The 2021 NBA draft is upon us and beginning to crystalize, with teams making final preparations for Thursday’s event. The top of the draft has begun to make sense, with the dust starting to settle around the first three picks: Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. A wide range of potential scenarios diverge from there. There’s still a great deal of intrigue and anticipation around the NBA going into draft night, and all the latest intel on all 30 first-round picks can be found here.
As always, this mock attempts to project what the draft might look like on a given day, and is based primarily off my own intel and conversations with a range of executives, scouts and others around the NBA. Sports Illustrated’s top 80 draft board can be found here. Expect another update or two in the next 24 hours as things develop.
1. Pistons: Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Not much has changed here in the past couple of days, as rival teams widely believe the outcome at No. 1 will be the Pistons' selecting Cunningham. That said, the dynamic surrounding the team’s decision process has come to light a bit in recent days. The Pistons always viewed the top pick as a three-player conversation, including Evan Mobley and Jalen Green. League sources say there has been real disagreement within the Pistons’ front office surrounding which player to select, which persisted after the team worked out Cunningham and Green separately in the past week, and contributed to a prolonged decision process. Troy Weaver is regarded by his peers as one of the top scouting general managers in the league, and known for being exceptionally thorough. It’s understood around the NBA that vice chairman Arn Tellem also wields significant influence in Detroit’s decisions.
The sense around the NBA is that Cunningham will win out, and he’s thought to be happy to land in Detroit, where he’ll become the face of the franchise. The Pistons left the door open for a potential trade, but rival teams believe their asking price is likely too high. They’ll likely keep their plans close to the vest and play it out as long as possible, much like the Timberwolves did last year with Anthony Edwards, but barring an unbeatable offer from, say, the Thunder, Detroit will likely stay put. Having won at every stop, and with a malleable, intelligent approach to scoring and playmaking, Cunningham will be the No. 1 pick for good reason.
2. Rockets: Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Freshman
No surprise here, but league sources view Green as an essential lock to Houston at No. 2. He worked out for the Rockets this week, and a mutual comfort level appears to have formed between them. Houston explored trading the pick, but settled on Green, who was also the only projected top pick to work out for the Rockets, which expedited the matchmaking process. Another notable tidbit: Sources say Green has built a friendship with Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr., dating back to their time in the G League bubble, which should inspire at least some level of confidence that their similar styles of play can coexist. Green has major upside as a scorer, and has been viewed as the Rockets’ preferred choice dating back to lottery night.
3. Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, F/C, USC
Height: 7' 0" | Weight: 215 | Age: 20 | Freshman
The Cavaliers are prepared to draft Mobley on Thursday night and are excited at the prospect, though they’ve fielded trade calls from other teams angling to acquire this pick. Cleveland’s asking price has been steep, as Mobley is one of the draft’s special prospects, and there are many who view him as a No. 1 pick-worthy talent, and the Cavs likely draft him and sleep comfortably, unless they’re blown away by an offer. Mobley projects as a low-maintenance, high-impact performer and potential franchise centerpiece, and skilled, two-way bigs of his ilk don’t come around often. He’s not a perfect fit with restricted free agent center Jarrett Allen, whom the Cavs appear invested in long-term, but there’s some belief they can play together, at least for now. The prospect of drafting Mobley raises the question of whether Cleveland can realistically carry Allen, Kevin Love and Larry Nance on the team next season. This pick is a win for Cleveland regardless.
4. Raptors: Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Freshman
The Raptors continue to surface as a team to watch on draft night, with the ability to use this pick to move around in the draft or package it in a bigger trade, should an opportunity surface. Toronto could reshape its roster in a real way this summer, and as reported here and elsewhere, has been linked to Ben Simmons. But that type of scenario may not materialize before the draft, and so the broad assumption around the league has been that Toronto will select Suggs to replace free agent Kyle Lowry, who is in high demand. Suggs remains an excellent fit for the Raptors’ roster and organizational culture. He’s an elite-level athlete, hard-nosed competitor, and comfortable sacrificing shots in the interest of team success. It’s worth noting that the Raptors have primarily been linked to Jonathan Kuminga and James Bouknight in trade-back scenarios.
