2021 NBA Mock Draft: Trade rumors, final first-round projections, Kings’ options at No. 9

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The top five picks in Thursday’s NBA draft seem to be taking shape, but the rest of the lottery remains a bit of a mystery with trade winds swirling in Sacramento and throughout the league.

Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham, G League Ignite guard Jalen Green, USC center Evan Mobley, Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs and Florida State forward Scottie Barnes are expected to be the first five players selected Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. G League Ignite guard Jonathan Kuminga seems to be slipping and could fall into the latter half of the lottery, meaning he might be available to the Golden State Warriors at No. 7 or even the Kings at No. 9.

Then again, the Kings and Warriors are both rumored to be shopping their picks, with both teams looking for opportunities to add proven talent for a playoff push next season. The anticipated flurry of trade activity started Monday when the New Orleans Pelicans traded Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, the No. 10 pick and other assets to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas and two draft picks.

The draft will be broadcast live beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday. The first round will air on ABC and ESPN with the second round to be broadcast exclusively on ESPN. The Kings will hold a free watch party at Golden 1 Center.

There is a lot of talent in this year’s draft but most of the players in the lottery are 18 or 19 years old and there is little consensus outside of the top five. For example, one leading draft analyst has Turkish center Alperen Sengun going to the Orlando Magic at No. 8, but another has him going to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 18.

Having said all that, here’s how the first round of the draft might play out (but yeah, nah, probably not) …

1. Detroit Pistons

Cade Cunningham, 6-8, 220, PG, Oklahoma State

Cunningham is poised to become the No. 1 pick and the face of a franchise in Detroit, where the Pistons add a phenomenal talent to a young core consisting of Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart. The 19-year-old playmaker had a stellar freshman campaign at Oklahoma State, where he averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals. With a rare blend of size, skills, vision and versatility, he can do it all.

2. Houston Rockets

Jalen Green, 6-6, 180, SG, G-League Ignite

Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs are tremendous prospects in their own right so the Rockets have to consider their options carefully, but Green is a special scorer with elite athleticism who averaged 17.9 points on 46/37/83 shooting splits in the G League.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

Evan Mobley, 7-0, 215, PF/C, USC

Mobley, a uniquely gifted big man who can protect the rim and guard the perimeter, averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 2.4 assists as a freshman at USC. Cleveland is getting a unicorn with enormous upside at both ends of the floor.

4. Toronto Raptors

Jalen Suggs, 6-4, 205, PG, Gonzaga

With Kyle Lowry’s time in Toronto possibly coming to an end, the Raptors can bring in an ideal replacement in Suggs, a 20-year-old guard who averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals as a freshman at Gonzaga.

5. Orlando Magic

Scottie Barnes, 6-9, 225, SF/PF, Florida State

Barnes averaged 10.3 points, 4.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in his only season at Florida State. He’s long, strong, big and agile with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, boundless energy and the rare ability to guard all five positions.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

Jonathan Kuminga, 6-8,220, SF/PF, G League Ignite

Kuminga has fallen behind Barnes in mock drafts and could fall even further if OKC doesn’t snag him here, but with 17 first-round picks over the next six years, this is an organization that can take a chance on his huge upside and put the required time into his development.

7. Golden State Warriors (from Minnesota)

James Bouknight, 6-5, 190, SG, UConn

This is where things get very unpredictable with no consensus on how the next several picks will play out — not to mention the possibility of trades in this range — but Bouknight would be a nice complement to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the backcourt.

8. Orlando Magic (from Chicago)

Moses Moody, 6-6, 211, SG, Arkansas

After adding Barnes to the frontcourt, Orlando addresses its needs on the wing with Moody, a solid 3-and-D prospect with a 7-foot-1 wingspan who might prove to be one of the best two-way players in this draft.

9. Sacramento Kings

Franz Wagner, 6-9, 205, SF, Michigan

Moody is also a strong possibility if he’s still on the board here, but as one of the more complete and NBA-ready two-way prospects in this draft, Wagner would be a nice fit for a Kings team that wants to make immediate improvements.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (from New Orleans)

Josh Giddey, 6-8, 205/PG/Adelaide

Memphis acquired this pick from the Pelicans, quite possibly with an eye on Giddey, a gifted 18-year-old ball handler who would give the Grizzlies a secondary playmaker to go with Ja Morant.

11. Charlotte Hornets

Kai Jones, 6-11 ½, 221, PF/C, Texas

The Hornets need wing depth and a big man. They could consider Corey Kispert on the wing or Alperen Sengun down low, but Jones, a lob catcher and rim protector who can make 3s and guard multiple positions, might be a better long-term fit with LaMelo Ball.

