We’re going to a full first round this week, plus the 56th and 57th picks for our beloved Charlotte Hornets. The 2021 NBA Draft is now just 25 days away, and the rumors are slowly heating up.
Over the past week, the Hornets have had quite a few prospects come to the Spectrum Center for a pre-draft workout and they announced another one on Saturday. Blogfather Jonathan DeLong has all of that covered here in case you missed it. Let’s get to it!
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).
General manager Troy Weaver has a solid young core coming together in Detroit with Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee. Led by Jerami Grant, the Pistons should be a fun watch next year. Please, Dwayne Casey; give us a Lee-Hayes-Cade-Grant-Stewart lineup on opening night.
2. Houston Rockets - Evan Mobley, C, Southern California
In spite of recent reports from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony that the Rockets would prefer Jalen Green to Evan Mobley, Mobley still has a firm grip on No. 2 overall in my opinion. First, the report referenced the type of players former (emphasis on “former”) general manager Daryl Morey liked to draft, aka “anyone but a center.” Second, Mobley has elite mobility, vision, and ball-handling for a 7-footer with the potential to be a defensive anchor.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jalen Green, G/W, G League Ignite
The Cavaliers will be happy with either Green or Mobley, but landing Green eliminates the debate of having to pay Jarrett Allen with Mobley in the fold. Regardless of who goes third to Cleveland, Collin Sexton could be on the trade market, though his camp is under the “impression” he won’t be moved. We’ll see.
4. Toronto Raptors - Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
The entire top-six of this mock draft is unlikely to change between now and the draft, but this pick especially won’t be changed unless it’s traded. Jalen Suggs makes the Toronto backcourt bigger and more athletic if Kyle Lowry leaves town, and if Lowry stays, he adds some explosive transition punch to their second unit.
5. Orlando Magic - Jonathan Kuminga, W/F, G League Ignite
Count me as one of the seemingly-few people who follow the NBA that remain high on Jonathan Kuminga as a top-five prospect. The questions about his potential as a scorer outside of the paint are legitimate, but it’s hard for me to bet against the frame, defensive versatility and athleticism Kuminga already has considering how raw he is.
Don’t mind me, I’m just over here having loads of fun thinking about a Scottie Barnes-Aleksej Pokuševski front court. The “player X can guard 1-5” trope is thrown around too often, so please forgive me; Barnes can actually defend positions one through five reliably. Coupled with his passing and ball-handling ability in the short roll, all he needs is a threatening corner three-ball to be a really effective NBA player.
7. Golden State Warriors (via MIN) - James Bouknight, G, Connecticut
James Bouknight is probably the biggest draft riser in the last week, and after having personally gone back and re-watched a few of his games after returning from elbow surgery at UConn, it makes sense. The three-level scoring, explosive athleticism and defensive intensity on the perimeter is hard not to like, and Golden State could use that to back up and play alongside Stephen Curry.
8. Orlando Magic (via CHI) - Moses Moody, G/W, Arkansas
The Magic took a “swing” with Kuminga at five, and now they go with Moses Moody as a “safe” pick at eight. Like Devin Vassell in 2020, Moody seems to be the lottery prospect whose upside is being underrated the most. He can shoot, defend, and get to the rim often enough with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and NBA-level strength at 19 years old. Plenty to work with.
9. Sacramento Kings - Keon Johnson, G/W, Tennessee
Sacramento and Keon Johnson are a nice match; Sacramento had the second-worst defensive rating in NBA history last season, and though Johnson is a raw prospect, he’ll be able to defend NBA guards right away. He’s capable at the point of attack and on-ball, and has the potential to handle the ball in pick-and-rolls in the future if his jumper comes around.
10. New Orleans Pelicans - Franz Wagner, W, Michigan
Bouknight to New Orleans was my favorite pairing in the last mock, and it got snatched away from me (by myself, granted). Wagner is another good fit, though; He can space the floor for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, give Lonzo Ball some playmaking relief, and defend his position as a rookie. Wagner is another prospect whose upside is getting a bit overlooked due to his NBA readiness.
11. Charlotte Hornets - Josh Giddey, W/PG, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
The Hornets go with another NBL Next Stars alum in Josh Giddey. Giddey is a 6-foot-8, 205-pound ball-handler with incredible passing chops that led the NBL with 7.6 assists per game in spite of being a non-shooting threat (29.3 percent on 3.5 3PA per game). Most of his efficiency issues appear to be mechanical, as he’s shown good touch on floaters and mid-range pull-ups, plus he’s scrappy defensively and on the glass.