5. Magic: Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Barnes and the Magic look like a likely pairing here, and most around the league are confident he’ll be Orlando’s choice at No. 5. The vibe from rival teams has colored this selection as something of a poorly kept secret at this point, to the extent that trade chatter involving this pick has died down. Unless the Raptors go against the grain and opt for Barnes at No. 4, this is his floor.
While Barnes doesn’t boast the type of scoring ability traditionally found in top-five selections, his range of impressive intangibles, elite passing skills and defensive acumen have built a convincing case. He would be a strong match for the Magic, possessing the length and versatility that fits their traditional draft ethos, and a galvanizing personality that could help stabilize their young locker room.
6. Thunder: James Bouknight, SG, UConn
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Sophomore
Other teams remain wary of scenarios where Sam Presti delves into his treasure chest of picks and flexes his way from here into the top four of the lottery. The Thunder can theoretically get wherever they want, with six picks in this year’s draft alone, and history says Presti will try his hardest. Rival teams generally agree that Bouknight and Jonathan Kuminga are the two players most likely in the mix here if the Thunder stand pat.
Bouknight gets the nod in this scenario, as arguably the draft’s most polished scorer and a potential high-impact addition. OKC could pair him with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in a dynamic young backcourt. Bouknight would likely be afforded room to expand his playmaking skills and operate with freedom. He’s shown real imagination finishing in the paint and creating shots, and teams expect he’ll be more than adequate as a jump shooter. His floor is thought to be No. 8, with his upside hard to pass up in the context of this draft class.
7. Warriors (from Timberwolves): Josh Giddey, G, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18
The Warriors have very real interest in Giddey, who was originally an option at No. 14 before it became clear he wouldn’t be falling that far. This range of the draft now feels in play, with Golden State likely to give him strong consideration no matter who is on the board. Jonathan Kuminga and James Bouknight are the two names most commonly projected here, and both are in play, but there’s reason to think the Warriors could think outside the box here. Rival teams believe Golden State is inclined to make both their picks unless a suitable deal for a star materializes, which looks somewhat unlikely at the moment. They could move around in the draft, but seem content to add rookies and recharge their roster in that way.
A potential decision between Giddey and Kuminga, in this scenario, in some ways evokes the Warriors’ choice at No. 2 in last year’s draft. Kuminga mirrors James Wiseman, as the player with the higher upside and better physical tools, who’s at least a year or two away from helping your team. Giddey is an accomplished, tall passer who’s used to playing with older players, but an imperfect fit with the roster, which from a macro perspective echoes LaMelo Ball. Warriors brass could be faced with the same sort of conundrum, and a chance to take the other route. The pressure to up the competitive ante could lead them to the more NBA-ready option in Giddey, who lacks untapped athletic upside, but is the better player of the two right now and extremely advanced for a teenager.
8. Magic (from Bulls): Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18
This scenario has the Magic landing Kuminga, whose slide is a hot topic around the NBA and has made him the biggest wild card in the draft at this stage. Presuming Scottie Barnes is the pick at No. 5, the Magic would have a surplus of young forwards here, with Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke already on the team. Orlando has been linked consistently to Moses Moody, and Franz Wagner is in the mix here, too. But Kuminga’s upside will be hard to pass on if he makes it this far, even though the fit wouldn’t be perfect. Orlando could potentially move back off this pick for the right offer, but the asking price is thought to be quite high.
Kuminga remains one of the higher-upside talents in the class, with elite athletic tools and coordination at his size, but concerns over his ball-dominant style of play, jump shot and NBA readiness have contributed to the shift in perception. League sources say Kuminga has struggled to gain traction during the predraft process, and rival teams continue to speculate how far he might slip. A fall out of the top 10 would still be a surprise, and the 6-to-8 range remains most likely.
9. Kings: Alperen Sengün, F/C, Besiktas (Turkey)
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Freshman
The Kings have drawn a good deal of interest in these picks but have been constantly linked to Sengün, whose impressive production in Turkey will be particularly appealing to their analytics-driven front office, with his combo of youth and counting stats likely to project well. Sacramento has also been linked to Franz Wagner but is viewed as willing to think outside the box a bit. The Kings badly need interior help of any kind, with the jury still out on Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes headed for free agency.
