Believe it or not, the 2021 NBA Draft is almost here and As teams begin to finalize their plans or make last-minute efforts to execute trades, 60 prospects will soon find their new homes at the highest level of professional basketball.
With the draft looming, it’s time to take another look at the lottery order, team needs and player fits within schemes. Some players will make an impact from the jump, whereas others may take some time to develop. The situations they end up in will play a major role in dictating how they progress.
Predicting what teams will do come draft night is virtually impossible, but some have more defined needs and ideal archetypes than others. With that said, let’s take a look at every organization picking in the top-15 this year and list a prospect for each who projects to be a good fit.
1. Detroit Pistons — Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State
Many are worried about the fit between Cunningham and point guard Killian Hayes, but passing on the best player in this draft would be a major mistake by Detroit. Cunningham offers enough promise as an off-ball threat to prevent the two from stepping on each other’s toes once they get acclimated. The Oklahoma State product is an NBA-ready guard capable of running an offense and being a switchable defender. His shooting ability is vastly improved and pairs with his elite feel for the game to make him a no-brainer at the No. 1 spot.
2. Houston Rockets — Jalen Green, G, G-League Ignite
Green may have the highest ceiling of any player in this draft. He’s an aggressive attacker who thrives in just about any situation on offense. His three-level scoring prowess is put on display with an endless bag of tricks and top-end athleticism. There are questions about Green’s playmaking and frame, but both should be answered in due time. Having a backcourt duo of Kevin Porter Jr. and Green should be a dream come true for the Rockets — and a scary sight for the rest of the NBA.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers — Evan Mobley, Big, USC
Mobley’s supporting cast didn’t do him many favors at USC early on, but he eventually made his presence felt and cemented his status as a premier target at the top of the NBA Draft. He’s an excellent defender who possesses quick feet, great length, high-level instincts and the ability to step out and switch onto smaller players. Mobley is decisive in the pick-and-roll and flashes a clean jumper that should allow him to space the floor for years to come. He’s also an underrated passer who makes quick reads and beats double-teams. He will be a great fit with the Cavaliers, even if Jarrett Allen is extended.
4. Toronto Raptors — Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
This is probably the last predictable spot of the draft. Considering that Kyle Lowry‘s future is up in the air, it only makes sense for the Raptors to take his eventual replacement. Suggs is an elite athlete who brings all of the intangibles and toughness that teams covet so much. He can be trusted with the ball in his hands and is an offensive stabilizer. On defense, Suggs is switchable and embraces physicality. He may not boast the ceiling of some other prospects, but he seems like a perfect pick for a team like Toronto.
5. Orlando Magic — Jonathan Kuminga, F, G-League Ignite
If there’s one team in the top-10 that’s shown it has no problem with waiting on a player to develop, it’s the Magic. Orlando already has a plethora of scoring-minded guards and a pair of bigs it needs to decide between — addressing the forward spot is a major need. Kuminga’s frame, athleticism and handle make him one of the more intriguing prospects in the NBA Draft. There is a ton of projection involved in his shooting but if it ever comes around, he’ll easily become one of the best players from this class. For the Magic, his potential is worth investing in at pick five.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder — Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
The Thunder are an interesting franchise with a boatload of draft picks over the next several seasons. No one should be off the table for them this year, and Barnes is great. His 7-foot-2 wingspan and instincts make him one of the best defenders in this class. He’s reminiscent of Draymond Green in regards to his ability to make the right passes on offense as well. His jump shot is a work-in-progress but even without a reliable one, Barnes should make Thunder fans happy right away. He’s a winning player.
7. Golden State Warriors — Moses Moody, Wing, Arkansas
The Warriors need shooting and defense in a draft prospect. Moody provides both of them. As a 6’6″ player with a 7-foot wingspan, Moody is an ideal modern wing stopper who moves well. He has a steady and clean three-point shot and is comfortable either coming off of screens or thriving as a catch-and-shoot option. Moody also flashes a dribble attack into a mid-range jumper when defenses close out too hard on him. There’s possibly more to his game that hasn’t been unlocked yet, and he already has a clear floor as a 3-and-D player off the bench. Golden State would be smart to consider him or Davion Mitchell at No. 7.
