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2021 NBA Mock Draft | First Round Picks and Predictions

The NBA season just ended, but it is also right around the corner. What better way to kick off the 2021-22 season than with the 2021 NBA Draft? Where will all of the top prospects go? Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs are just some of the players that can instantly turn franchises around. It seems likely that Cunningham will be the first player off the board, but who follows and when? For the sake of it being almost impossible to predict trades, the projections in this NBA mock draft 2021 article will be based off of the team that is currently slated to draft in a particular spot.

Cade Cunningham 2021 NBA Draft Lottery
Credit: Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

2021 NBA Mock Draft | First Round Picks

1. Detroit Pistons

Draft Selection: Cade Cunningham, PG/SG (Oklahoma State)

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 220 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Luka Doncic

Cade Cunnigham has all of the tools to be the face of Detroit basketball. He will instantly be the number one guy and other players on the team should defer to him because he will be the most talented. Cunningham will make Detroit’s rebuild proceed smoothly. Outside of Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey, Detroit has little talent for scoring the ball. Cunningham should bring 20+ points a night, and not only be the face of the Pistons, but the face of Detroit sports in general. He is the best player in the 2021 NBA Draft.

2. Houston Rockets

Draft Selection: Jalen Green, SG (NBA G League Ignite)

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 172 lbs

Class: N/A

Player Comparison: Ray Allen

This may be a spot in the NBA draft for Houston to trade out of to a more desperate team. But if they do indeed draft here, I don’t see how they can take anyone other than Jalen Green. Green has the ability to hit threes from all over the court and if John Wall and Christian Wood stay healthy next year, he could very well provide that much need shooting and spacing as the Rockets rebuild.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

Draft Selection: Evan Mobley, C/PF (USC)

Ht./Wt.: 7-0, 215 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Chris Bosh

Evan Mobley is not a typical seven footer. He has the ability to handle the ball, shoot the ball and play low post defense. With Collin Sexton and Darius Garland running the guards, Mobley seems like he can play a great compliment as a wing or a post. The team will not have to ask Mobley to do too much playing post defense either, as Jarrett Allen is one of the better low post defenders in the league. With the potential that Mobley oozes, he should not end up being a bust by any means.

Jalen Suggs NBA Draft profile stats highlights projection 2021
Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

4. Toronto Raptors

Draft Selection: Jalen Suggs, PG/SG (Gonzaga)

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 205 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Chauncey Billups

I believe that this is the best spot in the NBA draft for Suggs to land. He is an outstanding playmaker who can play on both sides of the ball. With the reports that Kyle Lowry may be on the move, the Raptors will find their franchise starting point guard here. The emergence of Fred VanVleet has been a bright spot for the fans up north, but pairing him with Suggs, who can consistently get him the ball should be very exciting for those north of the border.

5. Orlando Magic

Draft Selection: Scottie Barnes, SF/PF (Florida State)

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 227 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Draymond Green

The Magic are in a very interesting spot in their rebuild. It feels like they are a couple of pieces away from being talked about. They have a lot of young, hungry players in Cole Anthony, John Isaac, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr. It seems like they should go with an all-around scorer, but seeing Barnes on the board at five is too good to pass up. Barnes should provide Orlando with energy and defense and give the team an identity. He has all of the tools to be one of the best defenders in the NBA and could develop into an all-star if his shooting confidence rises.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

Draft Selection: Jonathan Kuminga, SF (NBA G League Ignite)

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 205 lbs

Class: N/A

Player Comparison: Jaylen Brown

Oklahoma City has enough picks to last a lifetime. It seems like with all of these picks, the Thunder are going to rebuild. What is a great way to rebuild? Draft the guy who has the most potential in the draft. Kuminga is a little bit of an unknown, but given an opportunity to develop in a low pressure situation in Oklahoma City, he may pay dividends come 2025. Also if it doesn’t work out, i’m sure OKC wouldn’t mind trading him for more first round picks.

James Bouknight NBA Draft profile 2021 stats highlights projection
Credit: David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

7. Golden State Warriors

Draft Selection: James Bouknight, SG/PG (Connecticut)

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 190 lbs

Class: Sophomore

Player Comparison: Donovan Mitchell

The Warriors are not what they were five years ago. A very underrated part of the legendary Warriors teams was their bench. If the Warriors see Bouknight at seven, it makes sense to grab him to back up Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. The reports are that Golden State is looking at Bradley Beal, so if they make that trade, Warriors fans will feel comfortable seeing their bench continue to score points with Bouknight.

8. Orlando Magic

Draft Selection: Alperen Sengun, C/PF (Turkey)

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 240 lbs

Class: N/A

Player Comparison: Domantas Sabonis

The Magic have a loaded center room right now. The only problem is they don’t have that starting center that they can consistently rely upon. Now I am not saying that Sengun will be the savior and the day one starting center, but he seems to have mastered all of the low post moves that have ever existed. Drafting Barnes and Sengun won’t be great for spacing on a team that already lacks three point shooting, but Sengun can be that center to replace Nikola Vucevic.

