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  1. #2581
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    2021 NBA Mock Draft: Cade Cunningham tops wing-heavy class that excites scouts, execs

    The 2021 NBA Draft process begins in earnest this week as college basketball teams tip off games and scouts look on knowing that the 2021 class looks, throughout the lottery, to have much more upside than the 2020 one did.

    And indeed, this is a draft worth tanking for. Iíd ballpark it at five players who are currently tracking ahead of anyone in the 2020 NBA Draft and thus would have been likely to be selected at No. 1 in that class. And realistically, there are even more players than those who are particularly interesting and seem to have higher upsides.

    But more importantly, this draft is absolutely loaded with wings. NBA teams are constantly on the lookout for players who can morph into athletic, multi-positional and multi-role two-way wings, and this draft has more of them than any that I can remember scouting in the last seven years. After a draft where bigs ended up being selected in 12 of the top 35 picks, Iíd expect much more of a reversion next year toward the way the NBA game actually looks in reality now, where versatile wings are the most important thing that you can find.

    In an era where defensive versatility and athleticism are prized by NBA coaches, this is the draft that will provide a significant influx of flexible, lineup-altering players who will allow teams to play skilled and switchable without losing a ton of size. Itís also worth noting that youíll see this class is dominated by freshmen at the top. Why is that? Well, simply put, two reasons. First, itís a great recruiting class filled with talent. Second, look at the 2020 draft. Seventeen of the top 30 picks were first-year eligible players, either as internationals or college one-and-dones. An additional eight first-round picks were second-year eligible sophomores. Overall, only three seniors were taken in the top-49 selections. As kids continue to choose to enter the draft earlier, there is a real talent drain in college basketball at the upperclass levels, and it makes it much less likely that upperclassmen get picked. Still, youíll see a few familiar collegiate names here as we enter the season.

    Having said that, Iíd also note that in general NBA teams have been out to collegiate practices a bit less than in recent years, and thus arenít quite as certain about what to expect heading into the 2020-21 college basketball season. After all, scouts have been pulled into 2020 NBA Draft prep throughout October and November. Plus, there has been a ton of free agency prep to deal with post-draft. And without any of McDonaldís All-American, Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic, NBA scouts havenít gotten as much in-person evaluating time as normal at this point in the process. Iíd expect that this top 30 changes quite a bit as we get to see how players have improved over the eight months since we saw many of them play last. In that vein, youíd probably be best off considering this something of a watch list rather than a true ranking.

    I just want to note one final thing: Many around the league and those with public-facing jobs have called this one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Through the lottery, I generally agree that this draft projects as strong. Because of that strength at the top, this projects to be a much, much stronger draft overall. However, Iím not quite as convinced yet that the depth will extend through the end of the first through to the mid-second round like it did this season. Itís possible that will be the case once evaluators get a chance to see the players perform and see how theyíve improved, starting this week. Of course, there are pop-up guys every year who burst onto the scene and blow up. But I think the jury remains out on just how much depth this draft will end up containing.

    So with that being said, here is where Iíve landed on my 2021 NBA mock draft entering the 2020-21 college basketball season. For this particular Ďway-too-earlyí exercise, there are not teams assigned to the picks, rather an indication as to where these prospects would figure to be drafted at this stage.

    1. Cade Cunningham | 6-7, lead ballhandler | 19 years old, freshman | Oklahoma State
    As mentioned above, I love the talent at the top of the 2021 NBA Draft. Itís a considerably deeper draft within the top half of the lottery than the 2020 iteration was. And yet, I still think of it as ďThe Cade Cunningham DraftĒ at this stage. Heís not only one of the best prospects Iíve evaluated at the high school level, but also one of my favorite players to watch. Everything about Cunningham looks likely to translate at a high level in the NBA, and he gets better every time I see him.

    I wrote about Cunningham two-and-a-half years ago, back when I first saw him at Pangos All-American camp, and was stunned that he was considered just a borderline top-20 prospect in his recruiting class. Thatís no longer the case. Over those nearly 30 months since I started writing about him, Cunningham has gone from being a future NBA wing with high feel for the game to a legit lead ballhandler who was the best player at the U19 World Cup as an underage player last year ó while sharing a backcourt with 2020 lottery picks Kira Lewis Jr. and Tyrese Haliburton and emerging as the clear top dog.