8. Orlando Magic — Josh Giddey, G, Australia
Some may view this as a reach but considering how the Magic are currently constructed, Giddey makes good sense. He’s still just 18 years old and is mature beyond his years. None of Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony nor R.J. Hampton are great facilitators. They all want to score first, which makes Giddey a perfect complement in that guard rotation (more on that here). He might be the best passer in this draft, is a plus rebounder and his shot is far from a red flag. In Orlando, Giddey can enter a low-pressure situation with the ability to immediately help those around him.
9. Sacramento Kings — Franz Wagner, F, Michigan
Wagner is a hand-in-glove fit here with Sacramento. His offensive versatility alone makes him a top prospect. The 6’9″ forward can handle the ball in spurts, set teammates up when needed and also has promising form with his jump shot. On defense, he plays passing lanes with great anticipation and is quick and confident in his rotations. Wagner is a fantastic team defender. He’ll make an instant impact at the next level, and the Kings need that. Wagner’s well-rounded game suits the needs of franchise cornerstones De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton.
10. New Orleans Pelicans — Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
Choosing between Mitchell and Corey Kispert was a tough call. With that said, siding with Mitchell here serves as a Lonzo Ball insurance plan should he depart in free agency. Mitchell is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA Draft, playing with a high IQ and relentless effort. His shooting numbers from deep improved a ton this past season, which raises questions about whether that improvement is legit. Even if it isn’t, Mitchell should be enough of a threat to keep defenses honest. He’s a combo guard who fits well with New Orleans’ offensive-minded backcourt.
11. Charlotte Hornets — Kai Jones, Big, Texas
Jones has a long way to go in order to reach his ceiling, but the potential is undeniable. On defense, he’s very mobile and can step out to the perimeter and guard wings or even some guards. He brings instant value as a rim-running lob target and also boasts a plus handle with a willingness to attack the rim. Jones’ flashes of pull-up mid-range jumpers and jab-steps or subtle fakes from beyond the arc make him a tantalizing prospect. The Hornets can afford to play the long game here and in getting Jones, they’d be investing in a possible complement to LaMelo Ball.
12. San Antonio Spurs — Alperen Sengun, Big, Besiktas
Not only does Sengun offer immense upside as a versatile offensive weapon, but going to the Spurs would be a match made in heaven. The organization’s ability to develop prospects is second to none, and Sengun would benefit from that. He’s a skilled post player with excellent footwork and the ability to handle the ball and make accurate passes to his teammates. Sengun is an aggressive risk-taker as an offensive rebounder and thrives on put-backs. Expanding his range and continuing to improve as a finisher at the rim are the next steps for him. Defense will always be a major question but if any team can hide him to at least some degree, it’s the Spurs.
13. Indiana Pacers — Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga
With some shooters potentially departing this offseason, the Pacers drafting an ideal replacement only seems right. Kispert offers tremendous value at this spot and is possibly the best shooter in the NBA Draft. He has elite form and is a proven marksman in regards to volume and efficiency. He also moves extremely well off the ball and has NBA-level range. Kispert is capable of keeping the ball moving on offense. Defensively, he’s an intelligent and willing player with a high motor. This isn’t a sexy pick by the Pacers but in getting Kispert, they’d be adding one of the more prepared prospects in this class.
14. Golden State Warriors — Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
Johnson’s high school and collegiate careers have taken weird arcs, but he projects to be a solid NBA player. He’s a very intelligent player who rotates well on defense, is active near the rim and plays passing lanes. His assist numbers don’t do his passing game justice, as he’s always looking to set up his teammates. Johnson is an ideal grab-and-go option and a plus athlete who should do some damage in transition. He’s clearly still young and has some legitimate work to do in terms of carving out a unique offense role (his jumper is a bit shaky) but if he can do that, the Warriors would have a starting-caliber forward on their hands.
15. Washington Wizards — Ziaire Williams, Wing, Stanford
The Wizards aren’t in the lottery but what kind of Washington-based publication would FortyEightMinutes be if we didn’t give the readers a pick for Tommy Sheppard’s club.
Zhaire Williams is extremely raw as a prospect. With that said, there aren’t many better combinations of size, skill and potential in the NBA Draft. He possesses a smooth handle and the ability to create his own looks from just about anywhere on the court. If he can properly execute and get shots to fall more frequently, he could become a very good player.
Despite weighing in at just under 190 pounds, Williams plays with plus anticipation and mobility on the perimeter. Improving his jumper and gaining weight are two very tall tasks but if Williams can rise to the occasion, a player of the Paul George mold could be headed to D.C.