Too-Early 2021 NBA Mock Draft: Will Cade Cunningham go No. 1?

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NBA draft

NBA draft Mandatory Credit: Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NBA Draft class is shaping up to be one of the more talented ones in recent memory. Here is an early look at the top prospects.

Unlike the 2020 version, the 2021 NBA Draft Class looks like it will be one of the most talent-laden in recent memory. There are a handful of sure-fire prospects, and the rest of the pool runs deep. Not only are there potential stars at the top of the board, but there is a wealth of value to be had throughout the entire lottery and first round. While the NBA has disincentivized tanking in recent years, there will be plenty of reason for bottom-feeding teams to gun for a top spot in next offseason’s draft.

The order that the 14 teams appear in this particular mock draft are not based on any scientific research, and there are roster changes to be made and basketball to be played before we find out which ones are lottery-bound. But we can certainly get a general sense of which teams will be at the top of the board next offseason, and we can just assume that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the 2021 lottery, as is tradition. This would give them their fifth number one pick since 2003 and yet another chance at adding a potential franchise-altering talent to their roster.

Following these prospects over the next few months will be a bit more difficult than usual. The NCAA season will almost certainly be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are also players who will be exercising their new right to spend a year developing in the G League.

So who are the biggest names in next year’s lottery? Who has super star potential, and which guys will be sleepers that fall out of the top ten?

With the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft…

NBA draft (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

1
Cade Cunningham
G Oklahoma State

Cade Cunningham is widely regarded as the most talented player in the 2021 Draft class. He is currently a freshman at Oklahoma State, and is listed as everything from a point guard to forward, depending on who you ask. But the 6’7″ Cunningham promises to be a solid contributor no matter his position. His passing and ball handling skills are elite, and he exhibits excellent shot mechanics with his ability to score from all three levels. There may need to be some polishing done to his defensive game, but the IQ is already there.

He doesn’t play above the rim, but Cunningham’s length and wingspan allow him to be a force around the basket as well. Many comparisons have him pegged to Ben Simmons, though one that can shoot. In a league where position-less players are becoming all the more valuable, Cade Cunningham fits the mold perfectly.

We have the Cavaliers slated as the lucky recipients of the first overall pick, which would give them an incredible five first overall picks in 18 seasons. Whatever Cleveland’s plan is at point guard shouldn’t matter. You draft Cunningham and make adjustments to the rest of your roster.

 

2
Jalen Green
SG G-League

The player that could potentially give Cunningham a run for his money for the top spot is Jalen Green.

ESPN ranked Green as the top prospect in his class, and for good reason. He relies on his athletic explosiveness to carry his game, of which he has plenty. His ability to beat defenders off of the dribble with his lightning quick first step is one of Green’s best traits, and he is a high-flyer who can also finish through contact. He is not yet an elite defender, but his ability to guard multiple positions will help make him one of the top prospects in next year’s draft.

Green signed a one-year deal with the Walnut Creek Ignite of the NBA G League, and will look to improve his game elsewhere than on a college campus.

The Knicks have the second overall pick in this scenario, and would be foolish to choose anyone but who is left of Green and Cunningham. Either player would be a franchise-changer for a team that so badly needs one, the team just need the lottery Gods to finally bless the city of New York.

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