As the NBA playoffs stretch into the summer months, the future success of league franchises will soon be on the line during this year’s NBA draft. Due to NBA’s pushed-back season in light of COVID-19, the draft will be a month later than usual – on July 29.
Although the draft lottery on June 22 will determine the order of lottery teams and the draft combine (June 21-27) will allow prospects to bolster their stocks, USA TODAY Sports provides an early look at how everything can unfold in less than two months.
Which players are out front to hear their name called early by Adam Silver? A look at the projected first round:
1. Houston Rockets
Cade Cunningham • Oklahoma St • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-8 • 220
The All-American guard used his freshman season with the Cowboys to show that he’s more than just a dynamic playmaker who’s built for the NBA physically. Cunningham (20.1 ppg in 2020-21) consistently showed a clutch gene, making several game-winning shots and exuding leadership well beyond his years.
2. Detroit Pistons
Evan Mobley • Southern California • Freshman • Center • 7-0 • 215
Mobley’s shot blocking ability, length and size position him to make an impact right away. But his potential as a long-term All-Star at the big man position that’s most intriguing. He’ll need to bulk up to have better strength against NBA bigs.
3. Orlando Magic
Jalen Suggs • Gonzaga • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-4 • 205
Suggs’ table-topping buzzer-beater in this year’s Final Four will live on in March Madness lore, but his freshman season under coach Mark Few saw him blossom into an NBA-ready point guard with poise and smart decision making. Gonzaga’s offense caters well to the pro level so Suggs should be ready to make a splash. His ceiling is being a franchise point guard so passing on him to meet team needs wouldn’t be wise.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Jalen Green • USA • G-League • Guard • 6-5 • 172
Green would’ve been a star in the NCAA but instead opted to play in the G-League. He’s not a great decision maker but he’s a bucket-getter who can score at will and has the skillset to develop into a formidable combo guard.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Jonathan Kuminga • Congo • G-League • Small Forward • 6-8 • 205
Another G-Leaguer, Kuminga is an oversized wing with a tall ceiling. He won’t be an All-Star right away but has all the intangibles to develop into one. Kuminga averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in the G-League.
6. Golden State Warriors
Scottie Barnes • Florida State • Freshman • Small Forward • 6-9 • 227
Scottie Barnes is a top-10 talent in this class with the one question — his shot and offensive production — being significant enough to potentially push him into this range. He made 27.5% of his 40 3-point attempts at FSU and isn’t much of a scoring threat. Yet there’s enough to love about his game that Golden State could see value. He is a monstrous defender who at times guarded 1-5 in college and has some serious playmaking chops to go with his huge frame and long wingspan.
7. Toronto Raptors
Davion Mitchell • Baylor • Junior • Point Guard • 6-2 • 205
The key catalyst of the national champion Baylor Bears squad, Mitchell is a do-everything guard who can bolster any NBA team with his ballhawking defense. He’s also a capable passer who can stuff the stat sheet without needing to score. He can create and nail threes when he’s open.
8. Orlando Magic
James Bouknight • Connecticut • Sophomore • Shooting Guard • 6-5 • 190
Bouknight gave coach Dan Hurley a go-to scorer every night at the NCAA level. In the NBA Bouknight has all the tools to be a potent scorer — possessing the ability to score both off the ball and with it in his hands.
9. Sacramento Kings
Moses Moody • Arkansas • Freshman • Shooting Guard • 6-6 • 205
Moody’s defense will make him hard to pass up in the top 10, as he proved to be an excellent perimeter defender for an Elite Eight-finishing Razorbacks team this past March. He’s also one of the best spot-up mid-range shooters in the whole draft.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
Corey Kispert • Gonzaga • Senior • Shooting Guard • 6-7 • 220
Kispert could develop into a Kyle Korver replica. His 44% three-point shooting for a nearly undefeated Gonzaga team was the highlight of his game, but he’s also got great instincts on defense and can do the little things to make just about any team in this draft better.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Keon Johnson • Tennessee • Freshman • Shooting Guard • 6-5 • 186
Johnson can develop into an All-Star but he’s not ready to come into his own yet, as his offensive prowess still needs some work. He averaged 11.3 ppg for the Volunteers and showed flashes his true potential in his lone NCAA season.
12. San Antonio Spurs
Jalen Johnson • Duke • Freshman • Forward • 6-9 • 220
Johnson didn’t overly impress at Duke but he still got a chance to develop under arguably the greatest coach of all-time and has the skillset to grow into an All-Star.
13. Indiana Pacers
Kai Jones • Texas • Sophomore • Power Forward • 6-11 • 220
Jones’ stat line (8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) at Texas won’t raise eyebrows, but he’s a gamble-type pick based on huge upside.
