(1) MIN selects Cade Cunningham – What seemed like a no-brainer #1 pick is now becoming a bit controversial as the vultures descended on Cunningham to nitpick his game. In the end, he has helped an okay Oklahoma St. team to overachieve, proven his unselfishness and versatility, and clearly has the ‘clutch gene’. He would provide the Wolves a legit #2 option (who could grow into a 1B option) behind KAT who can control the pace of the game and make teammates better on and off the ball. With Cunningham as the primary ballhandler (and the size and strength to guard opposing 4’s), the Wolves could put Russell off the ball as a 3rd option scorer, which would make him more dangerous (or consider trading him as well, while he still has decent value). Cunningham would be the best thing that has happened to Towns in years, which is important to keep Towns ‘in town’. With the ball in Cade’s hands, and a 4-out combo of KAT, Malik Beasley, Russell, and Anthony Edwards, the Wolves could easily have a top 10 offense.
(2) DET selects Jalen Suggs – Pistons need to go with the best guy available as they try to revamp their roster with youth (and apparently a mix of odd veterans that they overpaid for, unless Troy Weaver is just accumulating ‘assets’). Similar to Haliburton in last year’s draft, Suggs is a fearless leader who may be a to shift the team culture even as a rookie. As a do-it-all type of guy with rock solid fundamentals, who plays hard on both ends of the court, Suggs could fit in immediately with all of these lottery teams, but would be perfect fit for the Pistons because he can play on or off the ball, score and create for others, defend and maybe most importantly, and play alongside Killian Hayes if need be, in what could become a dangerous and versatile backcourt duo.
(3) CLE selects Jonathan Kuminga – SEXLAND was rolling for a while there, and then the wheels came off with Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. out and Andre Drummond in street clothes waiting to be traded. In the meantime, Koby Altman made a brilliant move, picking up Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince for practically nothing. With another high draft pick in hand, the Cavs have some great options and Kuminga, with the ability to play 3 or 4, could give them a franchise cornerstone player who can help win games at both ends of the court. The defensive front court of Okoro, Kuminga and Allen would have the opportunity to be something special. And Kuminga’s shooting and passing ability seem to be well ahead of schedule. With more fine-tuning on the ball-handling and footwork, along with all NBA spacing, he could be turn out to be the best player in this draft.
(4) HOU selects Jalen Green – With Harden out and Oladipo most likely on the move, Green can easily step in as their SG of the future and be a nice pairing with Christian Wood as they try to build their roster back up with trades (Tucker, Gordon, Oladipo, Wall eventually?) and draft picks. I think Houston fans would be excited about Green, which shouldn’t be a huge factor in selecting him in normal years, but based on Tilman Fertitta’s reputation in the community currently, selling tickets and merch will be a good thing.
(5) SAC selects Evan Mobley – Mobley, the consensus best big in the 2021 draft and thought to be #2 or #3 pick in most mock drafts drops to #5 and the Kings won’t hesitate to add him to their young core of Fox (and Bagley?) and Haliburton. Even with Richaun Holmes playing well, Mobley will need some time to develop and gain strength, but once he does, he could be the Kings most dominant player with a mix of elite D on the perimeter and at the rim along with offensive potential from inside and out.
(6) ORL selects Ziaire Williams – The Magic front office love their long, athletic guys at all positions which in combination with their desperate need for better perimeter shooting would make Williams a great fit. He needs more time to develop, but won’t need to rush to do so with the Magic’s mix of youth and veterans. A young core of Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Williams and Jonathan Isaac sounds mighty nice on paper with Fournier and Gordon likely on the move. Nicola Vucevic, who seems to be peaking, will gradually drift out of his prime by the time some of these younger guys develop and may need to be moved as well to maximize Orlando’s return package.
(7) WAS selects James Bouknight – With never-ending Beal rumors swirling, Bouknight would a be a high-upside scorer who could eventually develop into their SG of the future. And even if the Wiz stick with the Westbrook/Beal combo for another year or two, Bouknight would provide them some nice bench scoring. With Troy Brown Jr. not getting playing time this year, and having picked Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija in consecutive drafts, it will be good for the Wiz to restock the back court.
