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Sunday, April 18, 2021

2021 NBA Mock Draft: Updated 1st-Round Predictions Before NCAA Championship

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Baylor guard Jared Butler drives up court during the first half of a men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament semifinal game against Houston, Saturday, April 3, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The 2021 men’s Final Four tipped off Saturday with plenty of NBA prospects taking the court at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

While the top of the draft board seems relatively set—minus the order of which teams will pick where—there are still plenty of college stars looking to impress with the season nearing its end. Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi are likely first-rounders. So too are Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell of Baylor. UCLA’s Johnny Juzang’s stock has surged over the last month, while Houston’s Quentin Grimes has played his way into the first round, too.

Here’s an updated look at the 2021 mock draft board ahead of Monday’s national championship game between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 1 Baylor.

2021 NBA Mock Draft

1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State

2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Suggs, SG, Gonzaga

3. Detroit Pistons: Evan Mobley, C, USC

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State

5. Orlando Magic: Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G League

6. Washington Wizards: Jalen Green, SG, G League

7. Toronto Raptors: James Bouknight, SG, UConn

8. Orlando Magic (via Chicago Bulls): Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

9. Oklahoma City Thunder: Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee

10. New Orleans Pelicans: Jalen Johnson, PF, Duke

11. Indiana Pacers: Jaden Springer, SG, Tennessee

12. Sacramento Kings: Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford

13. Golden State Warriors: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

14. Memphis Grizzlies: Kai Jones, C, Texas

15. New York Knicks: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU

16. Boston Celtics: Alperen Sengun, C, Turkey

17. Atlanta Hawks: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF, Villanova

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami Heat): Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor

19: Charlotte Hornets: Greg Brown, PF, Texas

20. San Antonio Spurs: Jared Butler, SG, Baylor

21. New York Knicks (via Dallas Mavericks): Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois

22. Houston Rockets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Brandon Boston Jr., G, Kentucky

23. Denver Nuggets: Roko Prkacin, F, Croatia

24. Los Angeles Lakers: Matthew Hurt, F, Duke

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Johnny Juzang, G, UCLA

26. Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee Bucks): Kofi Cockburn, C, Illinois

27. Philadelphia 76ers: MaCio Teague, G, Baylor

28. Brooklyn Nets: Quentin Grimes, G, Houston

29. Phoenix Suns: Joel Ayayi, G, Gonzaga

30. Utah Jazz: Luka Garza, C, Iowa

Cade Cunningham remains the top prospect despite failing to lead Oklahoma State past Oregon State in the round of 32. The 6’8″, 220-pound guard from Texas has every tool evaluators look for in a top pick. He can create his own shot off the dribble, play through double-teams and rebound with the best guards in the class.

That allowed Cunningham to average 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and excel in a competitive Big 12.

His biggest competition to become the No. 1 pick comes from Suggs, who posted 16 points—and one of the most memorable buzzer-beaters in tournament history—in a Final Four victory over UCLA. Suggs is a Minnesota native, so it might be tough for the Timberwolves to pass him up even if they drafted shooting guard Anthony Edwards with the top pick last year.

Final Four stars Kispert, Mitchell, Butler, Juzang, MaCio Teague, Grimes and Ayayi also are potential first-round picks. Juzang may have helped his stock as much as any player throughout the NCAA tournament. The guard has posted at least 23 points in three of five games heading into Saturday’s tilt against the Bulldogs. He added another 29 points in the Bruins’ loss.

The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie believes the former Kentucky Wildcat has emerged as a top prospect after one year under Mick Cronin:

“What he’s done isn’t just resigned to the NCAA tournament, either, where he’s averaged 21.3 points per game on the way to leading UCLA to the Final Four. In Juzang’s final 16 games, he’s up over 18 points on 45 percent from the field, 36 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the line. So this isn’t just some hot streak. He’s been this way for two months now. What you have here is a wing with legit size and genuine shooting ability, something that NBA teams are all over trying to acquire. I think he’s pretty clearly a real prospect.”

Further down the board, the Naismith Men’s Player of the Year isn’t guaranteed NBA success.

Iowa’s Luka Garza averaged 24.1 points and 8.7 rebounds and shot 55.3 percent from the field, but he doesn’t quite fit today’s NBA. Vecenie ranked him No. 52 on his board, while B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman had the Charlotte Hornets selecting him at No. 58 in his latest mock draft.

Five of the last six Naismith Player of the Year winners have struggled to carve out roles in the league with Zion Williamson the exception among Frank Kaminsky, Buddy Hield, Frank Mason III, Jalen Brunson and Obi Toppin.

Garza may very well buck the trend, but it doesn’t seem too likely.

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