The 2020-21 NBA regular season came to an exciting conclusion on Sunday and with it, a clear pre-lottery-drawing picture has emerged in the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, prompting us to hit the reset with a new-look mock.
Three teams will enter lottery night tied for the best odds to win the No. 1 pick at 14 percent % -- the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers tied with 22 wins on the regular season, meaning their odds will be shared at 11.5%. A random drawing will be held before the lottery to break that tie and the other lottery tie between the New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Chicago Bulls.
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Of the teams at the top, Houston is in the best position after posting the NBA's lowest win total, as its pick cannot fall lower than five. The 17-win Rockets have a 52.1% chance of landing a top-four pick in this draft and thus landing one of the five consensus blue-chippers among Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley and Jonathan Kuminga. But the Rockets also face potential disaster -- their pick conveys to the Oklahoma City Thunder if it falls to No. 5. The odds that happens is 47.9%. (Detroit can fall no lower than No. 6 and Orlando no lower than No. 7.)
Houston's pick dropping to No. 5 would create chaos (and potentially give OKC two top-five picks). In our new mock draft, we're projecting that does not happen. But a 47.9% chance it does is significantly higher odds than New Orleans had in 2019 to win the lottery (at 6%), which it did before selecting Zion Williamson first overall later that summer. So as we dive in to our new mock draft, which for the first time will take into account some team needs, keep in mind that our projections for now are just that: projections. A lot can change and shift on lottery night and even more between now and draft night on July 29.
Let's get right to it.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Oklahoma State • Fr • 6'6" / 220 lbs
The cost of dealing James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets was the franchise's third-lowest single-season win total. The prize of doing so is Cade Cunningham. The 6-foot-8 guard profiles as a jumbo playmaker in the NBA. His game should come to life with NBA spacing, and the way Houston plays should maximize his talents.
Round 1 - Pick 2
USC • Fr • 6'11" / 215 lbs
Rookie point guard Killian Hayes and rookie big man Isaiah Stewart both look like strong pieces for the Pistons. We'll add Evan Mobley to that mix here at No. 2. His shot-blocking, length, mobility and long-term potential have him as the top big in this draft with room to develop into an All-Star as his game grows.
Round 1- Pick 3
Jalen Suggs PG
Gonzaga • Fr • 6'5" / 205 lbs
The Magic seem to have found something with Cole Anthony and also have Markelle Fultz returning from injury next season, likely shoring up previous concerns for now about guard depth. But it's hard to imagine they look at Jalen Suggs and decide to pass if he's here at No. 3. He is a franchise-caliber point guard and talented two-way competitor who gives Orlando a true lead guard to build around.
Round 1 - Pick 4
The Thunder have a lead guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a bulldog defender in Lu Dort, but add another backcourt piece here with Jalen Green, who gives the team a needed scoring threat. Green is the best pure scorer in the draft. He needs to improve as a passer and decision-maker, but that can come in time as he develops while giving value doing what he does best by putting the ball in the basket.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Cleveland gets the fifth prospect of the Big Five in this draft, landing 6-foot-8 wing Jonathan Kuminga out of the G League. Kuminga's a big-bodied wing who showed interesting flashes as a scorer and creator in the G League. If he meets his ceiling he could be an oversized wing playmaker in the league, though his shot still needs sharpening.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Moses Moody SG
Arkansas • Fr • 6'5" / 211 lbs
With Stephen Curry still playing at an MVP level and Klay Thompson set to return next season, the Warriors would do well to add a high-level role player who can maximize this roster. Moody fits the mold. He's a 3-and-D talent who shot 35.8% from 3-point range on high volume (162 attempts) and who would give the Warriors' current backcourt a real boost with his shooting and ability to make an impact off the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Baylor • Fr • 6'0" / 202 lbs
Davion Mitchell was the star of the postseason for the title-winning Baylor Bears, serving as a lead initiator, defensive stopper and all-around star. It's hard to imagine he falls out of the top 10. A place like Toronto makes a ton of sense, too. Kyle Lowry is headed to free agency and in general, Masai Ujiri has always placed a priority on talent regardless of age. Mitchell turns 23 this year.
