2021 NBA Mock Draft from The Salt Lake Tribune

Projecting the 30 first-round picks of the NBA draft set to take place on Thursday, July 29.

(Mitch Alcala | AP) Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham slam-dunks the ball during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game against Oakland in Stillwater, Okla., in December 2020. Cunningham is expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA Draft.

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Ahhhhhh, NBA draft time!

Each year’s draft comes with its own unique set of questions, and the 2021 iteration is no different. Is Cade Cunningham truly an elite difference-maker, a player who can alter the course of a franchise? Are the guys who skipped college in favor of the G League more ready to contribute as a result of facing better competition? Will the sheer number of teams possessing multiple first-round picks lead to more wheeling and dealing than we’ve seen in recent years?

With the latest NBA trend emphasizing defensive versatility and switchability, this class’s extensive supply of high-end wings seems poised to address that need at least through the middle of the first round. And after that? Well, let’s hope you like smaller guards.

And so with that, The Salt Lake Tribune’s 2021 NBA Mock Draft …

1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham (2) during of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

A year ago there was some debate as to who was the top prospect; it’s pretty cut-and-dried this time around. This 6-foot-8 lead guard is a smart and adept playmaker, an efficient shooter, a capable scorer, and a switchable defender. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for everywhere else.

2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, G League Ignite

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2020, file photo, Prolific Prep's Jalen Green dribbles against La Lumiere during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. The G League's plan to sign elite players and offer them a spot in a one-year program that will prep them for the NBA draft is making a splash. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)

Though he had some ups and downs in the G League, struggling in particular with decision-making and efficiency (very turnover-prone), Green is still an explosive, high-flying athletic specimen who can absolutely fill it up offensively at multiple levels. He needs to get more defensively sound, however.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, USC

Southern California forward Evan Mobley dunks during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Los Angeles. USC won 89-71. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

If the Cavs are not enamored of spending big to retain Jarrett Allen, Mobley would be a great replacement. He’s a tremendous defender at the rim, and has shown himself to be mobile and agile enough to guard on the perimeter, too. Also a surprisingly good ball-handler and passer, offensively.

4. Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes, Florida State

Florida State's Scottie Barnes (4) moves the ball downcourt during an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame on Saturday, March 6, 2021, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 83-73. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

The first real “surprise” of the draft isn’t too much of one. While a certain Gonzaga guard would make a lot of sense, Barnes has been shooting up draft boards thanks to his 7-3 wingspan, his 1-5 switchability, his solid passing, and his incredible motor. If he can get his jumper more consistent …

5. Orlando Magic: Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, center, drives to the basket on Portland guard Takiula Fahrensohn, left, as Portland forward Mikey Henn, right, watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Many have Suggs as the second-best prospect in the draft, and there’s a lot to like: mind-blowing athleticism, good size and creativity as a lead initiator, and constantly playing in attack mode. Of course, the latter does lead to him being a bit wild, out of control, and turnover-prone at times, too.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonathan Kuminga, G League Ignite

Who knows what machinations OKC’s front office are up to, considering their ridiculous stash of picks, but Kuminga presents some enticing building blocks — great frame, nice strength for a wing, downhill driving ability. His shot is absolutely yikes, however, as he hit only 25% from 3 this year.

7. Golden State Warriors: James Bouknight, Connecticut

Connecticut's James Bouknight (2) goes up for a shot against Villanova's Justin Moore (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Will the Warriors keep their picks or trade for instant help for Steph Curry? Either way, they could probably use some extra wing help. Bouknight is a good-if-unspectacular athlete who generates open looks with craftiness and wiggle. The 3 is inconsistent, as is his attention span in off-ball defense.

8. Orlando Magic: Alperen Sengun, Besiktas

After sending away one offensively-skilled, defensively-limited big man at the trade deadline, Orlando could replace the departed Nikola Vucevic with Sengun, the MVP of the Turkish League. He’s a nice finisher around the rim, and is known for impeccable footwork and an intuitive feel for the game.

9. Sacramento Kings: Moses Moody, Arkansas

Arkansas guard Moses Moody (5) drives to the hoop against Georgia defender P.J. Horne (24) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Sacramento was pretty awful defensively, and the 3-and-D Moody can help there, with a wingspan over 7 feet, and some great positional versatility. He is a bit slight, though, and could stand to add some muscle. Offensively, a smooth shooter, but not the most adept at reading opposing defenses.

