The end is finally near. But in a philosophical way, the end is really the beginning -- at least as far as the 2021 NBA Draft is concerned. All the posturing and rumormongering will come to a conclusion on Thursday, when this year's draft will finally take place. However, the careers of the 60 draftees will just be getting started.
This is my final mock draft before the big day and, while there could always be surprises and trades, I'm pretty confident in how I feel about most of the prospects at this point. The biggest tweak from my last mock draft involves the Golden State Warriors, who might have a new option on the board now that the Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly prefer James Bouknight over Jonathan Kuminga. If Kuminga is available, the Warriors will have a tough decision between a tantalizing prospect who needs development and other options who could more immediately impact winning.
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If the Warriors do select Kuminga, as I have them doing, it will send ripple effects throughout the draft. Also keep in mind that the order of selection below doesn't necessarily indicate my own big board. I take fit and a team's playing style into account when projecting who they will take, and sometimes that isn't the player who I feel is the most talented.
Alright, enough talking. It's time to do some drafting, starting with one last mock and then the real deal in a couple of days.
Round 1 - Pick 1
Oklahoma State • 6'8" / 220 lbs
Occasionally you see some late chatter leading up to the draft indicating that the consensus No. 1 overall pick is no longer a consensus. That has not been the case with Cunningham, who by all accounts will go No. 1 in the draft. Most likely he'll be taken by the Pistons, who will have a potential franchise-changing prospect to lead their rebuild. In addition to his obvious playmaking talents, Cunningham's shooting far exceeded expectations at Oklahoma State, leading one scout to call him the "most complete prospect I've seen in my lifetime." That's just one person's opinion, but they're certainly not alone in that assessment.
Round 1 - Pick 2
The murmurs about the Rockets preferring Green with the No. 2 pick have only gotten louder as the draft approaches, and while they could be a smokescreen to entice a trade-up from a desperate team, he certainly makes sense for Houston given his potential to be a No. 1 scorer and playmaker down the road. One scout told me he'd be shocked if Green never averaged 25 points per game in a season during his career, so a pretty safe bet for Houston's future.
Round 1- Pick 3
USC • 7'0" / 215 lbs
The Cavs are reportedly taking calls from teams hoping to move up to No. 3, but ultimately I think Mobley is too good of a prospect -- and frankly too good of a fit in Cleveland -- to pass up. Described to me by a scout as a "7-foot wing," Mobley has the mobility and skill on both ends of the floor to be a transformative piece for Cleveland. His upside is something akin to Anthony Davis, and his floor is high enough to know you're almost certainly not picking a bust.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Jalen Suggs PG
Gonzaga • 6'4" / 205 lbs
The Raptors are reportedly considering Scottie Barnes at No. 4, which would give them one of the most imposing defensive lineups in the league, but Suggs is no slouch on defense himself and brings a lot more offensively -- at least for now. Add in the fact that Kyle Lowry could be headed elsewhere in free agency, and it makes sense for Toronto to bring in a two-way combo guard with moxie who can play alongside Fred VanVleet in the backcourt or run the show while he sits.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Florida State • 6'9" / 227 lbs
There aren't many players who have done better for themselves in the pre-draft process than Barnes, who has become a top-five prospect on many boards. He might not be the franchise-changing talent the Magic were hoping for before the lottery, but he's a versatile, high-effort player who will help set the defensive culture to start Jamahl Mosley's tenure as head coach. If Barnes gains the confidence and ability to knock down 3-pointers consistently, he has All-Star upside.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Connecticut • 6'5" / 190 lbs
I've had Kuminga going to OKC here in recent mocks, but multiple reports indicate that Sam Presti and the front office have fallen in love with Bouknight, and with good reason. He's impressed throughout the pre-draft process with his shooting, creation and athleticism. He has the upside of a 20-point-per-game scorer, and the floor of a heat-check bucket-getter off the bench, which seems like a worthwhile selection for OKC even though Bouknight is on the slightly older side, especially compared to Kuminga.
Round 1 - Pick 7
A lot to unpack with the Warriors, so here we go. Golden State is getting pressure from its star players to draft win-now talent, but that all changes if Kuminga is on the board. Now you're looking at a potentially elite prospect who needs a lot of development, but who could also help push your offer over the top in a potential trade for a superstar down the road. It might not make Warriors fans happy, but you can see the logic of taking the best upside prospect here, which is probably Kuminga, and then taking a player at No. 14 who is more ready to contribute right away.