    Heís 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, but plays point guard. His handle is very strong technically, and heís rarely out of rhythm as a ballhandler. You canít speed him up because of how well he plays through contact at his size. If you give him a ball screen and let him get downhill, heíll go through guys at the rim and finish using his length to extend.

    His best skill, though, is his passing ability. Cunningham can hit every read out of spread or side pick-and-rolls. He hits cross-corner kickouts and baseline drive-and-drifts with ease. He knows how to draw help defenders to hit the easy little drop off to his big. He whips one-handed passes with both his right and left hands. Everything is just so polished. In Oklahoma Stateís spread offense under Mike Boynton, Cunningham is going to average seven assists per night with ease as long as his teammates hit shots.

    On top of that, Cunningham is a diligent defender who really does an excellent job of reading what offensive players want to do, and making their life tough with his length. Unsurprisingly, heís also great at using that length to create deflections and get into passing lanes.

    The only real issue here is that heís been a bit of an inconsistent shooter throughout his career. But a source at Oklahoma State told me that heís come to preseason workouts and been the teamís second-best shooter behind 3-point marksman Ferron Flavors. If Cunningham is really a shooter now, itís kind of a wrap for opponents because there isnít really an easy way to stop him. Iíd bet on Cunningham averaging something in the ballpark of 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists at Oklahoma State this season, and being in the mix to win the national player of the year award. He is the big lead ballhandler that everyone is looking for, plus he has a real winnerís mentality that consistently leads to positive team play and good results.

    2. Jalen Green | 6-5 guard | 18 years old | G League Ignite
    Above all, Green is a live-wire athlete who mixes real quick-twitch and vertical pop with all sorts of body control and skill. Heís a highlight reel waiting to happen whenever he takes the court. That athleticism allows him to get separation at exceedingly high levels for step-backs as well as take off for massive dunks. Everything he does is just oozing with explosiveness.He also has a real skill level as a ballhandler and separator. The idea here is that he can be a legitimate three-level scorer because of his above-the-rim finishing and pull-up gifts.

    On the AAU level, he got a bit inefficient and shot-happy at times, but heís shown in Team USA settings that he can play within a scheme and either be the top dog as a scorer (as he showed when he won MVP of the 2018 U17 World Cup as a 16-year-old) or as more of a complementary piece (like he did at the 2019 U19 World Cup). He chose to pass on college basketball and will be training with the G League Ignite team in Walnut Creek, Calif.

    3. Brandon Boston, Jr. | 6-7 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Kentucky
    Boston is a super long scoring wing who has really emerged over the last 18 months as an elite, top-five level prospect. When Boston committed to Kentucky about a year ago, I wrote that I thought he was a creative wing who was very likely to hear his name called in the lottery, but that he needed to keep repping through his jumper to achieve his genuine top-five level upside. Over the last year, heís worked tirelessly to improve that jumper and as heís gotten stronger, itís become easier for him to replicate his mechanics every time.

    I think Iíd bet on him being an average-plus shooter this year at Kentucky in terms of efficiency while taking difficult ones as opposed to being purely a volume guy. Beyond that, heís a tough driver and ballhandler who can finish inside and plays with real aggressiveness when hunting his own shot. Heís going to average close to 20 per night at Kentucky this season as his mix of inside-out dribbles and crossovers going forward, paired with step-backs off the bounce, make him an impossible cover for college teams.

    4. Jonathan Kuminga | 6-8 forward | 18 years old | G League Ignite
    Kuminga is a terrific athlete with a great frame. Heís grown to be in the 6-foot-8 range with what looks to be a plus-four or plus-five wingspan. Thus far, heís been productive at every level. He has an aggressive mindset out there every time he takes the floor, and can really create shots as a quick-twitch driver. he uses his leaping ability to finish well around the rim with ease. Again, the hope here is that heís a three-level scorer who can be something of a centerpiece of a team if he continues on this trajectory offensively. Heís not just an offensive player, though. Heís also a terrific defender who alters shots from the weak side as a rim protector and who can switch onto multiple player types defensively. Heíll be with the G League Ignite after having bypassed college hoops this year.

    5. Keon Johnson | 6-5 wing | 18 years old, freshman | Tennessee
    Yeah, Iím just going to call my shot on this one. I think Johnson is an absolute stud despite the fact that he was ranked outside of the top-15 in his recruiting class. Heís one of the most explosive athletes in the country, a 6-foot-5 wing who can get wherever he wants on the court because of how sudden and powerful his movements are. Offensively, heís a great driver and can finish way above the rim because of that quick-twitch athleticism. Heís also a developing shooter who clearly seems to have made some strides there, and he also plays unselfishly with solid passing ability. Defensively, he plays exceptionally hard and tries to impact the game by switching across the positional spectrum 1 through 3. He has a real desire to be great on defense. Heís the guy in this class that I expect to burst onto the scene and become something of a surprising top half of the lottery type of talent.

