2021 nba mock draft
Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Who will the Knicks and Nets take in the 2021 NBA Draft? Let’s take a look ahead with a first-round mock draft.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State

The Timberwolves are drafting first overall…again. This is the no-brainer of the century. Cade Cunningham is the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in this draft and even though the Timberwolves have D’Angelo Russell at point guard, there’s no reason to pass up on Cunningham here.

2. Detroit Pistons
Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga

The Pistons just drafted a point guard in Killian Hayes, but there is absolutely no way they miss on Jalen Suggs at this spot. Suggs is the prototypical point guard for today’s NBA — he can score at all three levels and facilitate for his teammates. The highly-touted prospect has a great feel for the game and is coming from a winning culture in Gonzaga.

3. Houston Rockets
Evan Mobley, C, USC

This is where things get interesting. Center isn’t exactly a position of need for the Rockets, but it’s going to be hard to pass up on the upside of Evan Mobley at No. 2. Houston could slide Christian Wood to the four (where he’s played before). That would give Houston a young and dynamic frontcourt.

4. Orlando Magic
Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite

Jalen Green is the first of three G League Ignite players to go in the first round. Orlando is grabbing a talented guard to add to a young backcourt consisting of Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony. Green is excellent in transition where his athleticism and finishing shine. He should be a perfect fit in Orlando.

5. Washington Wizards
Jonathan Kuminga, SF, G League Ignite

The G League Ignite are going to see two players land in the top five of this draft. Jonathan Kuminga follows his teammate by going fifth to the Wizards. Teams can never have enough talented wings in the modern NBA. Kuminga is a dynamic scorer, but he also flashed his chops as a facilitator in the G League bubble.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers
Scottie Barnes, PF, Florida State

The Cavaliers have drafted a guard with their first pick in three consecutive drafts. They are going to break that trend by taking Scottie Barnes with the sixth overall pick. Barnes is the perfect fit for Cleveland with his versatility on offense and defense. He’s another nice piece to add to the ongoing rebuild in Cleveland.

7. Toronto Raptors
Keon Johnson, SG, Tennessee

With Kyle Lowry likely moving on from Toronto at the end of this year, the Raptors could use another guy in the backcourt to pair with Fred VanVleet. Keon Johnson is a perfect fit alongside VanVleet due to his size and length. His ridiculous athleticism should help bring a spark to a Toronto team that desperately needs it.

8. New Orleans Pelicans
Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

Corey Kispert’s draft stock continues to rise as Gonzaga’s undefeated season marches on. At 22 years old, the sharpshooter is on the older end of the spectrum for lottery picks, but that means he is going to be more developed than some of his younger counterparts. Kispert should slot into the Pelicans’ rotation nicely with the likely departure of J.J. Redick.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Kai Jones, PF/C, Texas

Graceful isn’t a word that’s used often to describe 6-foot-11 human beings, but Kai Jones fits the bill. He has electrifying athleticism and he always seems to be in control of his lengthy frame. The Thunder are stockpiling hgh-upside players.

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

After the complete fire-sale that went down in Orlando, the Magic are going to need to re-establish an identity. Moses Moody is exactly the type of high energy player who can help set the tone defensively alongside Jonathan Isaac next season. He has elite 3-and-D wing potential and can be a key piece on a winning team down the line.

11. Sacramento Kings
James Bouknight, SG, UConn

James Bouknight is one of the most polished scorers in this draft despite the fact that his three-point shooting was inconsistent during his sophomore year at UConn. He should be able to step into the NBA and contribute immediately as a scoring option off the bench.

12. Indiana Pacers
Jaden Springer, SG, Tennessee

Jaden Springer is far from a finished product, which makes him a solid pick for Indiana right here. They could use a jolt of size and strength into the backcourt and Springer is exactly that. Although his offense came and went at times, he should develop into a good slasher/scorer.

13. Golden State Warriors
Ziaire Williams, SF, Stanford

Ziaire Williams is further down on draft boards than most would have predicted a few months ago. He failed to find his rhythm with Stanford this season and his stats suffered for it. With all that said, he is dripping with talent and won’t fall out of the lottery.

14. Memphis Grizzlies
Franz Wagner, SF, Michigan

The Memphis Grizzlies have a glaring need for shooting. In order to maximize Ja Morant, they need floor spacers out around the three-point line. Franz Wagner’s stock is rising because he can knock down the long ball and he’s a heady defender. The 3-and-D wing is one of the most valuable kinds of role players in the NBA.

15. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami Heat)
Usman Garuba, PF, Spain

Oklahoma City has so many picks over the next few years that they can afford to take a chance on a defense-first, offense-later player from overseas. Usman Garuba is going to be a terrific defender from day one in the NBA, but the offense might take a little more time. After seeing what the Thunder did with Luguentz Dort, the Garubu pick makes a ton of sense.