From Chicago Bulls
Round 1 - Pick 8
The Magic had Sengun in for a workout and are reportedly interested in taking him at No. 8, and he makes sense for a team on the verge of a rebuild with a gaping hole at center after the departure of Nikola Vucevic. The MVP of the Turkish Super League as an 18-year-old, Sengun is an extremely skilled post-up scorer who shows playmaking and shooting potential that could take his game to the next level. As with any big man there are concerns about how he will be able to guard in space, but at such a young age, an NBA training staff should be able to help improve his quickness and technique.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Franz Wagner SF
Michigan • 6'9" / 220 lbs
The Kings are reportedly looking to trade this pick for win-now help, but Wagner could probably fit that bill to an extent while also giving them an asset for the future. Wagner is one of the best defensive prospects in the draft with his length and instincts, and the Kings were the worst defensive team in the league last season. Sacramento also wants to play fast with De'Aaron Fox at the helm, and Wagner can help it in transition as a finisher, or as a spot-up 3-point shooter if he gains more consistency.
From New Orleans Pelicans
Round 1 - Pick 10
The Grizzlies moved up to No. 10 from No. 17, and reports indicate that Giddey might be the reason why. An absolute virtuoso passer and playmaker who could develop into a solid 3-point shooter, Giddey would fit in on the wing next to Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. to create one of the most exciting young cores in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Moses Moody SG
Arkansas • 6'6" / 205 lbs
The Hornets have a big hole at center, but it would probably be a reach to take Kai Jones or Isaiah Jackson this early. Instead they could go with Moody, a knockdown 3-point shooter with playmaking potential. Moody's 6-11 wingspan should also make him a strong wing defender and allow him to earn major rotation minutes as a rookie. Unlike some, I actually see a lot of upside in Moody as a scorer, with a Khris Middleton type as the ultimate ceiling.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Baylor • 6'0" / 205 lbs
Davion Mitchell's age (22), size (measured 6-foot in socks) and questions about whether his shooting last season was an anomaly might drop him to the back of the lottery, but the Spurs would be happy to get him into their system. Mitchell will be able to defend from day one, which will endear him to Gregg Popovich, and his shiftiness and finishing ability should translate right away. The Spurs are reportedly shopping Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, with DeMar DeRozan hitting free agency, so there could be ample opportunity in the San Antonio backcourt.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Duke • 6'9" / 220 lbs
I'm not as high on Jalen Johnson as some, but I can definitely see why he's viewed as a lottery pick. He said he sees himself as a big point guard in the vein of Magic Johnson, Penny Hardaway or Ben Simmons, which is slightly concerning, but his future could be as a four or even a small-ball five once he bulks up a bit. The Pacers have enough quality players to be patient with Johnson, which makes him a solid upside pick at No. 13.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Chris Duarte SG
Oregon • 6'6" / 190 lbs
An absolute pure shooter, Duarte had a second workout with the Warriors, which means they're at least considering him. Golden State won't be scared away by him being 24 years old since it's trying to win a title, and he's actually reminiscent of Klay Thompson in the way he can shoot and with his defensive potential, so there's no better place to learn from the master. With the Warriors taking an upside prospect in Kuminga at No. 7, it a makes sense to secure a win-now player like Duarte here.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Gonzaga • 6'7" / 220 lbs
Assuming Bradley Beal starts the season in Washington, the Wizards might want to draft a more win-now piece to put next to him and Russell Westbrook. Arguably the best shooter in the draft, Kispert will space the floor and knows every trick in the book to get open off of screens. He's probably not as good of a defender as the Wizards would like, but his size and strength should allow him to fill in immediately as a starter or off the bench.
From Boston Celtics
Round 1 - Pick 16
Stanford • 6'8" / 185 lbs
Ziaire Williams is as intriguing of a prospect as they come, with potential All-Star upside -- in other words, right in OKC's wheelhouse. Williams is 6-10 with shoes, but is one of the best in the draft at creating space with step-backs and pull-ups. He suffered through an absolute nightmare of a season at Stanford amid the pandemic, but there's no doubt that the talent is there. The Thunder have all the time in the world to develop him, so the fit makes sense.
From Memphis Grizzlies
Round 1 - Pick 17
Virginia • 6'9" / 206 lbs
I think Trey Murphy is one of the more underrated prospects in the draft, largely because he has a ready-made role as a 3-and-D wing, and he improved his stock at the draft combine. He took very few mid-range jumpers in his last college season in favor of NBA-level shot distribution. The Pelicans want to put as much shooting and defense as possible around Zion Williamson, and Murphy checks both boxes.
From Miami Heat
Round 1 - Pick 18
With a 7-2 wingspan and tremendous technique, Garuba is perhaps the best defensive big in the draft besides Evan Mobley. Where the intrigue lies is in Garuba's potential to be a Draymond Green-esque playmaker offensively, both in transition and in the halfcourt. It will take a while for that to develop, but OKC should be comfortable waiting amid a Process-like rebuild.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Kai Jones PF
Texas • 6'11" / 218 lbs
A raw athlete who is relatively new to the game of basketball, Jones is a rim-runner/lob catcher who shows potential switchability on defense and shot an intriguing 38 percent on 3-pointers last season at Texas in a limited sample size. It's going to take a while for him to develop, but he could be an immediate backup to Mitchell Robinson and eventually even play alongside him if the shooting translates.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Tennessee • 6'4" / 204 lbs
One scout I talked to ranks Jaden Springer ahead of Jalen Suggs in his projections. I wouldn't go that far, but it explains the value that Springer could have at this point in the draft. The Hawks' long-term backup for Trae Young, and Springer is big enough and stout enough defensively that he could even play alongside Young for stretches. Springer's youth (turns 19 in September) makes him even more appealing in this range.
