Culture of Hoops

2021 NBA Mock Draft

After the NBA Draft Lottery on June 22nd, we can finally enter full NBA Draft mode after a late start due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Nonetheless, we are still being treated to another draft with a ton of quality prospects with superstar potential. While Cade Cunningham is expected to go first overall, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, and Jalen Suggs are all the cream of the crop. Not to mention there is also a plethora of freshmen in this year’s draft, especially within the lottery. With a lot of trade rumors, there will likely be some trades to happen as well.

1. Detroit Pistons- Cade Cunningham (PG/SG, Oklahoma State, Freshman)

There is not much debate that Cade Cunningham will be the first overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft. His 6’8″ 220 lb frame makes him more than just an above-average guard. Cunningham will have the ability to play positions one through three right off the bat, making him a mismatch in almost any defensive game plan. Cunningham is also excellent in the pick and roll, making him a premier playmaker, which is something that the Pistons have lacked. Cunningham can score at any level inside the three-point line and was incredible in closing games for the Cowboys. His only struggle is inconsistent shooting from beyond the arc but that is easily fixable. Without many weaknesses, Cunningham will likely become the future franchise player for the Detroit Pistons.

2. Houston Rockets- Jalen Green (SG, G-League Ignite, 2002)

Jalen Green made the intriguing decision to forgo his college career and instead sign with the G-League Ignite team that debuted this season. Ignite brought Green into the G-League spotlight and secured his status as a top-tier draft selection. Green’s elite scoring ability will make him an automatic first option on offense with the Rockets and as their primary closer along with Kevin Porter. Green’s main struggle is his shooting from deep, only maintaining about league average during his time with the Ignite. His defensive ability is extremely underrated for a player mainly known to score. Green is not known as a playmaker, but his ability to score in volume makes him a perfect fit for the Houston Rockets as their new franchise cornerstone.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers- Evan Mobley (PF/C, USC, Freshman)

Cleveland’s pick is one that will likely be traded as the Cavaliers already have a franchise big man in Jarrett Allen, who they hope to re-sign this offseason. But that doesn’t change the fact that Evan Mobley will still likely be selected at 3rd overall. Mobley, the No. 1 high school recruit, is a traditional big man with the ability to stretch the floor as well. His 7’4″ wingspan makes him a lockdown defender in the paint, but he also isn’t terrible guarding smaller players as well. He’s great on both ends of the floor, working well in the pick and roll both offensively and defensively. He has a smooth jumper that makes him lethal from mid-range. Mobley’s attitude has come into question a lot during his time at USC, but regardless, the talent is there for Mobley. Wherever he ends up, Cleveland or not, Mobley has the realistic potential to become a top-tier big man in the NBA.

4. Toronto Raptors- Jalen Suggs (PG, Gonzaga, Freshman)

With the Toronto Raptors likely trending younger with their roster, Jalen Suggs, is the perfect fit with Kyle Lowry likely moving on in free agency. Jalen Suggs is a point guard with excellent leadership on and off the court, something that will be needed desperately without Lowry. His large frame gives him huge advantages defensively and offensively. Suggs is an incredible playmaker and is great at picking his shots. Suggs is also an underrated rebounder, something Toronto will need with lacking a true center. Sugg’s main weakness is his inconsistent shooting, but it’s believed he can improve his shooting from beyond the arc and from the free-throw line in time. Suggs would round out an elite backcourt that already featured Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn in Toronto.

5. Orlando Magic- Scottie Barnes (SF/PF, Florida State, Freshman)

Scottie Barnes might not be the most NBA-ready prospect who can make an immediate impact, but that is exactly what the Magic need based on their status as a franchise. They recently traded away their “big three” all during the trade deadline. And with the return of Jonathan Isaac, Scottie Barnes is the perfect fit alongside him and Chuma Okeke. Barnes comes with incredible size, standing at 6’9″ and a 7’2″ wingspan. His biggest strength is his power when attacking the rim, but his ability to stretch the floor is what’s most lethal about him. He has much room for improvement on his jumper, but his handles, facilitating, and his ability to defend the perimeter are already part of his game. He’s an underrated playmaker, earning four assists a game in only about 25 minutes per game. Inconsistent jump-shooting, especially from deep, is the biggest weakness of Scottie’s game. But he will form a lengthy and deadly forward duo with Isaac once he reaches his prime.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder- James Bouknight (SG, UConn, Sophomore)

