It’s been exactly two months and 11 days since Buzz City got its last bit of Charlotte Hornets action on television screens. But, as the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait.” Draft night is finally here, and in just a few hours we will have a better idea of how Mitch Kupchak and his gang of scouts and executives plan to construct the roster for the 2021-22 season.
At this point, the information in this mock is mostly intel aggregated from a bevy of mainstream NBA insiders and writers with sources, but obviously there’s some of my own opinion and discretion in here, too. As of this morning, most of the “rumors” seem to be connecting Charlotte to Kai Jones, but we also didn’t hear a peep about the Hornets and LaMelo Ball until his name was called last year. Keep that in mind.
NOTE: All stats and measurements from sports-reference.com and https://www.nba.com/stats/draft/combine-anthro/. Positional acronyms are; PG (point guard), G (guard), W (wing), F (forward), C (center).
The Pistons are going to take Cade Cunningham, but this quote is an absolute riot:
#PIstons GM Troy Weaver on drafting on fit for the prospects: "They all fit. We won 20 games ... they all fit."— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) July 27, 2021
2. Houston Rockets - Jalen Green, W/G, G League Ignite
It’s been rumored for a week or two now that Jalen Green is the likely pick for Houston at two. Some prefer Green, some prefer Evan Mobley, but either way the Rockets are getting a substantial building block as they re-upholster the franchise.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Evan Mobley, C/F, Southern California
The top-3 of the draft seems to be pretty much nailed-down with Cade-Green-Mobley. The Cavaliers have been enamored with the USC product for a while now and should be able to start him right away at the “4” even if they retain Jarrett Allen at a high salary.
4. Toronto Raptors - Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
If the top-3 goes as planned, the first real decision to be made is at pick four with Toronto. According to Chad Ford, the Raptors are deciding between Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes and Jonathan Kuminga. All three have high-ceiling upside, but Suggs is easily the best fit with the current roster and has an easy path to the starting lineup.
Fun fact: if the Magic draft Scottie Barnes, he’ll begin to follow in the footsteps of the Miami Heat’s uniformed assistant coach Udonis Haslem, who also went to high school and college in Florida before spending his entire career with the Heat. All Barnes has to do is retire a Magic, no big deal, right?
6. Oklahoma City Thunder - James Bouknight, G, Connecticut
The Thunder usually keep things under wraps, but it’s come out in the last few days that they’re very high on James Bouknight as a backcourt partner to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. His three-level scoring potential is a worth the gamble in the back-half of the top-10 even if he’s got warts as a playmaker.
7. Golden State Warriors (via MIN) - Josh Giddey, PG/W, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Warriors general manager Bob Myers has stated the team has no current desire/plan to trade their two lottery picks, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letorneau reported that Josh Giddey — who has been living in California while he preps for the draft — is a “strong possibility” at seven.
8. Orlando Magic (via CHI) - Jonathan Kuminga, W/F, G League Ignite
A truly confounding slide for Jonathan Kuminga, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-8 chiseled athlete that’s flashed plenty of finishing and playmaking against professional competition. Orlando scooping up Barnes and Kuminga makes for an odd frontcourt rotation, but the draft value can’t be argued.
9. Sacramento Kings - Alperen Şengün, C, Beşiktaş (Turkey)
The only two prospects we’ve seen heavily linked to the Kings are Alperen Şengün and Franz Wagner; with the impending departures of Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes, Sacramento has a need in the middle and Şengün’s scoring and passing acumen fit nicely alongside De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (via NO) - Franz Wagner, W/F, Michigan
The Memphis Grizzlies traded Jonas Valanciunas and the 17th pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the 10th pick and a 2022 top-10 protected first-rounder via the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday. The Grizzlies are rumored to like Giddey, Moses Moody and Franz Wagner as complements to Ja Morant on the wing and it’s possible they could continue moving up in the draft order, too.
11. Charlotte Hornets - Kai Jones, C/F, Texas
For the sake of change, Kai Jones goes to the Hornets in this mock draft but the fact that its being rumored Charlotte is high on him makes me not believe it, given that exactly zero pre-draft rumors have come true during Kupchak’s tenure. Don’t get me wrong, Jones’ upside is a great theoretical fit with LaMelo but it’ll take multiple years for him to reach that.
12. San Antonio Spurs - Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
No idea what the Spurs will do here, but Jalen Johnson gives them a fierce defensive frontcourt paired with Jakob Poeltl and if his 3-point shot is legit, he could quickly become one of San Antonio’s best young players.
13. Indiana Pacers - Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn
The Pacers are incredibly active in trying to move this pick, whether it be up, down, or out of the draft entirely. Combine that with the Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner trade buzz, and it seems like Indiana could have a vastly different roster heading into next season. Cooper gives them a dazzling passer to run with Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert.
14. Golden State Warriors - Moses Moody, W, Arkansas
In the same vein as Orlando, a Giddey/Moses Moody draft haul would be tremendous value for the Warriors, even if the two picks don't help out immediately as much as Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would like.
15. Washington Wizards - Keon Johnson, G/W, Tennessee
Development is going to be critical for Keon Johnson, who has as much upside as anyone outside the top-6. If he adds a consistent jumper, better ball-handling and improved team defense and awareness the Wizards will have struck gold with the 15th pick.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via BOS) - Ziaire Williams, W, Stanford
My guy! Per Chad Ford, the Magic had Ziaire Williams in for a second workout, indicating his draft range starts in the mid-lottery and extends into the 20s. I’ve said it many times, but one season of poor shooting percentages — in the midst of a global pandemic and a knee injury — shouldn’t drop a 6-foot-10 two-way wing that far down the board.