From Dallas Mavericks
Round 1 - Pick 21
Keon Johnson SG
Tennessee • 6'5" / 186 lbs
Just a few weeks ago, Johnson and his 48-inch vertical looked like a lock for the lottery. Since he's been working out with teams, however, the stock seems to have dropped a bit. He still has all the upside in the world, though, so the Knicks would be happy to get him into their system and start developing a player with All-Star potential down the line if everything comes together.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Jared Butler PG
Baylor • 6'3" / 195 lbs
The Lakers need as much shooting and playmaking as possible off the bench, and Jared Butler will bring those in spades (now that he's been cleared by the NBA's fitness-to-play panel). He's also a strong enough defender to hold his own on the league's best defensive team. Butler will be 22 when next season starts, and he's physically and mentally mature enough to contribute to a winning team right away.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Kentucky • 6'10" / 206 lbs
Isaiah Jackson is a bit of a project, but has the chance to develop into an elite defensive center with his 7-4 wingspan and athleticism. He needs to add weight to his frame and will likely foul quite a bit to begin his career, but he shows significant promise as an offensive rebounder and handles the ball well for his size. Houston is in a full rebuild, so adding a player like Jackson, who needs some seasoning, is a smart play at this stage in the draft.
From Milwaukee Bucks
Round 1 - Pick 24
Auburn • 6'1" / 180 lbs
The Rockets are reportedly look to trade one of these picks in the 20s to move up, but if they keep it they might think about taking Cooper, one of the most dazzling playmakers in the draft with elite passing potential at the next level. He's constantly putting pressure on the defense in transition and is a whiz in the pick-and-roll. His small stature and lack of shooting thus far in his career raise some flags, but he's well worth a flier for Houston.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Ayo Dosunmu SG
Illinois • 6'4" / 194 lbs
I've loved Dosunmu for the Clippers since the beginning of draft season. They could use some scoring pop off the bench, and Dosunmu is one of the most polished scorers in the draft. If his 3-point shooting can hold up it will take him to the next level, but he's still incredibly valuable as a mid-range jump shooter and pick-and-roll playmaker. His size and length will allow him to play multiple positions and fit into the Clippers' switching defensive scheme.
Round 1 - Pick 26
LSU • 6'4" / 210 lbs
Talk about a bucket-getter. Thomas has the game, and the confidence, to eventually become a 20-point-per-game NBA scorer -- he just needs to work on his efficiency. The Nuggets, like pretty much every team, are always looking for bench players who can create and put the ball in the basket, so Thomas would be a gem this late in the draft. He can also help pick up the slack until Jamal Murray returns from his ACL surgery.
Round 1 - Pick 27
West Virginia • 6'2" / 200 lbs
If we learned one thing this season, it's that the Nets need some backcourt depth. With Spencer Dinwiddie potentially leaving in free agency, McBride could slide in nicely as a combo guard off the bench capable of both scoring and facilitating. He's also a tenacious defender with a powerful frame, which should make him ready to play right away. McBride's stock has improved since a strong combine performance, and is looking more and more like a first-round lock.
Round 1 - Pick 28
VCU • 6'3" / 173 lbs
Nah'Shon Hyland is a pure scorer who started rising up draft boards following an excellent combine performance. He's extremely confident, with tremendous range off the dribble, and has shown the ability to hit clutch shots. His offensive game, particularly his playmaking, needs some fine tuning, but he has the ability to provide bench scoring right away for the 76ers while also possessing potential for the future.
From Phoenix Suns
Round 1 - Pick 29
North Carolina • 6'11" / 265 lbs
I'm not in love with Day'Ron Sharpe as a prospect, but I think the fit here makes sense for the Nets. They need a big body and offensive rebounder off the bench, particularly if the DeAndre Jordan trade rumors turn out to be true. Sharpe opted out of the combine and has been somewhat elusive with team workouts, leading some to believe that he has a promise from somebody. Brooklyn could have used a bruising backup center in the playoffs, and Sharpe brings that physicality with the added bonus of passing ability. He's not going to stretch the floor yet (though he's shown promise in that regard), but he'll come in and do the dirty work for the Nets.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Arizona State • 6'5" / 215 lbs
Josh Christopher has all the upside you want in a late first-rounder, and is somewhat of a mystery since he only played 15 games at Arizona State. He has NBA athleticism and creates tremendous space off the dribble with a confident mid-range and 3-point stroke. Utah can give him time to develop, but if he impresses early there could be a rotation spot up for grabs.