0 of 15
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
With less than a week before the 2021 NBA draft lottery, the invitation lists for the G League Elite Camp and NBA combine are being finalized.
We conducted our final simulation using Tankathon, and the Minnesota Timberwolves will pick first in this mock draft edition.
While the NBA combine list is generally the best indicator for who’ll get picked, there are always a few second-round surprises who teams want kept hidden during the predraft process.
1 of 15
C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images
The Minnesota Timberwolves could catch a franchise-changing break by avoiding trading their protected top-three pick to the Golden State Warriors. Minnesota has a 37.2 percent chance at moving into the top four and a 9.0 percent chance of winning the lottery for Cade Cunningham.
The addition of Cunningham’s creation, shot-making and passing could elevate a roster that looked like it was starting to click in April and May, when the Wolves won nine of their last 16 games behind a more consistent Anthony Edwards.
Fit shouldn’t be a problem for Cunningham in Minnesota, given his size and versatility, D’Angelo Russell’s combo-guard skill set and the 225-pound Edwards having logged 62.0 percent of his possessions at small forward.
If Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns can stay healthy—and Edwards doesn’t forget how he scored so efficiently after the All-Star break—Minnesota’s situation could be a favorable one for Cunningham. The roster would suddenly have legitimate upside.
2 of 15
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
Cade Cunningham figures to be the target for a Houston Rockets roster that could use an offensive initiator. But the Rockets would settle on Evan Mobley to anchor the defense and eventually give the lineup a modernized scoring center.
He should be interchangeable with Christian Wood, based on their tools and skill sets for finishing and playing around the perimeter.
In the short term, Mobley’s value will revolve around his shot-blocking, switching and overall defensive range. But he’ll offer John Wall an easy-basket target and the Rockets’ offense a weapon to handle in transition, stretch the floor, attack closeouts and shoot in the mid-range.
3 of 15
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images
Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley and Jalen Green all look like fits for the Detroit Pistons’ roster.
On paper, Green would plug a gaping hole with his shot creation and shot-making from the off-guard slot. He’d also give the lineup a needed jolt of speed and explosion for easy baskets off transition and drives.
Jerami Grant’s breakout was exciting for Detroit, and Killian Hayes began to look more confident late in the year. But the roster is missing another offensive weapon to generate his own offense, and it’s easy to picture Green’s slashing and advanced dribble-jumper game quickly translating to three-level scoring.
4 of 15
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
After last season’s trade-deadline selloff, the Orlando Magic are just looking for talent over needs in the draft. But they can check both boxes with Jalen Suggs.
It’s too early for Orlando to confidently know what it has in Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton, particularly when it comes to playmaking and running offense. Suggs flashed a little more passing savvy, and there should be a path for the 6’4″ ball-handler to emerge as the class’ most complete player, between his athletic ability, playmaking, pull-up/floater game for scoring and defensive impact.
He operates with the maturity and poise of a lead guard, but he also shared the rock at Gonzaga and looked comfortable scoring off the ball, attacking closeouts and cutting.
5 of 15
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images
Winners of just one game in April and one game in May, the Oklahoma City Thunder are building from scratch. They’ll go best player available at No. 5, which can lead them to Jonathan Kuminga, an athletic, physical, scoring combo forward.
He’d receive more freedom to play through mistakes in Oklahoma City than anywhere else. The Thunder need more creation and offense, and Kuminga possesses the skill set to eventually emerge as a top-two option.
His jumper and decision-making need time, but with the Thunder, Kuminga would get plenty of early, pressure-free shooting reps and opportunities to strengthen his feel for the game.
6 of 15
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
The draft gets tricky around No. 6 without a clear answer on the board. But scouts all seem to love Scottie Barnes despite obvious flaws. And the likelihood of his passing, defensive versatility and intangibles carrying over could be enough for the Cleveland Cavaliers once the perceived stars are taken.
The improvement Isaac Okoro showcased as a scorer late in the season should also ease concerns about his offensive fit with Barnes.
Cleveland could be drawn to the idea of playing two potential stoppers at the forward slots with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton providing the firepower in the backcourt. Still, Barnes’ frontcourt playmaking should be valued for this particular lineup, while ball-handling skills, the occasional three-pointer and extreme length for finishing still hint at some degree of scoring potential.
7 of 15
Joe Robbins/NCAA Photos/Getty Images
Toronto would be a fitting landing spot for Keon Johnson. He’d earn early minutes for his athleticism, defense and energy, while the Raptors can afford to remain patient with his skill development as they continue to feature Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
It’s tough to confidently project Johnson’s rookie role without knowing whether free agents Kyle Lowry or Gary Trent Jr. will be back. But for the 19-year-old, it’s all about the long-term picture, which casts visions of a two-way wing who explodes above the rim, flies in transition, scores from the post, provides secondary playmaking and applies relentless ball pressure.
