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NBA Mock Draft 2021, version 3.0

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Oh, Mitch Kupchak, if only we knew what you were thinking right now...

Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Another week passes leading up to the NBA Draft, another mock draft gets posted on At The Hive dot com. Clockwork.

I’m trying to mix it up and look at different scenarios each week so that teams will end up with different prospects every time, but some of them will be pretty consistent. As we get closer to the draft and more of the individual/team workouts become public knowledge, the mock will reflect more of what the NBA is doing/saying than my personal thoughts or assumptions.

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, W/PG, Oklahoma State

Next week, I’m gonna put someone like Charles Bassey at No. 1 overall and see if readers notice. I’ve seen rumors sprinkled throughout the internet that teams are trying to trade up for the first pick, but Cade Cunningham is going to be a Detroit Piston — plain and simple.

2. Houston Rockets - Jalen Green, G/W, G League Ignite

Evan Mobley is firmly the second-best prospect in this draft in my book, but in version 3.0 of the mock, it’s time to change it up a bit. There is at least a non-zero chance the Rockets go with Jalen Green at No. 2 to form a dynamic offensive backcourt with Kevin Porter Jr.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Evan Mobley, C, Southern California

Reportedly, the Cavaliers view Evan Mobley as a hybrid big than can play the 4 or 5 and drafting him wouldn’t preclude them from signing Jarrett Allen long-term. If the choice is between Mobley and Jalen Suggs at three for Cleveland, the two-way 7-footer with a wing’s skillset is a pretty easy call.

4. Toronto Raptors - Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga

The thought of a Fred VanVleet-Jalen Suggs-OG Anunoby-Pascal Siakam-Random Center lineup is jut very enjoyable to me. As time passes, it seems less likely that Kyle Lowry will remain in Toronto for what could be a mini-rebuild over the next two seasons, but either way the Raptors should be a fun squad to watch.

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

The Magic front office love players with long wingspans and athleticism, and Scottie Barnes checks those boxes. A 6-foot-8 playmaking forward with a 7-foot-2.75 wingspan that has been regarded as one of the brightest personalities in the draft while being overtly aggressive on the court is right up Orlando’s alley.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jonathan Kuminga, W/F, G League Ignite

The Thunder have nothing but time as they enter year two of a complete franchise tear-down, and Jonathan Kuminga would benefit greatly from such a situation. Head coach Mark Daigenault can give him on-ball reps to see where his potential is there while having him rely on his athleticism to play defense and collect easy buckets as a rookie.

7. Golden State Warriors (via MIN) - Josh Giddey, W/PG, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)

Obviously, the Warriors have a need for players that can help them win playoff games this season, but that philosophy can't be domineering in a draft room with a top-10 pick. Davion Mitchell or Franz Wagner would be the easiest picks here, but Giddey could be a true successor to Steph Curry as Golden State’s lead guard.

8. Orlando Magic (via CHI) - Keon Johnson, W/G, Tennessee

We already talked about how the Magic love athletic prospects, so why not nab the best overall athlete in the draft in Keon Johnson? Johnson’s 48-inch vertical leap at the NBA Combine shattered the previous record, and he’s already a versatile and aggressive perimeter defender.

9. Sacramento Kings - Alperen Şengün, C, Beşiktaş (Turkey)

Can Alperen Şengün bolster Sacramento’s league-worst defense? Not right away, at least. Does he give De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton a versatile pick-and-roll partner that can score inside, pass on the roll, and rebound despite being a bit undersized? Absolutely, and that alone might be worth the ninth pick.

10. New Orleans Pelicans - Moses Moody, W, Arkansas

Moses Moody can find ways to score without the ball, knock down open jumpers, get to the free throw line and defend the perimeter, which is exactly what the Pelicans need to surround Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson with — however, there are trade rumors circling around this pick.

11. Charlotte Hornets - James Bouknight, G, Connecticut

Charlotte adds another athletic scorer to their stable of talented guards in James Bouknight, though there simply wouldn’t be enough minutes to go around with Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk and Terry Rozier also vying for minutes behind LaMelo Ball. If the Hornets go with a guard at 11, this offseason will get real interesting.

12. San Antonio Spurs - Jalen Johnson, F, Duke

Chad Ford and Tony Jones of The Athletic discussed a Jalen Johnson-Spurs pairing on a podcast and it made a lot of sense to me. San Antonio has plenty of guard/wing prospects they’re high on and Johnson gives them needed frontcourt playmaking and athleticism, and there aren’t many organizations better suited to correct “off-court issues,” though they seem to be wildly overblown in Johnson’s case.

13. Indiana Pacers - Franz Wagner, W, Michigan

The Pacers are coming up on one of the more interesting offseasons in the NBA; with Rick Carlisle in place as head coach, what direction does the roster go in? Does the Domantas Sabonis-Myles Turner frontcourt get split up, do they want Ben Simmons, or do they run it back with the addition of a lottery pick and hope Carlisle gets them back into the East’s top-6? If it’s the third option, Wagner makes sense given what the rest of the board looks like.

14. Golden State Warriors - Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

We’re doubling-down on playmaking in San Francisco with Sharife Cooper and Giddey heading to The Bay. If either one pans out, Golden State has a successor for Curry that helps them in the immediate future as well, and if not, they’re not in any worse of a position than they are currently. Corey Kispert or Chris Duarte might be in play here, too.

15. Washington Wizards - Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor

To me, this is Davion Mitchell’s best landing spot in the draft; he avoids the “22-year-old that got drafted in the lottery” stigma while still being drafted highly and landing in Washington, where he’d have a meaningful role right off the bat. A three-guard rotation of Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and Mitchell is formidable in the Eastern Conference.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via BOS) - Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky

Even though Isaiah Jackson withdrew from the combine, he has been working out privately for teams as evidenced by his workout in Charlotte. If he withdrew because of a draft promise but is still working out, I’d imagine the promise came in the teens but not quite lottery range, and Oklahoma City can afford to let him develop offensively in his first few seasons. Just connecting some dots here.

