2021 NBA Mock Draft: Lottery Simulation Lands Cleveland Cavaliers No. 1 Pick
The NBA draft lottery odds are set, and tiebreakers have been broken between teams that finished with the same records.
After simulating the order using Tankathon, the Cleveland Cavaliers will pick first in this mock draft edition. The real lottery will take place June 22 as the NBA Draft Combine kicks off.
This draft ultimately represents a huge opportunity for a number of rebuilding teams that have put a lot of stock into acquiring picks.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG/SG, Freshman)
The presence and growth of ball-handlers Darius Garland and Collin Sexton won't prevent the Cleveland Cavaliers from going after Cade Cunningham.
Adding talent and the highest value asset is still the franchise's priority. Cleveland will worry about how it all fits together later in the process.
Drafting Cunningham either means bringing Garland off the bench or playing the 6'8", 19-year-old with Isaac Okoro at forward. Between Cunningham's size and 40 percent three-point shooting, he's versatile enough to play either guard or wing spot.
But the obvious draw to the projected No. 1 pick stems from his creation, shot-making and passing as an initiator. Cunningham would give the Cavaliers a new player to run the offense through.
2. Orlando Magic: Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)
The Orlando Magic will have trouble passing on the chance to build a defensive frontcourt around Evan Mobley and Jonathan Isaac.
That's two potential All-NBA defenders who'll be interchangeable at the 4 and 5 spots. Mobley offers an outstanding mix of 7'0" size, 7'4" length and foot speed. But there is also plenty of upside tied to his modernized offensive skill set that includes open-floor ball-handling, shooting touch, faceup scoring coordination and passing skills.
Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs will get consideration. But after re-signing Markelle Fultz, drafting Cole Anthony, trading Nikola Vucevic and acquiring R.J. Hampton, Orlando may lean toward taking a franchise big man.
3. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)
Building from the ground up, the Houston Rockets will be focused on taking the best player available. That should lead them to either Jalen Green or Jalen Suggs.
Green could have the edge with more perceived upside tied to his superior explosiveness. The Rockets would then have two athletic, three-level scoring wings in Green and Kevin Porter Jr.
Green earned scouts' approval in the G League bubble with his creation and shot-making skills, which have gradually improved every season since his junior year in high school. He'd start immediately in Houston and figure to challenge for Rookie of the Year with a sizable role at 19/20 years old.
4. Detroit Pistons: Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Freshman)
The Detroit Pistons, which could use more creation in their lineup, should entertain the idea of playing two ball-handlers. They could pair Killian Hayes with Jalen Suggs, another terrific passer who proved he could share the floor with other point guards at Gonzaga.
With Hayes and Suggs, the Pistons could put more pressure on defenses off transition and ball screens. Detroit would likely keep Hayes as the primary playmaker and use Suggs more off the ball, where he excelled as a cutter and threatened to score off handoffs and drive past closeouts.
Given the front office's admiration of Isaiah Stewart's motor, the Pistons will also likely be drawn to Suggs' energy, competitiveness and other intangibles that impact winning.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)
The Oklahoma City Thunder could add a cornerstone scorer in Jonathan Kuminga to play with Aleksej Pokusevski at the 3 and 4 spots.
Impressive physically, the athletic, 6'6", 210-pound combo forward also stands out for his creation and shot-making skills from the post, mid-range and three. He still has to improve his shooting consistency and shot selection, but for an 18-year-old, Oklahoma City will buy his 15.9 points per game in the G League bubble and the large window to sharpen his jumper and decision-making.
A nucleus of Kuminga, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Pokusevski and Luguentz Dort would ultimately possess an appealing mix of offensive and defensive upside.
6. Golden State Warriors: Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG, Freshman)
The Golden State Warriors could see Keon Johnson as a better fit and cheaper option than re-signing Kelly Oubre Jr.
Though not as skilled at 19 years old, Johnson can impact games with his energy and aggressiveness. He'd be asked to play to his athletic strengths at both ends of the floor by capitalizing in transition, slashing to the basket and creating defensive activity.
A projected off-ball player early on, Johnson flashed enough glimpses of pull-up shooting, post offense and passing for the Warriors to also see untapped scoring and playmaking potential.
7. Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes (Florida State, PF, Freshman)
Though the Toronto Raptors are set at forward with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, they could see Scottie Barnes as too unique to pass on.
He's expected to earn top-10 looks for his rare mix of playmaking and defensive upside but also for intangibles that scouts have raved about all season. One team figures to value the high likelihood of Barnes emerging as a surefire asset, even if his scoring upside remains limited.
The Raptors won't worry about how he'll fit right away. They'll just be drawn to the idea of adding an outstanding passer who can guard five positions and consistently provide positive energy.
8. Orlando Magic (via Bulls): Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG/SF, Freshman)
If the Orlando Magic get Evan Mobley first, they'd want to target more shooting with the Chicago Bulls' pick.
Moses Moody could be an option for his potential to space the floor and make shots from either wing position. Able to score off the ball without needing many dribbles, he'd be a solid fit in a lineup that has multiple ball-handlers in Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton.
Orlando could also look at Franz Wagner if it believes in his three-point development. Corey Kispert could be an option if the Magic wanted a sure-thing shooting specialist to count on right away.
9. Sacramento Kings: Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)
Marvin Bagley III hasn't been reliable enough for the Sacramento Kings to pass on quality power forward prospects. Jalen Johnson has a best-player-available case based on his 6'9", 220-pound frame, athleticism, playmaking ability, paint scoring and defensive versatility.
Even without a reliable jumper, he's a threat to make an impact by initiating fast breaks, passing on the move, finishing in the paint, crashing the offensive glass and guarding multiple positions.