Opponents could ultimately have a tough time creating quality looks against a lineup of Johnson, OG Anunoby, Siakam and Chris Boucher.
8 of 15
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
If the Orlando Magic draft Jalen Suggs (or Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green) in the top four, they may be inclined to go big with the Chicago Bulls’ pick.
Regardless, Jalen Johnson has a best-player-available case at No. 8 based on his 6’9″, 220-pound size, athleticism, face-up skill set for versatility and defensive tools.
His open-floor playmaking and passing make him different from Chuma Okeke or Jonathan Isaac, while Johnson could be more productive scoring in the paint and rebounding.
9 of 15
Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images
Set in the backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, the Sacramento Kings could focus on strengthening their frontcourt by targeting Franz Wagner.
He’s an easy fit with the versatility to shoot, dribble, pass and guard both forward spots at 6’9″. A jumbo wing or hybrid 4, Wagner could be used in ball-screen situations or off the ball to space the floor and attack closeouts.
While his jumper takes time to become more consistent, the Kings could value his defense most in the short term.
10 of 15
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Regardless of how the New Orleans Pelicans plan to approach Lonzo Ball’s restricted free agency, they could still see value in adding Davion Mitchell’s explosiveness for attacking and defensive pressure.
The team can’t be sure what it has yet in Kira Lewis Jr., while Mitchell’s experience playing alongside Jared Butler and his improved shooting should allow New Orleans to use him next to Ball, Lewis or Eric Bledsoe.
Many scouts have bought into his breakout season that highlighted blow-by burst, one-on-one creation, shot-making versatility and growth as a playmaker. At some point in the second half of the lottery, a team will take him as a best player available without putting stock into his immediate fit.
11 of 15
David Butler II/Associated Press
11. Charlotte Hornets: Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG/SF, Freshman)
12. San Antonio Spurs: Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)
13. Indiana Pacers: James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)
14. Golden State Warriors: Corey Kispert (Gonzaga, SF, Senior)
15. Washington Wizards: Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, PF/C, 2002)
16. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Jackson (Kentucky, C, Freshman)
17. Memphis Grizzlies: Tre Mann (Florida, PG/SG, Sophomore)
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Heat): Jared Butler (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)
19. New York Knicks: Sharife Cooper (Auburn, PG, Freshman)
20. Atlanta Hawks: Jaden Springer (Tennessee, PG/SG, Sophomore)
- I’m told NBA decision-makers will be headed to Las Vegas to scout Giddey with the Australian national team. It sounds like his current perceived range is Nos. 8-16, but most general managers should be getting their first live look at the 6’8″ playmaker in July. Teams to potentially target Giddey include the Orlando Magic, Spurs and Pacers, which could each use a passer to facilitate offense.
- Of the names from No. 11-20, Bouknight is the one that could rise the highest. I’ve heard scouts who like him better than Moody. He’s likely to make teams ignore his three-point percentages during workouts, while his athleticism has the potential to really pop in an empty gym. Executives may determine he’s even bouncier than he looked with a Huskies team that ranked outside the top 300 teams in pace, per KenPom.com. As Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker remind us about the value of shot-creators and scorers in the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team use a top-10 pick on Bouknight.
12 of 15
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
21. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Chris Duarte (Oregon, SG, Senior)
22. Los Angeles Lakers: Kai Jones (Texas, PF, Sophomore)
23. Houston Rockets (via Blazers): Ziaire Williams (Stanford, SG/SF, Freshman)
24. Houston Rockets (via Bucks): JT Thor (Auburn, PF, Freshman)
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Usman Garuba (Real Madrid, PF/C, 2002)
26. Denver Nuggets: Cameron Thomas (LSU, SG, Freshman)
27. Brooklyn Nets: Aaron Henry (Michigan State, SG/SF, Junior)
28. Philadelphia 76ers: Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois, PG/SG, Junior)
29. Phoenix Suns: Miles McBride (West Virginia, PG/SG, Sophomore)
30. Utah Jazz: Josh Christopher (Arizona State, SG/SF, Freshman)
- Most expect the Knicks to offer some combination of No. 19, No. 21 and No. 32 to try and move up. They aren’t leaving the draft with three rookies. But New York still has to prepare as if it will be picking in the mid-first round, and Duarte suddenly looks like a desirable option for a playoff team that only has a handful of players signed for 2021-22. His age (23) will turn some off, but scouts talk about Duarte as a plug-and-play guard or wing based on his shot-making versatility (and accuracy) and toughness. He could be a cheap replacement if Alec Burks or Reggie Bullock sign elsewhere.
- Scouts see Thor as a top candidate to abruptly rise into the first-round picture. He wasn’t overly productive at Auburn, but between the flash plays, scrimmage footage I’ve seen from recent workouts and the value tied to his shot-making bigs, it’s easy to imagine teams becoming enticed by a 6’10”, 19-year-old with three-point range and a pull-up game.