9. Sacramento Kings

Draft Selection: Josh Giddey, SF (Australia)

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 205 lbs

Class: N/A

Player Comparison: Joe Ingles

Rumors are swirling that Buddy Hield may be on his way out of California’s capital. If that is the case, Josh Giddey can develop to provide similar shooting to that of Hield. The thing that sets him apart is his ability to handle the ball and find open teammates anywhere on the court. This should bring some burden off of De’Aaron Fox’s shoulders as he can worry about attacking the rim and scoring.

Moses Moody Draft Profile stats highlights projection 2021
Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

10. Memphis Grizzlies

Draft Selection: Moses Moody, SG (Arkansas)

Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 205 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Mikal Bridges

The Charlotte Hornets should absolutely look at Moses Moody to add to their young core. Moody helped Arkansas to the NCAA tournament last year with his incredible shooting and playmaking. Being the player who can consistently hit threes should provide Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson with enough opportunities to go down hill and get points at the rim.

11. Charlotte Hornets

Draft Selection: Franz Wagner, SF (Michigan)

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 220 lbs

Class: Sophomore

Player Comparison: Danilo Gallinari

The Hornets have a hole at center, but reaching for a player like Kai Jones or Usman Garuba seems like a bad choice here. Going with Wagner will help to solidify wing defense as he possess a long wingspan. His ability to hit threes and finish at the rim should help LaMelo Ball find more efficient shots.

12. San Antonio Spurs

Draft Selection: Jalen Johnson, SF (Duke)

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 220 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Aaron Gordon

Depending on what DeMar DeRozan’s future is, this pick could go a lot of different ways here. There may be question marks surrounding Johnson due to him leaving Duke in the middle of the season, but if there is one coach who can get the most out of his players, its Greg Popovich. Johnson is probably the best player remaining at this point and the Spurs should look at grabbing talent rather than drafting for need.

13. Indiana Pacers

Draft Selection: Chris Duarte, SG (Oregon)

Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 190 lbs

Class: Senior

Player Comparison: Danny Green

The downside to Chris Duarte is that he is 24 years old. Although that may turn some teams off, look at what Cam Johnson did in Phoenix this year – with his only draft downside being age. Duarte is an incredible shooter and has the ability to guard on the wing. He should provide Indiana with a great bench scorer, who can slide into the starting lineup if a guard goes down with an injury.

14. Golden State Warriors

Draft Selection: Davion Mitchell, PG/SG (Baylor)

Ht./Wt.: 6-1, 202 lbs

Class: Junior

Player Comparison: Jarrett Jack

Davion Mitchell is one of my favorite players in this NBA draft. What he did on the defensive side of the ball for Baylor in the their championship run was incredible. He also has the ability to finish strong at the rim. He also shot great last year from the three point line. I actually think that this is someone that Golden State could trade up for. If Steve Kerr can get his hands on Mitchell and trade for Bradley Beal, I think they may be able to bring back a variation of their death lineup, with Curry, Beal, Mitchell, Thompson and Wiseman.

15. Washington Wizards

Draft Selection: Ziaire Williams, SG/SF (Stanford)

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 185 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Brandon Ingram

Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal have both been reported to be on the move this offseason. If that is true, the Wizards will need someone who can handle the ball and create their own shot. It likely that the Wizards go into rebuild mode if this happens. With Ziaire Williams’ ability to step back and create his own shot he will be given endless opportunities to develop with on-court experience.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder

Draft Selection: Corey Kispert, SF (Gonzaga)

Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 224 lbs

Class: Senior

Player Comparison: Bojan Bogdanovic

This doesn’t seem like a place Corey Kispert will end up. He will be an older rookie who can provide a contender with a knock down shooter. To me this seems like someone that the Thunder will draft and flip right away to a contender to grab a developmental project, or hey, how about more picks.

17. New Orleans Pelicans

Draft Selection: Trey Murphy III, SG (Virginia)

Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 206 lbs

Class: Junior

Player Comparison: Jae Crowder

Trey Murphy specializes in two things that it seems every Virginia guard specializes in, shooting and defense. This pairing with New Orleans makes sense as the Pelicans should be putting all of the defense and shooting around Zion Williamson that they can.

Usman Garuba NBA Draft profile stats highlights projection 2021
Credit: Angel Martinez/Getty Images

18. Oklahoma City Thunder

Draft Selection: Usman Garuba, PF/C (Spain)

Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 229 lbs

Class: N/A

Player Comparison: Kenneth Faried

This is the Thunder’s third pick of the first round in this NBA draft and the theme remains the same here, developmental projects. Usman is hyper-athletic and given enough time to develop, he could get an offensive game similar to that of Draymond Green. Just like Kuminga, in Oklahoma City, Usman should have enough time to get on-court experience and speed up the development. Hey, if he doesn’t work to their liking, they can always trade him for more picks.

19. New York Knicks

Draft Selection: Kai Jones, PF/C (Texas)

Ht./Wt.: 6-11, 218 lbs

Class: Sophomore

Player Comparison: Christian Wood

Kai Jones is a player in this NBA draft that we may be talking about in five years, saying “how did he slip to 19?” Jones is a rim to rim guy, who will block a shot on one end, sprint the length of the court and catch an alley-oop and then sprint back and block another shot. He shot the three at 38% last year and if he can build upon that, he may be able to start next to Mitchell Robinson in a couple short years.

