Witnessing the wholesome championship celebration of the Milwaukee Bucks ended the NBA season with a heartfelt bang. However, the NBA never sleeps as the draft restarts the league’s infinite cycle. While the NBA playoffs inspire legendary performances, it’s the offseason that injects a fury of content with no time to spare. The 2021 NBA Draft is the catalyst for the first domino to fall for the offseason.
Fortunately, the 2021 NBA Draft will again include fans in the Barclays Center and players in the green room. Although the pandemic has yet to cease, watching draft devotees in the stands spells victory for the league. Considering the twists and turns it took to set up the 2020 NBA Draft, returning to the “normal” invokes a sigh of relief.
Similar to the NBA, Def Pen Sports continues the tradition with its rendition of the NBA Draft. Def Pen’s College Hoops writer Dylan Hargis provided us with his mock draft list. David Loaiza and I briefly analyzed why each player makes sense for the chosen team. The 2021 NBA Draft is full of talent so compiling the list wasn’t easy.
Notes to the reader:
- No hypothetical trade scenarios of picks are acknowledged in this exercise.
- Every pick goes by what Dylan deemed a team fit, not necessarily the best available.
- There are not player comparisons for this mock of the 2021 NBA Draft.
Mock 2021 NBA Draft
Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State seems like the inevitable, despite reports of the Detroit Pistons shopping the first-overall pick. It’s a no-brainer selection, seeing that Cunningham is a 6’8, 220 point guard spells disaster for opposing defenders. The package of both size and ability to score captures the need for any team to draft such a prospect. This should kick off the 2021 NBA Draft just right.
2. Houston Rockets
Jalen Green’s experience in the G-League has prepared him for a smooth transition and helped him adjust his game for the pros. Green is a go-to scoring guard, a position the Rockets need to replace after James Harden left. He also showed improvement as a passer during the season.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Evan Mobley from USC makes for an interesting pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers, considering Jarrett Allen is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Regardless of what happens to Allen, the potential for Mobley to take anchor as the starting center ranks rather high. Mobley’s offensive arsenal includes confident dribbling and an excellent midrange game, both skills of which Allen lacks.
4. Toronto Raptors
Jalen Suggs, out of Gonzaga, is one of the players that benefited the most from the 2021 March Madness tournament. The attitude and effort showed against UCLA and Baylor have him high on many draft boards. Suggs can create his own shot and likes to do work to keep the ball alive. With Kyle Lowry expected to leave in free agency, the 6-4 guard will fit right into his spot.
5. Orlando Magic
Scottie Barnes out of Florida State enhances the defensive-focused frontcourt of the Orlando Magic. Adding the former Seminole paints a picture in which the Magic ensure a tough defensive unit. With Jonathan Isaac’s return imminent, expect competition for the best young defender on the depth chart.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder
Another of the players on the Ignite team, Jonathan Kuminga is one of the most talented players in the draft but there’s work to be done for him to be successful. Oklahoma is the right place for him to focus on getting better. The Thunder have time and developing a young core is their most important goal right now.
7. Golden State Warriors
University of Connecticut’s James Bouknight addresses the Golden State Warriors’ desperate need for a legitimate sixth man. When Stephen Curry left the court, the Warriors’ offense went from scorching hot to room temperature hotdog water. Look for Bouknight to provoke competition in the second unit.
8. Orlando Magic
Davion Mitchell is a national champion after his time with the Baylor Bears. We saw his defensive ability in the NCAA Final Four and that’s his calling card for the Magic to draft him. Orlando was 26th this past season in defensive rating and none of their guards could be considered even average on the defensive side of the ball.
9. Sacramento Kings
The former Tennesee Volunteer, Keon Johnson, fits like a glove on the young nucleus of the Sacramento Kings. Adding another guard to the mix bodes well for the future of the up-and-coming Kings, especially in light of the strong possibility of Buddy Hield leaving via trade. With his explosiveness and defensive acumen, the Kings’ chances of play-in action increase.
10. Memphis Grizzlies
When the Valanciunas trade happened, almost instantaneously, it was reported that the Grizzlies are targeting Giddey with this pick if he’s available. The Australian player brings a second option for playmaking in the team to help Ja Morant create offense on the court. It seems like Memphis is searching for a complement to their young dynamic point guard.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Moses Moody resumes the youth movement of the Charlotte Hornets. Before Lamelo Ball’s injury, the Hornets playoff odds appeared likely to hit. Now, with another year of its play-making extraordinaire and the addition of a shot-making guard who doesn’t need to pound the rock into the hardwood, the Hornets have a stinging chance of a postseason appearance.
12. San Antonio Spurs
The younger Wagner brother was a big part of the Wolverines’ success this past season. Shooting close to 35% from the three-point line and 83% on his free throw attempts, he can be an option to open the floor as a shooter on the wing for catch and shoot threes. At 6’9”, he’s also a good option in a switching defense as he can guard multiple positions.
13. Indiana Pacers
Standing at 6’9 with an impressive 6’11 wingspan, the sky is the limit for an intriguing young forward. Duke’s very own Jalen Johnson has the build of a prototypical NBA star. Unlike most of the players on the roster, Johnson exhibits flashy play. Energy aside, showcasing a pro-like stature makes for a dynamic garnish to an already stacked list of reasons why he makes sense as a Pacer.