12. San Antonio Spurs - Kai Jones, C/F, Texas
Do the Spurs commit to their young core this off-season, or do they re-sign DeMar DeRozan and continue to be a middling Western Conference team? We thought we might get the answer to that last off-season, but we will for sure this year. Kai Jones would be a great project for them to take on with the potential for it to pay off big time if he turns into the floor-spacing, ball-handling rim protector he’s shown flashes of.
13. Indiana Pacers - Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
ESPN’s Mike Schmitz recently posted this video of Davion Mitchell’s shooting mechanics on Twitter, and his off-the-dribble jumper looks pretty good. Indiana doesn’t seem to be too high on Aaron Holiday, TJ McConnell is a free agent and Malcolm Brogdon’s name has been floated in trade rumors. Mitchell’s defense, playmaking and off-the-bounce scoring would provide nice guard depth for the Pacers.
14. Golden State Warriors - Corey Kispert, W, Gonzaga
If the Warriors keep both of their lottery picks, Bouknight and Kispert would be a tremendous haul for both the immediate future and long-term. Kispert is the best shooter in the draft (career-40.8 percent on 662 total 3PA, career-58.5 percent 2PA), has connective qualities as a playmaker in the halfcourt and will be able to defend his position in the NBA.
15. Washington Wizards - Jalen Johnson, F/C, Duke
If everything pans out, a veteran backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal with Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and Jalen Johnson wreaking havoc defensively and making hard cuts to the rim on offense would probably lead to success for Washington. Johnson can protect the rim, rebound, and make plays in transition ay 6-foot-9 but will have questions to answer about his exits from IMG Academy and Duke, as well as his injury history.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via BOS) - Alperen Şengün, C, Beşiktaş (Turkey)
Please forgive me, Alperen Şengün. I really like Şengün as a prospect, but this class is deep with lottery-level talent and it’s hard to find a landing spot for a 6-foot-9 offensive-minded center that high in the draft. He’s strong and has some verticality around the rim that helps him contest shots, but he’s a ways away from being able to defend an NBA pick-and-roll.
Aside from Mobley, Garuba is easily the best defender/rim protector in this draft class. An 18-year-old that played 16.5 minutes per game in EuroLeague competition for Real Madrid, Garuba has enough finishing and passing ability to stay alive offensively while providing switchability, off-ball activity and rim protection on the other end.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via MIA) - Ziaire Williams, W, Stanford
My favorite prospect in the 2021 class lands in the perfect place for a high-upside player that needs reps and development to reach their potential. Ziaire Williams at his peak resembles something like Michael Porter Jr. with more defense and less mid-range scoring, and he’ll get the on-ball reps needed to hopefully grow into the 6-foot-10 shot-maker he’s been at times in his career.
19. New York Knicks - Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn
Unfortunately, Sharife Cooper is not actually 6-foot-4 even if that’s what it said on the NBA Combine anthrometric. Cooper is an electric passer akin to LaMelo Ball, but players that are barely 6-feet need to shoot the ball at a very high clip to succeed in the NBA and his biggest question mark is the ability to space the floor consistently, though he shot 82.5 percent from the line on a staggering 8.6 FTA per game.
20. Atlanta Hawks - Jared Butler, PG, Baylor
For now, Jared Butler is not cleared to participate in on-court activities by the NBA and has been referred to a Fitness To Play Panel for further medical evaluation. Given that I have absolutely no information regarding this matter, I’m gonna keep him on my draft board until further notice. My NBA Draft #take for this cycle is that Butler is the best Baylor guard in this class, and by a comfortable margin.
21. New York Knicks (via DAL) - Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
A Sharife Cooper-Immanuel Quickley-RJ Barrett-Julius Randle-Isaiah Jackson quintet would be one of the strongest cores in the East going forward if all goes well. Jackson reminds me of a young Robert Williams III; extremely bouncy, a great finisher around the rim, an elite rim protector with the potential to grow as a passer and switchable defender. He worked out for the Hornets last week, so he could be drafted much higher than 21st.
22. Los Angeles Lakers - Chris Duarte, W, Oregon
Another prospect the Hornets worked out last week, Chris Duarte is the most NBA-ready prospect in the class. As James Plowright and I stated on our Combine episode of ATH Live, Duarte could easily be playing a role for a team competing in the playoffs this season. He shoots, he finishes at the rim, he can pass, defend, and he plays smart and under control.