17. Memphis Grizzlies - Corey Kispert, W, Gonzaga

The Memphis Grizzlies make their first anti-Draft Twitter pick in years with Corey Kispert. He’s 22 and doesn’t have a high defensive ceiling, but he’s the best shooter in the draft and is an underrated three-level scorer with ample playmaking ability. Kispert is a combination of Joe Harris and Nic Batum (with less length/athleticism) in my opinion.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via MIA) - Ziaire Williams, W, Stanford

Three top-20 picks, three project players; along with Kuminga and Jackson, Ziaire Williams might take some time to adjust to the NBA game being only 188 pounds, but his shot-making versatility and two-way potential at 6-foot-10 would be hard to pass up on this late in the draft.

19. New York Knicks - Usman Garuba, F/C, Real Madrid (Spain)

The Knicks need a point guard, but they also may need to replace the minutes Nerlens Noel and/or Taj Gibson played in the postseason. Usman Garuba is already a high-level defender and if he’s able to take care of the ball and finish inside, he’ll have a long NBA career as a small-ball big.

20. Atlanta Hawks - Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee

A point-of-attack defensive specialist as his backup would alleviate a lot of the concerns regarding Trae Young’s defense. Jaden Springer is a strong 6-foot-4 combo guard that has potential to be a solid all-around player if his shot and finishing ability translate to the NBA.

21. New York Knicks (via DAL) - Chris Duarte, G/W, Oregon

With the Knicks’ second mid-first-rounder, nabbing a player they know will contribute next season in Chris Duarte is smart. Duarte can score from anywhere on the floor, make plays for others and defends his ass off. He may be 24 years old, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him get picked in the lottery or late-teens.

22. Los Angeles Lakers - Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois

Ayo Dosunmu is one of the better pull-up shooters in the draft and is coming off of a consensus All-American season in which he led the Illini to a Big Ten tournament championship. Few prospects can match Dosunumu’s production last season; 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game on 48.8/39.0/78.3 shooting splits are hard to come by.

23. Houston Rockets (via POR) - Kai Jones, C, Texas

This is the first version of the mock where Kai Jones has slipped a bit, but Houston is a good landing spot for a developmental project like him. Rio Grande Valley is one of the better G League programs and the Rockets will have plenty of NBA minutes up for grabs next season anyway.

24. Houston Rockets (via MIL) - Josh Primo, W, Alabama

Josh Primo is the youngest player in the draft and is a draft board riser since an impressive combine performance. His movement shooting, fluid athleticism and playmaking potential have teams intrigued and it’s doubtful he falls out of the first round on draft night — he’ll still be 18 years old when the 2021-22 season starts and already flashed plenty of talent at Alabama.

25. Los Angeles Clippers - Cameron Thomas, G/W, Louisiana State

Despite being one of the best shot creators in the class at 6-foot-4, Cameron Thomas’ draft range is hard for me to nail down. He’s got obvious talent in areas that NBA teams covet these days, but the drawbacks — shot selection, defense — are real and there are tons of solid guard/wing prospects in the first round.

26. Denver Nuggets - Josh Christopher, W/G, Arizona State

I’m slowly becoming #TeamJayGup. Josh Christopher is a potent scoring guard with athleticism and touch on his shot, though his numbers didn’t always reflect that as he dealt with a leg injury in his 15 games at Arizona State. Denver’s lack of wing depth was exposed in the playoffs, and Christopher would get to develop behind other great scorers in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

27. Brooklyn Nets - Roko Prkačin, F, Cibona (Croatia)

Personally, I think Roko Prkačin will be picked higher than this come draft night but I just have no idea which team will do it. At 6-foot-9 with a strong build, he’s a pretty good ball-handler, passer and interior scorer with the ability to hold his own underneath the rim and he was one of the best rebounders in the Adriatic League.

28. Philadelphia 76ers - Kessler Edwards, W/F, Pepperdine

“The Sixers need wing shooters” has been the go-to line for the last few seasons, and it’s time for Philadelphia to really give Joel Embiid the space he needs to operate down low. A career-39.5 percent 3-point shooter, Kessler Edwards has the size and defensive feel to play real minutes as a rookie.

29. Phoenix Suns - JT Thor, F, Auburn

The 2021 NBA Finals are showing us that the only need Phoenix has is at backup center, which is really because Dario Saric tore his ACL in Game 1. JT Thor has lots of tools as an offensive player and he’s from Alaska, which is cool as hell.

30. Utah Jazz - Tre Mann, G, Florida

One of the best space-creators on jump shots in the draft should theoretically go higher than 30th, but that’s more a testament to the talent in the first round of the 2021 Draft than it is to Tre Mann. His 3-point percentage jumped from 27.5 to 40.2 during his two seasons in Gainesville and he’s got size for a guard prospect at 6-foot-4.

56. Charlotte Hornets (via LAC) - Vrenz Bleijenbergh, F/PG, Antwerp (Belgium)

Vrenz Bleijenbergh is the most underrated prospect in the draft; he’s 6-foot-10 and moves like a guard, can create off the dribble, make plays for others and shoot from distance. His movement, feel, and versatility should outweigh concerns about the level of competition he faced in Belgium.

57. Charlotte Hornets (via BKN) - Makur Maker, C, Howard

A strong performance in the combine scrimmages has elevated Makur Maker’s draft stock after playing in two games with the Bison. At 6-foot-11, 232 pounds with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and touch around the basket, Maker is worth a shot late in the second round.