2021 NBA Mock Draft 9.0: First-round projections one week out

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2021 NBA Mock Draft 9.0: Warriors, Kings' first-round picks originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It’s Mock Draft time! 

It’s never too early for a Mock Draft or even Mock Draft 9.0. 

We are knee-deep in the NBA Finals and draft prospects are hopping from one practice facility to the next working out for teams. This is the home stretch for a group of road-weary players that have braved countless hotel stays and plenty of room service dinners in hopes of making one last positive impression.

The moment when we start to get a little more clarity on how draft night might go, although nothing is ever set in stone.

We are already seeing some climbers and there is still plenty that can change between now and draft night but here is a look at NBC Sports California’s 2021 Mock Draft 9.0. 

1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, No. 1 option, Oklahoma State

Measurables: 6-foot-7, 220 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

The rebuild in Detroit got a huge lift on lottery night. This is a team with a stable of athletic bigs, including the much improved Jeremi Grant. Saddiq Bey looks like a long-term rotational player at the wing, but they need talent and an identity. There are rumors of the Pistons keeping their options open at No. 1, but that seems more like gamesmanship at this point.

Why Cunningham?

Nothing should change this pick. The Fade for Cade was real and the Pistons were the big winners on lottery night.

Cunningham is a big, strong, physical guard/forward that has stardom written all over him. He can score at all three levels, including in the post where he has the size and strength to power through contact. He has tremendous court vision and his overall basketball IQ is off the charts.

Detroit should be throwing a party in the streets on draft night. Cunningham is a starter on Day 1 and they will build this team around him. They have some solid pieces and they might be a destination location in the coming years for free agents looking to play with a young star.

2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, Shooting Guard, G League Ignite

Measurables: 6-foot-5, 180 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

Life comes at you fast. After eight years of contending teams with superstar players, the Rockets hit the reset button. They didn’t exactly maximize their return for players like James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but this No. 2 overall pick could change the fortunes of the franchise. Christian Wood was a spectacular find and John Wall proved he still had some tread on his tires. The rest of the roster is a mixed bag of spare parts, so expect the Rockets to be aggressive on draft night, especially with two additional first-round picks.

RELATED: How Steph Curry taught Jalen Green valuable lessons

Why Green?

Green’s draft stock is soaring and he is looking like a lock for the No. 2 overall pick. He showed major growth in the G League bubble and now has plenty of time to work on getting stronger and refining his skill set. He projects as an All-Star level two-way prospect without a ceiling. 

It might take Green longer to reach his potential than the rest of the players at the top of this draft, but when you’re selecting this high, you have to go with the player you believe can be a star. Green can play the two and the three and his upside is off the charts. A month ago there was a battle for this spot, but that appears to be over. 

There will be talk of teams trying to move up, but the Rockets are better off standing their ground and using Green and Wood as a top end tandem for the future.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, Center, USC

Measurables: 7-foot, 210 pounds Age: 20

Team Needs

Is Cleveland sold on the pairing of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in the backcourt? Can Isaac Okoro take a leap as a scorer at the wing? Can the Cavs find an answer at the four? There are a lot of questions that Koby Altman has to answer, but this team was the worst scoring team in the league and they desperately need some upgrades at most positions.

Why Mobley?

Mobley has an incredible basketball IQ and a high-level skill set. He can shoot from the outside, score over opponents at will with his 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he can put it on the deck and attack the rim with either hand.

This is the next evolution of the NBA center. He can man the break, has tremendous court vision and he’s a game changer on the defensive end. 

A season ago the Cavs had too many bigs on their roster. They lucked out in the lottery and now have a shot to take the best center prospect in the draft. Rumors have Cleveland fielding offers for this selection, but that would be a huge mistake for a franchise that is still years away from competing. 

4. Toronto Raptors: Jalen Suggs, Point Guard, Gonzaga

Measurables: 6-foot-5, 205 pounds Age: 20

Team Needs

The Raptors are in a tough spot. They aged quickly and the front line that helped carry them to the NBA championship a few years back is gone. They still have some players to build around, like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, and keeping Gary Trent Jr. makes a lot of sense as well. Overall, they need a player that can score and has upside as they transition to a new era of Raptors basketball north of the border.

Why Suggs?

If you had any questions about Suggs’ ability to come up big in the clutch, his game-winner against UCLA in the Final Four should answer that. This is a big time point guard prospect that is built for the modern pace and space game of the NBA. His decision to go to Gonzaga has allowed him to play alongside top tier talent at the NCAA level, which will allow him to seamlessly take over a team at the next level. 