12. San Antonio Spurs

Alperen Sengun, 6-10, 240, C, Beskitas

The Spurs could go with Kispert if they want to address their need for shooting with an NBA-ready prospect, but Sengun, the 18-year-old Turkish League MVP, has huge upside as a potential foundational piece.

13. Indiana Pacers

Davion Mitchell, 6-2, 205, PG, Baylor

Mitchell, 23, is an NCAA champion with enough poise, polish and playmaking ability to contribute early for a Pacers squad that wants to make a push for the playoffs under new coach Rick Carlisle.

14. Golden State Warriors

Chris Duarte, SG, 6-6, 190, SG, Oregon

Either Duarte or Kispert would be a good win-now choice for the Warriors as both are older, NBA-ready players who can contribute right away as knock-down shooters.

15. Washington Wizards

Corey Kispert, 6-7, 224, SF, Gonzaga

The Wizards are in desperate need of shooters and Kispert might be the best in this draft after making 52.9% from the field, 44% from 3-point range at 87.8% at the free-throw line as a senior at Gonzaga.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Boston)

Trey Murphy III, 6-9 ¼, 206, SF, Virginia

According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Murphy’s stock is “skyrocketing” due to his combination of size, length and shooting ability.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (from Memphis)

Cameron Thomas, 6-4, 210, SG, LSU

Keon Johnson is still on the board, but the Pelicans need to put shooters around Zion Williamson and Thomas could be a good one after averaging 24.4 points as a freshman at LSU.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder

Jalen Johnson, 6-9 ¼, 220, SF/PF, Duke

Once projected as a potential top-10 pick, Johnson slides down here to the Thunder, which again rolls the dice on a high-upside pick with huge potential.

19. New York Knicks

Usman Garuba, 6-8, 229, PF, Real Madrid

The Knicks did it with defense under coach Tom Thibodeau last season and Garuba, while raw offensively, is the best defender in the draft.

20. Atlanta Hawks

Keon Johnson, 6-4 ¾, 185, SG, Tennessee

Johnson needs some work on offense, but he’s an explosive athlete and a hard-nosed defender who could become a nice complement to Trae Young in Atlanta’s backcourt.

21. New York Knicks (from Dallas)

Isaiah Jackson, 6-10 ½, 206, PF/C, Kentucky

Jackson is a project big man, but he posted per-36 averages of 14.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.5 blocks and 1.3 steals as a freshman at Kentucky.

22. Los Angeles Lakers

Jared Butler, 6-3 ¾, 193, PG, Baylor

The Lakers need an NBA-ready role player to help them chase a championship and they get one in Butler, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player who averaged 16.7 points, 4.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds for NCAA champion Baylor.

23. Houston Rockets (from Portland)

Ziaire Williams, 6-9 ¾ , 185, SF, Stanford

Williams was a top high school prospect who struggled during an unusually difficult season at Stanford, but he could have enormous upside for a team that invests in his development.

24. Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee)

Sharife Cooper, 6-1, 180, PG, Auburn

The Rockets use their third first-round pick to add some point guard depth with Cooper, who averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds as a freshman at Auburn.

25. Los Angeles Clippers

Jaden Springer, 6-4 ¼, 202, PG/SG, Tennessee

The Clippers get a combo guard who can provide bench scoring after shooting 43.5% from 3-point range as a freshman at Tennessee.

26. Denver Nuggets

Tre Mann, 6-4 ½, 178, PG, Florida

Mann is a 40% 3-point shooter who can assume some ball-handling duties while Jamal Murray is recovering from his torn ACL.

27. Brooklyn Nets

Day’Ron Sharpe, 6-11, 265, C, North Carolina

Sharpe might be a bit of a project, but he posted per-36 averages of 17.8 points, 14.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 steals in his lone season at North Carolina.

28. Philadelphia 76ers

Miles McBride, 6-2, 200, SG, Virginia

McBride shot 41.4% from 3-point range as a sophomore at Virginia. He has tremendous lateral quickness and defensive intensity with an impressive 6-8 ¾ wingspan.

29. Phoenix Suns

Bones Hyland, 6-3 ½, 169, SG, Virginia Commonwealth

Hyland averaged 19.5 points on 45/37/86 shooting splits and utilized his 6-9 ¼ wingspan to post 1.9 steals per game as a sophomore at VCU.

30. Utah Jazz

Joshua Primo, 6-5, 189, SG, Alabama

The youngest player in the draft will be a bit of a project, but a lot of analysts feel Primo has first-round potential.

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