Trade rumors are pointing towards a chaotic draft night for the NBA. Before picks start changing hands we have one more snapshot with our 2021 NBA Mock Draft.
One trade, between the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans, has already changed the draft order and rumors are flying over at least a half-dozen deals that could change things further. Before any more shuffling is done, here’s a last look at how the first round of the draft could shake out.
Who is rising and falling in our latest NBA Mock Draft?
The analysis of each individual player here relies heavily on the insights of draft experts like Trevor Magnotti, Ben Pfiefer and Jackson Frank. Each pick is not necessarily a guess at who each team will or even should take, just a hopefully insightful match between prospect skill and upside and each team’s need.
And if you’re looking at any of these picks wondering what the heck I was thinking, just remember that mock drafts are made to be mocked.
Wing, Utah Jazz
Christopher is an inconsistent shooter and middling creator for others but he can create his own shot and brings plenty of athletic pop on the wing. If he can develop as a defender he’d be a nice bench addition for the Jazz.
Guard, Phoenix Suns
The Suns are primed for another run at a championship and have the luxury of using the draft to plug hypothetical roles for the future. Nix is a big (6-foot-5) point guard with defensive upside who wins with strength and savvy, and could provide some nice backcourt depth and versatility down the road.
Guard, Philadelphia 76ers
Cam Thomas gets buckets. It would be nice if he was a bit more reliable as an outside shooter, especially with Tyrese Maxey in the backcourt. But he can make things happen with the ball in his hands and add a bit more offensive juice to second units for Philly.
Trey Murphy III
Wing, Brooklyn Nets
Murphy is an excellent shooter with the size (6-foot-9) and willingness to be a meaningful defender across a few different positions. He might never offer more than that 3-and-D package but that’s honestly all the Nets need right now.
Guard, Denver Nuggets
Mann is an excellent shooter and shot-creator who could help cover for some of what the Nuggets are missing in the absence of Jamal Murray. His passing and defense likely cap him as a second-unit guy but the Nuggets could certainly use another creator off the bench.
Big, Los Angeles Clippers
Sharpe would give the Clippers a different kind of frontcourt depth. He’s very much a ground- and paint-bound big but he moves well enough to defend a little in space, he’s a good rim protector and an excellent passer who can help keep the ball moving in the halfcourt.
Guard, Houston Rockets
Hyland will be limited by his size defensively and his score-first mentality prevents him from being a full-time lead guard. But he’s an elite pull-up shooter and shot-maker who should have value as a second-unit microwave scorer type.
Big, Houston Rockets
Jackson is a very familiar archetype — the rim-protecting, vertical-spacing, run-and-jump big man. But even if he’s limited to that role he can be useful to the Rockets as they look to start over.
Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Mitchell will be higher on some draft boards and not just because of his championship run at Baylor. His defensive intensity and shot-making give him a real shot at a long NBA career. But he measured at just 6-foot without shoes which really limits him positionally since he’s probably not a full-time point guard. He’d be fantastic with the Lakers though, potentially as an Alex Caruso replacement, and the kind of no-nonsense young player LeBron would love.
Wing, New York Knicks
Duarte could be a special get for the Knicks. He has a skillset and approach that should easily translate to being a consistent 3-and-D wing contributor at the next level, but his experience as a primary scorer at Oregon also gives him a bit more upside with bench units.
Forward, Atlanta Hawks
Thor is a bit of an offensive project but he’s an athlete with the size, mobility and defensive awareness to be a difference-maker against in a variety of situations. If he continues to develop his outside shot and handle he could be a Pascal Siakam-type.
Wing, New York Knicks
Williams really struggled with his jumper in one season at Stanford but there are plenty of reasons to think it was a blip. He’s a skilled slasher and pull-up shooter who should have upside on and off the ball. Or he could be the next Kevin Knox.
Wing, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kispert has to prove he can hold up on defense against NBA athletes and attack closeouts and mismatches enough to not be one-dimensional on offense. But he’s an elite shooter, both spotting up and off-movement, and he should help add plenty of space for the Thunder, making things easier on the rest of their young players.
Wing, Memphis Grizzlies
Bouknight was averaging 20.1 points per game before he went out with an injury, largely on a diet of self-created opportunities. His 3-point efficiency leaves plenty to be desired but, again, he’s taking plenty of tough shots and sharing the floor with other creators should help refine his shot selection and improve his outside efficiency.
Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Springer has the talent to go much higher and his combination of size, strength, shooting, savvy and defensive upside make him an extremely useful piece. He may not have All-Star upside but he’s a great fit in the Thunder’s young backcourt and can seamlessly slide between a number of roles.
Big, Washington Wizards
The Wizards just missed making the playoffs and would probably love to nab a player here who can help them right away. Jones is definitely not that, an athletic 6-foot-11 big whose upside is tied to his mobility, handle and outside shooting potential. But the Wizards haven’t hit a draft home run in a while and at this range, they’re probably better off taking a big swing.
Wing, Golden State Warriors
Johnson may need a lot of offensive refining, especially with his jumper. But he’s an elite wing defender with special aggressiveness and intensity. His burst and leaping ability also make him an explosive transition finisher and he can be useful in space around the Warriors’ shooters.
Forward, San Antonio Spurs
Johnson has special size and athleticism and his vision and ball-handling make him a real threat in the open court. He needs to figure out how to make an impact in the halfcourt on offense and leverage his physical tools on defense but he’s a nice fit for the Spurs.
Guard, Indiana Pacers
Cooper is an elite ball-handler who is impossible to keep out of the lane and his high-level passing creates a slew of open and unexpected shots for his teammates. On the Pacers, with so many other scorers and shooters, he can focus on facilitating with the second unit and slowly let his own scoring and shooting abilities develop.
Big, Charlotte Hornets
Garuba may be undersized for trying to stonewall the Joel Embiids and Nikola Jokics of the NBA in the post but he’s an exceptional athlete and a fantastic defender in space. His enormous wingspan also helps him step up as a shot-blocker. On offense, he can finish around the basket, he’s a decent passer and his relentless motor will make him a force on the offensive glass and in the pick-and-roll. He may not have the star potential of some of the other players in this range, but his floor is high and he’s a round peg in a round hole for the Hornets.
Guard, Memphis Grizzlies
Giddey will have to get much better as a shooter for this to really work for Memphis but his size (6-foot-8) and point guard skills make this too intriguing for a Grizzlies team that could use another reliable creator next to Ja Morant.
Forward, Sacramento Kings
As a ground-bound big with average athleticism, Sengun might not have a spot on a lot of other rosters but his passing, touch around the basket and high basketball IQ could make him appealing for the Kings.
Forward, Orlando Magic
Kuminga may have a bit too much Aaron Gordon in his profile but he’s an elite athlete who could be a star if he rounds out his offensive game and commits himself at the other end. The Magic have tried this archetype before but eventually, they have to hit on one of them, right?
Forward, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors will be looking to trade but if they have to keep this pick Wagner is a player who should be able to play meaningful minutes next season. He can hold up defensively, especially around other good defenders and his shooting, passing and smart dribble penetration will make him a solid complement to Steph and company.
Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
Barnes is not the next Magic Johnson but his size, ball-handling ability and defensive versatility make him the kind of skeleton key who could unlock all sorts of lineups and offensive and defensive structures for a team that still has so many other draft picks to make over the next few seasons.
Wing, Orlando Magic
Moody’s ceiling may be as a 3-and-D-plus wing but he’s one of the best off-ball shooters in this class and his pull-up game hints at upside as a secondary creator. He is a beautiful fit with a hopefully healthy Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac and the Magic already took a home run swing on Kuminga at No. 8.
Guard, Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have been linked in all sorts of trade rumors and it sounds like it could be the 76ers or Warriors picking here. If Toronto keeps the pick, Suggs is the right choice. He’s a two-way impact player and even if there are doubts about his ability to be an efficient No. 1 scorer and creator he has more than enough versatility to work as high-level connective tissue.
Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
Green seems like the obvious choice for the Cavaliers, especially if they’re able to trade Collin Sexton. Zach LaVine is the high-end outcome for Green many scouts are projecting and that sounds like a pretty nice partner for Darius Garland.
Big, Houston Rockets
Assuming the Rockets don’t trade back, Mobley should absolutely be the pick. He’s an elite defensive big-man prospect with enough offensive skill and talent to play in a variety of frontcourt combinations. He’s good enough to transcend any concerns about fit.
Wing, Detroit Pistons
There is no need to overthink this one. Cade Cunningham is the most NBA-ready prospect in the class and has the highest ceiling as well. He’s a difference-maker at both ends of the floor and an easy archetype to build around. No need to trade or chase size or the next whatever you think Jalen Green is. Just take Cade and win.
Check out our full scouting report for more on Cade Cunningham.