Suggs’s ability to be a difference maker on both ends of the court could help the Raptors jump back into relevance after a down year. He can play in a dual point guard set alongside Fred VanVleet if Kyle Lowry decides to go chase a ring elsewhere. This is a true leader in the backcourt and a steal for the Raptors if he makes it all the way to No. 4. 

5. Orlando Magic: Scottie Barnes, Small Forward, Florida State

Measurables: 6-foot-8, 225 pounds Age: 19 

Team Needs

After years of trying to field a winner with miss-matched pieces, the Magic finally did the right thing and blew it up at the deadline. Gone are Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier. They have some nice young options at the point, including R.J. Hampton, Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz. The Magic even have some intriguing pieces in Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac and Wendell Carter. They are a young team in building mode and could use upgrades at almost every position.

RELATED: How Barnes fits Warriors, Kings

Why Barnes?

Aggressive and athletic, Barnes plays with a fire and force that teams will fall in love with. The 19-year-old measured in at 6-foot-7 without shoes and posted a near 7-foot-3 wingspan. He projects as a plus defender with solid court vision and playmaking skills. 

There was a time when the top 5 was written in stone, but that no longer seems to be the case. Barnes impressed at the combine and his ability to defend all five positions has him rising. Jonathan Kuminga will still be in play here, as will Davion Mitchell, but Orlando is starting over and they could use a player that is ready to step in and lead a young team.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonathan Kuminga, Small Forward, G League Ignite

Measurables: 6-foot-8, 210 pounds Age: 18

Team Needs

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a good start and Lu Dort is a nice versatile piece that fits in most rotations. The rest of this roster is replaceable, including players like Poku, Darius Bazley and Theo Maledon. This is a team that needs talent at every position. They have plenty of picks in the coming drafts, but they can’t miss with a top 5 selection in one of the best drafts in years.

RELATED: Could Kuminga fall to the Warriors at No. 7?

Why Kuminga?

One of the group of young prospects that have skipped the college game and headed straight to the G League, Kuminga played very well in the bubble. He’s a big, physical forward with elite athleticism and big-time two-way potential. 

OKC was probably looking at the top five of this draft and wondering if they could use some of their future draft capital to move up the board. Kuminga might just fall in their lap at No. 6. 

He needs some time to develop, but Kuminga has an NBA body and a big-time motor. He could be another building block for a team in need of talent. 

7. Golden State Warriors (via T-Wolves): Davion Mitchell, Guard, Baylor

Measurables: 6-foot-1.25, 202 pounds Age: 22 

Team Needs

Steph Curry’s performance this season has the Warriors believing that their NBA championship window hasn’t closed. The Warriors will likely shop this pick hard, like they did with the No. 2 overall pick last year, with the hopes of bringing in a veteran that can help right away. The Warriors lucked out here, falling just one spot in the lottery and retaining this pick. It has value and Bob Myers is likely already on the phone trying to move it.

RELATED: How Mitchell fits with Warriors, Kings

Why Mitchell?

A lockdown defender at the college level, Mitchell is jumping up the board with his play in the NCAA tournament. He brings an edge that translates to victories on the court and his development as a perimeter shooter has turned him into a pro prospect.  

Mitchell’s measurements at the NBA draft combine were not all that impressive, but the eye test has him near the top of the draft. Steph can’t play forever and Klay is coming back after missing two seasons with major injuries. Mitchell is a player that can defend the opposition's most difficult cover and his ability to hit the three ups his value considerably. 

The Warriors have options here, including trading out of the pick. Everything is on the table, but if they stay here, this is a player that can step in and be impactful on Day 1. 

8. Orlando Magic (via Bulls): Keon Johnson, Shooting Guard, Tennessee

Measurables: 6-foot-4.75, 185 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

The Magic have two picks in the top 10 of a great draft. They have to fit on both and then spend a lot of time developing their young core. They should be able to land a big-time player at No. 5, they can search for a player at a position of need with their second top pick.

RELATED: Johnson's athleticism has to intrigue Warriors

Why Johnson?

This is another smooth athlete with top end potential. He needs to stack on some weight and improve his stroke from the perimeter, but with time, Johnson could be a major piece to a team looking to build through the draft. 