From Chicago Bulls
Round 1 - Pick 8
Connecticut • Fr • 6'4" / 190 lbs
An in-season elbow injury and subsequent surgery derailed Bouknight's breakout sophomore season, as he returned for UConn but wasn't quite the same player. Still, he's an electric scorer with fantastic leaping ability who can create looks for himself by getting to the tin, pulling up off the bounce, moving smartly off the ball and generally being a bucket-getter. Orlando needs scoring, and I like the potential fit next to Suggs.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Gonzaga • Fr • 6'6" / 224 lbs
Maybe a tad high for Kispert here at No. 9, given he recently turned 22 and struggled on a big stage with Baylor's length and athleticism in the NCAA championship. But this is a premium I'd be willing to pay if I'm New Orleans to get the best shooter in the draft. He hit 44% from 3-point range last season and rated in the 95th percentile as a spot-up shooter, per Synergy. Fit looks to be pretty perfect next to Zion Williamson.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Keon Johnson SG
Tennessee • Fr • 6'4" / 185 lbs
After a 31-41 season, Sacramento could do worse than taking a flier on Keon Johnson. He's the type of high-upside prospect who could really return great value. Overall, he's still in need of some zest and seasoning on offense. And I'm not convinced he would command big minutes right away. But he's athletically gifted as a vertical leaper with tons of promise after showing some impressive stuff on tape as a creator and on the defensive side of the ball.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Florida State • Fr • 6'7" / 225 lbs
Scottie Barnes is a top-10 talent in this class with the one question -- his shot and offensive production -- being significant enough to potentially push him into this range. He made 27.5% of his 40 3-point attempts at FSU and isn't much of a scoring threat. Yet there's enough to love about his game that Charlotte could see value. He is a monstrous defender who at times guarded 1-5 in college and has some serious playmaking chops to go with his huge frame and long wingspan.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Giddey shut his season down after a strong last month in the NBL. For Adelaide, he posted three triple-doubles in his last six games, showcasing his elite feel for the game and ability to affect winning in every facet. Almost every NBA team would sign up to add a 6-foot-8 playmaking wing to the roster, so the Spurs add him here to bolster their wing depth.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Franz Wagner SF
Michigan • Fr • 6'10" / 220 lbs
The Pacers have scorers in Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren, but what they lack most on the roster is depth at wing. Wagner can be an instant impact addition at that position, as he thrived for Michigan as a defensive specialist who can knock down 3s and provide support for the team's top dogs.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Tre Mann PG
Florida • Fr • 6'3" / 178 lbs
Memphis adds an intriguing combo guard in Tre Mann, who offers potent scoring from the guard spot. Mann is a threat to score it from every level because of his ability to pull up and get his shot from anywhere, from deep in 3-point range to around the cup with good touch on his floaters. He's also made strides as a passer.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Alperen Sengun is dominating in the Turkish BSL. He's averaging nearly 20 points and 10 boards per game as an 18-year-old and was just crowned the league's MVP. That type of production has him as a potential lottery pick. He finds a fit here in Washington on a team that needs depth at center.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Tennessee • Fr • 6'4" / 202 lbs
The future of the Celtics' point guard position is a mystery. Kemba Walker's best days appear behind him and Marcus Smart could be an interesting trade piece if Boston wants to shuffle the deck this offseason. Jaden Springer is a young, high-upside talent who could help them reset. He's a talented scorer who showed enough as a live-dribble passer at Tennessee to bet on him developing into a starting-caliber lead guard in time.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Jared Butler PG
Baylor • Fr • 6'2" / 193 lbs
Butler averaged a career-high 4.8 assists and made 41.7% of his 3s last season for Baylor, proving his worth both as a combo creator and as a scorer. He would fit with the Warriors in a similar role either as an off-ball threat with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to give them *another* high-level scoring threat or as a second-unit creator and scorer. He was a 98th percentile spot-up shooter last season with a team-leading 28.0% assist rate, ahead of teammate Davion Mitchell, so his versatility will help him make an impact.
From Miami Heat
Round 1 - Pick 18
Kai Jones PF
Texas • Fr • 6'10" / 221 lbs
An elite athlete with tons of physical tools, Jones is one of the X-factors of the draft as a true boom-or-bust talent. His ceiling is limitless but his floor is virtually nonexistent. He needs time to develop physically and to learn and feel the game. OKC can afford to be patient and invest on upside.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Yes, for a second consecutive year, the Knicks take a big man in the first round. Garuba is the antithesis of 2020 first-round pick Obi Toppin, though. He's a defensive monster who has good mobility and can defend out onto the perimeter. The 6-foot-8 frame and raw skill set on offense are the only concerns keeping him from the lottery in this mock.
