It’s only been six months since the 2020 NBA draft. The next one is already around the corner. The 2021 NBA draft lottery will take place on June 22.
After going 20-52 this past season, the Detroit Pistons have the second-best lottery odds and a chance at their highest pick since they drafted second overall in 2003. They could fall as low as sixth, but have a 52% chance of selecting within the top-four and a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick. The latter would obviously be the best outcome, but the former is the next-best situation given that this is widely considered to be a four-player draft.
The NBA resolved its draft tiebreakers on Monday, meaning we now know the order of the entire draft going into the lottery. Here’s how the top-10 could go down if the Pistons hold onto their current draft position.
1. Houston Rockets — Cade Cunningham, G/F, Oklahoma State
After trading James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team deal in January, the Rockets lack a young star who can put the franchise back on track. They picked a good year to blow things up, because Cunningham is that.
Almost universally considered to be the best prospect in the draft, Cunningham is a versatile 6-foot-8 forward who can comfortably play on or off the ball. He reads the floor like a point guard, possesses great upside as a primary scoring option and can capably defend multiple positions. There’s no significant flaw in his game. This is a no-brainer for whichever team ends up picking number one.
2. Detroit Pistons — Evan Mobley, C, USC
Troy Weaver loves centers. He reminded us of it often last season. And if Mobley is available with the second overall pick, Weaver would have to give him strong consideration. He’s not only the best center prospect in this year’s draft, but potentially the best available player after Cunningham as well.
Beyond this draft, Mobley is the best center prospect to come out since De’Andre Ayton. He averaged 2.9 blocks and 0.8 steals per game as a freshman, and is mobile enough to defend outside of the paint as well. He has the tools to anchor a top NBA defense. On offense, he’s a fluid ball handler with good touch and vision. He could be a dangerous roller, and has the upside to create his own looks as well. Mobley only made 12 of his 40 3-point attempts (30%), but his shot isn’t broken. Expanding his range, as well as adding more weight to his 7-foot, 215-pound frame, could be the keys for him to unlock his full potential.
The Pistons drafted a center last year in Isaiah Stewart, who had a strong rookie season. But Stewart, 6-8, is an undersized center, and the coaching staff is working with him to become a more consistent 3-point shooter so that he can comfortably play power forward swell. A Stewart-Mobley frontcourt would give Detroit two good rebounders and switchable defenders to build around, but at least one of them would need to become at least a league-average outside shooter for it to work.
3. Orlando Magic — Jalen Green, G, G League Ignite
Orlando hit the reset button this year by trading Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier for young players and future draft picks. Green would give them a potential franchise player who could jumpstart their rebuild. He has a chance to emerge as the best scorer in this year’s draft after averaging 17.9 points in the G League last season with a true shooting percentage of 61%.
4. Oklahoma City — Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
Suggs solidified his place as a potential franchise player following his stellar play during Gonzaga’s March Madness run. He’s a true point guard reminiscent of Pistons great Chauncey Billups, and a strong defender as well. His biggest weakness is his shooting, and his next stop will certainly task him with improving his 33.7% clip from outside.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers — Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite
Kuminga, a 6-8 athletic forward, wasn’t quite as impressive as his teammate Jalen Green last season. However, his upside makes him a likely pick for whoever ends up at No. 5, and the right pick for a Cavaliers team in need of talent. He averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, but shot just 38.7% overall and 24.6% from 3. But he’ll still only be 18 years old on draft night, and the Cavaliers can afford to be patient with him.
6. Golden State Warriors — Moses Moody, G, Arkansas
The order of the top five of the draft (after Cade Cunningham) will vary depending on who you ask, but the top-five prospects are widely agreed upon. Starting with the sixth pick, things could get crazy. Moody, a 6-6 wing who averaged 16.8 points per game and shot 35.8% from 3, would give the Warriors a young 3-and-D prospect to develop alongside last year’s lottery pick, center James Wiseman.
7. Toronto Raptors — Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
Thanks to Baylor’s March Madness run that ended with a championship win against Gonzaga, Mitchell has surged up draft boards and appears to be a solid bet to go in the lottery. He’s one of the oldest players in the draft and will be 23 when his rookie season starts, but there’s a lot to like here for the Raptors. He’s a good passer, shooter (44.7% from 3 last season) and versatile defender who could contribute immediately.
8. Orlando Magic — Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
This is Orlando’s second pick in the top 10 thanks to the Vucevic trade. Barnes is a playmaking forward with size (6-9 with a 7-2 wingspan) and good defensive instincts. If his shot comes around, he could be one of the best players to come out of the draft. He only shot 27.5% from 3 last season on just 1.7 attempts.
9. Sacramento Kings — Keon Johnson, G, Tennessee
Similar to Barnes, Johnson could become a star if his outside shot develops. The 6-5 wing only shot 27.1% from outside on 1.8 attempts per game, but otherwise is one of the best athletes and perimeter defenders in the draft. Sacramento already has a talented young backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, but Johnson fits as a defense-first player with the upside.
10. New Orleans Pelicans — Corey Kispert, G/F, Gonzaga
Players who can hit 3-pointers at a high level are always in need, and Kispert is one of the best shooters in the draft. He knocked down 44% of his 6.5 attempts per game last season, and could immediately help a Pelicans team in need of additional spacing around Zion Williamson.
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