Johnson’s Tennessee team crashed and burned in the tourney, but the 19-year-old showed a lot of heart and fire in the loss and then posted a 48-inch vertical at the combine. Orlando is searching for players with potential. They are a few years from competing, which means they should be gambling on potential at this pick.

9. Sacramento Kings: Moses Moody, Small Forward, Arkansas

Measurables: 6-foot-6, 211 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

Like a lot of teams at this point in the draft, the Kings have plenty of needs. They have their backcourt set with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton as starters and Buddy Hield, Delon Wright and Terence Davis coming off the bench. They also have Harrison Barnes, who is versatile enough to play both forward spots. They could use a long-term answer at center if Richaun Holmes leaves in free agency and Moe Harkless’ return is also in question. 

RELATED: Moody would love to play for Kings, clarifies social media post

Why Moody?

Moody is a solid all around 3-and-D wing with good size and length. He measured in at 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He has a good motor, solid basketball IQ and he might have more skills in his bag than what he’s showed at Arkansas. 

The 19-year-old will need some time to acclimate to the NBA, but Moody has a nice frame and the ability to play a couple of different positions. The Kings need defensive-minded players that can fit into a system and Moody is just that, with potential for much more.

Sacramento will likely shop this pick all the way until they are on the clock, but if they stick at No. 9 and Moody drops this far, there is a good chance he is the guy. General manager Monte McNair chased this style of player in free agency and again at the deadline, and Moody was one of a stack of prospects to come through the Kings’ practice facility last week. 

10. New Orleans Pelicans: Corey Kispert, Small Forward, Gonzaga

Measurables: 6-foot-7.25, 224 pounds Age: 22

Team Needs

Shooters. Shooters. Shooters. The Pelicans have plenty of talent, but so far, they haven’t been able to make it all fit together. They overloaded on size last offseason and then traded away their best shooter in JJ Redick at the deadline. Someone needs to play the role of floor spacer for this team or opponents are going to continue to pack the lane.

Why Kispert?

Kispert is a winner and the best pure shooter in the 2021 draft. He has a compact, quick release that resembles something Klay Thompson would throw up. This is an elite floor spacer that understands the game and is coming from a system that teaches the fundamentals. He might not be a top end athlete, but he is a max-effort player with tremendous awareness. 

This is the player that makes the most sense for the Pelicans. His ceiling isn’t that of some of the other players around him, but his special skill should keep him in the league for a very long time. 

11. Charlotte Hornets: Kai Jones, Power Forward/Center, Texas

Measurables: 6-foot-11.5, 221 pounds Age: 20

Team Needs

Has Michael Jordan built a winner? The Hornets are fun to watch with high fliers, solid veterans and LaMelo Ball running the show. They hunted for size at the trade deadline and they’ll do so again in free agency and the draft. They could use a few more shooters as well, but this is a nice team on the rise.

RELATED: Kai Jones might not fit Warriors' timeline

Why Jones?

Super long. Super athletic. Super raw. Jones is fun to watch, but he’s going to need a lot of time and development. Built like Wenyen Gabriel or Jonathan Issac, Jones can block shots, rebound and run the floor. He plays with energy and is extremely active. He’s shown a lot of improvement over a short period of time, but at the NBA level he’ll struggle between getting pushed around and picking up too many fouls early in his career. 

Charlotte needs a starting center for the present and the future. Jones has the right tool set, but he’ll need time to develop. If they can bring him along as a reserve, this could be a very nice player to pair with Ball in the two-man game. 

His height and wingspan (7-foot-1.75) measurements at the combine will only help his cause. We’ve left Jones here for a while, because this is his range and the Hornets have a major need for a player like this.

12. San Antonio Spurs: James Bouknight, Shooting Guard, Connecticut

Measurables: 6-foot-4.75, 190 pounds Age: 20

Team Needs

Is this finally the end of the Spurs? After a quick exit from the play-in tournament, the Spurs are facing a difficult reality. LaMarcus Aldridge left mid-season and now DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are all free agents coming off the books. San Antonio has a lot of money tied up in the backcourt of Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, but the rest of the roster is in flux. They need a lot of everything and they need it quickly.

RELATED: How Bouknight fits Kings, Warriors

Why Bouknight?

Bouknight is a crafty scoring guard with big-time handles and nice range. He’s developing as a defender, which could move him from a super-sub to starting shooting guard at the next level. He has great balance, finishes in traffic and has a nice first step. 

