The Detroit Pistons will have the No. 1 selection in the 2021 NBA draft after the lottery gave them the top pick. The Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic round out the top five selection. The Magic and Golden State Warriors have two lottery picks after their trades with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively. Chicago and Minnesota had protected first-round picks they conveyed due to the trades.
Here’s a look at how we expect the NBA draft to play out after the lottery. There’s plenty of room for movement between now and draft day with the NBA combine, interviews, trades and players maneuvering to find a good landing spot for themselves.
2021 NBA Mock Draft 1.0: Post-Lottery
No. 1 — Detroit Pistons, Cade Cunningham
Cunningham is the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft due to his unique blend of physical gifts and offensive talent. He’ll have to grow into the NBA game, but should fit well with a young group in Detroit. The Pistons will look at Evan Mobley, but ultimately choose Cunningham.
No. 2 — Houston Rockets, Evan Mobley
Mobley looks like a generational big man and should be a long-term presence on both ends of the floor, provided he can stay healthy. He’s a shot blocker and will anchor any unit’s defense well. Mobley’s offensive game needs some work, but he is the clear choice here. The Rockets would love to have another superstar big man.
No. 3 — Cleveland Cavaliers, Johnathan Kuminga
The Cavaliers are in a tough spot due to their backcourt of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. If Cleveland likes both players enough, they might not go after Jalen Suggs or Jalen Green. Kuminga fits as an athletic forward capable of becoming a star if developed correctly. He’s not immediate help, but the Cavs can afford to wait a bit for him to grow.
No. 4 — Toronto Raptors, Jalen Suggs
The Raptors will be in the point guard market if Kyle Lowry departs, which seems likely. Suggs is a great defensive presence who can also attack the rim on the offensive end with success. His perimeter shooting needs some work, but the rest of his game is there.
No. 5 — Orlando Magic, Jalen Green
Green was a bucket in the G-League, averaging 17.9 points per game. He’s going to fit naturally in Orlando’s backcourt as a scorer, but will need to improve defensively to hang with bigger guards in the NBA.
No. 6 — Oklahoma City Thunder, Davion Mitchell
This is where the draft starts to get interesting according to most analysts. The five prospects above are considered “consensus”, meaning the Thunder have to identify a talent the teams ahead of them might have missed. Oklahoma City has been good at that and takes Mitchell, who put up 13.5 points and 5.8 assists per game during the NCAA Tournament for the national champions Baylor.
No. 7 — Golden State Warriors, Scottie Barnes
The Warriors are likely to package the two lottery picks they have in a trade for a star, but let’s assume they keep their picks in this case. Barnes fits in well as an elite defender who should be able to double as a great pick-and-roll option for Stephen Curry. The big question is whether he’ll ever be able to shoot, but the Warriors know they can fix that.
No. 8 — Orlando Magic, Keon Johnson
After taking Green, the Magic likely want to try for a big man. They already have some promising ones on the roster and instead take Johnson on a high upside play. He’s an explosive player, but lacks the shooting ability to contribute right away in Orlando.
No. 9 — Sacramento Kings, Franz Wagner
The Kings need to make playoff moves soon and this pick could be part of a trade in an effort to do so. If Sacramento stays put, Wagner is a great option. He’s a versatile offensive talent with room to develop and should eventually become a great defender. The Kings could use him in a bench role right away.
No. 10 — New Orleans Pelicans, Josh Giddey
Zion Williamson will be the talk of the offseason given his recent comments about the franchise, but the Pelicans will do their best to surround him with the right pieces. Adding the NBL’s Rookie of the Year is a good start. Given how LaMelo Ball performed this year, Giddey could be an excellent selection here.
No. 11 — Charlotte Hornets, Moses Moody
The Hornets miss out on adding another NBL talent, but add another guard/wing option in Moody. It seems like the Hornets have a lot of perimeter players, but that’s a good thing in today’s NBA. Ball is a star in the making, but Moody can provide consistent production while also being a strong defender.
No. 12 — San Antonio Spurs, Kai Jones
The Spurs have some options here, but they ultimately go with the upside play in Kai Jones. He’s a dominant defensive force who can guard multiple positions, but lacks offensive skills beyond a decent perimeter shot. San Antonio’s development machine could turn him into something special if given the chance.
No. 13 — Indiana Pacers, Ziaire Williams
Like the Spurs, the Pacers could go a variety of ways. Williams is a raw prospect, but projects well as an attacking offensive player. His defensive skills are also good, but his jump shot needs a ton of work for him to become a major contributor in the league.
No. 14 — Golden State Warriors, Corey Kispert
As mentioned earlier, there’s a strong chance the Warriors don’t actually end up owning this pick on draft night. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say they keep it. After taking Barnes early to fulfill some defensive needs, Golden State adds a deadly perimeter weapon in Kispert. He’s not likely to become a star, but his shooting makes him very valuable.
