Updated: Jul 15, 2021
In this edition of 'P.I. Pulse,' COO Drake U’u and Basketball Analyst Henry Ward go back-and-forth in Pro Insight’s first ever NBA Mock Draft. The two will take turns in the driver seat for every team in the lottery, making the selections they see fit for all 14 of those picks. Let’s get started — the Detroit Pistons are on the clock!
Henry: Alright, Drake. The lottery has come and gone and we’ve finally got our set order for all 60 picks, prior to any trades. While mostly chalk obviously, it was fun to see some teams move around and particularly, it’s cool to see teams like the Pistons, Cavs, and Magic reap some particularly nice benefits. A more well-rounded, talent-distributed league is always fun. Any rapid reactions to how it shook out before kicking us off at 1.01?
Drake: Totally agree. I’m particularly excited to see what Orlando decides to do at pick #5. With the top four players relatively set, I think this is where the draft will essentially start. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this continues to play out over the next couple of weeks.
1: Detroit Pistons — Cade Cunningham
Drake: I actually love this fit for Cunningham and the Pistons. Cade has the potential to come in right away and make an immediate impact on a roster that needs a franchise-level point guard. He’s someone who fits their timeline nicely and also satisfies Troy Weaver’s player profile — a big playmaking guard with positional size and defensive versatility. He also has an incredible basketball IQ and a maturity to his game that will bode well for him at the next level. Despite drafting Killian Hayes a year ago, I think Cunningham gives me much more confidence in their direction moving forward.
Henry: Yeah, I think this is a no-brainer. I’m actually a pretty big Killian fan, and think he and Cade will work well together down the line, as both could probably benefit from being shifted off the ball from time to time, and clearly both are adept in pick-and-roll situations. Being able to add such a bonafide stud in the most coveted archetype in the league is the perfect way for Detroit to kick off their re-build.
Drake: Yeah — we’re in agreement on everything but Killian so far. Pretty solid start for us, I would say. (Laughs).
2: Houston Rockets — Evan Mobley
Henry: This one’s as easy as it gets. All of Cade’s respect is earned, and he’s certainly the worthy number-one pick. But, I think the attention he’s gotten may have sapped some of the requisite love Mobley deserves. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for why Mobley isn’t a unanimous number-two in the way Cade is a number-one. He’s blessed with a giant frame, unbelievable physical tools, tremendous feel for the game on both ends, and worthwhile ball skills. It’s hard to find an area in which he isn’t elite for his position. Houston will be happy to have him.
Drake: Yeah, I think Mobley, Green, and more recently, James Bouknight, are three prospects with the highest ceilings in this year’s class. For Houston, I think it’s really about preference. I would personally like to see Jalen Green land with the Rockets because I like how he fits in with their backcourt pieces. Christian Wood (a Mobley-like big) heads into year two of his three-year/$40M deal, so ideally Mobley can land somewhere with some early opportunity and be in a good situation. Whether it be Mobley or Green however, Houston has two great options to choose from.
Henry: I understand the desire to see a KPJ/Jalen Green backcourt — if at the very least, they’d be my number-one league pass team to watch. However, I do think Mobley is a head above Green in terms of both ultimate impact in his role and eventual ceiling. I think people sell him short at times with the understanding that he has those movement skills in his frame, but they don’t go on to consider how smart of a player he is and how advanced his guard skills are. I like the fit with Wood — getting as many lengthy, skilled players on the court at one time is a great way to muck things up defensively without sacrificing spacing on the offensive end.
3: Cleveland Cavaliers — Jalen Green
Drake: With Mobley and Cunningham off the board, Jalen Green is the obvious selection here. I love Jalen’s talent and think he could easily walk away and be the best player from this class five years from now. As far as the fit with Cleveland, I think he fills a need at shooting guard and adds a legitimate three-level scorer to their young backcourt. I think Cleveland has some decisions to make, with the most pressing surrounding Collin Sexton’s future with the team. I really like the idea of Evan landing here as well, pairing up with Jarrett Allen in the front court. The two complement each other nicely and could be a lethal combination for years to come.
Henry: Green is definitely a choice I can get behind with Mobley gone. I’d give Suggs a look here, too, because I think he adds a layer of feel to that team that’s mostly lacking if they keep Sexton. However, I do think moving Sexton for assets and asserting Green in that same role is probably the best route. What would you target in a trade if you’re Cleveland, if you’re giving away Sexton?
Drake: Yeah, hard for me to really give an accurate answer on Sexton’s value around the league at the moment. If I’m Koby Altman — and felt like I had support (time) from ownership — I would try and shop Sexton and Kevin Love hard, and ultimately look for a return of undervalued young prospects and/or draft compensation. I think the Cavs are still pretty far away from being competitive in the eastern conference, so I would be in full Sam Presti-mode, being as aggressive as possible in obtaining draft capital. I really like the additions of Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro, and have always been a Darius Garland fan. Taking a swing on adding more youth fits their timeline and gives them a chance to be competitive in the future.
4: Toronto Raptors — Jalen Suggs
Henry: An easy selection to make here given the way the board has shaken out. I actually have Suggs just a tick higher than Green in my own evaluations of the two, so I’m happy to grab him here. I think the history of guys with his level of processing finding ways to progress more technical skills quickly is pretty strong, as we’ve seen most recently with Tyrese Haliburton. Those tactile areas are really the next step for Suggs, as he does struggle to fully take advantage of those mental processing traits due to how loose he is with the ball at times and his general lack of advantage creation craft. It’s certainly a bet on improvement, but it’s also not like he isn’t already terrifically effective in many areas, either. For how much room he has to grow in relatively easy-to-add areas, he’s pretty darn good, already. Given the unteachable perceptive skills, I feel good about betting on him to figure it out and then some.