13 of 15
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
31. Milwaukee Bucks (via Rockets): Day’Ron Sharpe (North Carolina, C, Freshman)
32. New York Knicks (via Pistons): Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, C, Junior)
33. Orlando Magic: Josh Primo (Alabama, SG, Freshman)
34. New Orleans Pelicans (via Cavaliers): RaiQuan Gray (Florida State, SF/PF, Junior)
35. Oklahoma City Thunder: Trey Murphy III (Virginia, PF, Junior)
36. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Timberwolves): Brandon Boston Jr. (Kentucky, SF, Freshman)
37. Detroit Pistons (via Raptors): Roko Prkacin (Cibona, PF, 2002)
38. Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga, PG/SG, Junior)
39. Sacramento Kings: Kessler Edwards (Pepperdine, SF/PF, Junior)
40. New Orleans Pelicans (via Bulls): Johnny Juzang (UCLA, SF, Sophomore)
- Scottie Barnes is Florida State’s highest-profile prospect, but NBA teams like Gray and the idea that drafting Seminoles has recently worked out. Teams with late first-round picks are checking in. A combination of face-up skill, power at 260 pounds and defensive mobility creates outlier potential for Gray, who may be slept on due to an unorthodox game and limited shooting ability.
- Juzang hasn’t announced whether he’s staying in the draft, but I’m assuming he will, given how much time he’s had to gather feedback and the fact he’s kept his name in. Unlikely to top last year’s NCAA performance, Juzang might as well go all in for 2021. Scouts remain curious as to where he’ll go, and there is some belief that he could sneak into the late first round.
14 of 15
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press
41. San Antonio Spurs: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova, PF, Sophomore)
42. Detroit Pistons (via Hornets): Rokas Jokubaitis (Zalgiris, PG/SG, 2000)
43. New Orleans Pelicans (via Wizards): Filip Petrusev (Mega Bemax, C, 2000)
44. Brooklyn Nets (via Pacers): Herb Jones (Alabama, SF, Senior)
45. Boston Celtics: Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech, SG/SF, Sophomore)
46. Toronto Raptors (via Grizzlies): Isaiah Todd (G League Ignite, PF, 2002)
47. Toronto Raptors (via Warriors): Ariel Hukporti (Nevezis Kedainiai, C, 2002)
48. Atlanta Hawks (via Heat): Santi Aldama (Loyola MD, PF, Sophomore)
49. Brooklyn Nets (via Hawks): Nah’Shon Hyland (VCU, SG, Sophomore)
50. Philadelphia 76ers (via Knicks): Austin Reaves (Oklahoma, SG, Senior)
- Reaves will try to show teams he’s a better shooter than the numbers say. He handled a heavy workload at Oklahoma, which allowed him to showcase his creation, playmaking skills and pull-up game inside the arc, but it also limited his rhythm catch-and-shoot opportunities. After scoring 27 points against Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament, scouts are taking him more seriously and want to know if his 86.5 free-throw percentage is a more accurate indicator than his 30.5 three-point mark.
- Hukporti only shot 41.7 percent this season in Lithuania despite 7’0″, 250-pound size. But he managed to secure an NBA combine invitation, with scouts apparently still interested in his physical tools and the flashes of skills, even if he’s still far away from consistently executing them. While the initial appeal to Hukporti stems from his athleticism around the basket and motor, he’s oozing with confidence in his scoring and shot.
15 of 15
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images
51. Memphis Grizzlies (via Blazers): Daishen Nix (G League Ignite, PG, 2002)
52. Detroit Pistons (via Lakers): Luka Garza (Iowa, C, Senior)
53. New Orleans Pelicans (via Mavericks): Matthew Hurt (Duke, PF, Sophomore)
54. Indiana Pacers (via Bucks): Quentin Grimes (Houston, SG, Junior)
55. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Nuggets): Isaiah Livers (Michigan, SF, Senior)
56. Charlotte Hornets (via Clippers): Juhann Begarin (Paris Basketball, SG, 2002)
57. Charlotte Hornets (via Nets): Neemias Queta (Utah State, C, Junior)
58. New York Knicks (via Clippers): David Johnson (Louisville, PG/SG, Sophomore)
59. Brooklyn Nets (via Suns): Trendon Watford (LSU, PF, Sophomore)
60. Indiana Pacers (via Jazz): Justin Champagnie (Pittsburgh, SF/PF, Sophomore)
- Scouts aren’t sure what to think about Nix. His passing IQ was evident in the bubble, but so was a lack of explosiveness and jumper. One team should still deem him draftable based on his baseline, translatable strengths: Physicality/coordination for finishing and an ability to find teammates.
- Begarin earned an invite to the G League Elite camp after averaging 11.9 points in France’s second division and improving his three-point shooting. Athletic and 6’5″ with a developing jumper, Begarin will have a good chance to improve his stock more in Chicago against mostly older fringe draft picks.