23. Houston Rockets (via POR) - Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee
Jaden Springer also worked out for the Hornets last week, and he has the point-of-attack defense and paint finishing that teams are looking for out of a backup guard. If he can continue to be efficient from 3-point land while increasing volume (shot 20-46 total 3PA, 43.5 percent on 1.8 3PA per game), Springer has two-way starting combo guard potential. Houston should try and draft someone for John Wall to mentor while he’s still in town.
24. Houston Rockets (via MIL) - Roko Prkačin, F, Cibona (Croatia)
Wow, another player that the Hornets worked out last week! Do we smell a potential trade back? Either way, Prkačin is an intriguing forward/small-ball center prospect with ball-handling and passing chops, a budding off-the-dribble game and some refined post scoring for a 19-year-old. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he gets picked in the mid-teens.
25. Los Angeles Clippers - Cameron Thomas, G, Louisiana State
Cameron Thomas is on the court for one reason and one reason only; to get shots up. The 6-foot-4 shot creator averaged 23 points per contest and hit an incredible 88.2 percent of his 7.6 FTA per game (194-220 total FT), though his shot selection rendered him inefficient from inside the arc (46.4 percent on 10 2PA per game) and from long-range (32.5 percent on 7.2 3PA per game) in spite of his space creation ability and footwork.
26. Denver Nuggets - JT Thor, F/W, Auburn
JT Thor worked out for the Hornets (rumors state that Chase Whitney has a workout scheduled in Charlotte at the end of the week) amidst his rise up draft boards. Thor’s stat line isn’t much to gawk at, but on film the 6-foot-10 hybrid forward’s ball-handling, footwork, fluidity and spacing potential pop. His 24-point game against Kentucky where he hit five triples is a nice window into what Thor could be if he develops in the NBA.
27. Brooklyn Nets - Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
The Nets could really use a rim protector, but there really isn’t one worth selecting at this point in the draft. Ayo Dosunmu is one of the best pull-up shooters in the draft and at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan he can be relied upon to defend both guard spots and even some of the lighter wings in the NBA. He’s good insurance in case Spencer Dinwiddie bolts.
28. Philadelphia 76ers - Josh Primo, W, Alabama
Along with Thor, Josh Primo has been one of the biggest risers as of late. Primo is the youngest player in the draft and won’t even turn 19 until Dec. 24 of this year — couple that with his dynamism as a ball-handler, playmaker and shooter at 6-foot-5 and is hard to pass up in the late-first. He went into the draft process expecting to go back to Alabama, but the NBA had other plans for him.
29. Phoenix Suns - Miles McBride, G, West Virginia
The Suns don’t need to add a single thing to their roster; sure, maybe a backup center that isn’t Dario Saric, but ideally that’s Jalen Smith at some point. Perhaps Miles McBride can follow in fellow Mountaineer Jevon Carter’s footsteps as an aggressive backcourt defender, though McBride shows real ability to shoot the ball in the NBA.
30. Utah Jazz - Nah’Shon Hyland, PG, Virginia Commonwealth
If I were an NBA general manager, Nah’Shon Hyland would be No. 1 on my draft board on the sole strength of him being a former streetballer nicknamed “Bones.” In high school, Hyland escaped a house fire that claimed the life of his grandmother by jumping from a two-story window, tearing his patellar tendon and forcing him to miss six months. Bones is a great story, and his deep shooting range is likely to get him selected in the first round.
56. Charlotte Hornets (via LAC) - Sandro Mamukelashvili, C/PG, Seton Hall
It’s hard to pin down which players will be available this late in the draft, but the Hornets have spoken with Sandro Mamukelashvili per WhichCarolina’s Lee Branscome, so the interest is there. “Mamu” is a legitimate point-center that can shoot, pass and dribble at 6-foot-10.
57. Charlotte Hornets (via BKN) - Alan Griffin, W, Syracuse
Alan Griffin’s steal and block numbers at Syracuse were astounding; he tallied 1.6 steals and 2.2 blocks per-40 minutes with a 6.6 block percentage, third in the nation among players 6-foot-6 or shorter per BartTorvik. Griffin’s feel for the game leaves some to be desired, but the defense and shooting numbers for a wing are a great bet to make with the 57th pick.