Drake: I like how Suggs fits in with this veteran Toronto team, as well. With questions surrounding the future of Kyle Lowry in particular, Suggs’ arrival is timely. I love his competitive nature and feel for the position. Toronto has a proven track record with development and I couldn’t think of a more ideal setting for a young player in today’s game.
Henry: That’s actually a cool tidbit I didn’t even consider. Watching Suggs and Lowry, if he sticks around, would be awesome. They seem cut from the same cloth and I think Suggs’ development could benefit a lot from being around Lowry, who’s made his money with exceptional feel in a big frame, while also holding those other skills Suggs currently lacks. I like the idea of them playing together a lot.
5: Orlando Magic — Jonathan Kuminga
Drake: I think Kuminga makes sense here for Orlando. He has some real upside on the offensive end, physical tools, defensive versatility, and fills an important positional need for the Magic. With two picks inside the top-10, Orlando has a real chance to add young talent that fits their rebuilding timeline. I like Kuminga’s floor as a rotational piece and believe he has potential to become a quality starter for years to come.
Henry: I worry a bit more about Kuminga than you seem to. I honestly don’t know how he makes a positive impact on the floor in the league until he really starts to shoot, which I’m somewhat dubious of. His passing remains pretty rudimentary and he can really struggle defensively, especially with his awareness. I understand the intrigue a bit with his handle and frame, but I also think he’s getting a bit of a pass athletically, too. Is there someone you’d compare him to, in terms of the areas you’d like to see him develop?
Drake: I think in a best-case scenario, I could see him playing a role that is similar to guys like Tobias Harris, OG Anunoby, and Harrison Barnes — a bit of a combo forward who could potentially evolve into that third or fourth starter on a winning team. Based on his performance in the bubble, it is clear to me that he has an NBA game with his ability to get to his spots and create for himself. While he absolutely needs to become much more efficient in a variety of areas on both sides of the ball — especially as a shooter — I think he has a strong foundational skill set mixed with size that is pretty intriguing for a young wing. Mechanically, his shot looks fluid and with increased repetition I would expect him to improve. He’s shown impressive footwork, balance, and the ability to score in many ways that are encouraging for me as an evaluator. I like the fit with Orlando and think it is a good situation for both parties.
6: Oklahoma City Thunder — Scottie Barnes
Henry: I went back and forth on this one and have a feeling you’re going to take the guy I almost settled on with your next pick, but ultimately I opted for Scottie. I’ve talked a lot about how unique a player he is and how valuable someone with those skills at his size can be from a team-building perspective, so I feel good about adding him to a Thunder team with their primary of the future already in place despite being at the front end of a rebuild. It will take some creativity to maximize him, but as more teams make spacing a priority and try to flood their rotation with playmakers at every position, Scottie slots in nicely as someone who’s uniquely able to operate as a decision maker en-masse while also providing massive length and versatility defensively. If the vision is clear for him, there’s a lot to be gained from someone with his makeup on both ends.
Drake: I’ve really grown on the idea of Scottie over the past few months. He has a lot of intriguing qualities you can’t teach and unique versatility on both ends. I would’ve loved to see him fall to a veteran team like Golden State where he can be groomed and eased into a role rather than being thrusted into a heavy offensive load on a young Thunder team. But either way, I see a lot of his game translating. He moves well and has shown a tremendous amount of skill as a ball handler and passer. He needs to continue to improve as a shooter and time to adapt to the speed of the NBA. But overall, I like this pick for OKC.
Henry: I hear the concerns, and certainly worry about how he’ll be deployed on a team that doesn’t have as much infrastructure in place yet, as he’s more of a ceiling raiser than floor raiser at his peak most likely. But I do think that guys with this level of feel don’t come around often, and not only help bring everyone along with them, but also find ways to develop their games in unforeseen ways, too. I’d be excited to see what the plan would be with him in OKC.
7: Golden State Warriors — Josh Giddey
Drake: Let’s shake things up a little, shall we? From a stylistic standpoint, there isn't a better place for Giddey to land than Golden State. Offensively, Giddey is as sharp-minded as they come — and honestly, just absurd for an 18-year-old kid. He plays with great pace and vision, and would be an incredible secondary ball handler on a veteran Warriors team. Giddey has elite basketball IQ and passing ability, and when surrounded with shooters, can really dissect a defense. At 6’8, his size grants him the ability to slide anywhere from point guard to small forward. I like the idea of easing him into a role, coming off the bench and leading a second unit in need of depth. Defensively, Giddey will certainly need to improve. But all in all, I am a big fan of Giddey and would love to see him in a great situation with the dubs.
Henry: Yeah, I love this fit. I do think there’s some concern about rim pressure in Golden State with this addition, but I don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. Putting Giddey alongside the high feel, quick thinking, gravity inducing core of Steph, Klay, and Draymond is really awesome to think about. There’s a ton of ways he can become useful here, and would also provide some nice size alongside their decision making role players like Juan Toscano-Anderson. Not to mention how those veterans can help bring Giddey along, who’s been lauded for his attention to detail and desire to improve during his one professional year in Adelaide.
Drake: Yeah, I am a big believer in the NBL and it’s pathway to the NBA is legit. While I would also love to see guys like Davion Mitchell or James Bouknight land in Golden State, I selfishly needed Mitchell to land in Sacramento and would love to see what Bouknight looks like next to another young star PG — which will be revealed soon.