Thanks to an incredible second season at UConn and productive draft workouts, James Bouknight, has been one of the biggest risers in the draft. Bouknight is an excellent scorer with and without the ball. Ball handling and athleticism allow him to be an elite isolation scorer. His three-point shot could use some development. his defense and playmaking are a bit lacking. Originally projected as a mid-round lottery pick, he now sees himself going off the board as early as the sixth overall selection and possibly the newest prospect coming to the Thunder. Bouknight can fit in perfectly alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to form the Thunder’s backcourt for the future.

7. Golden State Warriors- Franz Wagner (SF/PF, Michigan, Sophomore)

Brother of NBA player Mo Wagner, Franz Wagner, comes into this draft with a much different style of play than his older brother. At 6’9″ and 220 lbs, Wagner is the ideal 3 and D player with length and versatility. He’s an underrated finisher around the rim, while being an excellent defender and decision maker as well. His own shot creation will develop over time as for now he is more of a plug-and-play type player. Wagner is the perfect fit for this Warriors squad, especially if Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. are traded. If he lands with the Warriors he can immediately help Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson stretch the floor with his stellar three-point shooting.

8. Orlando Magic- Moses Moody (SG, Arkansas, Freshman)

Moses Moody had a successful season at Arkansas and showed that a lot of elements in his game that can carry over to the NBA. The biggest being his dynamic scoring. Moody is one who is able to score off the catch and shoot and in the isolation as well. He’s great at creating contact in the paint, heading to the line almost six times a game in college. Offensively, he always finds ways to stay aggressive and has wonderful balance. He’s also sneaky-good defensively and has great anticipation. Moody will fill a necessary hole for Orlando with Terrence Ross likely headed out of town in the near future. Moody also fits perfectly with the Magic’s rebuilding timeline as a player who still needs development over the next handful of seasons.

9. Sacramento Kings- Jonathan Kuminga (SF/PF, G-League Ignite, 2002)

After reclassifying and being one of the rare high school prospects to immediately join the G-League, Jonathan Kuminga, produced well enough for the Ignite to elevate his name into the NBA Draft Lottery. Kuminga’s offensive game consists of physical drives and a lot of work inside the three-point line. That includes post-ups, mid-range shots, and aggressive layups. Kuminga is also a versatile and physical defender and could easily guard 1-4. Kuminga’s biggest weaknesses are stretching the floor and inconsistent free-throw shooting. Two aspects that can easily improve with time and practice. His raw ability will work well with the Kings as they continue to build a young core that can compete in the postseason.

10. Memphis Grizzlies- Josh Giddey (PG, Adelaide 36ers, 2002)

Easily one of the most interesting prospects in the entire NBA Draft, Josh Giddey, has a positionless game that will already give problems to opposing teams. Standing at 6’8″ and 205 lbs, Giddey brings point guard-like skills despite being the size of a stretch-four. Giddey has a superior basketball IQ with the ability to stuff the stat sheet. He’s a superb passer both in transition and half-court. Giddey is also magic in the pick and roll. His only weakness is his lack of physicality and a legitimate NBA frame. Giddey does struggle when trying to create his own shot as he’s more known as a facilitator. His playmaking and length should bring a new and fascinating perspective to a Memphis offense that is looking to shake things up. Giddey’s progression will be interesting as he could be deemed the next “unicorn” player in the NBA.

11. Charlotte Hornets- Kai Jones (PF/C, Texas, Sophomore)

Kai Jones is one of the most fluid big men in this draft. Despite his 6’11” size, he has underrated high-post and ball-handling abilities. Mix that with his high motor and insane athleticism and you may be looking at a major steal in the draft. He’s also a very underrated three-point shooter, hitting 39 percent this past season. He has crafty and stretch offensive skills with his great jump shooting and handle. This might be the easiest pick for the Charlotte Hornets as they’ve lacked a legitimate center for years now. His biggest weakness in his college career was getting into early foul trouble and lack of true strength to guard bigger centers. He could also improve on his rebounding ability as well. Kai Jones’s impact should be almost immediate as he’ll play alongside one of the most underrated lineups with LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, and P.J. Washington.

