The 2021 NBA draft is Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ABC, ESPN and the ESPN App) with the draft boards of all 30 teams nearing completion and the shape of the lottery crystallizing. What will be the order of a top five that is believed to be historically strong? Which players have played their way into lottery position with an exemplary pre-draft process? Which teams could be looking to move up to nab a top prospect? Who wants to move down with an eye toward dealing for impact players and/or securing their longer-term future?
All of those answers and more are below, with ESPN’s latest mock draft of all 60 projected picks, based on our latest intel and scouting.
Cunningham visited the Pistons last week, taking in a Tigers game and conducting a very light shooting workout that likely didn’t provide lot of insight. Still, Cunningham’s standing in Detroit has strengthened throughout the pre-draft process to the point that it would be extremely surprising if the Pistons did anything but pick him No. 1. Despite the front office’s apparent suggestions otherwise, sources say a commitment to Cunningham could be imminent. Ownership and the front office are on the same page, while the fact that Evan Mobley — a favorite of GM Troy Weaver — has been unable to visit for a workout, might be an indication of which way things are heading in Detroit.
G League Ignite
Green has a strong desire to be the No. 1 pick, sources say, hosting the Pistons for a workout in Southern California and then traveling to Detroit for a follow-up visit. He’d be happy to go second, though, if that doesn’t materialize, and most NBA teams expect that to be the case — with some going as far as to describe that as being close to a lock. It doesn’t help that the Rockets have been stonewalled in their attempts to bring in Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs for private workouts. Houston is casting a wide net in an attempt to capture as much player data for future transactions as possible, something that has been met with a mixed reaction in the industry.
The Cavs are one of the most active teams in the league on the trade-talk front, rumored to be making overtures to acquire a second pick in the top 10 while pondering the viability of offering a rich contract extension for leading scorer Collin Sexton. It appears highly unlikely they’ll be moving out of the No. 3 slot, with Mobley now looking like a virtual certainty to be picked, provided Sexton isn’t moved. Mobley’s mobility, perimeter skill and defensive versatility could very well make him both the most intriguing long-term prospect on the board as well as a strong fit to build around Cleveland’s existing roster long term. He can coexist in supersized lineups with big man Jarrett Allen, while shouldering backup center minutes as his body continues to fill out.
Toronto doesn’t appear to subscribe to the idea that this is a four-player draft, as it has taken hard looks at both Jonathan Kuminga and Scottie Barnes, as well as other players in the top 10 such as Franz Wagner and James Bouknight. This is one team that hasn’t had any issues getting players into its building, as it is widely viewed as the most attractive destination in the top-10, along with Golden State. Still, the league overwhelmingly expects the Raptors to end up with Suggs, who is an ideal fit for their roster and could easily be considered to have the highest upside of any player available. The defensive versatility, competitiveness and transition scoring prowess he brings would fit in very well with what Toronto already has in place on the court, giving the Raptors a potential star to build around in the backcourt as the Kyle Lowry era likely comes to an end.
With two picks in the top eight, and the freedom to take a long-term view on a rebuilding process that just started at last year’s trade deadline, the Magic could go in several different directions on draft night. With that said, the league has largely locked into the idea that the Magic will start their draft night by selecting Barnes, who represents the type of culture-setter the franchise needs to help elevate all of its young players, including those yet to be acquired. Barnes’ winning spirit, toughness, work ethic, defensive versatility and playmaking ability would make him a seamless fit alongside the many parts already in place, along with his ability to play multiple positions.
Bouknight has helped himself as much as any prospect in the pre-draft process, shooting the lights out at his pro day in Chicago, measuring well, and proceeding to continue his strong momentum in private workouts. The Thunder have long been high on Bouknight, going as far as to inquire about the possibility of him entering last year’s draft, something he elected against. Every NBA team is looking for the type of versatile scoring backcourt player Bouknight’s ceiling suggests he can become if he reaches his full potential, and his fit alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander appears to be strong.