10. New Orleans Pelicans: Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers

There’s been speculation the Pels aren’t keen to spend big to retain Lonzo Ball, so why not go with the guy who’s got an eerily similar skillset to early Lonzo? Big frame, high-level passing, excellent in transition … and, to drive it fully home, pretty much needs to re-work his jumper for it to be useable.

11. Charlotte Hornets: Kai Jones, Texas

Texas forward Kai Jones (22) shoots while defended by West Virginia forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)

Charlotte has legitimate talent at every position — except center. Is Jones the answer to that? He’s incredibly raw, and his stock is all over the place, from top-10 to mid-20s. But he’s obscenely athletic and has a smooth jumper. Not an immediate fix, given his lack of game recognition, but so tantalizing.

12. San Antonio Spurs: Franz Wagner, Michigan

Michigan Wolverines guard Franz Wagner (21) drives on Rutgers guard Caleb McConnell (22) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Spurs have a fair bit of depth in the backcourt and some intriguing young pieces on the wings, but could use an upgrade in the frontcourt. While Wagner’s 3-point shot isn’t totally consistent yet, he’d still improve the Spurs there. Meanwhile, he brings the added benefit of defensive versatility.

13. Indiana Pacers: Davion Mitchell, Baylor

Baylor guard Davion Mitchell (45) celebrates a score against Texas during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Indy doesn’t necessarily have any glaring holes, so this is something of a best-player-available situation. Mitchell might be the best on-ball defender in the draft, a great combo of aggression and fundamentals. His offense, despite an improved 3-point shot, remains a bit one-dimensional.

14. Golden State Warriors: Keon Johnson, Tennessee

Tennessee guard Keon Johnson (45) dribbles the ball around Arkansas guard JD Notae (1) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP, Pool)

There are worse things to have on your roster than a guy who is a stellar wing defender, while also possessed of the ability to jump out of the gym. That said, he’s an exceedingly polarizing prospect, given his janky jumper and his occasional unwillingness to take open shots as a result.

15. Washington Wizards: Chris Duarte, Oregon

Oregon guard Chris Duarte, center, goes to the basket as Utah's Mikael Jantunen (20) and Branden Carlson (35) defend in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

No, him being 24 isn’t ideal. Then again, he’s been steadily rising up draft boards because he’s viewed as a plug-and-play 3-and-D guy. He’s not terribly athletic and won’t get by many people, but he’s a legitimately good spot-up sniper who should fit into a team’s rotation from Day 1.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder: Usman Garuba, Real Madrid

The Thunder are in a position to take some big-upside swings, and the Spaniard is definitely one of those — drawing raves from scouts as a potential future All-Defensive Team honoree. Problem is, he’s neither big nor particularly explosive. And his offensive development seems to have stalled.

17. Memphis Grizzlies: Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert gestures after scoring a basket during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against BYU in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

The Grizz could stand to add some more 3-point shooters to their arsenal, and Kispert is undeniably that, having shot 43.8% from deep as a junior and 44.0% as a senior. He also brings some surprising physicality to the table. The big problem is he’s slow and struggles to move laterally on defense.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Johnson, Duke

Pittsburgh's Xavier Johnson, left, shoots over Duke's Jalen Johnson during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

What to make of Johnson? He began the season as a top-10 prospect, and then just absolutely disappointed. At his best, he’s a point forward with great size, vision, and playmaking. At his worst, a guy whose broken mechanics lead to poor shooting and enable defenders to overplay passes.

19. New York Knicks: Trey Murphy, Virginia

Virginia's Trey Murphy III, left, is fouled by San Francisco's Josh Kunen in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

New York is in need of shooters, and he’s one of the best in this class, finishing his collegiate career above 40% on more than 500 attempts. He’s deceptively athletic in transition, too, and a willing defender. He’s not a shot creator at all right now, though — for himself or for his teammates.

20. Atlanta Hawks: Cameron Thomas, LSU

LSU guard Cameron Thomas (24) shoots over Tennessee guard Jaden Springer (11) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Given that Lou Williams is a free agent, and starting to show signs of slowing down anyway, why not replace him with the absolutely most unrepentant, unabashed me-first gunner in the draft? He’s got an uncanny gift for getting defenders off-balance and drilling over them. Does nothing else, though.

