NBA Mock Draft 2021: 1st-Round Predictions for Fastest Rising Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 17, 2021

NBA Mock Draft 2021: 1st-Round Predictions for Fastest Rising Prospects

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    Robert Franklin/Associated Press

    The more time NBA executives devote to the 2021 draft class, the more they'll develop favorite prospects.

    When enough execs agree on who those favorites are, that's when these rookies-to-be can push their way up the draft ladder.

    From a multi-dimensional forward with enviable versatility to a seasoned three-and-D swingman ready to join a rotation near you, we'll spotlight three late risers after updating our mock first round.

2021 NBA Mock Draft

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

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

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

    3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, C, USC

    4. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Suggs, PG/SG, Gonzaga

    5. Orlando Magic: Scottie Barnes, SF/PF, Florida State

    6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G League Ignite

    7. Golden State Warriors (via Minnesota Timberwolves): James Bouknight, SG, UConn

    8. Orlando Magic (via Chicago Bulls): Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

    9. Sacramento Kings: Keon Johnson, SG/SF, Tennessee

    10. New Orleans Pelicans: Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor

    11. Charlotte Hornets: Kai Jones, PF/C, Texas

    12. San Antonio Spurs: Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan

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

    14. Golden State Warriors: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

    15. Washington Wizards: Trey Murphy III, SF, Virginia

    16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Boston Celtics): Alperen Sengun, C, Besiktas

    17. Memphis Grizzlies: Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor

    18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami Heat): Jalen Johnson, PF, Duke

    19. New York Knicks: Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky

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

    21. New York Knicks (via Dallas Mavericks): Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

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

    23. Houston Rockets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Usman Garuba, C, Real Madrid

    24. Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee Bucks): JT Thor, PF, Auburn

    25. Los Angeles Clippers: Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois

    26. Denver Nuggets: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

    27. Brooklyn Nets: Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford

    28. Philadelphia 76ers: Nah'Shon Hyland, SG, VCU

    29. Phoenix Suns: Miles McBride, PG/SG, West Virginia

    30. Utah Jazz: Roko Prkacin, PF, Cibona

Scottie Barnes, SF/PF, Florida State

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    For months, it seemed there was a clear and concrete five-player tier at the top of this draft. But Scottie Barnes has apparently crashed that party.

    "Love for Scottie Barnes has snowballed to the point scouts and executives expect he's going in the top five of the NBA draft," B/R's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. " ... It also sounds like Barnes has become a hot enough name for the Raptors to think about [at No. 4]. Otherwise, he's the new favorite at No. 5."

    In a way, it makes sense for Barnes to be a late riser, because his unique game might've needed longer than most to fully grasp in the evaluation stage. Plus, star potential doesn't exactly leap to the surface when a player averages just 10.3 points and shoots 27.5 percent from range.

    With Barnes, though, the excitement comes from everywhere else. He's a 6'9" playmaker with the handles and vision to orchestrate offense and the size, strength and instincts to guard just about every position at the defensive end. According to Wasserman, Barnes also helped himself during interviews with "energy, passion and unselfishness," which is another reason his outlook keeps getting brighter.

Trey Murphy III, SF, Virginia

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    Ethan Hyman/Associated Press

    If you stumbled onto a time machine and for some reason decided to travel only a few months back, you'd have trouble finding Trey Murphy III mocked inside the first round.

    But as the draft-prep process enters the final stage, he's now in the same zip code as the lottery range.

    His game doesn't have a lot of pop, which might explain why he took so long to take off as a first-round lock. Across three college seasons—two at Rice, the last at Virginia—he never averaged 14 points, two assists or one steal or one block.

    However, the whole time he was quietly auditioning for the coveted three-and-D role. On the three front, he shot 40.1 percent from deep and cleared 42 percent outside in two of his three seasons. On defense, he used his length and sound instincts to provide versatility at the game's less glamorous end.

    He probably doesn't have stardom in his future, but it's easy to envision him carving out a lengthy career as a helpful role player.

JT Thor, PF, Auburn

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    JT Thor needed a big showing at the combine to put himself firmly in the first-round discussion.

    The event went so well for him that he wrapped up his week early and pulled out of the scrimmages, presumably content enough with the feedback he had received by that point.

    It isn't hard to see why. After impressing with his measurements (6'9" with a 7'3" wingspan and 9'2" standing reach), he impressed with his jumper by splashing 15-of-25 from distance in a shooting drill.

    That's reason enough to buy into his potential. He is one of the youngest players in this draft—he won't turn 19 until August—could defend four positions in the NBA (or even all five against small-ball lineups) and pairs the explosiveness to finish at the rim with strong shooting mechanics that should make him at least a serviceable outside shooter sooner than later.

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