NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Jalen Suggs impresses while Cade Cunningham is the safest pick at No. 1

·10 min read

The college basketball season is still going despite the COVID-19 pandemic. NBA scouts are not allowed at practices this year, and programs like Duke aren’t even allowing NBA personnel inside Cameron Indoor Stadium for games. The 2021 NBA draft class is one of the deepest and most talented classes in recent memory with a lot of star-power towards the top of the draft.

Here’s a look at Yahoo Sports’ projected first round for the 2021 NBA draft.

(Draft order is from Tankathon.)

Cade Cunningham dribbles during a game this season.
Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham tops the first Yahoo Sports NBA mock draft. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

1. Washington Wizards: G Cade Cunningham

Ht./Wt: 6-foot-8, 220 pounds

Class: Freshman

Oklahoma State: 19.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.7 apg

Cunningham dominated in high school due to his size and strength, but he’s finding other ways to score this season against bigger, stronger players. He’s a phenomenal passer, has a high basketball IQ and seamlessly does all the little things on the court really well. Cunningham might be the safest pick at No. 1, but scouts are going to be watching for more consistency against tougher opponents in Big 12 play and if he has the ability to take over games. He ranks in the 90th percentile in iso situations scoring 1.2 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. Cunningham has the highest potential in this class to be a franchise-changing player.

2. Detroit Pistons: G Jalen Green

Ht./Wt: 6-6, 186

G League Ignite

Fans haven’t been able to see Green in action yet but will get a chance to see him play in February in the G League bubble season. The Ignite team has had two closed scrimmages that were made available for NBA scouts, and Green looked fluid in his shooting and was one of the most athletic players on the court. He struggled driving against bigger, older guards at times but these are the growing pains of playing in the G League at 18 years old. Green has the potential to be the best prospect out of this draft class and could easily be the No. 1 overall pick if his game continues to progress.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: G Jalen Suggs

Ht./Wt: 6-4, 205

Class: Freshman

Gonzaga: 14.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5.3 apg

Suggs was on scouts’ radar prior to the start of the season but no one expected him to be this good on such a deep and talented Gonzaga team. The McDonald’s All-American game and Nike’s Hoops Summit were canceled last year so NBA executives didn’t get an early first look at any of these players. What Suggs has managed to do in 11 games is impressive. He had 27 points — including seven 3-pointers — against No. 3 Iowa and is averaging nearly six assists per game for a Gonzaga team that could go undefeated this year.

4. Toronto Raptors: C Evan Mobley

Ht./Wt: 7-0, 210

Class: Freshman

USC: 15.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.7 bpg

No other player in this draft class can do what Mobley does on the court. He’s a 7-footer who can handle the ball and shoot 3-pointers (he’s made five so far this season). Defensively, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the country with his 7-foot-4 wingspan. Mobley has a huge upside and the only questions surrounding his game are strength and toughness.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: F Ziaire Williams

Ht./Wt: 6-8, 185

Class: Freshman

Stanford: 11.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3 apg

Williams became the second player in Stanford men’s basketball history to record a triple-double, and it came in a win over Washington. The 6-8 wing finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Williams has all the tools to be a productive NBA wing and has one of the best work ethics scouts have seen in recent years. He’s struggled with consistency this season and needs to add some weight to his frame, but Williams won’t have to wait too long to hear his name called in the 2021 draft.

Ziaire Williams with the ball in his hands in a shooting motion.
Stanford forward Ziaire Williams shoots against Washington State during their game on Jan. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

6. Chicago Bulls: F Jonathan Kuminga

Ht./Wt: 6-8, 220

G League Ignite

Kuminga was the best player on the court in the G League scrimmages where he averaged 23.5 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists in two games. Kuminga reclassified last year and should only be a senior in high school this season. Instead, he’s playing against grown men in the G League and looks like he belongs there. He’s quick enough to take opponents off the dribble from the wing and strong enough to go down low in iso situations and get to the rim. Scouts will have at least 12 games in the G League bubble to evaluate Kuminga, and he could sneak inside the top five if he continues to dominate like he did in the scrimmages.

7. Sacramento Kings: G Scottie Barnes

Ht./Wt: 6-9, 227

Class: Freshman

Florida State: 11.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.3 apg

Barnes has an NBA-ready body and is a fierce competitor. He is playing the point guard position at Florida State and can rotate around to different positions with ease and fluidity. Barnes is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country thanks to his length and speed and has 12 steals in just seven games. Head coach Leonard Hamilton had two lottery picks in last year’s draft in Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell and will no doubt keep the streak alive with Barnes in this draft class.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder: F Jalen Johnson

Ht./Wt: 6-9, 220

Class: Freshman

Duke: 11.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg

Johnson has only played four games at Duke after suffering a foot injury in early December. The team initially ruled him out indefinitely, but the coaching staff is now saying he will be reevaluated in 2-3 weeks. Johnson has great size at 6-9, and his game has been compared to Boston Celtics wing Jayson Tatum.