21. New York Knicks: Jared Butler, Baylor

FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2021, file photo, Baylor guard Jared Butler controls the ball during an NCAA college basketball game against Texas in Austin, Texas. Butler and still-undefeated No. 2 Baylor are ready to get back to playing games after a three-week break because of COVID-19 issues in the program. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Tom Thibodeau is a big-time culture-setting guy, which is why Taj Gibson can land with him in spot after spot. Butler brings the same intangibles. Beyond that, though, he could fill some of the Knicks’ voids with his efficient shooting and solid playmaking, though he’s more combo guard than point.

22. Los Angeles Lakers: Joshua Primo, Alabama

Alabama guard Joshua Primo (11) defends as LSU forward Trendon Watford (2) takes a shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

As the youngest guy in this draft, whoever takes him is gambling on a guy who maybe could have been a top-10 pick in another year. The spot-up shooting is already there, though, and the Lakers could certainly use that. But he could also develop into a nice secondary playmaker down the line.

23. Houston Rockets: Ziaire Williams, Stanford

Stanford forward Ziaire Williams (3) dribbles the ball upcourt against Washington State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Santa Cruz, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Like Jalen Johnson, Williams is another highly-rated prospect who had a tough freshman season (albeit for different reasons), but whose toolbox is sufficiently stocked to entice someone. If he could go from “lanky” to “wiry,” that’d help, but he often looked physically outmatched in college.

24. Houston Rockets: Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky

Kentucky's Isaiah Jackson (23) goes up for a dunk over Auburn's Dylan Cardwell during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Jackson’s got a pretty simple pathway to NBA minutes: serve a paint-protecting, shot-swatting defender, and a rim-running, lob-finishing offensive player. Which is good news for him, because he doesn’t have a ton of skills otherwise. He also needs to prove he can stay out of foul trouble.

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Sharife Cooper, Auburn

Auburn's Sharife Cooper, left, drives against Baylor's Adam Flagler, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Waco, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

He’s a savvy floor general and one of the best passers in this draft class, as evidenced by his 8.1 assists per game. Problem is, he is a horrible deep shooter right now (22.8% on 3s) who defenders go under the screen on every time. He also was a pretty disinterested defender.

26. Denver Nuggets: Miles McBride, West Virginia

West Virginia guard Miles McBride holds on to the ball during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Kansas on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Lawrence, Kan. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

Unlike Cooper, McBride is an absolute terror defensively — a dogged, on-ball disruptor who makes up for his 6-2 height with a 6-9 wingspan. He brings that same attack mentality to offense, too, frequently looking to put pressure on the rim. His jumper is inconsistent, but he hit clutch shots.

27. Brooklyn Nets: Tre Mann, Florida

Florida guard Tre Mann shoots as Vanderbilt guard Jordan Wright (4) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Are the Nets, who will probably add some more ring-chasing vets on the cheap, likely to play a rookie? Probably not. Though they might if they could add a guy with a ready-made skill, such as Mann’s knock-down perimeter shooting and pick-and-roll play-making.

28. Philadelphia 76ers: Nah’Shon Hyland, VCU

Virginia Commonwealth guard Nah'Shon Hyland (5) drives around Jacksonville State guard Marek Welsch, left,during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)

Adding another small scoring guard may not be the biggest need for the Sixers, but there’s a ton of buzz about “Bones” moving up into the first round. Extremely slight, but an absolute three-level weapon who, like Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and Trae Young, has ridiculous pull-up range.

29. Phoenix Suns: Jaden Springer, Tennessee

Tennessee's Jaden Springer, left, shoots while defended by Kentucky's Devin Askew during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

There’s a fair amount of confusion over how his game projects to the next level. Can he play some point or is he better suited off-ball? While his overall shooting numbers look good, the prevailing thought is his shot is generally not great. Still, enough athleticism and defense to take a chance.

30. Utah Jazz: Herbert Jones, Alabama

Alabama forward Herbert Jones (1) moves the ball down the floor with Georgia guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) defending during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

This guy could absolutely help address the team’s lack of defensive switchability. He goes 6-7, 215, and boasts a 7-foot wingspan. While he doesn’t have top-level athleticism, he makes up for it with elite processing ability. Great passer and surprisingly good ball-handler, but he needs work as a shooter.