16. Boston Celtics
Greg Brown, PF, Texas

Greg Brown is an uber-athletic big man who is just oozing with potential. The problem for Brown is that he failed to cement his place as a lottery pick during his one season in Texas. He has too much upside to fall past the Celtics here.

17. Atlanta Hawks
BJ Boston, SG, Kentucky

BJ Boston’s stock fell during Kentucky’s lackluster season, but he entered college as one of the most highly-touted prospects in the country. The Hawks should be willing to take a chance on Boston’s talent at this pick. He could be a potentially deadly combo with Trae Young.

18. New York Knicks
Jalen Johnson, F, Duke

Jalen Johnson’s stock dropped a bit after he decided to opt-out towards the end of Duke’s season. This 6-foot-8 forward is everything you want in a modern-day NBA wing — length, athleticism, versatility, and the ability to create off the bounce. Johnson’s high upside woos Leon Rose.

19. Charlotte Hornets
Alperen Sengun, C, Turkey

Alperen Sengun is putting up monster numbers in the Turkish League this season on both ends of the floor, but he shines on offense. He has a tremendous feel for the game and knows exactly where and when to cut for his teammates. Sengun and LaMelo Ball could make for an electric duo down the road.

20. San Antonio Spurs
Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn

The Spurs may need to bolster their depth in the backcourt depending on how the offseason goes and Sharife Cooper could be the guy to fill the void. Due to his 6-foot-1 frame, he doesn’t project as a great defender at the next level, but his offense should make up for it. Cooper’s ability to penetrate the defense and find his teammates should play well on a second unit.

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

Immanuel Quickley looks like he’s going to be a fixture in the New York backcourt for a long time, but that doesn’t mean the Knicks should stop drafting guards. Ayo Dosunmu is at his best when he’s out in transition and attacking the rim. The Knicks take a crack at another combo guard in the late first round.

22. Denver Nuggets
Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

Chris Duarte is a dog. He came up through the junior college ranks before becoming a star for the Oregon Ducks. He was named to his Pac-12 All-Defensive team for his tireless work as a perimeter defender. Denver could use another strong perimeter defender. It also helps that Duarte doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective on offense. The Nuggets have a lot of mouths to feed with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Aaron Gordon.

23. Houston Rockets (via Portland Trail Blazers)
Josh Giddey, PG, Australia

Josh Giddy has the size of a typical NBA wing, but the skills and vision of a point guard. Whether or not he sticks in the NBA as a point guard remains to be seen. With that said, his length and potential as a secondary ballhandler/playmaker make him a strong pick at this spot on the board.

24. Los Angeles Lakers
Jared Butler, PG, Baylor

Jared Butler has the potential to make an impact from day one. He’s a heady guard who can play on or off the ball depending on the situation and knock down open threes. That’s exactly the type of point guard that seems to fit best with LeBron James.

25. Los Angeles Clippers
Cameron Thomas, G, LSU

It’s a shame that LSU and Cameron Thomas were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round. Thomas scored 27 and 30 points in his two tourney games, showcasing his special ability to score the basketball. With Lou Williams off to Atlanta, the Clippers are looking for a bucket-getter off the bench.

26. Houston Rockets (via Milwaukee Bucks)
Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State

Josh Christopher is a lengthy guard who can score ina variety of ways. Whether in the halfcourt or transition, Christopher always seems to figure out a way to score. Despite poor three-point shooting numbers (30.5%), he passes the eye test of what an NBA scorer should look like. He’s a good guy for the Rockets to add as they attempt to rebuild.

27. Brooklyn Nets
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Villanova

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is the perfect fit for the Nets. He’s a versatile defender who can guard multiple positions. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective on offense which will be a key for finding success on this team as a rookie.

And perhaps this is cognitive bias, but Villanova produces solid NBA role players — Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, Eric Paschall, and the list goes on. The Villanova culture clearly translates well to the pros.

28. Phoenix Suns
Daishen Nix, PG, G League Ignite

Daishen Nix found his way into the news this week when UCLA coach Mick Cronin criticized the NBA and G League for using recruiting tactics that were “not right” according to Cronin. He was originally committed to play for the Bruins before opting to go to the G League Ignite.

Either way, he finds himself in the first round. The Suns could have Nix lead the second unit while learning under Chris Paul for at least a season.

29. Philadelphia 76ers
Aaron Henry, F, Michigan State

At this point in the draft, teams are hoping to add rotation players who can fill some type of role. Aaron Henry is a versatile wing defender who can cover multiple positions. His offensive game is not nearly as advanced as his defense, mainly due to his inconsistent shooting, but he made tremendous strides at Michigan State this year.

30. Utah Jazz
Tre Mann, PG, Florida

The Utah Jazz could use another ballhandler in the mix. Tre Mann emerged as a bonafide scorer for the Florida Gators in 2020 and he connected on over 40% of his attempts from deep. Mann is capable with the ball in his hands, but can play off the ball as well — this should come in handy playing alongside Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.