Updated 2021 NBA Mock Draft with Latest Prospect Buzz
Plenty of changes have been made to Bleacher Report's latest 2021 mock draft board after the NBA draft community gathered in Chicago for the combine.
Scouts and executives didn't travel this season like they normally would, so teams may have put a little more stock into drills and scrimmages, both of which were competitive.
I've spoken with scouts over the past two weeks to get an updated sense on how the draft could play out.
1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG/SG, Freshman)
There is noise about the Detroit Pistons considering multiple prospects. But they'll wind up taking the player every scout expected to go No. 1 all season.
Sources say certain Pistons staff members were initially informed that Cade Cunningham would be the pick. Aside from most agreeing he's the top prospect, his fit and archetype are ideal for the Pistons, who could use a high-level creator to initiate offense.
An advanced scorer and passer, Cunningham could take pressure off Killian Hayes and give the Pistons another shooting threat next to Saddiq Bey.
2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)
The Houston Rockets will debate Jalen Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs. But for this particular group, Green's ability to create for himself and activate takeover scoring could give him an edge.
After he averaged 17.9 points on 36.5 percent shooting from three in the G League bubble, scouts find it easier to picture an elite scorer than it is to see an All-Star lead guard in Suggs.
And the Rockets could value a potential quality, No. 1 option over a defensive ace like Mobley. Green and Kevin Porter Jr. could be interchangeable wings and give Houston two high-level athletes and shot-makers.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley (USC, PF/C, Freshman)
The Cleveland Cavaliers should find it easier to build with Evan Mobley than Jalen Suggs for a roster with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton.
Given Mobley's lateral quickness for defensive versatility and comfort level handling the ball and spotting up, the Cavaliers could think about using him as a big 4 if they still plan to re-sign Jarrett Allen. Or, they could choose not to offer Allen an enormous contract and instead build with Mobley at center.
Cleveland should value his rim protection and general defensive court coverage. But his offensive upside is also a selling point. A best-case outcome for Mobley looks like a high-percentage finisher who can also stretch the floor, attack closeouts and score on the move with his pull-up and floater.
4. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)
Coming off a 27-win season, the Toronto Raptors may hesitate to commit more years and money to 35-year-old Kyle Lowry in free agency. Jalen Suggs is a sensible replacement and pick here at No. 4 with Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley off the board.
Suggs could give the lineup more pace and athleticism in the open floor. And given his comfort level splitting ball-handling duties at Gonzaga, there shouldn't be any concerns about a fit with Fred VanVleet.
The Raptors will surely look at Jonathan Kuminga, and Scottie Barnes has become a trending name weeks before the draft. Barnes is more interesting for his potential to play small-ball 5 with Pascal Siakam. But until we hear that he blows Toronto away with workouts and interviews, Suggs is the safer projection.
5. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, F, 2002)
The Orlando Magic will debate a few names in the best-player-available discussion, including Scottie Barnes and James Bouknight. But Jonathan Kuminga's archetype and upside may be difficult for Orlando to resist.
He'd give the Magic a strong, athletic scoring wing or combo forward with more creation skill compared to Chuma Okeke. He didn't shoot well percentage-wise in the bubble, but teams sounded encouraged by his jumper following a solid pro day. And for an 18-year-old with clear shot-making ability, the Magic should be willing to bet on improvement.
Between Okeke, Kuminga and Jonathan Isaac, the Magic would have plenty of versatility and defensive tools for their frontcourt.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Scottie Barnes (Florida State, F, Freshman)
The draft becomes more unpredictable at around picks No. 5 and No. 6, where the best-player-available discussion includes a handful of names. The Oklahoma City Thunder are too far away from title contention to worry about fit and could see Scottie Barnes as a unique talent with a skill set that's difficult to replicate.
At 6'8" with a 7'3" wingspan, Barnes operates as a playmaking forward with All-Defensive Team upside. Improving his shooting will be an obvious priority, but scouts still see outlier-star potential tied to his passing, defensive versatility, length around the basket and intangibles.
A Barnes-Aleksej Pokusevski pairing could eventually be difficult for opponents to answer based on their physical tools and unusual skill sets.
7. Golden State Warriors: James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)
Scouts have raved about James Bouknight's pro day and shooting display. And it's starting to seem like he'll be one of the most enticing names outside the top five.
If he's able to squash concerns about his three-point percentages at Connecticut, he could be a target for the Golden State Warriors, who'd value Bouknight's skill set for creating his own shot.
The Warriors would use him as a second-unit scorer at first, but there is enough upside tied to his athleticism, handles and shot-making for Bouknight to eventually start between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
8. Orlando Magic (via Bulls): Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
If the Orlando Magic use the No. 5 pick to improve their frontcourt, they could add Davion Mitchell to a backcourt that already includes interchangeable guards.
