2021 NBA Mock Draft
By Matthew Skilton
March Madness is finished, and Baylor are the NCAA champions and with that we are closing in on draft season, teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons are positioning themselves at the bottom of the league, with a large chance at landing the standout prospect, Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State.
Although the top 5 prospects are almost all but locked in after establishing themselves as some of the top collegiate players in the country. However, the order of which these players are selected is still questioned, so let’s get into it.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State
After his outstanding breakout season in his senior year of high school, Cunningham has shown why he is still the top prospect in this draft. His 6’8 frame allows him to compete with the big men at the rim and combining this with his strength and delicate touch allows him to finish inside with ease. With his gifted frame he’s also proven to be a force without the ball as he showcases versatile defence and rim protection. Even the weaknesses in his game are getting better with each day as he improves being able to shoot whether he’s spotting up or off-the-ball.
2. Detroit Pistons – Evan Mobley, C, USC
Mobley is the piece the Pistons need to shoot themselves back into contention. Mobley possesses natural ability and continues to grow in the USC system. Standing at 7-foot with a 7’5 wingspan, Mobley has a knack for playing incredible defence and utilising his amazing shot blocking ability. This coupled with his ability to read a defence, makes a scary two-way threat with his passing and shooting development handsomely. Pairing Mobley with the newly acquired Dennis Smith Jnr allows the Pistons to start their build back into playoff contention.
3. Houston Rockets – Jalen Green, G, G League Ignite
Jalen Green was hyped all the way through high school as a future superstar and electing to play a season in the G League was no small task for someone fresh out of high school. All things said, Green has acclimatised well and has showcased his excellent athletic ability and his comfortability of playing on the offensive end, even when he’s struggling to score the basketball. Questions of his efficiency when shooting have all but been erased throughout his first few games as he shot 50% from the field. Despite his natural physical abilities, Green needs work on the defensive end and to polish his ball handling to maximise his potential. These things aside, the Rockets need a player that can get buckets even through tough stretches as they start their rebuild and Green is a step in the right direction.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite
Kuminga possesses a combination of strength and explosiveness that’s rarely seen in the NBA. Coupled with his high work rates on both ends on the floor he has the potential to be a star. However, without the ball in his hand he can go missing in games and hot starts have led to inconsistent scoring towards the end of games. But this does give a lot of upside to a team that selects him and allows them to develop him in the way they need as he’s labelled as a player a team can build around whether it be as a big in the paint or a wing forward.
5. Washington Wizards – Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
After being the star of Gonzaga’s dominant season so far, Suggs has shot himself into the discussion of being a top-five pick. He’s coupled a unique athletic ability with two-way play which has showcased his prowess as a defender but needs to continue to work on his scoring. Despite his lack of jump shooting and scoring, he’s provided enough to prove he can provide an early impact in his career as a combo guard while playing off-ball and developing into what could be one of the best on-ball defenders in the league.
6. Sacramento Kings – Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
Barnes is currently the top dog of the rest of the prospects with his major selling point being his work on the defensive end. Barnes has proven he can be a seamless fit into the Florida State system and has shown he is most comfortable using the ball as a facilitator as the league moves into the era of the point-forward. However, his general shooting ability is concerning, which can take time to improve as he enters the league, but if this improves even a little bit, Barnes will have a fruitful career in the league.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
Johnson’s incomplete season at Duke is in no way going to increase his draft stock however, at this point in the season it’s unlikely that it’s going to completely ruin his draft stock. He’s showcased an incredible playmaking ability along with his court vision which gives him a unique selling point for his size and build. He’s limited as a scorer because of his inconsistent jump shot and struggles to put in a constant competitive effort which could be the deciding factor for front offices who were on the fence. Johnson has seemed more of an NBA suited player while at Duke and can answer for this during team workouts and interviews to try and raise his stock.
8. Orlando Magic – James Bouknight, SG, UConn
Bouknight’s stock has continued to rise as the depth of this draft class is questionable. Despite his size for a shooting guard, he oozes natural ability which he showcased through his with his explosiveness and his ability as a pure scorer in his early-season breakout before he was set back by an elbow injury. He has the potential to be a fantastic off-ball scorer and adding a passing dimension to his game could be of use to any team in the league.
9. Atlanta Hawks – Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee
Johnson has had an up and down season in Tennessee, but it’s encouraging to see his flashes of potential. He can be disruptive on defence and has shown positives when passing the ball which suggest he can maximise his abilities in this respect. However, his lack of offensive ability with a jump shot is a big swing as to why he is down as a mid-lottery pick.
10. New Orleans Pelicans – Ziaire Williams, SG, Stanford
The unfortunate story for Williams is that there has been no standout factor in his game this season, the Stanford guard has been on a downward spiral in the rankings but for now remains in the lottery picture. Throughout high school, he coupled his size with a solid jump shot, however, in college it has proved to be inconsistent, and his lack of strength has stopped him from being able to create shots for himself. If he’s able to work on his physique, he might be seen as a 3-and-D type of player that can fit in around some other stars but needs to get back mentally to have a chance of developing into a solid player.