12. San Antonio Spurs- Jalen Johnson (SF, Duke, Freshman)

Despite not finishing his only season at Duke, with Jalen Johnson‘s raw ability alone he could still finds himself going in the lottery in this year’s NBA Draft. Johnson has shown flashes to be a future point-forward with his versatility offensively and underrated facilitating abilities. Johnson is also elite at finishing around the rim. He also has the ability to stretch the floor, shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc. His defensive ability is outstanding, averaging over a steal and a block per game. His commitment can certainly come into question after opting out of the season once Duke’s tournament chances were down the drain. Nonetheless, Jalen Johnson, can become another young prospect to join a reloading Spurs team already filled with young talent.

13. Indiana Pacers- Davion Mitchell (PG, Baylor, Junior)

After an incredible tournament run that earned him a national championship, Davion Mitchell’s, stock skyrocketed. His defensive prowess as a guard is a perfect fit for almost any team. But he is also just as aggressive offensively with his ability to attack the basket. He dramatically improved his three-point shooting throughout college, hitting 44 percent in his final season. Mitchell’s timing and precision of passing make his offensive game only more lethal. He could use major work as a pick-and-roll facilitator. His career 66 percent from the line also isn’t a number that pops out positively. Mitchell has the chance to bring a competitive offensive and defensive spark to the Pacers, something they’ve lacked since trading Paul George.

14. Golden State Warriors- Keon Johnson (SG/SF, Tennessee, Freshman)

After a raw but flashy season at Tennessee, Keon Johnson, has shown major bright spots as an athletic wing, but could certainly has room for improvement. His entire game revolves mainly around his athleticism, he uses it well to create space on drives and jump shooting. His defense is also top tier, as he’s known for his quick reflexes and anticipation. However, Johnson’s biggest flaw is his inconsistencies and inefficiencies, as he only shot 45/27/70 in college, which pales when compared to the elite talent in the draft. He could also improve on his offensive decision-making. Johnson’s development alongside James Wiseman with the Warriors will be captivating to watch over the next handful of seasons.

15. Washington Wizards- Ziaire Williams (SG/SF, Stanford, Freshman)

Another one-and-done top high school recruit in Ziaire Williams whose athletic and lanky frame makes him a prime prospect for growth. Standing at 6’9″ and 190 lbs, Williams’ frame can prove to be a major advantage on both ends of the floor. He is also an underrated ball-handler for his size. He is a dynamic scorer as well, balancing his shots from deep and mid-range. His biggest weakness is his efficiency. Williams shot 37 percent from the field and 29 from deep. Both of which are clearly not up to standards that’ll keep him around in the league. But being drafted by the Wizards, who seem to still need more time to build a contender, could be big for Williams. He’ll have multiple seasons to develop his game before his impact becomes extremely important.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder- Chris Duarte (SG, Oregon, Senior)

Another huge riser up this year’s draft boards, Chris Duarte’s, 3-and-D style of play makes him the perfect prospect for almost any franchise. His senior season with Oregon propelled him to the first round of many mock drafts. He shot a strong 53 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc. His defensive awareness and prowess are some of the best in this entire draft for his position. His shot selection is also crisp. His playmaking is also isn’t spectacular despite above-average ball-handling skills. Duarte’s pairing with SGA and potentially Bouknight in the backcourt could be a lethal trio for the Thunder.

17. New Orleans Pelicans- Miles McBride (PG, West Virginia, Sophomore)

Miles McBride’s breakout sophomore season allowed him to be considered as one of the best point guards in the Big-12. His scrappy pest-like defensive game earned him almost two steals per game in 2021. His 6’9″ wingspan gave him a major advantage to achieve those numbers. He dramatically improved his three-point shooting as well, jumping from 30 to 41 percent. His playmaking abilities are also helpful. His iso game could be improved up as it lacks explosiveness. With Lonzo Ball likely leaving in free agency, McBride could slot in as the backup immediately with the possibility starting in the near future for the Pelicans.

18. Houston Rockets- Trey Murphy III (SF/PF, Virginia, Junior)

Despite Trey Murphy’s down year at Virginia, his size and frame still make a solid prospect that could develop into a future star. He’s a great three-point shooter for his size, hitting 43 percent his final season. He is also a phenomenal free throw shooter, hitting 92 percent his junior season. However, he isn’t known for being an aggressive athlete. Nor does Murphy do a great job at rebounding for his position. But with the Rockets going into a full rebuild, they will have plenty of time to grow Murphy’s confidence and other aspects of his game to make him a more polished player.