17. New Orleans Pelicans (via MEM) - Corey Kispert, W, Gonzaga
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has linked Corey Kispert to the Hornets in a couple of his recent mock draft, but it seems based on perceived fit as a wing shooter than intel or rumors from Charlotte’s front office. If New Orleans keeps this pick, they won’t have many players to choose from that will make a bigger immediate impact than Kispert.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via MIA) - Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee
If Jones doesn’t get picked up before the Thunder’s mid-firsts, it’s hard to imagine him falling past 18. If he’s not there, an upside swing on a combo guard like Jaden Springer makes sense. The OKC Blue might have an all-time G League squad this year.
This pick has been fairly consistent since Cooper’s stock rose. Obi Toppin isn’t a lost cause by any means but he looked bewildered defensively at times last season — something New York would never have to worry about with Usman Garuba, who has been bodying up grown men in the EuroLeague for two years.
20. Atlanta Hawks - Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor
The slide ends in Atlanta for Davion Mitchell. He probably won't go this late tonight, but I think it’s fair to question whether or not his value as a 6-foot-1 guard with average playmaking and shooting plus high usage is worth a lottery pick. Trae Young could use another point-of-attack defender that lets him hang out in the corners like he did against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals.
21. New York Knicks (via DAL) - Cameron Thomas, G, Louisiana State
After missing on a much-needed point guard, the Knicks go with the next-best thing and nab a hellacious shot-maker (shot-taker might be more accurate) in Cameron Thomas. Thomas shot 88.2 percent on 7.6 free throw attempts per game and is one of the best off-the-dribble space creators in the class.
22. Los Angeles Lakers - Trey Murphy III, F/W, Virginia
As a Kessler Edwards stan, I’ve been slightly lower than consensus on Trey Murphy III but it’s become evident over the last few weeks that he’s the likely first-rounder, not Edwards, which breaks my heart but I wouldn’t want a prospect I like to end up with the Lakers anyways. So, who’s the real winner here? Me... and Murphy III, who gets to make millions and compete for a championship with LeBron James and Anthony Davis as a rookie.
23. Houston Rockets (via POR) - Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
This pick has gotten a bit repetitive as well, but if it’s not Charlotte or Oklahoma City there just aren’t many homes in the mid-first for developmental centers like Isaiah Jackson. Luckily, Houston has Christian Wood and Jae’Sean Tate entrenched as the starting frontcourt so there’s no rush for him to be ready this season.
24. Houston Rockets (via MIL) - JT Thor, F, Auburn
Another huge swing on a developmental project for the Rockets with JT Thor, who climbed from the late-second to the late-first round during the pre-draft process. Thor is a 6-foot-10 mobile, fluid runner and he’s shown some real flashes of movement shooting. Not bad for a player projected to go in the 20s.
25. Los Angeles Clippers - Jared Butler, G, Baylor
Jared Butler, the best guard on the Baylor Bears national championship team, goes to Los Angeles, who should be able to play him as a rookie given their poor guard depth if Reggie Jackson bolts. However, the Clippers could very well trade this pick.
26. Denver Nuggets - Josh Primo, W, Alabama
Denver hasn’t been known to shy away from prospects that need a bit of development, drafting Michael Porter Jr., Bol Bol and RJ Hampton in each of the last three drafts. Josh Primo won’t be 19 until he’s already began his professional career and he’s got plenty of tools to work with as a playmaking wing that can knock down the 3-ball.
27. Brooklyn Nets - Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina
The biggest issue Brooklyn had last season was interior defense and depth at the center position, and even though Day’Ron Sharpe may not have a high ceiling, he’s likely to stick in the league as a rotation big with top-tier rebounding and solid passing for a big. Sharpe held a solo workout with the Hornets on July 27, which could signal a desire to trade down in the draft.
28. Philadelphia 76ers - Isaiah Todd, F, G League Ignite
Isaiah Todd cancelled all of his workouts with teams that didn’t hold a lottery pick, but it still seems unlikely he goes that high. It makes sense NBA teams are talking themselves into Todd’s 6-foot-10 frame and high-level floor-spacing potential, even if his range isn’t quite as high as his camp would indicate.
29. Phoenix Suns - Nah’Shon Hyland, PG, Virginia Commonwealth
I don't know where Bones Hyland will get picked up in the draft, but it would be surprising if it’s not in the 20-35 range after a really strong showing at the NBA Combine. Phoenix will almost assuredly be losing Cam Payne in free agency and Hyland could step in and replace some of the lost shooting.
30. Utah Jazz - Tre Mann, G, Florida
Utah is reportedly looking to couple this pick with Derrick Favors’ contract to clear up some cap space for Mike Conley’s new deal, and if that’s the case the Hornets need to be all over it; a low-cost fix for the center position while adding another first-rounder is a no-brainer for a team that needs not one, but two competent centers. If Utah keeps the pick, a shot-creating guard like Tre Mann would add some punch to their second unit.
56. Charlotte Hornets - Austin Reaves, G, Oklahoma
Austin Reaves was a part of the group workout the Hornets held on July 24. His 3-point percentage dipped at Oklahoma but he was a sniper at Wichita State and he seems capable of handling some point guard duties at the next level. Easily worth a flyer.
57. Charlotte Hornets - David Duke, G/W, Providence
Even though he made the All-Big East team, shot 38.9 percent from long-range and tallied 124 total assists as a full-time off-guard, David Duke doesn’t seem to pop up often on NBA draft radars. He’s also worth a flyer in the late-second and would probably be one of the best players on the Greensboro Swarm.