Jonathan Kuminga also is a candidate here, and the Thunder have reportedly visited him twice in Miami to watch him work out and conduct a battery of testing. It is believed that the Thunder have been active in conversations looking to potentially move up in the draft, with Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley rumored to be the prospects they are highest on. OKC has significant ammunition to try and get virtually anywhere it wants — the question is whether the Thunder will be willing to pay a sky-high asking price to get into the top-3, as the teams ahead of them are said to be asking for a king’s ransom at the moment.
Wagner was selective in where he worked out during the pre-draft process, electing to skip the NBA combine altogether after an outstanding sophomore season that rocketed him firmly into the top 10. He has continued to rise as teams have gotten to know him better on and off the court. It’s difficult to find 6-9 wing players in his mold who can defend all over the floor, have strong shooting indicators and know how to play a role that includes strong passing ability and feel for the game. For the Warriors, Wagner represents the best of both worlds in many ways, a 19-year-old with upside to grow into who also looks ready to contribute and help a team win games. He doesn’t have the type of ballhandling ability or explosive athleticism to project shouldering heavy usage or wow anyone with star-level upside, but players in his mold are difficult to find, which gives him a strong case to hear his name in this range.
8. Orlando Magic (from Chicago)
G League Ignite
Once considered a candidate at No. 1 after a scintillating start in the G League Bubble, Kuminga’s stock has plateaued as question marks regarding his offensive efficiency and approach have crept into the conversation and allowed other prospects to surpass him. For the moment, it’s unclear exactly what his floor might be on draft night. The Magic got an up-close look at him in a private workout when he was still under consideration for the No. 5 pick, and they will likely be surprised to see him fall to No. 8 considering the explosiveness, scoring instincts and upside he brings to the table. While the fit might not be ideal, especially after drafting Scottie Barnes, with Kuminga’s ball-stopping tendencies, streaky shooting and defensive lapses, it would be difficult to see him drop much further at this stage of the draft before a team decides to move up and trade for him.
The Kings were said to be fans of Franz Wagner, who is off the board in this scenario, as well as Sengun, who is still available and reportedly had an outstanding workout in their building. If Sacramento doesn’t think it will be able to clear enough cap room to offer starting big man Richaun Holmes the money he needs to return, Sengun could be firmly in play. He has been a favorite of analytics models thanks to his brutally effective scoring and rebounding ability, and also shows intriguing upside as a passer and shooter. The Kings are being aggressive in trade talks and there is a chance they won’t be making this pick, or their second-round pick at No. 39, as they have some contracts on their books they may look to unload with Marvin Bagley III and Buddy Hield.
Talks of a Memphis-New Orleans trade had been swirling in NBA circles for several days, and the two teams finally were able to reach an agreement, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, on a move that clears much-needed salary-cap space for the Pelicans to use this summer. Franz Wagner has been long rumored as a favorite of the Memphis front office but is off the board in this scenario. Giddey is another player the Grizzlies are said to be high on, thanks in part to an impressive showing with the Australian national team in an exhibition game against Nigeria in Las Vegas — under the watchful eye of countless NBA decision-makers, including the Grizzlies brain trust. Giddey is one of the best passers in the draft and offers outstanding versatility as a 6-foot-9 guard who can operate on or off the ball, and he should improve as a shooter and defender as his frame fills out and he gains experience.
Charlotte’s lack of wing depth was exposed over the course of the season by injuries to Gordon Hayward and others. Enter Kispert, one of the best shooters in the draft, who looks ready to make an immediate impact with his size, skill and experience. Surrounding LaMelo Ball with a plus-sized wing, an elite shooting stroke and enough chops as a passer, slasher and defender to hold his own early in the NBA, makes plenty of sense.