Even if the Kings have faith in Bagley, there is nothing wrong with strengthening their depth. Breakout center Alperen Sengun could be an option if Sacramento is intent on getting more offense from the 5 spot.
10. New Orleans Pelicans: Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
Even if the New Orleans Pelicans remain interested in matching any offer for restricted free agent Lonzo Ball, they could still value Davion Mitchell's explosiveness and defensive pressure for their rotation.
He also proved at Baylor, playing next to Jared Butler, that he's comfortable off the ball.
Many scouts have bought into Mitchell's breakout season that highlighted blow-by burst, one-on-one creation, shot-making versatility and improved playmaking. At some point in the second half of the lottery, a team will take him as a best player available without putting stock into his immediate fit.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF/PF, Sophomore)
Unless the Hornets think the bigs left on the board are star-caliber, they could look to fill the center hole in free agency and draft Wagner as the best player available. He'd give them a 6'9" perimeter defender and an easy offensive fit because of his shoot-dribble-pass skill set.
12. San Antonio Spurs: Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)
MVP of the Turkish BSL at 18 years old, Sengun may have produced his way into the lottery. Along with his unprecedented effectiveness (for a teenager) scoring inside off post-ups and rolls, enticing flashes of faceup moves, shooting and passing over the past two months have made it easier to buy his NBA fit.
13. Indiana Pacers: James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)
Bouknight has scouts buying into his scoring potential and the creation and shot-making skills behind it. He should be able to ease concerns over his shooting numbers in workouts, given how much more convincing the eye-test results seem on his jumper compared to the stats.
14. Golden State Warriors: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)
The Warriors could use Giddey to facilitate for their second unit or work as a secondary playmaker between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. A 6'8" ball-handler and stud passer, he was the NBL's assist leader before shutting it down after proving enough to NBA teams.
15. Washington Wizards: Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)
The Wizards should see a plug-and-play shooter in Kispert, who'll make a living by drilling jumpers off spot-ups and screens. Still, he should be able to offer more off-the-catch offense by cutting, curling and attacking closeouts.
16. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
Jackson is one of the better bets to rise during workouts, where he could showcase more ball and shooting skills than he was given the freedom to flash at Kentucky. Regardless, the Celtics could value his ridiculous bounce, quickness and motor for finishing, shot-blocking and hustle plays.
17. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)
Springer would give Memphis another ball-handler whose spot-up shooting and defensive tools should allow him to play 2-guard. He's likely better suited for a secondary playmaking role.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Heat): Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)
The Thunder can add another ball-handler in Mann, whose 6'5" size, shiftiness off the dribble, pull-up game, elite floater and passing skills quickly caught scouts' attention. He gradually moved up draft boards by improving his execution as a shooting and playmaker.
19. New York Knicks: Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
Playoff teams looking to bolster their 2021-22 rotation will be drawn to Butler. After another year of improvement and leading Baylor to a national title, he comes off as ready to contribute with his ball-handling, shooting versatility and floater game.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Kai Jones (Texas, PF, Sophomore)
Already loaded with weapons, the Hawks aren't likely to find an upgrade for their 2021-22 rotation at No. 20. They could think longer term with Jones and allow his shooting and awareness to catch up to his athleticism and motor.
21. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SF, Freshman)
Williams could make teams forget about his shooting numbers with strong workouts showcasing his pretty jumper and ball skills for a 6'8" wing. A lack of strength and explosiveness changed the perception about his upside, but he's still an intriguing buy-low pick for the chances that his shot is better than the numbers suggest. He can offer some degree of three-and-D plus capable pick-and-roll ball-handling.
22. Los Angeles Lakers: Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, C, 2002)
Translatable defense and a high floor should earn Garuba a first-round contract. Regardless of whether his offense or shooting ever take off, his value to a rotation will revolve around toughness in the paint, switchability and hustle play.
23. Houston Rockets (via Blazers): JT Thor (Auburn, PF, Freshman)
Thor is staying in the draft, and there has been conversation from scouts and agents about him rising into the first round. The 6'10" forward has a smooth lefty shooting stroke, while flashes of a pull-up game and fluid driving ability hint at more scoring potential to unlock long-term.
24. Houston Rockets (via Bucks): Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)
Scouts see instant offense with Thomas, a bad-shot taker and tough shot-maker. Poor defense and no playmaking ability could limit his minutes, but his self-creation and streak-scoring ability figure to work well in the right scoring-specialist role.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)
The Clippers could target Cooper to provide pace and playmaking for their second unit. Until his shooting and defense improve, he may be most valuable providing a spark of speed and passing off the bench.
26. Denver Nuggets: Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG/SF, Junior)
Henry could earn early minutes for his wing defense, though his slashing, floater game, secondary playmaking and post play could be enough for him to add value offensively.
27. Brooklyn Nets: Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG/SF, Freshman)
Unlikely to find an immediate contributor, the Nets could see Christopher as a worthwhile project based on his explosiveness, defensive tools, self-creation and shot-making.
28. Philadelphia 76ers: Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)
Playoff teams may hope that Duarte's age (23) allows him to slip. He could be a useful reserve scorer next season after making impressive strides as a shot-creator and shooter.
29. Phoenix Suns: Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)
Dosunmu could provide immediate guard depth as a scoring playmaker with the defensive tools to guard both backcourt positions.
30. Utah Jazz: Josh Primo (Alabama, SG, Freshman)
Teams are doing their homework on Primo, a 6'6" shooter and the draft's youngest prospect who some scouts think has untapped scoring and playmaking potential that stayed hidden at Alabama.