Orlando could instantly use Mitchell to put pressure on opponents with his blow-by explosion and tough defense. But it was his improved creation, shooting and playmaking that launched him into the top-10 mix.
Adding Mitchell to Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and R.J. Hampton could lead to healthy competition for the starting jobs.
9. Sacramento Kings: Kai Jones (Texas, PF/C, Sophomore)
Scouts can see Kai Jones cracking the top 10. The Sacramento Kings, who need defense, are set in the backcourt and haven't been able to count on Marvin Bagley III's health, are a possible fit.
Jones' ability to comfortably switch and guard wings at 6'11" has led to defensive comparisons to Jonathan Isaac. Offensively, even without substantial skill development, the Kings can still bank on his athleticism and motor for easy baskets.
But Jones' flashes of shooting and slashing suggest there is more scoring potential for the Kings to eventually unlock.
10. New Orleans Pelicans: Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG/SF, Freshman)
Keon Johnson had teams talking after his 48-inch max vertical at the NBA combine. Athletic ability and motor set him apart. The New Orleans Pelicans should be drawn to his defense first, though drafting him top 10 means accepting a limited creator and shooter early on.
However, he did flash glimpses of mid-range and post scoring, as well as secondary playmaking potential.
With Josh Hart and James Johnson set to hit free agency, the Pelicans could see Johnson as a plug-and-play defensive energizer with room to improve his ball-handling and jumper.
11. Charlotte Hornets: Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)
12. San Antonio Spurs: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)
13. Indiana Pacers: Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF, Sophomore)
14. Golden State Warriors: Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)
15. Washington Wizards: Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Celtics): Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)
17. Memphis Grizzlies: Trey Murphy III (Virginia, SF, Junior)
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Heat): Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Freshman)
19. New York Knicks: Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)
20. Atlanta Hawks: Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)
Chosen as a replacement player for the Olympics, Giddey didn't make the Australian national team, so NBA executives who didn't travel during the season might not get a chance to see him. It could make it tougher to convince a general manager who hasn't watched him live to take him top 10. But Giddey, whose passing for a 6'8" ball-handler appears translatable, is clearly in the late-lottery discussion for the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors.
Scouts see Jalen Johnson as a candidate to slip. The question is how far. His track record shows instability, with the 6'9" forward having changed high schools multiple times and left IMG without playing before his midseason departure from Duke. Scouts don't know how much trust to put in Johnson, whose struggles creating in the half court and shooting are also worrisome.
Opinions continue to vary on Sengun, who played well for a teenager on the Turkish national team before it was eliminated in the qualifiers. He could get looks as high as No. 8 for his scoring instincts and unprecedented production in the Turkish BSL. But scouts question his defensive mobility and how much it could offset his offensive value.
Scouts could see Murphy rise into the top 20 with his convincing shooting stroke for a 6'9", switchable defender. He's an easy plug-and-play stretch forward with a translatable core skill and valued archetype.
21. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)
22. Los Angeles Lakers: Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)
23. Houston Rockets (via Blazers): Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
24. Houston Rockets (via Bucks): JT Thor (Auburn, PF, Freshman)
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, PF/C, 2002)
26. Denver Nuggets: Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SG/SF, Freshman)
27. Brooklyn Nets: Nah'Shon Hyland (VCU, SG, Sophomore)
28. Philadelphia 76ers: Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
29. Phoenix Suns: Josh Primo (Alabama, SG, Freshman)
30. Utah Jazz: Miles McBride (West Virginia, PG/SG, Sophomore)
NBA executives will get a chance to watch Garuba with Spain in the Olympics. He's currently expected to go in the mid-first round, though not every scout sees exciting upside due to his offensive limitations. It seems unlikely he'll be used enough by Spain to show anything more than finishing and the occasional spot-up three, but he should have a chance to continue strengthening his case as one of the draft's top defenders.
Teams are still in wait-and-see mode on Butler, who must be cleared after the NBA red-flagged a heart condition that was discovered during his college recruitment. He played three seasons at Baylor without any issues, but no clearance before the draft creates risk that teams may want to avoid.
Teams are thinking about Primo as a first-round option after seeing how comfortable he looked with more ball-handling freedom during scrimmages at the combine. His 6'5" size and shooting stroke create an attractive floor/foundation. But as the draft's youngest prospect, the flashes of off-the-dribble play in Chicago point to more scoring and playmaking upside.
Scouts expect Hyland to wind up in the first round after his NBA combine scrimmage helped validate his tape and reputation from VCU. One team in the 20s should buy/value his ability to create his own shot, shoot with range and score in bunches.