19. New York Knicks- Corey Kispert (SG/SF, Gonzaga, Senior)

With Reggie Bullock being a free agent, Corey Kispert, is a player that can fill his shoes almost immediately upon entering the NBA. Kispert, a four-year player at Gonzaga, was best known for his shooting ability. Kispert hit at a 44 percent clip his senior season. Kispert hits mid-range jumpers at a consistently and is excellent at moving without the basketball, timing his cuts well to score open and easy baskets. His biggest improvements need to come on the defensive end. Corey doesn’t quite have the athleticism or skills to become an above-average defender, but could become serviceable in time. For now, his shooting ability make him a perfect plug-and-play guy for the rising New York Knicks franchise.

20. Atlanta Hawks- Alperen Sengun (PF/C, Beşiktaş J.K. 2002)

Alperen Sengun is a rising international prospect who made a name for himself with the Turkish club Besiktas in the Basketball Super League, being named the MVP of the regular season with averages of 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks, in 28.3 minutes per game, in 29 games played. Sengun is mainly known for presence in the paint offensively and defensively. Averaging over a steal and nearly two blocks per game, Sengun could easily compete with NBA centers when need be. But he also has a nice outside jump shot as well, especially in the mid-range. He works great in pick and roll scenarios as well. And despite his position, he’s already shown flashes from the three-point line and consistency from the free throw line. His few weaknesses are his athleticism, speed, and ability to draw fouls. But he is the best prospect that fits with what the Hawks already have. He’ll be solid off the bench and with some growth, could be a starter in the future.

21. New York Knicks- Isaiah Jackson (PF/C, Kentucky Freshman)

With Mitchell Robinson dealing with multiple injuries last year, drafting Isaiah Jackson makes perfect sense for the New York Knicks. Jackson’s interior defense is spectacular, averaging 2.5 blocks per game in only 20 minutes of playing time. Built very athletic and lanky, Jackson’s 7’5″ wingspan will always be an advantage offensively and defensively. He is also very efficient with scoring in the paint. Above-average free throw shooter for his archetype as well. He could use some more weight on his frame, as he only weighs 205 lbs. Jackson could also work on his volume scoring. However, this pick makes perfect sense for the Knicks as they’ll fill a needed role immediately.

22. Los Angeles Lakers-Nah’Shon Hyland (PG/SG, VCU, Sophomore)

Nah’Shon Hyland may have only played at VCU, but his volume scoring makes him a certain selection for the Los Angeles Lakers. Hyland averaged 19.5 points while shooting 44 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep, both solid numbers alone. What’s even more impressive is that he was the focus of every defense he faced in college, making those numbers even more impressive. He also improved on his defense, almost doubling his steals per game. At 170 lbs he does need to get into the gym and add some weight to help him Finnish trough contact on the NBA level. He could also improve on limiting his turnovers as well. The Lakers will now have another high scorer off of their bench if they chose to keep this pick, a possible Dennis Schroder replacement.

23. Houston Rockets- Usman Garuba (PF/C, Real Madrid, 2002)

Another young international prospect as Usman Garuba hopes his blue-collar style is enough to transform himself into an NBA star. At 6’8″ and 230 lbs, Garuba brings a physical style of basketball that involves a lot of high energy and running to the rim. His short height is made up for by his long wingspan, at 7’2″. Garuba also comes with a high basketball IQ and is underrated at pick and pop threes. His biggest area for improvement is stretching the floor more consistently, especially with his height compared to the normal 5 in the NBA. He could definitely use a major overhaul to his free throw shooting mechanics.  Usman Garuba is a talented developmental prospect for the Houston Rockets.

24. Houston Rockets- Jared Butler (PG/SG, Baylor, Junior)

After having some medical conditions that needed to be cleared, Jared Butler, is ready to make his splash in the NBA. His incredible run during the NCAA Tournament created a huge boost in his stock. Butler is the kind of player that can do it all. Above-average scorer, solid playmaker, aggressive defender are all just some of the strengths in his game. He even has an above average post game for a point guard. The biggest flaw in Butler’s game is the number of turnovers he commits and that can be corrected by tightening up his ball handling. With John Wall most likely likely to be traded Butler has the opportunity to become the point guard of the future for the Houston Rockets .

