Never-too-early 2021 NBA Mock Draft: Two Kentucky freshmen in top 10 of pro prospect rankings for next year


On the night of the 2019 NBA Draft, most had Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman projected as the first two picks of the 2020 NBA Draft. And, wouldn’t you know it, some 19 months later, with the 2020 NBA Draft delayed because of a global pandemic, that’s how things unfolded.

Anthony Edwards went No. 1 to Minnesota.

James Wiseman went No. 2 to Golden State.

So that’s the latest bit of evidence that suggests it’s never too early to look ahead to the next NBA Draft. And now, officially, the next NBA Draft is the 2021 NBA Draft, where I have an Oklahoma State Cowboy projected to go first overall, and two Kentucky Wildcats slotted in the top 10. Here’s an early look at how the lottery could unfold with the draft order set by the predraft SportsLine projected records for NBA teams for this season (although team needs are not take into consideration for the selections):

2021 NBA mock draft

1. Pistons: Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State)

Cade Cunningham could consistently flirt with triple-doubles in what should be his first and only season at Oklahoma State. If he develops a reliable jumper, the potential for stardom exists.

2. Cavaliers: Evan Mobley (USC)

The gap between Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley as prospects isn’t as wide for me as it seems to be for most. The latter is a 7-foot frontcourt phenom perfect for the modern NBA.

3. Hornets: Jalen Green (G-League)

Jalen Green was the highest-profile prospect to choose the G-League program over a season of college basketball. It’s a decision that’ll completely take him off of the national radar but shouldn’t cost him a bit when it comes to next year’s draft.

4. Warriors from Timberwolves: Jonathan Kuminga (G-League)

Jonathan Kuminga will spend much of the next year training with Jalen Green as part of the G-League program. He’s a 6-8 wing and top-shelf athlete who could be a star if his jumper continues to improve.

5. Knicks: BJ Boston (Kentucky)

BJ Boston should be the best freshman player and prospect in the SEC. He’s a 6-5 wing who excels in transition but can also get to the rim in halfcourt sets and finish in a variety of ways.

6. Hawks: Scottie Barnes (Florida State)

Scottie Barnes is the type of long and skilled player who has flourished under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State. He’s a versatile defender who can score around the rim or lead a fastbreak.

7. Wizards: Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga)

Jalen Suggs is exactly the type of one-and-done talent who could join Gonzaga’s talented core and be the key to Mark Few winning his first national title. He’s a 6-5 athlete who has excelled in multiple sports and will provide dynamic scoring for the Zags.

8. Magic: Terrence Clarke (Kentucky)

After having zero players selected in the lottery for the first time in 11 years at Kentucky, John Calipari should have at least two players among the first 14 picks next year. Terrence Clarke is a guard with size who, like teammate BJ Boston, is terrific in transition.

9. Thunder: Usman Garuba (Spain)

Usman Garuba projects as the top international prospect in next year’s draft. The 6-8 forward has plenty of developing to do but already plays with the type of energy that makes him a desirable prospect.

10. Kings: Keon Johnson (Tennessee)

The word out of Knoxville is that Keon Johnson has been even better in preseason practices than his top-20 recruiting ranking suggests. He’s a still-developing 6-5 athlete who plays really tough.

11. Spurs: Ziaire Williams (Stanford)

Ziaire Williams projects as a combo forward who should someday be a high-level 3-point shooter. The fact that he shot nearly 90% from the free-throw line in his final year on the Nike EYBL circuit serves as a great indicator of his potential.

12. Thunder from Rockets: Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois)

It was somewhat surprising when Ayo Dosunmu, a possible first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, decided to return to Illinois for his junior season. Assuming he turns the Illini into a Final Four contender, and makes jumpers consistently, it’s a decision that should pay off.

13. Pelicans: Jalen Johnson (Duke)

Jalen Johnson is the highest-rated prospect in Duke’s latest heralded recruiting class. He’s a 6-8 wing who plays above the rim and will ensure the Blue Devils don’t go two straight years without a first-round pick.

14. Knicks from Mavericks: Daishen Nix (UCLA)

Daishen Nix was supposed to be the star of a UCLA team built to maybe make the Final Four — but, like others, he opted to join the G-League program. Regardless, he’s a likely lottery talent, a point guard with size, who has shown the ability to be a creative playmaker and passer.



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