2021 NBA mock draft: Cade Cunningham lands with the Detroit Pistons

By Vincent Frank
Dec 8, 2020; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Cade Cunningham (2) dribbles while defended by Oral Roberts Golden Eagles guard Kareem Thompson (2) during the second half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2020-21 NBA season now here, the focus is obviously going to be on the court. In no way does that mean it’s too early to give you our initial 2021 NBA mock draft. After all, the college basketball season is now in full bloom.

It’s a class that is expected to be among the most-loaded in recent league history. Multiple prospects have opted to forgo college ball for the NBA G-League pathway. These stars will head the 2021 class.

Based on our most-recent power rankings for the 2020-21 season, here’s a look at our first 2021 NBA mock draft with a more of a focus on lottery selections.

Related: Top 10 NBA Rookie of the Year candidates – Tyrese Haliburton making noise.

Updated: Jan. 21, 8:09 PM EST

2021 NBA mock draft: Top-five picks

1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, point guard, Oklahoma State

NBA Mock Draft: Cade Cunningham
Dec 8, 2020; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Cade Cunningham (2) dribbles while defended by Oral Roberts Golden Eagles guard Kareem Thompson (2) during the second half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, Cunningham has to be considered the top pick in all 2021 NBA mock drafts from here on out. A five-star recruit out of Texas, the 6-foot-7 point guard is of the new mold. He can shoot from the outside, runs the offense in a tremendous fashion and is a mismatch waiting to happen.

Through the first 12 games of his college career, Cunningham is averaging 18.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He’s also shooting 39% from distance. As for the Pistons, they need all the help they can get. Going best-player available, regardless of position, makes sense at one. Cunningham would also be a nice fit with 2020 first-round pick Killian Hayes.

2. Washington Wizards: Evan Mobley, center, USC

NBA Mock Draft: Evan Mobley, USC
Dec 8, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans forward Evan Mobley (4) reacts in the first half against the UC Irvine Anteaters at Galen Center. USC defeated UCI 91-56. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A consensus top-five recruit out of Southern California, the 7-foot Mobley is averaging 15.9 points and 8.6 rebounds through his first 14 college games. He has an elite-level offensive game, which could translate to the NBA ranks rather early in his career.

Related: Winners/losers from 2020 NBA Draft

This selection would make sense for Washington after it picked wing Deni Avdija in the 2020 NBA Draft. Sure the team has a fellow big in Thomas Bryant. But it’s hard to pass up on someone of Mobley’s abilities at two.

3. Houston Rockets: Jonathan Kuminga, small forward, NBA G-League

Yet another player who chose the G League pathway over college ball, the 6-foot-8 Kuminga explained his decision recently.

“I see my potential as an NBA player, and with the G League, they’ll help me a lot more than college,” Kuminga told The Athletic (h/t ESPN). “They’ll help me off and on the court and to reach my goal to be the No. 1 draft [pick] in 2021. The G League will help me more than how college was going to help me on being the player I want to be right now and going pro.”

This decision will likely propel the lanky forward to a top-five pick projection in most 2021 NBA mock drafts. He’s been compared by some to the great Kevin Durant. What better way for the rebuilding Houston Rockets to move on from the now bygone James Harden era?

4. Golden State Warriors (from Minnesota): Jalen Green, shooting guard, NBA G-League

With questions surrounding the ongoing college basketball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Green opted to join the NBA/G League pathway rather than play amateur ball. That decision came all the way back in April. It will be interesting to see how Green looks once the pathway project starts up.

Related: 50 Top NBA players of 2021 – Major updates after James Harden trade.

What we do know is that the California shooting guard was ranked No. 1 by ESPN during the latest recruiting cycle. He’s projected as a top-five pick and would be a tremendous option for the Golden State Warriors as a top backup guard behind Klay Thompson. Green can also play the three, which could come in handy should the Warriors move off either Andrew Wiggins or Kelly Oubre next offseason.

5. Sacramento Kings: Usman Garuba, power forward, International

At 18 years old, the 6-foot-8 Garuba is already playing pro ball in the EuroLeague. He averaged 14.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game over 22 Liga EBA appearances last season.

We already know that the Kings are looking for a big man. Evan Mobley from USC is the obvious target, but he’s off the board in this NBA Mock Draft. Garuba would be a nice backup option. He could also potentially replace the disgruntled Marvin Bagley at the four.

2021 NBA mock draft: Rest of the lottery

6. Chicago Bulls: Jalen Suggs, guard, Gonzaga

2021 NBA Mock Draft: Jalen Suggs
Nov 26, 2020; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Jalen Suggs (1) drives to the basket as Kansas Jayhawks guard Marcus Garrett (0) defends during the second half at Suncoast Credit Union Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Another player who considered the G League pathway, Suggs is out here showing off big time for Gonzaga as a freshman. The 6-foot-3 combo guard is averaging 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.4 steals through 12 games. He’s also shooting a resounding 41% from three-point range.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Bulls, check out #BullsNation rumors, rankings, and news here.

As for Chicago, there’s no telling whether Zach LaVine will be with the Bulls long-term. There’s been rumors that the team will look to trade the stud two-guard. If that were to happen, this becomes a major need. Suggs would be a perfect fit.

7. Charlotte Hornets: Makur Maker, power forward, Howard University

Charlotte is most definitely in need of some help inside. The emergence of rookie guard LaMelo Ball coupled with the addition of All-Star forward Gordon Hayward adds another layer to this.

In Maker, they’d be getting a consensus top-10 pick at a need position. Despite only suiting up in a couple games for Howard this season (groin injury), the talent showed in a big way. Sure this is a high-risk selection, but it makes perfect sense for Charlotte.