14. Golden State Warriors
Alperen Sengun from Besiktas in the Turkish League, a player who is already a pro and league ready as he dominated one of the best leagues in Europe and won the Most Valuable Player Award. Sengun gives the Warriors some interior scoring to complement the outside shooting of Steph and Klay as well as playmaking ability in the post.
15. Washington Wizards
From the University of Texas, Kai Jones has a little bit of everything at the center position. Regardless of the current Washington Wizards depth chart, Jones has the all-around game to compete for NBA minutes at the hardest position in the league. In addition to his footspeed, Jones averaged 38 percent from the 3-point line. The Wizards have a chance to shake up the rotation by adding a dynamic center to the mix.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder
Ziaire Williams, from Stanford, is a two-way wing that can handle the ball with the potential to be a playmaker on the team. He could also be a perimeter defender as well as cutting the passing lanes and adding help defense. His outside shooting is a problem but his free throw percentage of 80% gives hope.
17. New Orleans Pelicans
Former Oregon Duck Chris Duarte theoretically meshes with the New Orleans Pelicans. Last season, the Pelicans’ offense appeared stagnant and archaic with a 26th ranked 3-point field goal percentage. Drafting Duarte produces a safety valve for Zion Williamson when looking for a shooting option in a drive-and-kick situation. Improving on the less-than-stellar offense is a healthy start to a playoff-starved franchise.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder
Trey Murphy III
Another two-way wing for the Thunder with versatility in both on-ball and off-ball defense. He is also, arguably, the best shooter from this year’s draft with high percentages from three and free throws. The Thunder continue to stack prospects in this year’s draft and may very well move this pick along with another on draft night. If not Murphy will add shooting to the backcourt.
19. New York Knicks
Tom Thibodeau’s ideal prospect Usman Garuba comes as a reasonable selection for the New York Knicks. Despite Thibodeau’s relentless focus on defense, the Knicks suffered to mark a dent in the Hawks’ offense. Perhaps Garuba supplies the necessary energy in the rotation. Even if he doesn’t crack the starting lineup, the never-quit spark sounds enticing as a situational defender.
20. Atlanta Hawks
Isaiah Jackson from Kentucky is one of the most athletic players in the draft and has a good feel for sending floaters to the stands. He is still a very raw talent that will need time and a learning process for him to reach his potential. He should have that time with Atlanta.
21. New York Knicks
Gonzaga Bulldog Corey Kispert balances out the defensive-focused selection of Usman Gruba. While Thibodeau’s reputation never aligns with a shot-heavy offense, sprinkling in Kispert to the rough-and-tough Knicks acts as a convenient emergency exit during stagnant offensive possessions.
22. Los Angeles Lakers
Cameron Thomas is a scoring guard who was the primary option for LSU. He can get buckets any time he wants and has all the moves he needs to do it. Time will be needed to adjust for the role he’ll play with the Lakers but to start Thomas can be reliable for catch and shoot threes. He can also be another option for LeBron James and can become a spark of energy and scoring off the bench.
23. Houston Rockets
Villanova forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is another ingredient to building a resilient young core for the Houston Rockets. Playing two seasons for coaching great Jay Wright only increases the odds of Robinson-Earl contributing to NBA victories. Known for his vocal leadership on defense and knack for winning the positioning battle, those veteran-like traits will help the Rockets rebuild.
24. Houston Rockets
Ayo Dosunmu is a junior guard from Illinois who has the tools to be an impact player in the league. He can handle the ball and create offense for his teammates as well as looks for himself to score both inside and outside the three-point line. His defensive ability also helps the team create options in transition.
25. Los Angeles Clippers
Auburn guard Sharife Cooper is the potential Reggie Jackson replacement. With a crucial free agency period inching near, selecting a backup guard behooves the Clippers’ front office as their options to improve the team wane every season. Now, without slandering Jackson, perhaps name-dropping the never-scared-to-shoot guard isn’t the best comparison, as Cooper exhibited elite passing skills. Still, finding quality talent at a lower price means the world to an asset famished franchise.
26. Denver Nuggets
Another option for the Denver Nuggets to add energy and scoring to their bench is Josh Cristopher from Arizona State. He is a streaky shooter and has the ability to create space on his own. Also, he is a very athletic player that would be a good addition to the jaw-dropping passes in transition and have the same reaction with the finish.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Jaden Springer helps provide an answer for the Brooklyn Nets issues with depth. In both scoring and defense, Springer exists as a positive asset for a team seeking an NBA Finals appearance. Overagression typically hinders an NBA rookie, but for a roster desperate for a heartbeat in the second unit, the relentlessness of Springer aligns with the Nets’ needs.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
With all the rumors about Ben Simmon’s future in Philadelphia, McBride can be an option to add another point guard to the team. He has both the defensive tools and offensive ability to at least contribute as a backup guard and spread the floor for Joel Embiid to attack the paint.
29. Phoenix Suns
Florida point guard Tre Mann would make for a decent contingency plan in case Cameron Payne accepts a payday elsewhere in free agency. Meanwhile, Chris Paul’s future with the Phoenix Suns is in the balance. Losing two guards in the same offseason is a disastrous outcome. Mann is a useful option as insurance for a team looking to build on its NBA Finals appearance.
30. Utah Jazz
The final first-round pick of the 2021 NBA draft is Jared Butler from Baylor. He would give the Jazz another option to handle the ball and create offense so they don’t rely entirely on Donovan Mitchell. He has improved his playmaking and shooting ability in all three of his years in college. Butler would just add another weapon to an already loaded offensive team.