2021 NBA Draft Buzz: A Swing for the No. 1 Pick, Plus Lottery Movers and Shakers

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJuly 26, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 28: Chris Duarte #5 of the Oregon Ducks shoots against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Jack Dempsey/Getty Images

Hold onto your phones. The days leading up to the 2021 NBA draft could get wild.

NBA scouts and executives insist there have been more trade discussions this year than usual, and teams also expect more higher-profile players to be included in deals as well. Let's dive into the latest NBA draft buzz from around the league:

  • While it's already been reported that the Houston Rockets have made offers to the Detroit Pistons, I'm told the Oklahoma City Thunder have also tried (and failed) to strike a deal for the No. 1 pick by offering Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the No. 6 pick.
  • The demand for Oregon's Chris Duarte has risen, and there is a good chance he doesn't make it past the Washington Wizards at No. 15. He recently worked out for the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. I reported the Golden State Warriors brought him back for a second workout this past weekend. The Los Angeles Lakers have also shown interest in Duarte and have made calls to try to move up. The 24-year-old is considered a surefire rookie contributor with valuable shooting skills and defensive toughness. 

  • The Warriors also brought back Virginia's Trey Murphy III for a second workout. He arrived in Golden State after visiting the Wizards and Knicks. Though Murphy did not receive a green room invitation, teams are clearly intrigued by his 6'9" size, shooting, athleticism and defensive mobility. At this point, it's hard to imagine him being on the board in the 20s. 

  • The two teams tied most to Connecticut's James Bouknight are the Thunder and Warriors. He moved into the top-10 conversation after the combine, but now we're talking top seven. Once Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs and Scottie Barnes are off the board, Bouknight has emerged as the perceived next-most likely star.

  • The Warriors got to see Jonathan Kuminga work out, but only in a solo setting. There is still support for him inside Golden State's front office, as some see too much upside to pass on even though he doesn't meet the NBA-ready description. 

  • While Suggs has been viewed as a likely top-four pick all season, rival teams don't seem convinced that the Toronto Raptors will take him at No. 4. Suggs would make plenty of sense on paper, especially if Kyle Lowry heads elsewhere in free agency. But the Raptors haven't been linked at all to Suggs during the predraft process. Scottie Barnes is the potential surprise name to watch at No. 4. I'm told Toronto has done extensive homework on the versatile forward. 

  • According to some teams outside of the top 10, Michigan's Franz Wagner is believed to have some assurance he'll be taken in the top 10. Guesses point to the Sacramento Kings, who could use a forward and defender. It's also unlikely any of the perceived stars of the draft will still be available at No. 9.

  • With news that Baylor's Jared Butler has been cleared by the NBA, I've heard the Thunder could be a suitor at No. 18 (if they keep the pick). They have a young team and Butler, a junior who just led his program to a national championship, would offer Oklahoma City a more veteran-type prospect who's NBA-ready and capable of playing both guard spots.

  • A source says the Knicks have made calls to late-lottery teams about trading up. I'm told the Warriors turned down Nos. 19 and 21 for No. 14. The Knicks don't have strong enough draft assets to get into top 10, and now it seems like a long shot they can get into the late lottery. Keep an eye on Murphy for New York, given how his reputation has blown up during the predraft process. The Knicks worked him out, and it sounds unlikely he'll be available at No. 19. Depending on their level of interest, New York could talk to the Wizards about a deal for No. 15. 
  • ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that the Memphis Grizzlies are finalizing a trade for the No. 10 pick in a larger deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. For Memphis, I'm told the trade is about moving up for Australia's Josh Giddey, who'd give the Grizzlies another playmaker next to Ja Morant. At 6'8", Giddey could be used as a secondary ball-handler who'd be valued for his passing and basketball IQ. 

  • Auburn's Sharife Cooper was not on the green room list, which suggests most teams don't have him in their top 20. Scouts I've spoken with sounded more surprised that Florida's Tre Mann wasn't invited. Cooper is a decent bet to slide into the late 20s or early second round. Others whom scouts think could fall: Tennessee's Keon Johnson and Duke's Jalen Johnson. 

  • The Orlando Magic brought back Stanford's Ziaire Williams for a second workout, and there is some belief from rival teams that he could be the pick at No. 8. Williams' freshman numbers weren't great, but the eye test on his shooting always looked more convincing than the stats. During workouts, Williams has been been able to persuade teams to look past his freshman percentages. Moody is also in play for Orlando at No. 8.

  • Two names I've heard come up for the Denver Nuggets at No. 26: Alabama's Joshua Primo, the draft's youngest player, and Illinois' Ayo Dosunmu, a first-team All-American. Primo would be a project with upside tied to his 6'5" size, shooting and scoring potential, while Dosunmu could give Denver rookie minutes in a combo role.