view that as a positive.

    30. Utah Jazz: Roko Prkacin (Ciboba, PF, 2002)

    Athletic and 6'9" with three-point range and ball-handling skills, Prkacin checks the boxes for a modern NBA 4. His scoring versatility should create an easy fit. 

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