20. Atlanta Hawks

Draft Selection: Jaden Springer, PG/SG (Tennessee)

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 204 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Malcolm Brogdon

Given that he is only 19 years old, Jaden Springer is one of the more intriguing players in this NBA draft. He has the defensive potential and scoring ability to be Atlanta’s long time back up point guard. He should also be able to slide next to Trae Young at the two with their differing skillsets.

21. New York Knicks

Draft Selection: Jared Butler, PG/SG (Baylor)

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 195 lbs

Class: Junior

Player Comparison: Avery Bradley

If there is one thing that you cannot have too much of in the NBA, its shooting. Jared Butler should provide great depth for an up and coming Knicks team. If he slides into a consistent starting guard, he has the ability to make an all-defensive team. I think the Knicks go best available player here and I don’t see many better players than Butler.

Keon Johnson NBA Draft profile stats highlights projection 2021
Credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

22. Los Angeles Lakers

Draft Selection: Keon Johnson, SG (Tennessee)

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 186 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Latrell Sprewell

Keon Johnson’s 48 inch vertical is what sets him apart from other players in this NBA draft. He has room to improve and develop, but seeing him catch lobs from LeBron James will bring many fans back to the Showtime Lakers days. This is also a spot that I could see the Lakers putting a package together for Corey Kispert and Keon Johnson may be a very enticing piece for that.

23. Houston Rockets

Draft Selection: Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG (Illinois)

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 200 lbs

Class: Junior

Player Comparison: Dejounte Murray

I expect this to be a pick where the Rockets take the player that the Clippers want. Dosunmu is a complete guard, who has the ability to score and distribute, as well as play solid defense. If the Rockets want Dosunmu, he can be a major spark plug off of the bench.

24. Houston Rockets

Draft Selection: Isaiah Jackson, PF (Kentucky)

Ht./Wt.: 6-10, 205 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Nerlens Noel

Isaiah Jackson has a 7-4 wingspan that could greatly benefit a team that is looking to contend in five years. This is a partnership that could see both the Rockets and Jackson develop together. He does contain some solid low post offense, but he will make his money being a rim protector in the NBA.

25. Los Angeles Clippers

Draft Selection: Sharife Cooper, PG (Auburn)

Ht./Wt.: 6-1, 180 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Rajon Rondo

Sharife Cooper excels at getting the ball where it needs to be. He runs the break in a beautiful fashion and if given the opportunity to play with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, he will be able to get them as many open shots as needed.

Cameron Thomas Draft profile stats highlights projection 2021
Credit: Gerald Herbert/AP Photo

26. Denver Nuggets

Draft Selection: Cameron Thomas, SG/PG (Lousiana State)

Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 210

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Terrence Ross

Cameron Thomas is a scorer, who is always looking for his next shot. His downside is his efficiency. I think that changes in Denver as he won’t need to be the go-to scorer. With Jamal Murray recovering from an injured knee, I could see Thomas providing Denver with enough scoring to beat some of the better teams at the beginning of the year.

27. Brooklyn Nets

Draft Selection: Miles McBride, PG/SG (West Virginia)

Ht./Wt.: 6-2, 195 lbs

Class: Sophomore

Player Comparison: Kyle Lowry

Miles McBride is a hard nosed point guard. If Spencer Dinwiddie leaves in free agency, then the Nets best shot to get a cheap back up guard will be McBride. He is a wide guard, who can give other bench guards fits on defense. With the recent injuries to Kyrie Irving and James Harden, this seems like a seamless fit for Brooklyn.

28. Philadelphia 76ers

Draft Selection: Josh Christopher, SG/PG (Arizona State)

Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 215 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Norman Powell

It sounds like the 76ers are ready to move on from Ben Simmons. Josh Christopher won’t be able to fill Simmons’ playmaking abilities or defensive, but he can for sure make up in the shooting department. There is a spot for a scoring guard on the 76ers, so if Christopher impresses early in the offseason, he may see an instant spot in the rotation.

29. Phoenix Suns

Draft Selection: Nah’Shon Hyland, PG/SG (Virginia Commonwealth)

Ht./Wt.: 6-3, 169 lbs

Class: Sophomore

Player Comparison: Jordan Clarkson

The Suns will have to fill a giant hole if Chris Paul does leave in the offseason. Hyland is nowhere near the player that Paul is, but he is a player who has the ability to create his own shot and score from almost anywhere on the court. This should help Devin Booker get to spots that he wants and not have to worry about the burden of all of the scoring.

30. Utah Jazz

Draft Selection: Day’Ron Sharpe, PF/C (North Carolina)

Ht./Wt.: 6-11, 265 lbs

Class: Freshman

Player Comparison: Al Jefferson

To round out the first round, I think the Jazz go big man here. Day’Ron Sharpe is a giant menace on the glass and has the ability to finish with a soft touch around the rim. With Sharpe being able to control the rebounding, this should give Rudy Gobert some rest early in the season.

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