    6. Evan Mobley | 7-0 center | 19 years old, freshman | USC
    Mobley is one of the most interesting big prospects to come across college basketball in a while because of how easy it is to imagine him developing into a modern big while maintaining some real interior talent. Heís long and defends on the interior, plus has good enough feet to where he looks projectable as a perimeter and ball-screen defender. He really wants to be a force on that end, too, contesting everything. Offensively, he has great touch out to the midrange already and is developing his 3-point shot. He can face up and drive with ease and has a handle to get by defenders. Heís still working his way into his frame and developing his overall game. Itís going to take some time with Mobley. But heís going to be very productive in college this year on both ends of the floor, and the ceiling is immensely high as long as he keeps working to develop all the flashes he has into consistent moments.

    7. Ziaire Williams | 6-7 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Stanford
    At 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Williams has all the tools you look for in a prototypical two-way wing. He can defend multiple positions because of his athleticism and quickness. He gives a lot of effort on that end and generally is regarded as one of the most mature elite prospects in the class. On offense, heís a high-flyer who really can get out on the break and finish, but more than that has real skills as a playmaking scorer. He loves to drive and play through contact despite the fact that heís still extremely skinny. His first step is terrific and allows him to blow by, even if heís still developing his versatility off the bounce. Iím also a believer in him becoming a consistent shooter because the mechanics are quite good and he can get to them off the pull-up with ease (even if the results werenít always there in high school). More than anything though, he just doesnít play like a goofball. He plays hard on both ends, he constantly moves on offense, and he plays unselfishly despite his skill.

    8. Terrence Clarke | 6-7 wing | 19 years old, freshman | Kentucky
    Clarke is a super slasher on the wing. He has a great first step and can get into the paint at will. Heís known as an above-the-rim finisher who has great lift off of one foot, but he also already has an impressive array of floater/touch shots from within eight feet. Kentucky really empowers guys to take those little midrange floaters, so Iíd expect it to be a big part of his arsenal this year. Heís also a really impressive passer for his size. He sees over the defense and finds passing lanes that other guys just donít.

    The problems right now are that heís an inconsistent shooter from outside of 15 feet, and he sometimes gets way over-aggressive and commits some wild turnovers. Whereas Boston will be the scoring phenom at Kentucky this year, Iíd expect Clarke to be something of a problem solver due to the nature of his game. He can do a little bit of offensive initiation, he can defend guys at high levels, and he can go get a bucket when necessary. If the jumper comes, Clarke has real upside beyond even this level in 2021.

    9. Scottie Barnes | 6-8 forward | 19 years old, freshman | Florida State
    The prototypical ďeverything but the jumperĒ skill package. Elite-level potential on defense. He plays with an exceptional motor and has elite measurements at 6-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. One of the very rare prospects who have actual 1 through 5 switchable potential on defense. Genuinely has All-Defensive Team upside at some point already at just 19 years old because of his ability to slide with quicker players. The key will be deriving enough value on offense to stay on the floor.

    Generally, I think he can do that because heís not a total non-factor on that end. Heís a really smart passer and playmaker for others, both from a standstill and on the move. He actually is expected to play some point guard this year at Florida State, although I see him more as a secondary guy at the NBA level. He moves well without the ball, and does a great job of intuitively taking advantage of 4 on 3 situations when he sees open teammates. Ultimately, he needs to show that he can do anything as a shooter at all, otherwise this might be too high for him. Given the importance of defensive versatility, though, I like Barnes to become a good NBA player.

    10. Usman Garuba | 6-8 forward/center | 18 years old | Real Madrid
    Garuba is this seasonís early-career producer in Euroleague. He is a part-time starter for Real Madrid, one of the top teams in the world outside of the NBA. The big thing he brings to the table is defensive versatility. Heís one of the better teenage defensive prospects to emerge out of Europe in recent years. He has quick feet with slides in ball screen coverages, and his 7-foot-2 wingspan and body control on shot contests on the interior allows him to affect a ton of shots.

