Michael Gaither’s NBA Mock Draft 1.0

Michael Gaither

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State: Minnesota won’t worry about how Cunningham fits. He’s too versatile and positionally interchangeable with his 6’8″ size, ball-handling, playmaking, and shooting. Cunningham could focus more on facilitating than he did at Oklahoma State. Even though it was his isolation scoring that generated so much buzz this season, it’s actually his passing that has separated him and could ultimately be a difference-making addition to this Timberwolves roster.

2. Houston Rockets – Evan Mobley, USC: With Cade Cunningham off the board, the Houston Rockets will be thinking about Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, and Jalen Green. They won’t be worrying about needs with the roster focused on rebuilding. Mobley still seems to have the edge for scouts at No. 2. Questions about Suggs’ half-court creation and shooting and Green’s shot selection and playmaking could be too tough to ignore with Mobley available. He’d give the Rockets a defensive centerpiece fueled by shot-blocking prowess and unique switchability. Additionally, he delivered enough glimpses of open-floor ball-handling, face-up moves, shooting touch, and finishing for the Rockets to feel confident in his scoring potential. 

3. Detroit Pistons – Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga: Jalen Green may fill the biggest need with his scoring for this particular roster. But it’s too far away for general manager Troy Weaver to think about plugging holes, especially since he can’t feel overly confident that he knows what the Detroit Pistons have yet in Killian Hayes. Adding another ball-handler like Suggs could help take pressure off the 19-year-old Hayes, who hasn’t looked as ready as most of the 2020 lottery picks.

4. Orlando Magic – Jalen Green, G League Ignite: Not only did Jalen Green not look out of place in his season with the G League Ignite team, but he was a star. He averaged 18 points per game and made 36.5% of his 3s, showcasing the shot-making and defensive prowess that’s locked him in as a surefire top-five pick in this class.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jonathan Kuminga, G League Ignite: There are some obvious flaws in Kuminga’s game that bubbled to the surface while playing for the G League Ignite team — his 3-point shooting dipping below 25% for the season and his general shot-making still lagging being the most obvious — but there’s also a lot to like here, too. The 18-year-old has a strong frame, a good defensive baseline, and some nice skills to build off that could in time make him a superstar in the league.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers – James Bouknight, Connecticut: An in-season elbow injury and subsequent surgery derailed Bouknight’s big season momentarily, but he returned for UConn and continued to showcase his lottery talent with his shot-making and shot-creation skills. Bouknight is a bucket.

7. Sacramento Kings – Jalen Johnson, Duke: Even though his collegiate campaign ended earlier than expected, Johnson turned some heads and gained several fans with some standout performances during a few of his college games.

8. Orlando Magic – Keon Johnson, Tennessee: A springy forward with freakish athleticism who can make plays above the rim, Keon Johnson is a marvelous talent whose potential is obvious. He was impactful as a freshman for a top 20 Tennessee team and should be considered a legitimate top 10 talent in this draft class if the shot starts to fall. It’s a bit of a gamble on raw potential, but the defense and handles give him a sturdy foundation to keep building on.

9. Washington Wizards – Davion Mitchell, Baylor: Massive jump for Davion Mitchell, one of the true breakout stars of the NCAA Tournament. He’s a bit older — he’ll turn 23 later this year — but this draft really drops off after the first five so this is a fine range for him. Because of his impact as a lockdown defender, basket-maker with a burst, and overall creator with the ball, I bid you good luck finding someone who is more sound on both ends as a guard at this spot.

10. Toronto Raptors – Scottie Barnes, Florida State: Scottie Barnes won’t be for everyone, but one general manager is bound to see an out-of-the-box outlier. Not every player needs to score or shoot at a high clip to produce lottery value. Barnes’ identity will revolve around defensive versatility and passing. At 6’9” and 227 pounds, he’s wired to guard every position, both physically and mentally. He’d give the Toronto Raptors a playmaking 4 who can initiate fast breaks, attack his man in space, move the ball, finish and defend all over the floor. Just becoming a capable open shooter could ultimately be huge for his value.

11. New Orleans Pelicans – Corey Kispert, Gonzaga: The New Orleans Pelicans have a future MVP candidate on their hands with Zion Williamson and they can maximize his skills by flanking him with elite shooters.

12. Indiana Pacers – Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers(NBL): The draw to Giddey stems from his 6’8″ size for a ball-handler and unteachable passing/feel for the game. A reliable jump shot helps alleviate concerns over his lack of burst and strength inside the arc. 

13. San Antonio Spurs – Alperen Sengun, Beşiktaş J.K.(TSL): His effectiveness against pros at 18 years old should have the Spurs willing to look past the idea that his post-up heavy game doesn’t traditionally scream upside. 