(8) OKC selects Scottie Barnes – OKC is winning their fair share of games considering what everyone though was a very weak roster, but they are still in rebuild mode which makes it worth taking a chance on the versatility of Barnes. Part of their winning this year can be attributed to the playmaking and defense of Al Horford and Barnes may be able to provide some of that in the future as a point-forward who can guard multiple positions and facilitate the offense from the elbow. If his 3-point shot ever develops, he could have all-star upside.
(9) NOL selects Keon Johnson – With all the unexpected losing that’s take place this season, changes are on the horizon. Two changes that seem inevitable are JJ Redick and Eric Bledsoe to be sent out in order to give more time to NAW and Kira Lewis. Josh Hart has played well this year, but the Pelicans will be smart to take Johnson who could come along slowly off the bench but has big time potential to be a key part of the rotation in the future. His ball handling and shooting have improved at Tennessee and his athleticism and defense are already very high level.
(10) ATL selects Jalen Johnson – The opinions on Johnson are very polarizing, especially after leaving Duke early and inconsistent play when he was on the court. That being said, he is already a skilled player who, like Barnes, has an excellent ability to pass the ball for someone his size. But unlike Barnes, Johnson is a 4 with playmaking ability and not a point forward. The Hawks roster has dealt with a lot of injuries and now will face a coaching change, and possibly a GM change in the near future if things don’t go better in the 2nd half of the season. With a logjam in the front court of Clint Capela, Onyeka Onkongwu, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter and Danilo Gallinari, something has to give. Assuming the Hawks consolidate some of these assets in a trade (or don’t match an offer sheet for Collins), they may be well served to pick Johnson who could develop and play a role off the bench being mentored by Hunter, who can school him on the work it takes to improve your game at the pro level.
(11) BOS selects Day’Ron Sharpe – With few, if any, sure bets left on the board, the Celtics go with the potential, passing, and strength of Sharpe who may not have gotten a full opportunity to show what he can do in the UNC offense, especially playing behind other bigs. Celtics have not had luck with Tristan Thompson this season and would do well to replace him asap with another big body who can at least put up a fight with the Jokic’s and Embiid’s of the world. Sharpe’s passing, in combination with improvement on his jumper, would make him a favorite of Brad Stevens who loves bigs that can help facilitate the offense and stretch the defense.
(12) OKC selects Moses Moody – After selecting Scottie Barnes at #8, OKC will look to strengthen their backcourt depth with this pick. Some are skeptical about how Moody will translate in the NBA based on his scoring percentages being average/inconsistent throughout the season, but he has shown various flashes of scoring ability and at 6’6″, seems to be a no-brainer 3 and D guy that could do well in OKC’s system alongside Theo Maledon on their 2nd unit.
(13) NYK select Sharife Cooper – Knicks fans have already been dreaming of their winning days returning sooner than later with Tom Thibodeau and the front office bringing back some stability and accountability to their program. Elfrid Payton, being a very solid defender has won over Thibodeau and many fans have been calling for Immanuel Quickly to start at PG. In the end, neither of them may be the answer in the long term, since Quickly is certainly not a playmaker. Cooper has the ability to make teammates better utilizing his speed and ball-handling to break down defenses and dish to others. Some worry about his size and lack of strengh, but with guys like Ja Morant and Trae Young excelling with so much space in the NBA, Cooper would have an opportunity to do similar damage to opposing defenses. His shooting will need to improve quite a bit, but his form looks solid and he’s very young.
(14) MEM selects David Johnson – The Grizzlies are all of a sudden stacked with young players at most positions so this pick, although important, is a bit of a luxury. Johnson hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations after returning to Louisville, but still has a high-ceiling as a big, tough guard with high-level playmaking skills that may be worth gambling on. If he can start to control turnovers and continue to develop his all-around game he certainly has the potential to be better than Tyus Jones or De’Anthony Melton. The Grizz might look to trade this pick if there’s no one they love on the board. Certainly Corey Kispert could be another strong option here as as someone they could plug and play as shooter.