The itch had to be scratched. At The Hive’s first mock draft of the season comes a few days after the Hornets stand pat and receive the 11th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, ending their one-year streak of getting lucky in the draft lottery. With just over a month between now and the draft on July 29, it was time to give our first gander at how the grand event may play out.
NOTE: All stats and measurements from sports-reference.com/cbb and https://www.nba.com/stats/draft/combine-anthro/. Positional acronyms are; PG (point guard), G (guard), W (wing), F (forward), C (center).
1. Detroit Pistons - Cade Cunningham, PG/W, Oklahoma State
Does this pick need an explanation? Cade Cunningham is a 6-foot-8 point guard with a strong frame and elite court vision that can shoot 40 percent from 3-point land. Picking defenses apart with subtle moves and look-offs are his specialty. He’s the clear-cut best prospect in the 2021 class and has made it known that Detroit will be the only team he meets with.
2. Houston Rockets - Evan Mobley, C, Southern California
Evan Mobley is the best big to enter the NBA Draft since Zion Williamson in 2019. A 7-footer with a plus-3 wingspan, he averaged 19.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per-40 minutes, flashing the potential to initiate offense and space the floor from the center position. Mobley’s mobility and defensive acumen for a player his age and size are unmatched by any player not named Anthony Davis.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jalen Green, G/W, G League Ignite
The Cavaliers will likely take whoever is left over between Jalen Green and Mobley — here, it’s Green, the dynamic shot creator who helped pioneer the G League Ignite program. Regarded as a volume scorer in high school and on the AAU circuit, his shooting splits in the G League bubble were impressive at 46.1/36.5/82.9 with a 61.3 true shooting percentage. Jalen makes SexLand a bit more Green (I’ll see myself out).
4. Toronto Raptors - Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
Of course the Raptors get lucky enough to jump into the top-four after their first bad season since the early-2010s. With Kyle Lowry potentially on his way out of town, Jalen Suggs could come in and serve as a hyper-athletic, high-feel combo guard to run alongside Fred VanVleet. The guy was a consensus All-American as a freshman and he has no chance at cracking the top-2, a testament to how talented the top of this draft is.
5. Orlando Magic - Jonathan Kuminga, W/F, G League Ignite
Dropping from third to fifth and missing out on Green, Mobley or Suggs stings for Orlando, but at least they held onto Chicago’s pick at eight. Jonathan Kuminga as a consolation prize is still nothing to frown about even though the 6-foot-8 wing will take some time to adjust to the NBA. His shooting percentages with Ignite were poor and he looked overwhelmed on offense at times, but his physical tools and defensive potential are undeniable.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder - Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
The Thunder were the other team that got shafted by the lottery gods, dropping from fourth to sixth. Here, they pick up Scottie Barnes, an energetic playmaking forward straight from the Leonard Hamilton School of Defense. Barnes has risen up draft boards in recent weeks, due in large part to his elite defensive versatility and NBA readiness as a playmaker and finisher in transition and on the short roll.
7. Golden State Warriors (via MIN) - Franz Wagner, W/F, Michigan
This is a tough pick for the Warriors; they need to acquire players to help Stephen Curry win next season, but not only do rookies rarely contribute at that level, many general managers’ draft philosophy is to take the best/highest upside player available. Franz Wagner is a nice blend of those two ideals as an all-around 6-foot-9 wing that could have real two-way versatility if he gets stronger in the NBA.
8. Orlando Magic (via CHI) - Keon Johnson, G/W, Tennessee
Orlando picks up another raw, athletic prospect in Keon Johnson with a pick they received in the Nikola Vučević trade. He set the NBA Combine record with a ludicrous 48-inch vertical leap and his motor runs on full bore 24/7, but he might take a few years to reach his ceiling on the offensive end as his jumpshot and ball-handling develop.
9. Sacramento Kings - Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
Jalen Johnson played just 13 games at Duke and has a history of foot injuries, but his ceiling is still high due to his ability to grab a rebound, handle the ball in transition and find open cutters and shooters. It’s about time for Sacramento to make a playoff push with De’Aaron Fox, and Johnson could help protect the rim and take some playmaking pressure off of him.
10. New Orleans Pelicans - James Bouknight, G, Connecticut
James Bouknight to the Pelicans is one of my favorite pairings in the lottery. The UConn guard has room to improve as a 3-point shooter, but he has impressive athleticism at 6-foot-5 and shot 65.8 percent at the rim on 79 attempts last season despite undergoing an elbow surgery in January. The Lonzo/Ingram/Zion trio could use an explosive backcourt scorer to play off of them.
11. Charlotte Hornets - Moses Moody, W/G, Arkansas
The Hornets need not one, but two centers, though that position is highly likely to be addressed in free agency. Charlotte also needs a wing to back up Gordon Hayward, and Moses Moody could contribute as an on-ball defender and spot-up shooter at first while he develops his self-creation. He’s often projected as a 3-and-D wing but it seems like there’s some intriguing finishing ability to be unearthed with his strength and length combo.
12. San Antonio Spurs - Usman Garuba, F/C, Real Madrid (Spain)
Usman Garuba just screams “Spurs pick” to me. The long, athletic 6-foot-8 small-ball big earns a lot of minutes on a top-seven team in the EuroLeague because of his incredible defensive ability at 19 years old. The solid passing reads and willingness to clean up missed shots buoys his offensive game despite his limited ability to score.
13. Indiana Pacers - Ziaire Williams, W, Stanford
The Pacers are in a position to take a bit of a gamble here, given that they probably won’t be in the lottery again in 2022 and have few holes on their roster. With Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert at guard and Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner at center, a high-ceiling wing with shot-making versatility and athleticism at 6-foot-10 like Ziaire Williams makes sense and could fill out the middle of their starting lineup when he develops.
14. Golden State Warriors - Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor
Another player that could help Golden State’s playoff push next season, Davion Mitchell saw his draft stock skyrocket after improving his 3-point percentage from 32.4 percent as a junior to 44.7 percent as a senior during Baylor’s national championship run. He measured in at an even six feet at the Combine, but his point-of-attack defense is NBA-ready and if his jumper is legit he’s a solid two-way backup point guard from the get-go.
This is version 1.0 of the mock draft and it’ll be updated weekly between now and the draft on July 29 to reflect any change in my opinion or the rumors being floated around on the interwebs. Personally, I’m high on Josh Giddey, Jaden Springer and Ziaire Williams, but unfortunately the NBA doesn’t seem to be as high on them as me. Hopefully I’ll be able to work my guys into the lottery at some point in the next month.
As we go on, I’ll extend it to include both rounds but for now we’ll go lottery-only since the Bugs don’t have any mid-draft picks this year. Comment your prospect thoughts! Charlotte really does have a lot of intriguing options with the 11th pick.