    Offensively, heís not particularly an explosive leaper and he doesnít get downhill all that well as a roller, but he has great dexterity with the ball for his age and is a really underrated passer. The big key for him is continuing to develop the 3-point shot. Real Madrid has really allowed him to explore the studio space in ACB play this season, and heís shooting just 4-for-25 from 3. If he were a better 3-point shooter, I would say that I think heís a legit top-half of the lottery guy. But until we see that ironed out, heís more just your baseline lottery big who can move his feet and help you in multiple ways.

    11. Jalen Suggs | 6-5 guard | 19 years old, freshman | Gonzaga
    Suggs has a shot to be the leading scorer on a Gonzaga team that is currently the favorite to win the national title this season. The 6-foot-5 guard is a tremendous scorer with fluid body control and great touch around the basket. He can also shoot it at a high level from deep. There is also some combo guard to his game as well, as he can make high-level dump-off passes and same-side kickouts after collapsing the defense as a driver. Unfortunately, there is a downside here, though: youíre going to get tired very quickly of hearing how he was a high school quarterback who won Minnesotaís Mr. Football award in addition to its Mr. Basketball award.

    12. Caleb Love | 6-3 guard | 19 years old, freshman | North Carolina
    Another scoring combo/lead guard here with Love. His handle is extremely tight and he can create plays with or without ball-screens. If a defender goes under a ball-screen with him, he has the ability to easily stop and pop from behind the 3-point line. But if you overplay him, heíll beat you off the bounce with ease and get into the lane with quickness and tremendous footwork. Everything about his pull-up game is on-point right now for a teenage guard. It would be great for him to keep improving as a distributor and playmaker for others. Thatís where his upside lies. But he might have enough talent as a scorer to where he just sticks regardless of the passing ability.

    13. Daishen Nix | 6-5 guard | 18 years old | G League Ignite
    Nix was one of the best passers and playmakers for others in the 2020 recruiting class, a big lead guard with great vision who constantly finds his teammates in advantageous spots. Heís also an impressive finisher at the rim. Despite not being a particularly explosive athlete, he plays at his own pace, changes speeds, and has absolutely elite footwork to maneuver around defenders in traffic. Loves the Euro step move at the rim to finish. The big question that heíll need to answer is whether he can consistently separate from opposing players. Having said that though, I think I buy into his jumper from distance keeping defenders off-balance enough to help him get into the paint.

    14. Keyontae Johnson | 6-5 wing | 21 years old, junior | Florida
    NBA evaluators were surprised when Johnson decided not to enter the 2020 NBA Draft, as many thought he had a chance to turn into a late first-round pick after going through even the truncated process. Again, NBA teams are constantly on the lookout for wings who do two things: defend multiple positions and shoot. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Johnson is a tank who can hit shots from distance, and then guard 1 through 4 at the collegiate level. By the end of SEC play last year, Johnson was one of the five best players in the conference and clearly earned All-SEC honors. Look for more of the same this year, and Iíd expect he goes in round one in 2021.

    15. Greg Brown | 6-8 forward | 19 years old, freshman | Texas
    Brown is one of the more explosive athletes youíll find in the 2021 class as a leaper. Heís a highlight reel waiting to happen as a dunker, but he is more than that. He has a great face-up game as a driver, and has some chance to shoot it off the catch as he continues to work through his mechanics. Defensively, he does a great job as a 4-man protecting the weak side of the rim. The key with Brown will be to keep working on upping his skill level overall beyond just being a crazy athlete, but he already has enough talent to get him into conversations for the lottery.
    It's pretty long...only shared the top 15. Here's the link if you want to read more.

    https://theathletic.com/2214823/2020...pect-rankings/

  2. #2582
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    Quote Originally Posted by YoungStuna View Post
    Quickley >>>>> Hampton

    You canít just assume Quickley would be there at 33 because mocks had him lower than we picked. I donít think I saw Jalen Smith a Top 10 pick anywhere and yet he was. Trust your gut and pick your guy.
    Thatís fine. Why are you sold on Quickley over Hampton? Burst wise itís not close, Quickley has no first step compared to Hampton, heís not beating anyone 1 on 1 in this league imo.

    I like Quickley for the three ball and defensive potential, and that heís a workhorse. But raw ability I think Hampton blows him out of the water (except for shooting which is important)

  3. #2583
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    Quote Originally Posted by smood999 View Post
    It's pretty long...only shared the top 15. Here's the link if you want to read more.

    https://theathletic.com/2214823/2020...pect-rankings/
    Awesome, thanks 🙏🙏

  4. #2584
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    Kuminga is a personal favorite if they can't get Cade, but don't want to turn this into a draft thread already so I'll leave it at that lol.