31. Milwaukee Bucks (via Rockets): Day'Ron Sharpe (North Carolina, C, Freshman)
32. New York Knicks (via Pistons): Quentin Grimes (Houston, SG, Junior)
33. Orlando Magic: Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG, Freshman)
34. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)
35. New Orleans Pelicans (via Cavaliers): Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Junior)
36. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Timberwolves): Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)
37. Detroit Pistons (via Raptors): Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG/SF, Junior)
38. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Junior)
39. Sacramento Kings: Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky, SG/SF, Freshman)
40. New Orleans Pelicans (via Bulls): Joe Wieskamp (Iowa, SF, Junior)
Grimes improved his stock dramatically in Chicago, looking like the best player on the floor during both scrimmages. Aside from his lights-out shooting, his feel for the game and IQ also popped and helped make it easy for a team to picture an early contributor.
Ayayi has been quiet this month, having skipped the NBA combine. His camp remains confident in his draft range, though while Ayayi chose not to show up in Chicago, others helped themselves. There is still a decent chance he goes early second round to a team that sees him thriving in the same combo/supporting role he did for Gonzaga.
After the combine, Wieskamp made scouts go back and rewatch film of his spectacular shooting season that many overlooked. Some believe he's now an early second-round option and value pick, given his 6'7" size in shoes, 6'11" wingspan, 42-inch max vertical and 46.2 percent three-ball.
41. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Sophomore)
42. Detroit Pistons (via Hornets): Jason Preston (Ohio, PG, Junior)
43. New Orleans Pelicans (via Wizards): Marcus Bagley (Arizona State, SF/PF, Freshman)
44. Brooklyn Nets (via Pacers): Herbert Jones (Alabama, SF, Senior)
45. Boston Celtics: Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine, SF/PF, Junior)
46. Toronto Raptors (via Grizzlies): David Johnson (Louisville, PG/SG, Sophomore)
47. Toronto Raptors (via Warriors): Filip Petrusev (Mega Bemax, C, 2000)
48. Atlanta Hawks (via Heat): Luka Garza (Iowa, C, Senior)
49. Brooklyn Nets (via Hawks): Isaiah Todd (G League Ignite, PF, 2001)
50. Philadelphia 76ers (via Knicks): Austin Reaves (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)
Scouts love Preston's feel for the game and IQ. One noted how when other prospects were confused about the rules of certain combine drills, Preston helped explain them and organize his group. There are obvious questions about his potential to create separation at the NBA level, but one team in the second round figures to see a worthwhile gamble.
Garza's transformed body and shooting stood out during drills at the combine, though a groin injury prevented him from scrimmaging. He may have improved his stock slightly, but he's still regarded as a mid-to-late second-round pick.
David Johnson also impressed in Chicago with his skill versatility. Two scrimmages won't erase the memories of inconsistency at Louisville. But his play at the combine was a good reminder to coaches they'd have plenty to work with for a combo guard, including near 6'5" size, a 6'10½" wingspan, a catch-and-shoot game (96th percentile, per Synergy) and nifty handles/passing ability.
Edwards struggled offensively in Chicago, but his archetype (three-and-D combo forward) is valued, and three seasons of consistent shooting should be enough for teams to brush off off-days at the combine.
51. Memphis Grizzlies (via Blazers): Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Sophomore)
52. Detroit Pistons (via Lakers): Isaiah Livers (Michigan, SF, Senior)
53. New Orleans Pelicans (via Mavericks): Jericho Sims (Texas, C, Senior)
54. Indiana Pacers (via Bucks): Matthew Hurt (Duke, PF, Sophomore)
55. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Rokas Jokubaitis (Zalgiris, PG/SG, 2000)
56. Charlotte Hornets (via Clippers): Juhann Begarin (Paris Basketball, SG, 2002)
57. Charlotte Hornets (via Nets): Vrenz Bleijenbergh (Port of Antwerp, SG/SF, 2000)
58. New York Knicks (via 76ers): McKinley Wright IV (Colorado, PG, Senior)
59. Brooklyn Nets (via Suns): Sam Hauser (Virginia, SF, Senior)
60. Indiana Pacers (via Jazz): Neemias Queta (Utah State, C, Junior)
Left off our mock draft boards all season, Sims capitalized on his NBA combine invite with a 44½-inch max vertical and plenty of finishing activity during scrimmages. It wouldn't be shocking if he swayed a team in the 50s to bet on his strength, athleticism and motor for picking up easy baskets.
Scouts are suddenly thinking about Wright IV for a two-way contract after watching how he impacted games at the combine with his unselfish passing, tough defense and pace.
Other potential candidates to hear their name called include: Texas' Greg Brown III, Alabama's John Petty Jr., Shawnee State's EJ Onu, Germany's Ariel Hukporti, Seton Hall's Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ohio State's Duane Washington Jr., G League Ignite's Daishen Nix, Florida State's RaiQuan Gray, Howard's Makur Maker, Maryland's Aaron Wiggins, LSU's Trendon Watford, South Carolina's AJ Lawson, Pittsburgh's Justin Champagnie.