The question is how much a post-centric prospect like Sengün is worth in today’s NBA: He’s already a statistical outlier, but only the most dominant interior players justifiably command high-end usage. Concerns about his ability to protect the basket persist. But with terrific finishing skills and passing vision, Sengün is a lottery-level talent, though not a fit for every team’s style of play.
10. Grizzlies: Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Sophomore
The Grizzlies acquired this pick from the Pelicans on Monday in a still-pending trade that saw them take on the unwanted contracts of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams in order to move up from No. 17. League sources say Memphis continues to try to trade higher, and is rumored to be angling for Golden State’s pick at No. 7. The two players most frequently linked to Memphis are Josh Giddey and Wagner. Either could fall to them here in theory, depending on how the 6-to-9 range falls.
Wagner has had a bit of a mysterious predraft process, as he opted out of the combine and has conducted workouts quietly. His well-rounded, measured game has made him a popular commodity, supplying feel, great size at either forward spot and excellent team defense. He’ll need to become a better shooter, but there’s a lot to like, and the Grizzlies could stand to add size on the wing.
11. Hornets: Kai Jones, F/C, Texas
Height: 6' 11" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Sophomore
Charlotte enters the draft in need of help up front, and is thought to be eyeing bigs at this spot. Jones has come up frequently for the Hornets as a serious target, and has a chance to develop into a valuable defender and floor-spacer down the line. His potential to knock down jumpers, finish lobs and protect the paint—coupled with unusual athletic gifts and skill flashes—make him one of the higher-upside options on the board in this part of the lottery. He was never an especially consistent producer at Texas, and will still be very much a project for whoever drafts him. This is the high end of Jones’s range, which runs into the teens, but he’s a pretty seamless hypothetical fit in Charlotte, where he’d likely benefit from playing as a lob target for LaMelo Ball.
12. Spurs: Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Freshman
As previously reported here, the Spurs have angled to move up in the draft and into the top 10. It’s worth noting they have historically been content to stand pat on draft night. The Spurs have spent the past few years developing their young perimeter players, and Keldon Johnson in particular looks like a keeper, but it’s been rumored that they aren’t necessarily attached at the hip to players like Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker. In this scenario they go best-available and select Moody, whose range begins at No. 8 and ends at No. 15 or so.
Moody is a potentially high-level shooter, and profiles well as a no-frills 3-and-D wing. His lack of explosiveness and creativity off the dribble ties his upside primarily to his jumper, and his youth makes him a better fit for teams that can be patient. But he has a number of fans around the league, and his stock seems to have solidified in the lottery.
13. Pacers: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga
Height: 6' 7" | Weight: 220 | Age: 22 | Senior
The Pacers have fielded calls from multiple teams looking to move up into the lottery, but have thus far turned those attempts away, league sources say. Indiana is looking to improve, not rebuild, and have been linked to more experienced prospects, including Kispert, Davion Mitchell and Chris Duarte, if they stay on the pick. Kispert is one of the draft’s elite shooters, with enough size and complementary skills to hold his own, and a natural replacement for free agent Doug McDermott. While not a creative player nor an upside pick, he’s viewed as a strong plug-and-play fit. His range starts with Charlotte at No. 11, and runs into the teens.
14. Warriors: Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
Height: 6' 1" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Junior
Golden State has been tied to Mitchell throughout the process, and it seems he could be available to them here, particularly if the Pacers go in a different direction. Presuming the Warriors take a younger player at No. 7, logic suggests they look for more immediate rotation help at No. 14, with Chris Duarte and Trey Murphy believed to be in the mix. Mitchell is thought to have strong support from the Warriors’ coaching staff. Teams have been a bit cooler on Mitchell than the public discourse for much of the season, with his age, size, and limited résumé as a shooter pushing him down into this part of the draft. But he’s been a late bloomer, and his intangibles, work ethic, defensive toughness and developing offensive game are still highly enticing, and would fit well here in a situation where he’s not tasked with too much playmaking responsibility right away.