The Spurs are thought to be in the market for a starting-caliber big man to build around long-term, with Alperen Sengun penciled in as a strong candidate here by NBA teams, but off the board in this scenario. Sources around the Spurs say they will be taking a best-player available approach to this draft, as they are about to embark on a rebuilding effort that will require stockpiling as much talent as possible regardless of positional fit. Moody seems to have plenty of fans around the NBA, with his draft range appearing to start around Golden State at 7 and likely falling no further than the Warriors’ second pick at the end of the lottery. Moody is one of the youngest players in the draft, fits the long-armed, sweet-shooting “3 and D” profile every team is looking for, and is coming off a productive freshman season in the SEC.
Mitchell’s momentum has cooled somewhat, as the memories from his national championship run have faded and been replaced by one-on-zero workout performances conducted by younger, more attractive prospects deemed to have higher upside. Still, with Malcolm Brogdon entering the final two years of his contract, and a clear mandate to win dictated by several coaching changes in the past year, Mitchell’s strong playmaking, shot-making instincts and defensive versatility will likely be attractive to Rick Carlisle and Indiana.
14. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have a delicate timeline dictated by an aging roster and Steph Curry‘s expiring contract next summer, which might make it difficult to add another teenager to the roster, especially after possibly selecting one at No. 7. Adding a ready-made contributor like Duarte who can make shots, play off the ball and be competent defensively likely makes the most sense. He is one of the oldest players projected to be drafted and looks like a plug-and-play fit thanks to his strong perimeter shooting, passing and defensive playmaking instincts.
Trey Murphy III
The 6-foot-9 Murphy’s stock has been skyrocketing in the pre-draft process as teams have gotten a close look at his combination of outstanding size, length and shooting prowess, which saw him convert 43% of his 3-pointers at Virginia. He is the one name teams identified as being the biggest snub from this week’s Green Room invites, in terms of where they expect him to be picked. The Wizards will likely be attracted to the fact that he’s a 21-year old junior who doesn’t need the ball and fits their timetable better than most of the teenagers projected to be drafted in this range.
Johnson has one of the wider ranges of any prospect in the draft, as he brings neither the immediate readiness nor the type of role-playing or sweet-shooting projection that other wings in this class do, which could cause him to slide somewhat on draft night. The Thunder are in no rush to win and can afford to be patient with his development, giving him the reps needed to tap into the flashes of playmaking and two-way versatility he demonstrates, which are very hard to find.
The Pelicans now have more than $30 million in cap room after moving down from the No. 10 pick and swapping veterans and future draft assets with the Grizzlies. It still didn’t solve one of the biggest issues on their roster, though: perimeter shooting, which they’ll need to have much more of to give budding superstar Zion Williamson the spacing he needs to put his devastating shot creation to full use. Enter Williams, who offers elite size (over 6-10 in shoes) and shot-making ability. He started the season projected much higher than this and still has plenty of upside to tap into, making him an interesting option to consider in the late teens.
Williams is reportedly in play in several spots in the lottery, as he has gained significant traction in recent weeks following several strong individual workouts showing there’s more to his game than scouts saw in his disrupted season at Stanford. Several NBA teams say the Pelicans are exploring trading down or out from this slot, looking for veteran contributors who can help them make a playoff run next season.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Miami)
The Thunder have a nearly unlimited trove of draft picks the next few years and will likely be thinking of taking home run swings for as many potential stars as they can until they find one. Johnson could be a very interesting roll of the dice, with the type of frame, playmaking and defensive versatility that is hard to find from a 6-foot-9 forward with guard skills. Johnson started the year projected as a top-five pick, but he now has one of the wider ranges of any prospect in the draft, as playoff-contending teams question his lack of shooting and fit on one hand and the circumstances of his abrupt departure from Duke on the other.
It remains to be seen how much of an appetite the Knicks will have for adding two first-round picks to their already crowded rotation — many expect them to either look to package Nos. 19 and 21 and move up to the late lottery or mid-first round or trade one or both picks for more ready-made contributors. If they keep the pick, Jones, whose draft range starts at about 12, is likely too talented to fall much further as a versatile defender who showed some promise as a floor-spacer to complement his rim-running, offensive rebounding and finishing prowess, giving him plenty of upside to grow into a long-term contributor.
