NBA Draft predictions: Pickswise’s 2021 NBA mock draft

Cade Cunningham of the Oklahoma State Cowboys
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Basketball never stops. The 2020-21 NBA season just ended last week with the Milwaukee Bucks’ triumph over the Phoenix Suns, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are in progress, and the 2021 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday night. For now, it is the draft on which we will focus. Cade Cunningham looks like a lock to go No. 1 overall to the Detroit Pistons, but things could get interesting after that.

You can also read our best bets for player draft positions here

Here is our first-round mock draft in advance of Thursday’s proceedings.

1. Detroit Pistons – Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State

Cunningham has been a slam dunk at the No. 1 spot for a while now, and the Pistons have done nothing to dispel such rumors.

2. Houston Rockets – Jalen Green, SG, G-League

The Rockets sure could have used Cunningham; heck, they could use anyone—and everyone—in the draft right now. Green isn’t a bad second option.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers – Evan Mobley, C, USC

The NBA may be a guard-oriented league, but big men are still essential and the Cavaliers have already addressed their backcourt in recent years.

4. Toronto Raptors – Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga

As expected, Suggs was one of the stars of the 2020-21 college basketball season. The Raptors need guard help with Kyle Lowry likely on the way out.

5. Orlando Magic – Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State

Barnes did it all as a freshman at Florida State and he has the body type that will allow him to do it all in the NBA. He is an especially long and tenacious defender.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder – James Bouknight, SG, UConn

There were reports that the Thunder were dangling Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the No. 6 pick to Detroit in exchange for No. 1, but that just isn’t happening.

7. Golden State Warriors (from Minnesota Timberwolves) – Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G-League

With multiple first-round picks and a roster that is already stout, Golden State can take a chance on a player with big upside but perhaps little immediate impact.

8. Orlando Magic (from Chicago Bulls) – Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor

I don’t necessarily think this is what the Magic should do, but point guard is a position of need. Mitchell’s NCAA Tournament performance suggest he is the real deal.

9. Sacramento Kings – Franz Wagner, F, Michigan

Sacramento has a promising backcourt led by De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. It’s time to address the forward spot.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (from New Orleans Pelicans) – Josh Giddey, PG, Australia

Jonas Valanciunas is out, Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams are in. The No. 10 picks is in, too, following Monday’s trade. Don’t be surprised if Giddey is the guy.

11. Charlotte Hornets – Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

Charlotte’s backcourt is already in good hands offensively with LaMelo Ball, but Moody would make them better on both ends of the floor.

12. San Antonio Spurs – Alperen Sengun, C, Turkey

LaMarcus Aldridge departed in the middle of this past season, leaving the Spurs’ frontcourt depleted. A pro since 2018 in Turkey, Sengun is already polished offensively.

13. Indiana Pacers – Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

Kispert’s stock may have taken somewhat of a hit in the national title game, but he can flat out shoot the rock. That’s what the Pacers need.

14. Golden State Warriors – Kai Jones, PF, Texas

Obviously this pick — if they keep it — will depend on what the Warriors do with their first selection. At some point they need some more bigs.

15. Washington Wizards – Jalen Johnson, SF, Duke

Johnson is a bit of a question mark following an abrupt end to his Duke career. From a talent standpoint, though, he is arguably better than No. 15.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Boston Celtics) – Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee

To say the Thunder can afford to be patient would be a gross understatement. They have stockpiled pick after pick for years to come. With Johnson, patience could pay off.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (Memphis Grizzlies) – Trey Murphy, SG, Virginia

Picking seven spots lower than their original spot, the Pelicans are even more set down low. Now they need some shooting.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Miami Heat) – Zaire Williams, SG, Stanford

OKC almost certainly isn’t going to keep all its picks—at least not in their current spots. The Thunder probably aren’t going to take three guards in the first round, but Williams could be a solid choice here depending on what they do with their first two first-round selections.

19. New York Knicks – Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

Are the Knicks great? No. Are they good enough to have playoff aspirations again for next season? Yes. Duarte is an experienced guard who can contribute right away.

20. Atlanta Hawks – Jared Butler, PG, Baylor

The Hawks are set for both the present and the future; they don’t need another starter and can’t really pay another starter. But a backup point guard behind Trae Young would be ideal.

21. New York Knicks (from Dallas Mavericks) – Usman Garuba, PF, Spain

Although the Knicks are in win-now mode, they are also always in defensive mode. Garuba can make an immediate impact on that end of the floor.

22. Los Angeles Lakers – Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU

Yes, the Nuggets already have a strong backcourt. But they don’t have any real holes in the starting lineup, so depth at guard would be a good thing.

23. Houston Rockets (from Portland Trail Blazers) – Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

Houston’s complete overhaul needs to start with a floor general, and Cooper is one with great long-term potential.

24. Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee Bucks) – Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State

Christopher is a project, but the Rockets are years away from even being decent so they don’t have to worry about right now.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – Miles McBride, PG, West Virginia

Kawhi Leonard could miss most of next season, which is all the more reason why the Clippers need to add to their backcourt.

26. Denver Nuggets – Ayo Dosunmu, SG, Illinois

Jamal Murray will be coming off a torn ACL and the backcourt needed depth even before that injury happened in the playoffs.

27. Brooklyn Nets – Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky

It’s no secret that the frontcourt is the only real weakness in Brooklyn. Jackson would be a steal at this point.

28. Philadelphia 76ers – Nah’Shon Hyland, PG, VCU

Ben Simmons is possibly one his way out; some would even say probably. Either way, the 76ers need some instant offense, specifically outside shooting.

29. Phoenix Suns – Tre Mann, PG, Florida

Chris Paul’s status is a question mark and either way the Suns need point guard depth and point guard youth.

30. Utah Jazz – Jaden Springer, PG, Tennessee

A lack of backcourt depth was one of the reasons why Utah bowed out early in the playoffs. Springer’s impressive season at Tennessee may propel him into the first round.

Pickswise is the home of free expert NBA Picks and Predictions, and we offer so much more. Be sure to also check out our daily NBA Prop Bets and NBA Parlays.

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