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2021 NBA Mock Draft

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.

8: Orlando Magic — Jaden Springer

Henry: This is a funny situation to be in, having to plan a lottery pick around your selection just a few picks earlier in which I would’ve gone in a much different direction. But, jokes aside, I think the pick was made relatively easy for me once you took Kuminga for the Magic. I have a couple of wings ranked higher than Springer and I like their fits in Orlando if the Magic end up with Scottie or one of the top-four with their fifth pick, but with a wing already added, it feels wise to opt for someone who will add a different dimension to their rotations. Springer is, in my opinion, the best high-level creation bet after the first four guys and is also a relentless defender. He’ll bring an unmatched level of defensive intensity and worthwhile creation to a team that’s already strong in both areas, with defensive alphas such as Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac alongside more scoring-forward players like Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz. If Springer can further layer his advantage creation and become more comfortable letting attempts fly from different levels, he may end up as a top-five player in this draft class. Did I mention he’s the youngest American in the draft?

Drake: I love you Henry, but I just can’t get there with Jaden — especially this high. While I’m all for Orlando swinging for the fences on a high-upside prospect with their eighth pick, I just don’t see enough talent to justify taking Springer this early. I actually really like this section of the draft, because I think this is where it will get interesting. By the time it gets to Orlando, Sacramento, and New Orleans, we will have a good idea of players who either jumped or fell and teams can really strategize and capitalize. All this being said, I have Springer in the late first/early second round range and think the Magic can capitalize on a couple of other prospects who aren’t as far away from producing and have some more upside.

Henry: You know you’re my guy Drake, but you also know that we cannot see eye-to-eye on Springer no matter how hard we try. I think sitting down in a film room and watching hours of tape would be the only way we’d move closer together on him, because a lot of my optimism does admittedly come from analyzing the microskills that he showed rather than some glaringly obvious output. I can’t totally fault you if you wanted me to go the route of a Moses Moody, Ziaire Williams, or Franz Wagner, but ultimately didn’t want to add yet another wing to the core. Instead, I’m riding with Springer for all the reasons mentioned above.

9: Sacramento Kings — Davion Mitchell

Drake: I don’t anticipate Mitchell being available this late in the draft, but should he fall, this would be a home run pick for Sacramento. As a Kings fan, I think the three players I would target here are Mitchell, Bouknight, or Giddey — all for different reasons. My reasoning for Davion here is based on his personality and intangibles he brings to the table. Sacramento is in need of talent and toughness, and Mitchell checks those boxes. I love his ability to play with the ball in his hands, making plays for himself or others. He has a great change of speed paired with a strong frame that allows him to quickly get to his spots while holding his line. My favorite quality is his competitiveness. He plays with a tenaciousness on both ends of the floor and cares about winning, which is something the Kings could really use on their roster. I think he’s someone who immediately increases intensity at practice and pushes guys like Fox and Haliburton to another level. I can see him making an immediate impact and giving Sacramento a quality role player for the future.

Henry: Again Drake, you’re my boy, but I just don’t see it here. Don’t most of these kids have this competitive edge and toughness that you’re talking about? I get where you’re coming from, but there’s just too much reliance on intangibles here for me and not enough focus on the prospect, himself. I struggle with the idea of taking an undersized role-playing guard whose offense is more of a question mark to me than it is to you in this slot, even if I do empathize with your desire to add a new dimension to the Sacramento locker room. I just think there may be other ways to do that, such as the introduction of veterans on small contracts, that don’t cost as much as the ninth overall pick.

Drake: Well, to answer your first question: absolutely not. Having been in several draft rooms and interviewing countless prospects over the years, you would be shocked at how hard it is to find guys who really care about the right things and ultimately care about winning. Sure, players say all the right things during the draft process — as any human would interviewing for a life-changing job. But finding players that are truly tough, tireless workers, who love the game and put the team first is incredibly difficult during this process. As far as Davion’s size, a lot of scouts had the same concerns about Donovan Mitchell. Just an example, but I do see similarities in their game that lead me to believe Davion has upside at the next level. With his speed and ability to play with the ball in his hands, I anticipate him being lethal in an NBA setting with more space and better players around him. While he lacks the vertical explosiveness that Donovan has, his athleticism and physicality are real. Not to mention, he has an efficient stroke from distance which gives me even more confidence. At the very least, I’m getting an elite NBA level defender who I know will compete on a nightly basis — and a guy who has won.