8.Orlando Magic: Jalen Johnson, forward Duke

NBA Mock Draft: Jalen Johnson, Duke
Nicolet’s Jalen Johnson scores two of his 17 points during the Knights’ 77-52 sectional semifinal victory over Whitefish Bay at Port Washington High School on March 12, 2020. Nicolet 1 March 12 2020

With an ability to play both the three and four, Johnson provides a ton of flexibility. This could come in handy for a Magic team that might move off forwards Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon ahead of the March trade deadline.

Thus far this season with Duke, Johnson is averaging 12.0 points and 8.5 rebounds on a resounding 56% shooting. He’s also expanding his game on offense, shooting 40% from distance as a freshman for the Blue Devils.

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9. Toronto Raptors: Ziaire Williams, small forward, Stanford

NBA mock draft: Ziaire Williams, Stanford
Dec 7, 2019; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Sierra Canyon School forward Ziaire Williams during the 2019 Hoophall West basketball tournament at Chaparral High School. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Thus far during his freshman season with Stanford, Williams is averaging 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds on a mere 37% from the field. With that said, he is a former top-six recruit and comes from a prestigious Southern California high school program in that of Sierra Canyon. The pedigree is certainly here.

Toronto is in the midst of a disastrous start to the 2020-21 season. It needs some youthful energy to team up with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. Despite his struggles this season, Williams would more than provide that.

10. New York Knicks: Josh Christopher, shooting guard, Arizona State

2021 NBA Mock Draft: Josh Christopher
Dec 3, 2020; Berkeley, California, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils guard Josh Christopher (13) celebrates his teamÕs 70-62 victory over the California Golden Bears following an NCAA basketball game at Haas Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Adding the 6-foot-5 Christopher at 12 would be an absolute boon for the New York Knicks, finding another wing to team up with small forward R.J. Barrett. It’s been a surprising start to the season for New York, likely meaning it will miss out on a top-end talent.

Related: NBA MVP Ranking the top-10 candidates for 2020-21 – Kevin Durant remains top dog.

Christopher would not be a bad backup plan. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 5.3 rebounds on 46% shooting from the field. Boasting a stellar mid-range game, the two-guard needs to expand to the three-point line if he’s going to go higher in our NBA Mock Draft articles moving forward.

11. Cleveland Cavaliers: Greg Brown, forward, Texas

NBA mock draft: Greg Brown, Cavaliers
Dec 16, 2020; Austin, TX, USA; Sam Houston State Bearkats forward Tristan Ikpe (12) scores a basket against Texas Longhorns forward Greg Brown (4) in the second half at the University of Texas Frank Erwin Center. Mandatory Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK

A top-10 recruit, the 6-foot-9 Brown has more than proven himself in his first season with Texas. He’s averaging 11.7 points and 7.2 rebounds in just under 21 minutes of action per game as a freshman. Talk about production.

Brown would be a perfect fit in Cleveland to team up with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro. In fact, four of the team’s five starting spots would be filled with young, up-and-coming players.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Terrence Clark, wing, Kentucky

NBA mock draft: Terrence Clarke, Kentucky
UK guard Terrence Clarke defends the ball during the University of Kentucky basketball game against the University of Richmond at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Kentucky Basketball Richmond

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the future face of the Thunder’ organization. The dude has been absolutely brilliant since being acquired in the Paul George trade. Even then, OKC needs more help.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Thunder, check out #ThunderUp rumors, rankings, and news here.

That could come in the form of this wing from Kentucky. A top-eight recruit in the class of 2020, Clarke is averaging 10.7 points and 3.0 rebounds as a freshman.

13. Memphis Grizzlies: B.J. Boston, guard, Kentucky

Imagine Ja Morant teaming up with this two-guard. Memphis would have its backup of the future locked up for a good half-decade. Boston, 6-foot-7, is averaging 12.0 points and 5.4 rebounds on a mere 37% shooting from the field. With that said, he’s a former top-four recruit and boasts buttloads of upside.

14. New Orleans Pelicans: James Bouknight, guard, UCONN

NBA mock draft: James Bouknight, Warriors
Dec 20, 2020; Storrs, Connecticut, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard James Bouknight (2) warms up before the start of the game against the Creighton Bluejays at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It’s becoming pretty clear that these Pelicans need some more help in the backcourt. That should come in the form of a traditional two-guard with Lonzo Ball potentially set to exit soon. Would Bouknight change these issues immediately? No. But the dude can put the ball in the net. The sophomore is averaging 20.3 points thus far this season. He’s a shooter, plain and simple.

2021 NBA Mock Draft: Non-lottery picks

15. Atlanta Hawks: Moses Moody, shooting guard, Arkansas

16. New York Knicks (from Dallas): David Johnson, point guard, Louisville

17. San Antonio Spurs: Scottie Barnes, small forward, Florida State

18. Houston Rockets (from Portland): Daishen Nix, point guard, G-League

19. Golden State Warriors: Corey Kispert, small forward, Gonzaga

20. Denver Nuggets: Keon Johnson, shooting guard, Tennessee

21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami): Day’Ron Sharpe, center, North Carolina

22. Indiana Pacers: Terrence Shannon Jr., shooting guard, Texas Tech

23. Phoenix Suns: Jaden Springer, point guard, Tennessee

24. Memphis Grizzlies (from Utah): Caleb Love, point guard, North Carolina

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Sharife Cooper, point guard, Auburn

26. Boston Celtics: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, power forward, Illinois

27. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Milwaukee): Cameron Thomas, shooting guard, LSU

28. Brooklyn Nets: Jared Butler, guard, Baylor

29. Philadelphia 76ers: Xavier Foster, center, Iowa State

30. Los Angeles Lakers: Matthew Hurt, power forward, Duke

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