15. Wizards: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 190 | Age: 24 | Senior
There’s some belief around the NBA that Washington may be Duarte’s floor on draft night, giving them another tall, skilled option for their rotation. Duarte is one of the oldest players in the draft, but his reliability, shooting, and well-rounded game are big draws, and he has a chance to come off the board in the late lottery. The Wizards’ direction with this pick may be shaped by any developments with Bradley Beal this week, but he has yet to request a trade, and Washington’s focus has been on staying competitive. Duarte doesn’t profile as a star, but checks both boxes in the sense that he can offer positional cover for Beal in the short and long term. He had a terrific season at Oregon, emerging as a prolific shooter and reliable defender, and interested teams have been willing to overlook his age.
16. Thunder (from Celtics): Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Freshman
It remains unclear whether the Thunder will use these picks in the teens, one or both of which could create a path to move up into the late lottery. Oklahoma City will have attractive options if they decide to stay put, with a number of high-upside prospects potentially set to slip into this range. Count Williams among them. He’s a tricky player to place right now, with interest as high as Orlando at No. 8 (where he feels like more of a trade-back candidate), but appears to have resurrected his stock after a series of strong workouts. His combination of positional height, skill level, and shooting ability has always been tantalizing for scouts, but questions surrounding his injury history and lack of consistency dating back to high school persist. As a skilled wing with legit size, Williams remains appealing from a development perspective if a team can inherit the risk.
17. Pelicans: Trey Murphy, F, Virginia
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Junior
The Pelicans will acquire this pick from Memphis in a multiplayer deal designed to free up salary cap flexibility for New Orleans. They’ve been linked as a suitor for free-agent-to-be Kyle Lowry, as they seek to add veteran experience to their backcourt and weigh Lonzo Ball’s restricted free agency. Moving back here from No. 10 keeps the Pelicans in a desirable range to add another young piece to their supporting cast. Murphy’s size and consistent jumper make him a strong fit. Murphy isn’t a great ballhandler or creative passer, but has a good sense of his own strengths and weaknesses and shouldn’t be a major liability. There’s upside if his athletic ability plays up higher than expected on defense.
18. Thunder (from Heat): Jared Butler, G, Baylor
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Junior
Butler remains a tricky player to project, as he’s been medically cleared by the NBA to play, but will still require sign-off from team doctors, which will affect his placement on draft boards. The condition of Butler’s knees have become a point of concern for some teams, sources say. The prospect of medical risk may affect where he lands on draft night, but his range starts in the late teens and could run into the early second round. Butler is a clear first-round talent and a steady, proven contributor who can play both guard spots capably—there aren’t many questions about his skill set. Teams have always raved about his intangibles, and there are some who preferred him as a prospect to Baylor teammate Davion Mitchell. Oklahoma City has been linked here as a team with legitimate interest.
19. Knicks: Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Freshman
The Knicks have made attempts to trade as high as the late lottery, according to league sources, but have thus far been rebuffed. While they can offer picks 19, 21 and 32 to get where they want, sources say the Knicks’ preference has been to keep at least one of their two first-rounders in trade scenarios. Rival teams believe New York’s target has been Chris Duarte, who appears unlikely to make it down the board here.
As for Johnson, it’s unlikely he winds up in the top 10 at this point, but he’s in play all over the 11–20 range, and would be a nice upside pick for the Knicks if he falls to this spot. He’s one of the best athletes in the draft, but underwhelming measurements at the combine and concerns about his jumper and ball skills have hurt his stock a bit. Johnson needs to refine his offensive game but has better feel than a typical project wing, and a tough, defensive-oriented mindset that could expedite his pathway to useful minutes.
20. Hawks: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Freshman
The Hawks appear focused on perimeter help here, with Tony Snell and Lou Williams coming off the books and creating a lack of depth behind Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. Cam Reddish’s name has also come up in trade rumors. Thomas’s inflexible, shoot-first approach has made him a divisive player in front offices, but he’s one of the more consistent and accomplished scorers in the draft. The questions here revolve around his playstyle, and his general disinterest in defense and sharing the ball. But there’s some thought that he might fit nicely as an extra scorer on a team with an established pecking order. It will fall on Thomas to become a more malleable player in the long run, but his production is hard to knock, and he’ll have easier shots coming his way playing off the ball on a good team, in theory.