14. Golden State Warriors – Franz Wagner, Michigan: Wagner’s two-way versatility has become a selling point to scouts, and it should be a persuasive one for the Warriors. 

15. Charlotte Hornets – Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky: He looked sharper offensively over the last month of the season, but his value to a team like Charlotte will still revolve around his finishing and rim protection.  

16. Oklahoma City Thunder – Usman Garuba, Real Madrid: Garuba has had scouts monitoring Real Madrid for his defensive IQ and toughness. But every so often, he flashes shooting range and a face-up move that hints at more offensive skills and upside to unlock. 

17. Memphis Grizzlies – Cameron Thomas, LSU: Thomas led all SEC players as a freshman in scoring (23.0 PPG) this season, and while his efficiency was just OK (32.5% from 3, 30.6% from FG), he definitely showed NBA-caliber shot-making. He took a massive volume of LSU’s shots and a lot of those had a high degree of difficulty as teams keyed in on him. He’s been a scorer at every level as a prospect and should fit into a similar role in the NBA. 

18. New York Knicks – Chirs Duarte, Oregon: He’s 23 years old (and will turn 24 in June) but Duarte’s ability to defend at a high level and shoot the 3 has him in first-round territory after a strong senior season. He averaged 22 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.0 boards in two NCAA Tournament games and shot a career-best 42.4% from 3 on the year. 

19. New York Knicks – Jared Butler, Baylor: Even before Baylor’s national title run, Butler had improved his draft stock, looking sharper with his shooting, playmaking, and defense.  

20. Atlanta Hawks – Tre Mann, Florida: NBA teams value Mann’s advanced ball-handling because of how he creates and shoots off the dribble. 

21. Boston Celtics – Sharife Cooper, Auburn: The Boston Celtics have foundational pieces in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown but could still use a lead playmaker like Sharife Cooper, the only college basketball freshman on record with an assist percentage above 50 percent. Cooper didn’t get a large sample size while at Auburn but he would be a home run pick for the Celtics if they bank on his shooting getting better. 

22. Houston Rockets – Johnny Juzang, UCLA: A month ago, Johnny Juzang was barely on the NBA Draft radar. But his shot-making in the NCAA Tournament requires us to take him seriously. What he did for UCLA — averaging 22.8 points on 51% shooting as the Bruins went to the Final Four as an 11 seed — cannot be ignored. Teams will want to see him do it more consistently, so the pre-draft process for him will be fascinating if he declares. But he made tough shot after tough shot in the tourney. What he sustained over the course of the last month of the season is no fluke. 

23. Los Angeles Lakers – Josh Christopher, Arizona State: While some scouts have questioned Christopher’s one-on-one style and reliance on transition, others have given him a pass for his explosive athleticism, skill level, and fit at Arizona State. Capable of picking up easy baskets with his strength and burst, he also flashed advanced creation moves and improved shooting later in the season.  

24. Houston Rockets – Ziaire Williams, Stanford: While he did not have a particularly good freshman campaign at Stanford, Ziaire Williams is still someone who passes the eye test with flying colors. He has an NBA frame at 6-foot-8 and is a much better jump shot than his poor shooting splits would suggest. Williams is not afraid to take a pull-up jumper and he can still find ways to score as a slasher until his jump shot starts falling more often.  

25. Denver Nuggets – Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois: Dosunmu is missing one bankable specialty strength for a junior, but he’s become well-rounded enough for scouts to feel comfortable taking him in the first round. At 6’5″, he’s developed into a threatening driver, playmaker, and pull-up shooter. 

26. Brooklyn Nets – Greg Brown, Texas: The athleticism for Brown is off the charts. And he very much caught the eyes of scouts with some flashes he showed as a shot-creator and scorer. But, he’s something of a black hole on offense; if he gets the ball the shot is going up. First-round prospect on talent alone, but still most definitely a developmental player who could use some refinement. One of the more fascinating stay-or-go decisions to monitor. 

27. Los Angeles Clippers – Jaden Springer, Tennessee: While teams are hesitant about Springer’s lead-guard potential, he’ll draw first-round interest for his versatility and poise. 

28. Philadelphia 76ers – Day’Ron Sharpe, North Carolina: Sharpe is more of a traditional big man than modern-day big. He doesn’t shoot 3s and is pretty limited offensively overall. But in bursts, he made nice reads as a passer and has a limitless motor that will allow him to excel on the boards in the NBA. 

29. Phoenix Suns – Aaron Henry, Michigan State: Teams looking for perimeter defense will figure to highlight Henry on their draft boards. 

30. Utah Jazz – Marcus Bagley, Arizona State: Despite averaging just 10.8 points in 12 games, Bagley should have first-round suitors willing to bet on the eye-test results from his shooting stroke, shot-making versatility, and defensive tools.