  5. #2585
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    Quote Originally Posted by smood999 View Post
    It's pretty long...only shared the top 15. Here's the link if you want to read more.

    https://theathletic.com/2214823/2020...pect-rankings/
    #12 or #13

    Just give me one of these guys...

    I am still researching Suggs don't know enough about him yet.

  6. #2586
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    If you're wondering, this is how ESPN has it right now:

    1. Cade
    2. Jalen Green
    3. BJ Boston
    4. Evan Mobley
    5. Ziaire Williams
    6. Jalen Johnson
    7. Keon Johnson
    8. Scottie Barnes
    9. Kuminga
    10. Caleb Love

  7. #2587
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    Quote Originally Posted by xxplayerxx23 View Post
    Luka is different. Luka came from overseas and people questioned whether he can ball. Had luka went to a college and played how he plays nobody even thinks about trading him and heís a sun. Totally different. Luka also is great so I donít get why you think heís less than a superstar itís kinda funny
    I think he's great too but he's not getting the mavs into the playoffs without kp

  8. #2588
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn2timer View Post
    Besides Cade who are the other elite prospects at point in 2021? - I want an adult proven point guard. I sincerely hope these guys aren't looking at the 2021 draft praying for a point guard. We need a better plan than that.
    It's not a pg heavy draft

  9. #2589
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    Quote Originally Posted by east fb knicks View Post
    It's not a pg heavy draft
    There are plenty of PGs available. Suggs, Love, and Nix could end up better than any of the PGs in the 2020 draft.

  10. #2590
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    Quote Originally Posted by smood999 View Post
    If you're wondering, this is how ESPN has it right now:

    1. Cade
    2. Jalen Green
    3. BJ Boston
    4. Evan Mobley
    5. Ziaire Williams
    6. Jalen Johnson
    7. Keon Johnson
    8. Scottie Barnes
    9. Kuminga
    10. Caleb Love
    I think Suggs belongs in here.

  11. #2591
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garrett2010 View Post
    There are plenty of PGs available. Suggs, Love, and Nix could end up better than any of the PGs in the 2020 draft.
    O i was more or less meaning the top 5 prospects but again its early on alot of these guys are gonna jump up after the season

  12. #2592
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    Quote Originally Posted by east fb knicks View Post
    I think he's great too but he's not getting the mavs into the playoffs without kp
    Lmaoooooooooooooo youíre gonna die on that take guy.
    Spurs Sim league
    2 time Champion 653-331

  13. #2593
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    Quote Originally Posted by east fb knicks View Post
    O i was more or less meaning the top 5 prospects but again its early on alot of these guys are gonna jump up after the season
    Its early and those PGs are very good. Don't be surprised if they climb up and one of them cracks top 5.

  14. #2594
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garrett2010 View Post
    I think Suggs belongs in here.
    Just sharing whatís out there. These are the guys that do it for a living. Most have Cade and maybe one other PG or none of the other ones.

    Too early to tell and Iím sure itíll change. Outside of the first 7 or so, some guys differ.

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    2020 Offseason & Free Agency Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by HeartOfStarks View Post
    Thatís fine. Why are you sold on Quickley over Hampton? Burst wise itís not close, Quickley has no first step compared to Hampton, heís not beating anyone 1 on 1 in this league imo.

    I like Quickley for the three ball and defensive potential, and that heís a workhorse. But raw ability I think Hampton blows him out of the water (except for shooting which is important)
    Quickley looks like a potentially elite shooter. Iíll take that over great burst. Great burst is not a pre-requisite ability to have to be an effective PG or wing. Itís not like Quickley is slow (how could he be hah), but his threat as a shooter helps his ability to attack closeouts with pump-fakes before driving.

    Quickley was a PG his whole life and played the role he was asked at Kentucky. He played that role damn well, but he got undervalued in the process ó especially being a sophomore. He could be extremely dangerous running P&R with Mitch or Obi. Early on heíll probably used more off-ball and as a movement shooter.

    Hampton looks like a project. He might have a higher ceiling theoretically, but I doubt he ever becomes the shooter Quickley is. Both have a lot to prove as passers, but RJ is ahead of him there right now.
    Last edited by YoungStuna; 11-24-2020 at 08:50 PM.

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