21. Knicks (from Mavericks): Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
Height: 6' 10" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Freshman
There has been no team and prospect more heavily linked behind the scenes during this draft cycle than Jackson and the Knicks. The Kentucky product has deep ties to the organization, and rumors of mutual interest between them have been persistent. He was thought to be a possible trade-up target for New York, but it’s begun to look more likely he’ll be on the board by the time the Knicks select.
While Jackson is inarguably raw and not particularly skilled, he’s an exceptional athlete, and flashed enough intriguing things during the season to solidify first-round interest. The hope is that he'll emerge as a rim-running center who protects the basket, but he’s not particularly reliable yet. He’s an acquired taste for some scouts, who question his offensive acumen and feel, but he’d be a depth piece with upside here, and could eventually supplant Mitchell Robinson.
22. Lakers: Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
Height: 6' 9" | Weight: 220 | Age: 19 | Freshman
The Lakers figure to be in the market for immediate help with this pick, and are expected to exhaust all avenues to reshaping the roster this summer. Due to the financial constraints created by their current contract situation, expect L.A. to explore trade packages involving this selection, potentially designed to shed salary.
This would be something of a fall for Johnson, who entered the year projected as a lottery pick, but has gained little traction over the course of the predraft process and team interviews. He’s a very intriguing upside pick if he slides, as it’s difficult to find players with his blend of size, ball skills and passing vision. Johnson has his warts, particularly his inconsistent jumper, but any slide in the draft will primarily be indicative of how teams chose to weigh the background intel from his high school and college careers. His body of work at Duke was brief, limited and inconsistent. Johnson remains an appealing reclamation project, with a pretty clear pathway to an NBA role if things break correctly, but it’s been tough to find scouts who feel confident in him reaching his potential.
23. Rockets (from Blazers): Usman Garuba, F/C, Real Madrid (Spain)
Height: 6' 8" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19
It’s generally expected that the Rockets will make a move involving one or both of their selections in the 20s. Teams are all over the board on Garuba, who has one of the most intriguing defensive profiles in the draft, but is lagging behind in terms of ball skills at this point, leading to questions over what his eventual role might be on that end of the floor. Houston is no stranger to experimenting in the front court, with P.J. Tucker and Jae’Sean Tate having carved out careers with the Rockets as unconventional bigs. You can see Garuba eventually playing a similar role, but wielding better positional size and tools. Concerns over how far away Garuba might be on offense could see him drop into this range.
24. Rockets (from Bucks): Joshua Primo, SG, Alabama
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Freshman
It’s unclear whether the Rockets will actually make this pick, but making a long-term investment in a younger player does fit with their timeline. After a strong showing at the combine and impressive predraft process behind closed doors, Primo now looks like a lock to land somewhere in the first round, with his range beginning in the late teens and running down into the 20s. He’s demonstrated a more diverse offensive game than he showed in a spot-up role at Alabama, with combo guard skills and an impressive level of poise and focus. The fact he’s the youngest draft-eligible prospect adds a layer of appeal as a long-term project, and he’s in the mix for teams that can afford to be patient. Primo has starter-level upside in the long run.
25. Clippers: Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina
Height: 6' 11" | Weight: 265 | Age: 19 | Freshman
Sharpe’s strong predraft process could culminate with his coming off the board earlier than expected. He’s been tipped as a possible trade-back target for late-lottery teams, which could see him sneak into the top 20, depending on how things materialize. Teams say Sharpe has been terrific on the workout circuit, having improved his conditioning, shot the ball surprisingly well, and impressed in interviews. He has the makings of a reliable role player in the long run, with his ceiling tied to his offensive development and potential as a passer. While not supremely athletic or skilled as a scorer, Sharpe is a highly competitive, high-effort rebounder with more upside than most traditional centers in his mold.