Round 1 - Pick 20
LSU • Fr • 6'3" / 210 lbs
Cameron Thomas as a freshman for LSU last season led the SEC in scoring, averaging 22.8 points per game. He was a scorer at the prep level, a scorer at the college level, and he'll be a scorer in the NBA. It's his NBA skill. The Hawks clearly value that type of talent, too, having traded for Lou Williams earlier this year.
From Dallas Mavericks
Round 1 - Pick 21
Auburn • Fr • 6'1" / 176 lbs
The most consistently creative passer in college hoops last season, Cooper led all Major Seven players in assists per game and in assist rate. So why the drop to 21? Scouts are concerned about his smaller frame and his shooting woes, both of which proved problematic last season. But the Knicks could like the value in Cooper if he develops into even an average shooter to round out his playmaking chops as a very good offensive point guard.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Chris Duarte SG
Oregon • Fr • 6'5" / 190 lbs
Flashing some playmaking and impressive overall polish on both ends, Duarte worked his way from a fringe second-rounder to likely first-rounder. The way he defends at a high level and shoots should be appealing to a Lakers team that really lacks depth at shooting guard. Instant impact-type player.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Duke • Fr • 6'8" / 219 lbs
That sound you just heard was Houston taking a huge swing of the bat. Johnson struggled at Duke. He didn't play up to his five-star billing. But he's a 6-foot-9 forward with good handles and passing ability. The Rockets need as many pieces as possible to expedite a rebuild and this would be huge if he hits.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 24
Stanford • Fr • 6'9" / 185 lbs
There's a lot to like about Ziaire Williams: the 6-foot-7 frame, the shot-creation, the pedigree. There's also some red flags here, like his sub-30% 3-point shooting, slender frame, inefficiency and general inconsistency while at Stanford. He's a gamble. I can see Houston, with three first-rounders, finding the bet worthwhile.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Kentucky • Fr • 6'10" / 205 lbs
Scary athlete with a long wingspan and tools to be a rim-running shot-blocker makes Isaiah Jackson a potential first-rounder if he stays in the draft. The Clippers don't have someone on the roster of his athletic ilk in the frontcourt. He'd be a change-of-pace to the more traditional center play of Ivica Zubac in L.A.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Ayo Dosunmu SG
Illinois • Fr • 6'4" / 200 lbs
One of the most improved upperclassmen prospects in the class, Ayo Dosunmu improved his 3-point percentage from 29.6% to 38.6% while serving as the top option on a team that earned a No. 1 seed. He made significant developmental strides the last year. His scoring, playmaking and selfless style fit on a Denver team that needs backcourt depth and offensive firepower.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Villanova • Fr • 6'8" / 242 lbs
Big-bodied combo forward who moves well for his size, rebounds at a high level, has a good-looking shot and fits the mold of a high-level role player if the shot starts falling. Robinson-Earl has enough potential to be a late-first pick for a contender like Brooklyn, which could squeeze out the best parts of his game.
Round 1 - Pick 28
David Duke PG
Providence • Fr • 6'4" / 204 lbs
Don't be surprised if Providence guard David Duke starts getting some first-round buzz. He has a great frame for a guard, shot 39% from 3 last season and has some playmaking and vision that could make him a fit at PG. Given Philly's troubles finding consistency at the position, he could be someone it evaluates here to fill a need.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Joel Ayayi SG
Gonzaga • 6'4" / 180 lbs
Joel Ayayi was a major factor in Gonzaga's 31-1 season, serving as a role player who shot it well and worked his butt off defensively. There's also some untapped NBA potential here from what I've seen on tape as a creator, and his length and shooting ability would give a team like Phoenix a combo guard who can do all the little things on both ends.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Western Kentucky • Fr • 6'9" / 230 lbs
After a significant injury as a sophomore, Bassey as a junior last season dominated for Western Kentucky. He ranked fifth nationally in defensive rebounding rate and 13th in block rate. He knows his role and plays it. Utah could be a destination that offers him a role behind Rudy Gobert where he can maximize his size and strengths as a big man who does a little of everything around the paint and is still improving.