May 15, 2021

2021 NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Cade Cunningham goes No. 1 to Houston Rockets; Davion Mitchell taken in top 10

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs had a tremendous NCAA Tournament for the top-seeded Bulldogs, flashing No. 1 pick potential with his athleticism, competitiveness, decision-making and ability to affect the game on both ends. USC 7-footer Evan Mobley led the Trojans to their first Elite Eight in two decades, generating intense buzz in the scouting community while averaging 11.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. But when it comes to the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, one scout recently told me that despite a very strong tier of prospects inside the top five that includes those two future stars, there … really is no race at all.

“Don’t make this complicated. Cade [Cunningham] is special,” said the scout. “His IQ, playmaking, vision, positional size, three-level scoring ability, efficiency, consistency and crafty creativity is what separates him. … He is what you want in a No. 1 pick.”

So I’m not going to overcomplicate this and feed you with a surprise No. 1 in my latest mock draft. Cade Cunningham comes in here again at No. 1 for 3.0 of my projections. With a 6-foot-8 frame, high IQ, projectable two-way game and the ability to craft his way to production with ease, his game — which helped him lead the Big 12 in scoring — should project seamlessly to the NBA with better spacing and better teammates. At this point, teams should be thrilled there is even a debate about the No. 1 prospect in this class, which raises the likelihood — even if it’s small — that he may drop a spot or two.

“Cade is a home run,” the scout told me. “I’ve seen all I’ve needed to see.”

So have I.

This new mock draft projection will reflect the latest changes on the draft front with an up-to-date check on the landscape. Because the NBA season is still incomplete, and therefore the draft order (set by recent SportsLine projected win totals) remains unsettled, the following mock draft does not significantly factor in team needs because so much can change between now and the draft. Rather, this will serve as an informative projection highlighting what each prospect brings to the table while providing a sense of general ranges in which those prospects are currently expected to land, a slight deviation from the CBS Sports Big Board, which is my own ranking of each prospect.