14. Golden State Warriors
Franz Wagner • Michigan • Sophomore • 6-9 • 220
Wagner has size and handle around the perimeter, can knock down threes accurately and play great team defense. His game will parlay much better at the pro level than at Michigan where he was only starting to blossom.
15. Washington Wizards
Josh Giddey • Australia • Forward • 6-8 • 205
Giddey’s best asset is his court vision, passing and playmaking. His offense outweighs his mediocre defense — which needs help. But at 18 with pro experience already in Australia, he’s got time to hone his craft and adjust to the league’s style.
16. Boston Celtics
Jaden Springer • Tennessee • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-4 • 204
Springer (12.5 ppg, 44% three-point shooting) has the ability to progress into a starting point guard, illustrated by his strong outside shooting at the NCAA level.
17. Memphis Grizzlies
Ziaire Williams • Stanford • Freshman • 6-8 • 185
Williams was on the trajectory of a lottery pick but wasn’t very impressive in his lone NCAA season at Stanford. But teams like his ceiling once he gets some reps in the league.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder
Ayo Dosunmu • Illinois • Junior • 6-5 • 200
The USA TODAY Sports national college basketball player of the year 2021-22, Dosunmu was a triple-double machine who helped the Fighting Illini land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He’s reminiscent of John Wall and Russell Westbrook with his do-everything ability.
19. New York Knicks
Cameron Thomas • LSU • Freshman • Guard • 6-4 • 210
An explosive scorer, Thomas averaged 23 points a game for the Tigers and erupted for a bundle of 30-plus scoring nights. He had the ball in his hands a lot at LSU but he’ll have to find a way to make an impact when he’s not scoring at will at the pro level.
20. Atlanta Hawks
Isaiah Jackson • Kentucky • Freshman • 6-10 • 205
Jackson’s best attribute is his motor in the open court. His athleticism skills around the rim will make him a contributor to any team that selects him in this draft. Kentucky Coach John Calipari helped fine-tune his craft in one season in Lexington but there’s still a long way to go to reach his full potential.
21. New York Knicks
Tre Mann • Florida • Sophomore • Point Guard • 6-5 • 190
Mann is the type of of point guard who can play on and off the ball, which could be a nice fit in New York. He shot 40% from beyond the arc at Florida and is used to a physical style.
22. Los Angeles Lakers
Jared Butler • Baylor • Junior • Guard • 6-3 • 195
Butler, the leading scorer of a national champion Baylor squad, improved his assists and playmaking this past season as a first-team All-American. But he’s still not a natural point guard and as a combo guard he’s undersized.
23. Houston Rockets
Josh Christopher • Arizona State • Freshman • Guard • 6-5 • 215
Christopher didn’t have a major national spotlight last season as the Sun Devils underachieved, but he made great strides as a freshman and is a natural scorer who can slash to the rim with ease.
24. Houston Rockets
Usman Garuba • Spain • Power Forward • 6-8 • 229
The big man has international experience playing for Real Madrid but he’ll need to develop more because his offense is too raw, while his defense will be of use right off the bat.
25. Los Angeles Clippers
Johnny Juzang • UCLA • Sophomore • Shooting guard • 6-6 • 210
The crafty scorer for a surprise Final Four UCLA team this past March Madness, Juzang has length on defense and a hard-nosed knack for playmaking on offense.
26. Denver Nuggets
Miles McBride • West Virginia • Sophomore • Point Guard • 6-2 • 200
McBride averaged 15.8 points and 4.9 assists for the Mountaineers in 2020-21, and has a high basketball IQ that would make him a great asset off the bench for a contender team.
27. Brooklyn Nets
Charles Bassey • Western Kentucky • Junior • Power Forward • 6-11• 235
Bassey would likely be higher on this board (and he could vault up following the combine) because of playing for a mid-major in college basketball. He’s excellent on both sides of the ball and can be a menace on the glass. Expect him to become a key role player right away for a team in need of a paint presence.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
Sharife Cooper • Auburn • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-1 • 180 pounds
Cooper’s numbers speak volumes, averaging 20.2 points and 8.1 assists per game with the Tigers. He’s a multidimensional passer and can create for himself, while making open shots. That’s a recipe to boost just about any playoff team. His sign will get knocked, but so did Fred VanVleet’s stature.
29. Phoenix Suns
Nah’shon Hyland • Virginia Commonwealth • Sophomore • Point guard • 6-3 • 175
Hyland could be the steal of this draft, as he possesses Steph Curry and Damian Lillard mid-major-to-NBA-star potential. He averaged 19.5 points for the Rams in a breakout season.
30. Utah Jazz
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl • Villanova • Sophomore • Forward • 6-9 •230 pounds
A proven winner playing for a blue-blood program under coach Jay Wright, Robinson-Earl could pivot into being a great utility player at the next level. He was the co-Big East player of the year and helped guide ‘Nova to the Sweet 16 in spite of key injuries.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.