The Hawks exceeded expectations with a playoff run that showcased the star power of Trae Young alongside several outstanding complementary pieces. Adding another shooter/scorer on the wing could make sense, especially someone like Thomas, who led the SEC in scoring and has unlimited range on his jump shot. The Hawks may look to restart the cycle by moving one of their rookie-scale-contract players, such as Cam Reddish, for a first-round pick, as it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to pay all of their young players. While only 19, Thomas has some of the best scoring instincts in the draft and will likely need little time to acclimate himself offensively thanks to the aggressiveness and skill he brings on that end of the floor.
21. New York Knicks (from Dallas)
As mentioned, it remains to be seen how much of an appetite the Knicks will have for adding two first-round picks to their already crowded rotation. Many expect them to either look to package Nos. 19 and 21 and move up to the late lottery or middle first, or trade one or both picks for more ready-made contributors. If they elect to keep this pick, Hyland’s deep shooting range could be attractive here, along with his ability to play both on or off the ball in different lineup configurations. He had a strong showing at the NBA combine, boosting his stock firmly into first-round territory.
The Lakers will be on the lookout for ready-made contributors if they decide to keep this pick, with a significant part of their rotation about to enter free agency, and other players under contract being shopped according to reports. Enter Garuba, a versatile defender with toughness and Euroleague experience who looks ready to play a role as a contributor alongside stars, something he’s been groomed to do for the past few years. Garuba did not look out of place in an exhibition game against Team USA last week, helping his cause among teams in the first round.
23. Houston Rockets (from Portland)
With little in the way of long-term options committed to their roster, the Rockets can afford to take a swing on whichever prospect they deem to have the highest constant upside regardless of positional fit. There’s a strong case to be made for Cooper as the most talented player available at No. 23. He’s an elite ball handler and passer who is an absolute wizard operating out of pick-and-roll thanks to his terrific burst, creativity and feel for the game.
24. Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee)
This is a little bit of a slide from previous projections for Jackson, whose lack of bulk, propensity for fouling and unpolished game could cause playoff teams to look more towards more ready-made contributors. The Rockets are in an early stage of their rebuilding process and can afford to swing for the fences for a prospect like Jackson, one of the most explosive players in the draft and an elite shot-blocker who dropped strong glimpses of offensive potential, which gives him significant upside.
The Clippers are expected to miss Kawhi Leonard for all of next season, and could also lose key bench contributor Reggie Jackson to free agency, opening up plenty of minutes in the backcourt. Butler’s ability to play on or off the ball could be very attractive at this stage of the draft, especially with the polish and maturity he brings. He is a capable ball handler, shooter and defender and showed he already knows how to play an efficient role alongside other good players en route to winning a national championship while earning Most Outstanding Player honors in the NCAA tournament. His draft stock has suffered as NBA teams have scrutinized his medical history, which caused him to miss most of the pre-draft process.
Adding depth on the wing will likely be a priority for the Nuggets, who are slated to be without Jamal Murray for all or most of next season and will see several rotation players enter free agency. Enter Grimes, one of the best shooters in the college game, who showed a lot more versatility as a passer than he had previously gotten credit for in what was an outstanding week of play at the NBA combine. Grimes looks physically ready to help a team after playing a major role taking one of the best defensive teams in college basketball to the Final Four.
The Nets’ timetable could very well cause them to explore trading out of the first round — as they have in each of the past two years — as it’s difficult to project anyone in this range helping them compete for a championship next season. If they don’t move out, adding depth at center with a player they can develop into a meaningful contributor in the long haul may make some sense. Sharpe has helped himself in the pre-draft process, shedding weight, showcasing much better floor-spacing potential than previously advertised, and impressing in private interviews with his boisterous personality.