San Antonio has plenty of needs heading into the offseason, but the most glaring is that they need to find a scorer in case DeRozan leaves. Bouknight will take time to reach his ceiling but this is a player with major upside as a shot creator. He has to work on other aspects of his game, but the Spurs are usually pretty solid at player development.

13. Indiana Pacers: Franz Wagner, Small Forward, Michigan

Measurables: 6-foot-8, 205 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

How much different would this team have looked with T.J. Warren, Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb and Caris LaVert in the postseason? There is quality depth all over this roster, but they need to find some sort of identity. Nate Bjorkgren is out as head coach after just one year, but Indiana found a winner in Rick Carlisle. They’ll want a player that can compete early and add something different.

RELATED: How Wagner fits Kings, Warriors

Why Wagner?

Wagner can score, rebound and he’s developing as a secondary distributor. He has a quick release and a clean stroke from long range, although his numbers don’t jump off the page. A high basketball IQ player, Wagner moves well without the ball and isn’t afraid to take the big shot. He has good size for an NBA wing, although he is an average athlete at best.

Indiana was a disappointing team last season, but they clearly have a lot of talent. Wagner is a smart player that can play multiple positions and stuff a stat sheet. He’s also close to being ready able to compete for minutes in year one and has a skill set that would work with the players in place in Indy.

14. Golden State Warriors: Josh Giddey, Point Guard/Wing, Adelaide (Australia)

Measurables: 6-foot-8, 205 pounds Age: 18

Team Needs

It’s possible that the Warriors add two top 20 picks, although it would be a surprise to see them make both selections. Kelly Oubre’s free agency is a concern, which means the Warriors should be looking for help at the wing. They could also use depth at the four and five.

RELATED: Giddey could be perfect Warriors' fit

Why Giddey?

This is another riser in this year’s draft. Giddey is a crafty passer with great court vision and a flair for the spectacular. He’s solid in the pick-and-roll and he’s just now starting to grow into his frame. He’s likely a secondary ball handler and playmaker at the NBA level, but he’s developing quickly and has the ability to sling passes all over the court with either hand.

Giddy is climbing fast with his play in the ABL and he might make it all the way to the top 10 before it’s all said and done. His combination of skill and size is appealing, as is his ability to play 1-3 on the court. 

Golden State is at a cross roads. They might package this pick and No. 7 for a veteran that can help right away. If they don’t, the Warriors need to find players that fit their style of play and have tremendous upside. Giddey checks all of these boxes and could be a steal at this point in the draft.

15. Washington Wizards: Alperen Sengun, Power Forward, Beskitas

Measurables: 6-foot-9, 240 pounds Age: 18

Team Needs

Washington needs more size, although Daniel Gafford seems to have been a nice find and Thomas Bryant is set to return next season. They could also use some scoring punch off the bench and a player to learn behind Russell Westbrook. Washington is also in the bucket of teams currently searching for a new head coach. It should be a busy summer of change in D.C.

RELATED: Sengun visits Kings, posts photo outside arena

Why Sengun?

Sengun is putting up huge numbers in the Turkish Super League, which is bound to get an NBA team to bite. The 18-year-old has a big body, plays extremely well in the pick-and-roll and has shown some ability to play defense. He needs plenty of work, especially on his body, but he has a soft touch around the rim. 

Someone will take a chance with Sengun. The numbers he’s posting overseas are crazy for a kid his age. The Wizards went with a three headed monster at the center position last season after the injury to Thomas Bryant. Sengun won’t provide instant relief at the position, but there is potential for him to be an offensive weapon in the near future.  

16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Celtics): Jalen Johnson, Small Forward, Duke

Measurables: 6-foot-9.25, 210 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

OKC added Kemba Walter in a swap with the Boston Celtics, which is why they are drafting here at No. 16. Walker fills a role as a high-end scoring options and backcourt partner for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the next few seasons. This team needs talent improvements at almost every position, but there doesn't seem to be any rush in building a winner.

Why Johnson?

Talent is a four letter word. There will be a team that takes Johnson just on potential alone, but maybe not. He has the body and an elite skill set, but there is something missing. His motor is questionable and so is his awareness. Coach K was hard on the 19-year-old, so he bailed. His entire journey to the NBA leads you to wonder what will happen when things get difficult at the next level. 

OKC now has three first-round selections in the top 18. They can gamble on a talent like Johnson with the hopes that they can pull something out of the young man where others have not succeeded. This might be the perfect landing spot for a young man in need of guidance. 

