NBA Draft 2021: Mock Draft Projections for 1st-Round Players Who Will Be Steals

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2021

NBA Draft 2021: Mock Draft Projections for 1st-Round Players Who Will Be Steals

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    The 2021 NBA Finals matchup is set, with the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns ready to battle for the title. While those two are left standing, the NBA's other 28 franchises now move on to the offseason.

    The NBA draft, scheduled to take place on July 29, will undoubtedly be a significant piece of the offseason. This is expected to be a deep and talented draft class with multiple elite prospects at the top. Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham, USC's Evan Mobley, G League prospect Jalen Green and Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs are all veritable lottery locks, according to Bleacher Report analyst Jonathan Wasserman.

    "Cunningham is locked into the top spot and Suggs is a hair behind Green and Mobley, based on Suggs' weaker handle for creation and low-volume three-point numbers," Wasserman wrote.

    Fortunately, teams won't have to pick in the top four to land a premier player this year. The second tier of prospects is quite enticing, and there are likely to be at least a couple of steals in that range. Who should teams outside of lottery range covet? Let's take a look.

Top 25 Big Board

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    1. Cade Cunningham, PG/SG, Oklahoma State

    2. Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite

    3. Evan Mobley, PF/C, USC

    4. Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga

    5. Jonathan Kuminga, SF/PF, G League Ignite

    6. Jalen Johnson, PF, Duke

    7. Scottie Barnes, PF, Florida State

    8. Franz Wagner, SF/PF, Michigan

    9. Keon Johnson, SG/SF, Tennessee

    10. Josh Giddey, PG/SG Adelaide 36ers

    11. Moses Moody, SG/SF, Arkansas

    12. James Bouknight, SG, Connecticut

    13. Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

    14. Isaiah Jackson, PF/C, Kentucky

    15. Davion Mitchell, PG/SG, Baylor

    16. Kai Jones, PF, Texas

    17. Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor

    18. Jaden Springer, PG/SG, Tennessee

    19. Alperen Sengun, C, Turkey

    20. Aaron Henry, SG/SF, Michigan State

    21. Josh Christopher, SG/SF, Arizona State

    22. Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

    23. Greg Brown, PF, Texas

    24. Tre Mann, PG, Florida

    25. Day'Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina

    *Per B/R's Jonathan Wasserman

Round 1 Mock Draft

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    1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, PG/SG, Oklahoma State

    2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, SG, G League

    3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, C, USC

    4. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga

    5. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G League

    6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Scottie Barnes, SF, Florida State

    7. Golden State Warriors (from Minnesota): Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor

    8. Orlando Magic (from Chicago): Jalen Johnson, SF, Duke

    9. Sacramento Kings: Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas

    10. New Orleans Pelicans: Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

    11. Charlotte Hornets: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

    12. San Antonio Spurs: James Bouknight, SG, UConn

    13. Indiana Pacers: Ziaire Williams, SG, Stanford

    14. Golden State Warriors: Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee

    15. Washington Wizards: Josh Giddey, SG, Adelaide 36ers

    16. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Boston): Kai Jones, PF, Texas

    17. Memphis Grizzlies: Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan

    18. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Miami): Isaiah Jackson, PF, Kentucky

    19. New York Knicks: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

    20. Atlanta Hawks: Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

    21. New York Knicks (from Dallas): Greg Brown, PF, Texas

    22. Los Angeles Lakers: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU

    23. Houston Rockets (from Portland): Usman Garuba, PF, Real Madrid

    24 Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee): Jaden Springer, PG, Tennessee

    25. Los Angeles Clippers: Joel Ayayi, SG, Gonzaga

    26. Denver Nuggets: Aaron Henry, SG, Michigan State

    27. Brooklyn Nets: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF, Villanova

    28. Philadelphia 76ers: Ayo Dosunmu, SG, Illinois

    29. Phoenix Suns: Tre Mann, PG, Florida

    30. Utah Jazz: Jared Butler, PG, Baylor

Potential Draft Steals

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    Scottie Barnes, PF, Florida State

    While Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Suggs may be the top four prospects right now, they aren't the only ones on lottery teams' radar. The Cleveland Cavaliers, for example, currently hold the No. 3 selection and are heavily considering the next tier of prospects.

    G League prospect Jonathan Kuminga and Florida State's Scottie Barnes are being considered by the Cavs.

    "They will do their homework and expand the No. 3 search beyond Cunningham, Mobley, Green and Suggs," Chris Fedor of wrote. "...Some of those guys, including Kuminga and Barnes, are expected to conduct predraft workouts in Cleveland prior to July 29."

    While Kuminga is a bit of a boom-bust prospect because of his unpolished shooting, Barnes is a tremendous two-way player and a safe choice for whoever lands him.

    "He handles the ball well and can run the point as well as post up down low against bigger defenders," Derek Bast of NBADraft.Net wrote. "His versatility on offense is consistent with his versatility on the other end."

    While "solid two-way player" may not move the needle for some casual fans, Barnes would be a fine addition to virtually any NBA roster and a legitimate steal if he falls outside of the top four.


    Jalen Johnson, SF, Duke

    Like Kuminga, Duke's Jalen Johnson has an unfinished shot that will likely keep him out of the top five. However, he possesses the size, athleticism and court vision needed to make an early impact as a role player. There's a lot of value in that, even if Johnson doesn't have true star potential.

    "Johnson still intrigues me most from this group with his open-floor handle, passing on the move and face-up agility for a 6'9", 220-pound strong athlete," Wasserman wrote. "I still believe he'll find enough ways to score and make plays without a jumper just by initiating fast breaks, driving past bigs, cutting, finishing and finding teammates."

    Teams can build around Johnson—who averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists this past season—even if he doesn't project as a franchise centerpiece. High-floor prospects are always valuable, and Johnson could be a plug-and-play target for playoff-caliber teams looking to trade up.

    Johnson isn't likely to headline this year's draft class, but he's NBA-ready and will provide immediate value.


    Keon Johnson, SG/SF, Tennessee

    Tennessee's Keon Johnson is another high-floor prospect, though he has the potential to be more at the next level. According to Wasserman, a team will need to refine Johnson's offensive skill set to unlock his full potential.

    "I did move him back a few spots, however, based on how far away he seemed as a creator and shooter at Tennessee," Wasserman wrote. "The athleticism, passing and defense suggest a high floor, but he'll require significant skill improvement to hit a ceiling that reflects a top-option scorer."

    Still, Johnson, who averaged 11.3 points in 25.3 minutes per game last season, could be another plug-and-play rotational piece for a playoff contender. The New York Knicks are one such team and could potentially package the 19th, 21st and 32nd picks to move into the top eight, according to SNY's Ian Begley.

    Johnson is likely to be a role player early in his career. If he does gain some offensive polish, however, he could become a legitimate star and a steal as a second-tier prospect.