No. 15 — Washington Wizards, Tre Mann
The Wizards had success with a previous Florida guard, so why not go that way again? Mann is a great perimeter scorer and finds ways to make things happen for teammates as well. He’ll likely never be a great defender, but his length can cause problems for opponents on that end of the floor.
No. 16 — Boston Celtics, Ayo Dosunmu
Many people may forget this, but Dosunmu was considered one of the top college players in the country prior to Illinois’ surprise loss to Loyola-Chicago. On a Celtics team featuring stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Dosunmu won’t need to be as much of a scorer right away. His passing skills are solid and his defensive awareness is great. Boston is a good fit for him.
No. 17 — Memphis Grizzlies, Jaden Springer
You have to play defense to catch Memphis’ attention and Springer does that well. He’s not going to light things up offensively right away, but makes hustle plays on both ends of the floor consistently. The Grizzlies have promising players in Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.; they can use a high-motor guy who can eventually develop as an offensive talent.
No. 18 — Oklahoma City Thunder (via MIA), Jalen Johnson
The Thunder will attempt to get the best out of Johnson, who had a rough conclusion to his season at Duke. He basically quit the team, drawing the ire of many fans and pundits around the country. Johnson has a great physical profile, but his skills are relatively unknown. He’s athletic and makes plays in the open floor, something OKC can work with.
No. 19 — New York Knicks, James Bouknight
Bouknight is a lead guard the Knicks can slot in right away, capable of carrying an offense. His defensive chops are shaky, but Tom Thibodeau should be able to work on that end of the floor. The offensive skills are great and for a team that just flamed out of the playoffs, the Knicks could use some more punch.
No. 20 — Atlanta Hawks, Alperen Sengun
The Hawks will be big players this offseason after making a deep playoff run. They’ll have cap space, but most of that will go towards matching an offer sheet on John Collins. Sengun is a young, post-heavy big man who will eventually have to extend his range but would be a nice developmental piece for Atlanta.
No. 21 — New York Knicks (via DAL), Cam Thomas
The Knicks need to continue to add offense. They will have several options, but will take the upside of Thomas into account. He’s a strong scorer who mostly does well attacking the basket, but has enough of a shooting floor to develop into a perimeter threat.
No. 22 — Los Angeles Lakers, Chris Duarte
The Lakers missed a lot of threes during the playoffs and need someone who can space the floor for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Enter Duarte, who connected on 42.4 percent of his threes in college. He doesn’t have much upside, but can be a valuable role player alongside LA’s stars.
No. 23 — Houston Rockets (via POR), Sharife Cooper
The Rockets are in a massive rebuild after the departure of James Harden, but have enough picks to stockpile talent. Cooper is an excellent ball handler who should eventually become a solid lead guard. He’s not going to shoot the triple well, but attacks the basket offensively and finds teammates well. With Mobley down low, Cooper is a good pick for Houston here.
No. 24 — Houston Rockets (via MIL), Jared Butler
One pick after taking Cooper, the Rockets add a dynamic perimeter player in Butler. He was a major contributor on Baylor’s championship team and provides elite shooting. His defense is also a plus.
No. 25 — Los Angeles Clippers, Day’Ron Sharpe
The Clippers have found success going small in the playoffs, but they’ll need a high-energy big man to complement that type of rotation. Sharpe is a developing prospect, but he has great hustle and can do all the little things on both ends of the floor to be effective.
No. 26 — Denver Nuggets, Josh Christopher
The Nuggets have stars in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, but need someone would can step in as a secondary guard. Christopher wasn’t great at Arizona State, but he is able to attack the basket well and can benefit from playing alongside superior scorers.
No. 27 — Brooklyn Nets, JT Thor
The Nets need help in the paint and Thor can provide that. He’s not going to be a top offensive option, but he can secure the defensive end of the floor for Brooklyn while making high energy plays offensively.
No. 28 — Philadelphia 76ers, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
It’s hard to justify Daryl Morey adding a non-shooter to the group, but Robinson-Earl is an area player who can fit in immediately as a defensive star. His offensive upside is limited, but the 76ers will benefit from his playmaking chops. There’s a chance Morey has traded this pick as part of a deal surrounding Ben Simmons.
No. 29 — Phoenix Suns, Usman Garuba
The Suns were the surprise team in the West, even with some injuries to opponents aiding their cause. Garuba helps them defensively, while Phoenix’s offensive ability makes it easy for the franchise to bring him along slowly on that end of the floor.
No. 30 — Utah Jazz, Luka Garza
There’s a chance someone else bites on Garza earlier, but Utah will gladly take him here. Garza is an offensive force capable of scoring on all levels. His defensive ability is questionable, but the upside on the other end of the floor is too great for the Jazz to pass up. He’ll get minutes off the bench right away.