17. Memphis Grizzlies: Ziaire Williams, Small Forward, Stanford

Measurables: 6-foot-9.75, 188 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

The biggest thing this team needs is just a fast forward button. A year or two down the road, they are going to be a contender, especially if they can get Jaren Jackson Jr. healthy. Memphis already has 14 players under contract for next season. They could use more shooters, like every team, and maybe a long-term solution at the three.

RELATED: Williams got "great feel" from Warriors interview

Why Williams?  

The 2021 draft is packed with long, athletic wings. Adding muscle to play the small forward position is a must for Williams, but he’s wiry like Tayshaun Prince and might be stronger than he looks. He’s struggled with his overall shooting percentages at Stanford, but he has a clean jumper both inside and outside the arc and he can fly up and down the court. He also grew since his last measurements and comes into the draft as a near 6-foot-10 wing with his shoes on.

Williams is one of those players that can fill a variety of roles and there is a good chance he looks better in the pro game with better talent and spacing around him. 

This is a gamble on potential, but one that could pay off down the road. Memphis is close to being really good. There might be a few players here closer to competing for minutes, but the Grizzlies are building a long-term winner and should take the player with the highest ceiling. 

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Heat): Chris Duarte, Shooting Guard, Oregon

Measurables: 6-foot-6, 190 pounds Age: 24

Team Needs

OKC needs a lot of everything. They should be able to fill a major void with their top pick, but they need to find value here as well. They have some young pieces, but nothing that would limit them from choosing the best player available here in the mid-first.

RELATED: Durate models game after Klay Thompson

Why Duarte?

Oregon was a lot of fun to watch in the NCAA tournament and Duarte was a big reason. Long, athletic and under control, Duarte looks a lot like another former Duck in Dillon Brooks. He can hit the 3-ball, pass and he averaged nearly two steals per game.

Duarte is a major climber in this years draft and being selected this high isn’t off the table. While OKC can take a few flyers with all of their picks, they should also look to add talent that can help right away. Duarte’s versatility and mature play should translate and he looks like a long term rotational player at the NBA level.

19. New York Knicks: Isaiah Jackson, Center, Kentucky

Measurables: 6-foot-10, 205 pounds Age: 19

A season ago the Knicks needed everything. That list is shrinking. Scott Perry has done a very nice job of building out the talent base and finding brawlers that fit Tom Thibodeau’s system. They can use more depth and length in the post and they are still in search of their long term floor general. 

Why Jackson?

Sign me up. There are very few things that are unteachable in the game of basketball. Blocking shots is one of them. Jackson has a natural ability to hunt and divert shots. In the right situation, this could be a Dennis Rodman type player. He’s a hot mess on offense, but what Jackson can do on a court is pure instincts. If you can teach him some basic pick-and-roll sets and get him in the weight room, this could be a game changing steal. 

New York is finally building something. They need more versatility in the backcourt and more shooters, but Jackson is one of those players that brings a defensive mindset to the table and would instantly fit into Thibs' system. There are questions as to whether he’ll return to Kentucky, but if he stays in the draft, he could go anywhere from 10-20. 

20. Atlanta Hawks: Jared Butler, Point Guard, Baylor

Measurables: 6-foot-3.75, 193 pounds Age: 21

Team Needs

The Hawks tried to bolster their roster last offseason with players like Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondo. Neither worked out well, although the team did find value with Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danillo Gallinari. This team has talent at every position, but they could use a little more athleticism, especially if John Collins sneaks away in free agency.

Why Butler?

3-pointer? Check. Ability to distribute? Check. NBA Body? Check. Butler is one of those veteran college players that makes an impact at the next level. He knows who he is and he has a game that translates. He’s also a big time winner and that helped Baylor take home a National Championship.

A month ago the Hawks were a team on the rise. After making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, their priorities have to shift. Butler is a mature college player that can step in and play minutes in year one. He has a nice skill set and could be a long-term backup to Trae Young. 

21. New York Knicks (via Mavericks): Jaden Springer, Point Guard, Tennessee

Measurables: 6-foot-4.25, 202 pounds Age: 18

Team Needs

The Knicks have a stack of point guards on their roster, all of which enter the summer as free agents. They have to find the long-term answer at this position. They’ll likely try to address the position with a veteran, but they’ll still need depth at this position.

Why Springer?