10: New Orleans Pelicans — Moses Moody

Henry: Pretty thrilled to land Moody here. This is one of my favorite theoretical fits in the draft. New Orleans desperately needs a connecting wing who can generate real shooting gravity while covering up some of the defensive deficiencies presented by their two stars, and Moody projects to do just that. Kispert is another interesting fit here because of that potential added level of shooting threat, but ultimately, the defensive difference and potentially untapped self-creation gains are way too much to pass up on alongside some underlying concerns I may have with Kispert’s shooting translation. He’s a top-eight prospect in the class, and getting him at #10 for a team that could really use his talents is too easy of a decision to make.

Drake: I can see the logic here and would agree that the Pels could definitely use a shot-making perimeter player. This is a little early for me with Moody, as I’m a little more intrigued with some other wings to this point. While I can see some appeal with Moses, I don’t necessarily see the upside or talent level I would like to bet on at #10. The lack of speed and athleticism is worrisome, and his game is a little one-dimensional for my liking — not sure how he impacts a game if shots aren’t falling. All that said, I still think he can be a quality role player in this league. I probably would’ve leaned more towards a shooter/playmaker like Franz Wagner here to give them some more skill and versatility on the wing.

Henry: I’m a big Franz fan so I can’t argue too hard. The shooting was the difference for me. I also think I’m much higher on the defense than you are — that nearly 7’1” wingspan combined with his instincts really allows him to wreak havoc on rotations, which is something New Orleans is going to need if they’re going to stick with Zion and Ingram as the two core pieces.

11: Charlotte Hornets — James Bouknight

Drake: I expect Bouknight to go significantly higher than 11 — I actually think there’s a real argument for him going as high as 4 given his talent level relative to this class. But nevertheless, I would love to see him paired alongside LaMelo for the next couple of years. James is someone who I think has legitimate All-Star potential, given his unique combination of skill and athleticism. He makes several aspects of the game look easy with his ability to create off the bounce. He’s a three-level scorer with a great frame and ability to play on both ends. Despite underwhelming numbers from distance this year, I’m a believer in his stroke — mechanically, it’s fluid and effortless and I’d expect him to improve with more repetition and better shot selection at the next level. He’s someone I can see coming in immediately and contributing in the right situation. Landing on a team like Charlotte would add instant firepower to one of the most exciting teams in the league already. Between him, LaMelo, Terry Rozier, and Devonte’ Graham, they would make up one of the strongest backcourts in the East.

Henry: I think Bouknight is just another funny case where we don’t see eye-to-eye, Drake. I like him as someone in that sort of Tyler Herro mold, where he can use his shooting and athleticism to get downhill and create off simplified reads, but I just don’t see him as someone who should be holding real possession-to-possession usage at the next level. I agree he’s a better shooter than he showed, but I worry about his handle and his ability to create separation from a standstill — that’s going to be a huge swing skill for him. If he can’t do that, he’s not a good enough passer to be trusted with the ball in semi-advantage situations, and then his role becomes much murkier, to me.

Drake: Yeah, I think we can agree to disagree here — Bouknight has game.

12: San Antonio Spurs — Ziaire Williams

Henry: Another fit I’m pretty excited about is Ziaire in San Antonio. The Spurs have basically all the ancillary pieces required to make a title run, and just lack that top-end talent that can carry them offensively. It’s a risky bet to some, but taking a flier on Ziaire’s shotmaking at his size feels like an awesome way to address that problem, especially with the culture and player development systems the Spurs already have in place. There might not be a better situation in the lottery for a guy who likely needs a year or two to put on muscle and become more comfortable with the ball before he’s ready to impact a game with his shooting and two-way feel.

Drake: I actually really like this pick, Henry. I agree, it’s hard to find a better place to develop young players with potential than San Antonio. Ziaire is a super interesting prospect with tremendous size. He has several qualities that I think translate well to the NBA, but simply needs time in an environment that understands how to develop. Physically, he will need to get stronger and show ability to consistently guard his position. I think his lack of strength causes him to settle for difficult jump shots, but this is something that comes with time and maturity. The Spurs are at an interesting crossroads with their roster, and I think investing in a young player with starter potential down the road makes sense. I love their approach to development through the G-League and think Ziaire is a great candidate here at pick #12.

