Now that the 2020-21 NBA season has come to an end, NBA Draft season is finally upon us. Weeks, months, and even years of scouting and preparation are about to come to fruition in just a few days, as the 2021 NBA Draft will occur on Thursday, July 29. As for the players, many hoop dreams are about to become a reality.
Of course, some teams have been prepping for this moment much longer than others. The 12 franchises in control of the top 14 picks have had months to shift their focus entirely to the draft and deliberate, while the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns will have had just nine days to turn their attention from the NBA Finals to draft night. With that said, Milwaukee and Phoenix don’t require the same kind of help as teams like the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets, who own the first two picks.
Fortunately for Detroit, Houston, and the rest of this season’s non-playoff teams, there will be plenty of talented players available who can help get things back on track.
Here’s a look at who’s projected to fill out the top-five draft selections, per BetMGM:
- No. 1: Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State (-5000)
- No. 2: Jalen Green, G, G League (-165)
- No. 3: Evan Mobley, C, USC (-160)
- No. 4: Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga (-160)
- No. 5: (Tie) Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League (+105)
- No. 5: (Tie) Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State (+105)
All 2021 NBA Draft odds, lines, and bets in this article are provided courtesy of BetMGM. BetMGM offers a Risk-Free Bet for up to $600 for new players.
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2021 NBA Draft Analysis
2021 NBA Draft Lottery Picks Analysis
Not every lottery team will be looking to use their pick to make a selection — especially those with a win-now mentality that don’t necessarily need to worry about developing a young prospect. This includes the Golden State Warriors, who control the No. 7 and 14 picks in the draft. Should they be in the market for a more polished contributor, Golden State could certainly flip one or both of their picks to a rebuilding team in exchange for a veteran player.
On the other hand, some teams will be looking for any opportunity to trade their way into acquiring a lottery pick. The Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, and Minnesota Timberwolves are among a small group of teams without a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and they could all be looking to package current and future assets in an attempt to grab their guy.
In addition to the six players mentioned above, key names to keep an eye on include James Bouknight, Josh Giddey, Usman Garuba, and Moses Moody, who have risen up draft boards over the past few weeks.
- Check out our 2021 NBA Mock Draft for lottery pick predictions and full Round 1 and 2 selections
2021 NBA Draft Predictions + Bet Picks
No. 2 Overall Pick: Evan Mobley (+180)
Jalen Green and Evan Mobley are the two players who have consistently popped up in mock drafts at No. 2, and it’s not hard to see why. Green is a freak athlete who projects as an elite scorer in the NBA, while Mobley may well be the best two-way prospect in the class. With that in mind, Houston can’t go wrong with either guy here, assuming they keep their pick.
While it’s true that the Rockets already have a young, formidable big in Christian Wood, the franchise could seriously bolster its frontcourt depth by adding Mobley to the mix. A true seven-footer, Mobley projects as an elite defender and facilitator at his position — two things that Wood is not.
Together, Mobley and Wood could form a dominant frontcourt pairing for years to come and give the Rockets a strong foundation to build upon. Overall, he’s a more seamless fit with Houston’s long-term pieces, and his individual potential will make him very difficult to pass on. It may still be a toss-up between him and Green come draft night, but I feel confident that Mobley will be the second player to come off the board.
No. 3 Overall Pick: Jalen Green (+170)
It’s only natural, then, that Green finds his way to the Cleveland Cavaliers at pick No. 3. While it’s true that the Cavaliers currently have a solid backcourt pairing in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, rumors have circulated in recent weeks that Cleveland could be looking to move on from Sexton. Assuming that’s the case, Green would fit in smoothly alongside Garland.
Green is a superb scorer, which the Cavaliers need plenty of after ranking dead-last in points per game in 2020-21. The 19-year-old poured in 17.9 points across 15 games in the G League this season, shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from three-point range.
If Green is still on the board at No. 3, expect the Cavaliers to scoop him up.
No. 4 Overall Pick: Jalen Suggs (-160)
The Toronto Raptors were fortunate enough to secure the No. 4 pick in the draft, moving up three spots in the lottery following a disappointing season in Tampa Bay. As a result, the franchise could be in prime position to draft its point guard of the future in Jalen Suggs.
The 20-year-old is as poised as they come, proving he was born for the moment long before he sank a game-winning half-court shot to knock off the UCLA Bruins in the 2021 Final Four. Not only can he score and defend, but Suggs is a high-IQ facilitator who would fit in nicely alongside Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam.
With Kyle Lowry potentially leaving Toronto via free agency this summer, it’s hard to imagine the Raptors leaving a playmaker like Suggs on the board at No. 4.
2021 NBA Draft Prop Bets
Davion Mitchell Draft Position: Under 8.5 (+100)
Davion Mitchell didn’t climb this high up draft boards on account of his last name. Not only does the Baylor product bear no relation to Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, but Davion’s individual accolades are the reason why he’s gone from first-round afterthought to lottery lock.
Mitchell’s play in the NCAA Tournament vastly improved his draft stock. The 22-year-old combo guard averaged 13.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.7 steals across six games, leading his Bears to an 86-70 victory over the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the National Championship. In addition to his offensive prowess, Mitchell was also recognized with the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award, giving credit to his reputation as one of the best on-ball defenders in college basketball.
The Orlando Magic are expected to be in the market for a playmaker and scorer, as are the Golden State Warriors. Considering these two teams are in control of picks No. 5, 7, and 8, there’s a solid chance of Mitchell coming off the board early.
Chris Duarte Draft Position: Under 19.5 (-125)
Three-point shooting is paramount in the modern NBA. There isn’t a team in the league that doesn’t understand the value of the deep ball. Even the San Antonio Spurs — known for their throwback style of play — attempted nearly 30 threes per game this season. Therefore, it probably won’t take long for Chris Duarte, the best three-point shooter in the 2021 class, to come off the board.
The Oregon sharpshooter knocked down 42.4 percent of his looks from beyond the arc on 5.5 attempts per game, showcasing his potential to become a high-volume, high-efficiency shooter in the NBA. Duarte was especially impressive from deep in the NCAA Tournament, where he sank 14 of his 19 attempts (73.6 percent) in two games against the Iowa Hawkeyes and USC Trojans.
Virtually every team could use a player like Duarte, but a few fits make more sense than others. Golden State loves to fire up the three-ball, and it couldn’t hurt to have another shooter on the floor with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Perhaps the Warriors will find their long-lost third splash brother at pick No. 14.