Early in the season Springer looked a little lost on a deep squad, but he found his place as the season developed. Powerful, fearless and maybe a little angry, Springer loves to get fancy with the dribble, the pass and the dunk. He’s shot the ball well with the Vols and he’s made solid decisions with the ball as a distributor. Springer has a nice feel for the game and an NBA ready body, although he could use some seasoning.

If Derrick Rose comes back for another tour of duty, Springer could work as an understudy for a season or two and he might even be able to eat some minutes in his rookie season. This is a bit of a gamble, but Springer has a ton of potential.

22. Los Angeles Lakers: Day’Ron Sharpe, Center, North Carolina

Measurables: 6-foot-11, 265 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

The Lakers have just five players under guaranteed contract for next season and they are already well over the cap. They need to find a way to retain players like Dennis Schroeder, Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell or LeBron James will play out his final years with Anthony Davis and a mixed bag of low level vets.

Why Sharpe?

Sharpe is one of the few big-bodied centers in this year’s draft and even he has done some really nice work on his physique. He’ll need a professional training staff to keep him in top shape, but there is a lot to like about the Tar Heel big. 

He has soft hands, works close to the basket and knows how to hit the glass hard. He turns the ball over too much and needs to be more efficient as a scorer, but with a draft void of true bigs, he might have a shot to make it. 

The Lakers used a group of centers last season, but there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to bring any of them back. They need depth all over the court, but a bruiser in the paint makes a lot of sense. 

23. Houston Rockets (via Trail Blazers): Sharife Cooper, Point Guard, Auburn

Measurables: 6-foot-1, 180 pounds Age: 20

Team Needs

Giving away veterans for late first-round picks doesn’t usually work out as planned. Houston would be better served trying to move off of one of these two picks in the 20s. If they do stick around and make both selections, they can swing for the fences and hope they land at least one player for the future.

Why Cooper?

Cooper is a flashy point guard that loves to create for himself and others off the dribble. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and he’s averaging nearly nine assists a game in his freshman season at Auburn. He’s a work in progress when it comes to perimeter shooting and he turns the ball over at a high clip, but this is a highlight-reel player waiting to happen. 

Houston needs help all over the court and there is a good chance it will take a few years to climb out of the hole they’ve dug. If you’re going to be bad, you might as well be fun to watch and Cooper brings a ton of energy and excitement.

24. Houston Rockets (via Bucks): Isaiah Todd, Power Forward, G League Ignite

Measurables: 6-foot-10, 210 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

New ownership? Is that a possibility? Probably not. So the answer is a lot of everything. Houston should be able to add a budding young star at the top of the draft, but with the way their roster is currently constructed, they’ll need more help with each of their picks in the 20s. 

Why Todd?

Todd is the other guy for the G League Ignite team. Green and Kuminga will go at the top end of the draft and Dashin Nix is a borderline first-round pick. Todd should have been putting up big numbers for the Michigan Wolverines as a five-star recruit. He has good size, a nice frame and a solid overall game. He also worked with a professional coaching staff and had a ton of one-on-one mentorship behind the scenes with the Ignite.

There was a time when Todd was considered a top 10 pick. He’s impressed with individual workouts and might make have made his way back into the first round. Houston needs to take gambles like to fill out their roster. 

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Usman Garuba, Power Forward/Center, Real Madrid 

Measurables: 6-foot-8, 230 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

This is an important offseason in LA. Kawhi Leonard is out long-term with an ACL tear. They could quickly go from a contender to a team with a lot of bloated veteran contracts and no real chance for a ring. Either way, they could use depth in the backcourt and at the center position, where DeMarcus Cousins has earned minutes in the second half of the season.

Why Garuba?

Garuba is an intriguing prospect playing in Europe. At 6-foot-8, 230-pounds with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, he looks like a clone of former NBA defender Lub Mbah a Moute. In the modern NBA, he’s likely a stretch four of undersized five in the pros. He has a solid release from the perimeter and he has good movement without the ball, but he doesn’t jump off the page. 

LA needs physical defenders with upside. They also need players that can fill in and play right away. Garuba is likely ready for the jump to the NBA, but he could also be a draft and stash candidate. Either way, he looks like a versatile player that will eventually carve out a niche in the NBA. 

26. Denver Nuggets: Ayo Dosunmu, Shooting Guard, Illinois

Measurables: 6-foot-5, 194 pounds Age: 21

Team Needs

Denver has made a ton of savvy moves over the last few seasons. Their ability to find talent late in the draft has been overlooked. They have an immediate need in the backcourt with Jamal Murray out for a while and Gary Harris now a member of the Orlando Magic. 

