David Johnson Projected as Mid-First Round Pick in First SI NBA Mock Draft

Sports Illustrated projects that the current Louisville men's basketball guard will barely miss the NBA lottery their first 2021 NBA Mock Draft.
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(Photo of David Johnson, Wyatt Wilkes: Scott Utterback/Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

NEW YORK - It wasn't all that long ago when we saw former Louisville forward Jordan Nwora get picked up by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2020 NBA Draft, but it's never too early to take a look and see at which Cardinals could get drafted next.

One player whose name we could hear called in the 2021 NBA Draft is current Louisville guard David Johnson. While it's not a given that he will go pro following his sophomore year, he was already a well thought of as a draft prospect prior to the start of 2020-21 college basketball season, and has only been improving his draft stock since.

Just how much has he improved it? Sports Illustrated NBA Draft insider Jeremy Woo has some idea, releasing his first 2021 NBA Mock Draft, which consists exclusively of picks in the first round. He used FiveThirtyEight's win projections entering Tuesday, Jan. 19, and based his picks on "intel and information from around the NBA".

He projects that Johnson will barely miss being an NBA lottery pick, and be drafted with the No. 16 overall pick by the Houston Rockets by way of the Miami Heat. For context as to how much Johnson has improved his draft stock since the season began, Woo ranked him as the No. 21 overall draft prospect back early last December.

"Johnson made a good decision to stay at Louisville and has started to answer the lingering questions about his shooting," Woo writes. "He’s upped his three-point percentage from 21% to 43% and his free throw clip from 60% to 76%. That progression was necessary for him to threaten defenses as a big, playmaking combo guard. He’s also a very good on-ball defender.

"In a relatively thin point guard class, Johnson figures to benefit. He stands to be more consistent and aggressive at times, but he’s a very advanced passer who can almost be too unselfish at times. If his shooting improvement proves to be sufficient, he looks like a versatile backcourt piece who can help a team in a range of areas. There’s a lot to like."

Through the first 12 games of Louisville's season, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound guard is averaging 13.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, with his scoring and assists averages second on the team only to Carlik Jones.

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