25. Los Angeles Clippers- Cameron Thomas (SG, LSU, Freshman)

After trading Lou Williams at the deadline, the Los Angeles Clipper is now in immediate need of an bench scorer. Cameron Thomas fits that role smoothly. As a freshman Thomas dominated the stat sheet, averaging 23 points per game on 40 percent from the field, 32 percent from deep, and 88 percent from the line. He also scores on three levels extremely well, balancing his act to make it more difficult for defenders. While it hasn’t been seen a lot, he’s also solid in off-ball scoring as well. He could improve on scoring more efficiently and also on his passing ability. Whether it’s the Clippers or another team that adds Thomas to their roster, he will be seen making baskets and sparking runs in the NBA for the foreseeable future.

26. Denver Nuggets- Joshua Primo (SG, Alabama, Freshman)

Joshua Primo was another star freshman who helped lead Alabama to a surprising tournament run. Primo has great size for his position, standing 6’5″ with a solid wingspan. He’s best known for his three-point shooting, hitting around 38 percent during his games played. Primo is also most effective moving without the ball to find open shots on catch and shoot opportunities. He also has solid handles and efficient scoring in the paint as well. While this isn’t a flaw, one knock on him is that he does not have a skill he is particularly amazing at. Primo can contribute a lot to an NBA team, but in one way that he specifically excels at. However, he will be a big piece for the Nuggets who are looking to add more depth to their backcourt.

27. Brooklyn Nets- Tre Mann (PG, Florida, Sophomore)

Tre Mann’s decision to stay at Florida for his sophomore year was the best decision he could have made for his basketball career. He made major leaps and bounds to now have himself be projected in the first round. Mann is a skilled combo guard that can play either the one or two. He is great at keeping the pace going which always throws off defenders. Mann excels at creating his own shot as well, but also keeps his teammates involved with his playmaking. Mann’s one disadvantage is lack of explosiveness and length, two aspects that are really out of his control. Mann can fill the backup point guard role for the Brooklyn Nets with Spencer Dinwiddie likely walking in free agency.

28. Philadelphia 76ers- Ayo Dosunmu (PG/SG, Illinois, Junior)

Ayo Dosunmu absolutely took college basketball by storm, averaging 20 points along with six rebounds and assists per game. But he also had incredible percentages, 49/39/78. Dosunmu performed so well that he was considered a Woodson Finalist his junior year. He is best known for his exceptional ball-handling and creating his own scoring opportunities. But he also has a wonderful court vision and had many highlights setting up Kofi Cockburn for dunks. Being the number one option gave Dounmu a lot of opportunities to score in the clutch. He could do better improving his efficiency in his playmaking, but a lot of that may come from his usage rate. Dosunmu would join a crowded yet dynamic backcourt in Philadelphia.

29. Phoenix Suns- Jaden Springer (SG, Tennessee, Freshman)

Jaden Springer was another highly rated high school prospect who chose the one-and-done route. But his strong performance, especially percentage-wise, allowed him to stay within the first round. Playing like a combo guard, Springer has great jump shot mechanics and has always been focused on expanding his game at a more efficient rate. He also moves well without the ball and can work perfectly with Chris Paul or other playmaking point guards. Springer does lack athleticism and needs to take better care of the ball. Springer has already shown to be making progress in the right direction since high school. But learning from Chris Paul and Devin Booker could make him a valuable steal in future years for the Suns.

30. Utah Jazz- Joel Ayayi (PG/SG, Gonzaga, Junior)

After running last season without a true backup point guard, it makes most sense that the Jazz would role with Joel Ayayi, or any guard at that. But Ayayi makes the most sense for his style of play. Ayayi is an efficient scorer who would fits perfectly defensively with Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt. His large frame will be an instant problem for opposing teams. Offensively, he is great at scoring in the paint and is a smart shooter from deep. Ayayi has never been one to take bad or heavily contested shots that waste possessions. He’s also an above-average rebounder for his position. He needs to work on his playmaking and volume scoring. But when you’re playing along with one of the best scorers in the league, that won’t matter much.

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