Why Dosunmu?

Dosunmu is a big, strong, active combo-guard that fills up the star sheet. He has an active body with really nice length (6-foot-10.25 wingspan) and the ability to play both guard positions. He’s part of the big turnaround in Illinois basketball and there’s a good chance his game will translate to the next level as a rotational player. 

We’ve had this player here for a while, but Denver needs depth and Dosunmu brings a little of everything to the table. He isn’t afraid to play defense, which Michael Malone will like and he should be a solid addition this late in the draft, especially for a team looking for NBA ready talent to eat minutes.

27. Brooklyn Nets: Cam Thomas, Shooting Guard, LSU

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

What does a team with superstars at every position really need? The answer might be rotational depth for when the stars take turns sitting for months at a time. This late in the draft, you try to find a prospect that can do one or two specific things, regardless of position.

Why Thomas?

Every team needs a scorer. While Thomas doesn’t move the needle as a passer or rebounder and he goes through the motions on the defensive end, he can fill it up with the best of them. He’s one of the few freshmen that is living up to his potential. This is a player that lacks a conscience as a shooter, which is both a blessing and a curse. 

Brooklyn should be playing for a ring. That means they will value roster spots above everything else. If they do select here, Thomas has an elite skill. If they need someone to step in and score at will, he can do that, especially if the Nets stars continue to miss time.

28. Philadelphia 76ers: Trey Murphy, Wing, Virginia

Measurables: 6-foot-9.25, 206 pounds Age: 21

Team Needs

Philly has struggled to balance out their roster for a few years. They have a top heavy rotation with massive contracts for Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons eating up a combined $100 million next season. They need depth all over the court, but they have yet to reach that point where veterans lineup to take the minimum to play for a ring. They also have the issue of Simmons struggling in the postseason, so a major shakeup might be on the horizon.

Why Murphy?

Murphy is a work-in-progress on the defensive end, but he’s long, athletic and knocked down 43.3 percent from 3-point range this season. He’s climbing up draft boards and he might make it higher than this before it’s all said and done.

Philly needs to surround Embiid with shooters and Murphy’s ability to play both the two and the three is intriguing. If they can get him to improve on the defensive end, they could have a late first-round steal. 

29. Phoenix Suns: Tre Mann, Point Guard, Florida

Measurables: 6-foot-4.25, 178 pounds Age: 20

Team Needs

The Suns burst onto the scene this season, skipping two or three steps on their way to a stunning 51-21 record and a run to the NBA Finals. Most of their core is under contract for next season, but they’ll need to fill out the bench and could use depth at every position.

Why Mann?

Mann is a former McDonald’s All-American who had a quiet freshman season at Florida. While he’s not on every draft board as of now, he should be. The sophomore point guard has grown, both physically and as a player. He’s knocking down 41 percent from 3-point range and he’s a tremendous creator with the ball in his hands. 

Mann is a low-risk, high-reward pick this late, and his size and skill set are very intriguing. The Suns need to find an understudy for Chris Paul, especially if Cameron Payne leaves in free agency after an impressive run in the playoffs. This could be a nice last first-round find.

30. Utah Jazz: Greg Brown, Combo-Forward, Texas

Measurables: 6-foot-8.5, 206 pounds Age: 19

Team Needs

This is the most complete team in the league. They have a major decision with Mike Conley playing out the final year of his contract. Can they retain the All-Star? He’ll have to take a major pay cut to make it happen. Outside of the Conley situation, this team is mostly intact for next season. This late in the draft, the Jazz will likely find another strong veteran college player that can step in and help out. 

Why Brown?

A super athletic combo-forward, Brown came into the season very highly regarded. He’s had a solid freshman season, but consistency is an issue. He can shoot from behind the arc, run the floor like a gazelle and he has the potential to be an elite rim protector with his 7-foot wingspan. Like his teammate Kai Jones, Brown is a gamble on potential, but there is a lot to work with. 

Utah needs a big man that can stretch the floor and defend on the perimeter. They might look for that player type in free agency, but Brown is packed with potential for a team willing to teach him how to play the game. 

There was a time when Brown was considered a lottery talent, but he’s on the bubble of falling out of the first round. He’s a gamble, but the potential is off the charts and could be molded in the right situation.

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