9. Atlanta Hawks: G James Bouknight

Ht./Wt: 6-5, 190

Class: Sophomore

Connecticut: 20.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg

There were flashes of Bouknight’s scoring potential after he dropped 40 points against Creighton on Dec. 20. His mid-range pull-up shooting is where he excels and Bouknight needs to work on creating for others after averaging just 1.7 assists per game. Off the ball, he’s excellent off the cut and is a solid defender who can keep players in front of him.

10. New Orleans Pelicans: G Cameron Thomas

Ht./Wt: 6-4, 210

Class: Freshman

LSU: 24.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg

Thomas is leading the SEC is scoring and holds the high school scoring record at powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. He was snubbed as a McDonald’s All-American last year and entered his freshman season with something to prove. In his last four games, Thomas has put up 25 or more points and is shooting 44% from the field.

11. Brooklyn Nets: G Corey Kispert

Ht./Wt: 6-7, 220

Class: Senior

Gonzaga: 21.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.2 apg

Kispert is the best shooter in college basketball with an impressive 50% from 3-point range and 63% from the field. His best game of the season came against No. 16 Virginia where he had nine 3-pointers (9 for 13) and finished with 32 points. The NBA values shooters and returning for his senior year could pay off in a big way.

Corey Kispert drives to the basket.
Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert, left, drives to the basket against Portland on Jan. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

12. Denver Nuggets: G Keon Johnson

Ht./Wt: 6-5, 186

Class: Freshman

Tennessee: 8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Johnson is one of the fastest guards in this draft class and as the season goes on, he’s getting more confident on the court. In Tennessee’s last two games, Johnson has scored in double digits and did particularly well in iso situations. He might not be as refined as other guards in the lottery, but once the game slows down for him, he will start to surprise a lot of people. Johnson has great footwork and takes long strides in the open court. He could end up going inside the top 10 if he continues to improve this season.

13. Charlotte Hornets: F Greg Brown

Ht./Wt: 6-9, 205

Class: Freshman

Texas: 12 ppg, 7.3 rpg

Brown is one of the most athletic players in college basketball this year and has the potential to be a solid wing in the NBA. He struggled early on with the pace of the game but has since settled into the offense at Texas. He’s showed glimpses of extending his shot to the 3-point line but needs to get a little more consistent. Brown is visibly stronger and has added some weight to his frame since high school.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder: G Terrence Shannon Jr.

Ht./Wt: 6-6, 210

Class: Sophomore

Texas Tech: 13.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg

Shannon Jr. returned for his sophomore season and has already improved in multiple areas of his game. He ranks in the 91st percentile in scoring when he’s the pick-and-roll ball handler and is rated ‘very good’ in iso situations, according to Synergy Sports. NBA scouts will be watching to see if he can assert himself more on offense and be the primary scorer for this Texas Tech team.

Post Lottery

Kentucky's Brandon Boston Jr. shoots against Kansas.
Kentucky's B.J. Boston shoots against Kansas at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Dec. 1, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

15. New York Knicks: G B.J. Boston

Ht./Wt: 6-7, 185

Class: Freshman

Kentucky: 12.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg

16. Cleveland Cavaliers: G Moses Moody

Ht./Wt: 6-6, 205

Class: Freshman

Arkansas: 15.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg

17. Houston Rockets: G Josh Christopher

Ht./Wt: 6-5, 215

Class: Freshman

Arizona State: 17.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg

18. Golden State Warriors: F Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

Ht./Wt: 6-9, 230

Class: Sophomore

Villanova: 16.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2 apg

19. Portland Trail Blazers: F Usman Garuba

Ht./Wt: 6-8, 229

Spain

Real Madrid Baloncesto (European League): 3.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg

20. San Antonio Spurs: F Kai Jones

Ht./Wt: 6-11, 218

Class: Sophomore

Texas: 8.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg

21. New York Knicks: F Jalen Wilson

Ht./Wt: 6-8, 215

Class: Freshman (redshirt)

Kansas: 15.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg

22. Orlando Magic: G David Johnson

Ht./Wt: 6-5, 210

Class: Sophomore

Louisville: 14.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.7 apg

23. Milwaukee Bucks: G Terrence Clarke

Ht./Wt: 6-7, 194

Class: Freshman

Kentucky: 10.7 ppg, 3 rpg

24. Utah Jazz: G David Duke

Ht./Wt: 6-5, 205

Class: Junior

Providence: 19.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.3 apg

25. Los Angeles Clippers: G Ayo Dosunmu

Ht./Wt: 6-5, 200

Class: Junior

Illinois: 22.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.1 apg

26. Indiana Pacers: G Chris Duarte

Ht./Wt: 6-6, 190

Class: Senior

Oregon: 18.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.1 apg

27. Philadelphia 76ers: C Charles Bassey

Ht./Wt: 6-11, 235

Class: Junior

Western Kentucky: 16.3 ppg, 11.1 rpg

28. Phoenix Suns: G Jared Butler

Ht./Wt: 6-3, 195

Class: Junior

Baylor: 15.2 ppg, 5.5 apg

29. Los Angeles Lakers: C Isaiah Jackson

Ht./Wt: 6-10, 206

Class: Freshman

Kentucky: 5.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.7 bpg

30. Boston Celtics: G Tre Mann

Ht./Wt: 6-5, 190

Class: Sophomore

Florida: 14.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.3 apg

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