The Sixers will be looking to surround their core with as much 3-point shooting as possible after a disappointing playoff exit. Primo, the youngest player in the draft, might need some time before becoming a consistent contributor, but he has helped himself with a strong pre-draft process and is a candidate to come off the board around this range or earlier to a team trading up to select him.
After a memorable playoff run to the NBA Finals, the Suns’ timetable could cause them to go in several different directions on draft night as their window of contention is clearly right now. Mann is a promising pick-and-roll ball handler whose size, fluidity and 40% 3-point shooting should allow him to play in a variety of lineup configurations, and whose upside will likely be attractive at this stage of the first round.
Coming off a phenomenal regular season, the Jazz might look to add backcourt depth after coming up short in the playoffs, partially due to injuries. McBride is one of the best defenders in the draft, a capable 3-point shooter, and has the type of role-playing intangibles you want to see in a player that can hopefully develop into a backcourt partner of a star like Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz reportedly have some luxury tax concerns they may look to address on draft night, potentially by dangling one of the veterans, such as Joe Ingles, or Derrick Favors, for a draft pick.
31. Bucks (from Rockets)
Jaden Springer | Tennessee | SG | Age: 18.8
32. Knicks (from Pistons)
Ayo Dosunmu | Illinois | SG | Age: 21.5
JT Thor | Auburn | PF | Age: 18.9
Josh Christopher | Arizona St | SG | Age: 19.6
35. Pelicans (from Cavaliers)
Isaiah Todd | G-League Ignite | PF | Age: 19.7
36. Thunder (from Timberwolves)
Joel Ayayi | Gonzaga | PG/SG | Age: 21.3
37. Pistons (from Raptors)
B.J. Boston | Kentucky | SG | Age: 19.6
38. Bulls (from Pelicans)
Kessler Edwards | Pepperdine | SF/PF | Age: 20.9
Charles Bassey | Western Kentucky | C | Age: 20.7
40. Grizzlies (from Pelicans via Bulls)
Juhann Begarin | Paris | SG | Age: 18.9
David Johnson | Louisville | PG | Age: 20.3
42. Pistons (from Hornets)
Filip Petrusev | Mega Basket | PF/C | Age: 21.2
43. Pelicans (from Wizards)
Jason Preston | Ohio | PG | Age: 21.9
44. Nets (from Pacers)
Rokas Jokubaitis | Zalgiris | PG | Age: 20.6
Austin Reaves | Oklahoma | PG/SG | Age: 23.1
46. Raptors (from Grizzlies)
Herb Jones | Alabama | SF | Age: 22.7
47. Raptors (from Warriors)
Aaron Wiggins | Maryland | SG/SF | Age: 22.5
48. Hawks (from Heat)
Jericho Sims | Texas | PF | Age: 22.7
49. Nets (from Hawks)
Joe Wieskamp | Iowa | SF | Age: 21.9
50. 76ers (from Knicks)
Aaron Henry | Michigan St | SG | Age: 21.8
51. Pelicans (from Grizzlies via Trail Blazers)
Isaiah Livers | Michigan | SF/PF | Age: 22.9
52. Pistons (from Lakers)
Daishen Nix | G-League Ignite | PG/SG | Age: 19.4
53. Pelicans (from Mavericks)
Greg Brown | Texas | PF | Age: 19.8
54. Pacers (from Bucks)
Luka Garza | Iowa | C | Age: 22.5
55. Thunder (from Nuggets)
Santi Aldama | Loyola MD | PF | Age: 20.5
56. Hornets (from Clippers)
Vrenz Bleijenbergh | Antwerp | SF/PF | Age: 20/7
57. Hornets (from Nets)
McKinley Wright IV | Colorado | PG | Age: 22.7
58. Knicks (from 76ers)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl | Villanova | PF | Age: 20.7
59. Nets (from Suns)
Sandro Mamukelashvili | PF/C | Seton Hall | Age: 22.1
60. Pacers (from Jazz)
Neemias Queta | Utah State | C | Age: 22.0