Henry: Finally, we’re seeing eye-to-eye! Jokes aside, I do think you have the same vision as I do for Ziaire. He’s going to need time to extract those latent skills that just don’t shine through yet due to how much his frame limits him. If he’s given time to get stronger and develop some of those fine tactile skills, he could be a real steal given the mix of shooting, feel, and size he already does have.

13: Indiana Pacers — Jalen Johnson

Drake: Similar to your thought process with Ziaire in San Antonio, I like the idea of the Pacers taking a swing on Jalen here at 13. Given where he is as a player today, I think it’s critical for him to land in the right situation. I fear that Johnson going too high to the wrong team will put unrealistic expectations on him too soon. By landing on a veteran team like Indiana, there’s less urgency to play him right away. Instead, they can take their time and be patient with the young forward. Johnson has great measurables and a solid skill foundation, but is still a few years away from producing at the next level. I think getting him into an environment like Indiana with a coach who really teaches the game would be great for his career. In 3-5 years, I could see Jalen really blossoming into a steady, versatile role player. It’s mainly a bet on upside over immediate impact for me here, and I like the fit for both the player and organization — a long-term approach.

Henry: Yeah, I like this move. I don’t have Jalen this high, but I do appreciate the process behind the pick, both for the Pacers and for Johnson, himself. I think he’s had a rough stretch in his amateur career that can’t be solely attributed to him, and it’s possible we’ve yet to really see what type of player he can be once the stars align for him a bit contextually. Being around guys like Brogdon, Sabonis, Turner, and Warren could be an awesome situation for him to grow in. I also like the fit long term — if he pans out, the Pacers have another versatile passing forward alongside Sabonis who hopefully has a bit more defensive prowess given his athleticism. Johnson’s a bit of a mystery box prospect, but Indiana can afford to take this risk more than most, and the reward could be a really nice player in the end.

14: Golden State Warriors — Franz Wagner

Henry: Drake, we’ve done it. We’ve fixed the Warriors. If they were to walk away with Giddey and Franz, two massive wings with stellar playmaking feel and floor spacing potential, I’d have to imagine they’d be celebrating hard. Of course, there’s no guarantee they see things the same way we do or even want to build towards contention in that fashion (their recent Wiseman pick with LaMelo on the board would indicate they maybe do not), we can only make decisions here based on what we think is best and I think we agree that the idea of a Steph/Klay/Giddey/Franz/Draymond lineup is pretty fun. Imagine the ball-movement and compound decision making offensively and the length and instincts to cover for Steph defensively. My goodness.

Drake: (Laughs) that was easy! In reality, the only fixing Golden State really needs is a healthy roster and some minor additions. If there was a silver lining this season for the Warriors this year, it was the fact that they were able to really evaluate their roster, identify areas for improvement, and develop a plan for the future. They found quality role players from guys who took career leaps in Jordan Poole, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Mychal Mulder, but now have the chance to add two quality young assets and load up with pieces for the future. The decisions they make on draft night will paint a clear picture of their direction — will they keep their picks and try to build long-term or package draft capital to try and remain as competitive as possible now? I think by drafting two prospects with high basketball IQ and playmaking ability, it makes a lot of sense from a stylistic standpoint. The Warriors love highly skilled, intelligent players who they can plug-in sooner rather than later. I think both Giddey and Wagner each have some upside that should give them confidence moving forward. I think in an ideal draft scenario for them, they are somehow able to snag some combination of Barnes, Bouknight, Giddey, and Mitchell and they leave winners. Golden State will be one of the more interesting teams to watch come draft night.

Henry: This one was a little too easy. For the sake of argument, I’ll go at your closing statement there — I think taking Mitchell with either of these picks would be a bad mistake. But now that I’ve gotten my jab out of the way, I can say I’m pretty happy with how we’ve not only set up the Warriors to maximize their current window with the veterans, but also for long term success. Giddey is really interesting because of the many different improvements he can make and how all of them would lead to interesting, differing outcomes; if he becomes a trustworthy shooter, he’s a truly awesome ancillary wing. If he becomes more flexible and gains stability, he becomes a real initiator capable of generating rim gravity and punishing rotations. He and Franz together would be a decision-making heaven for the guys already in place, and I would assume that’s maybe what matters to them most after watching the struggles they had this year.

Drake: Can’t wait to circle back on these guys in a year! Great conversation, brother.


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