This article is part of our NBA Draft series.
The NBA Draft is just three days away, but the speculation and what to expect on Thursday night has not slowed down. While Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham has been the wire-to-wire favorite to go No. 1, nothing is set in stone until Adam Silver takes the podium at Barclays Center.
Should Cunningham be the runaway No. 1 prospect? How close is the gap between he and Jalen Green or USC's Evan Mobley? Is there any chance Mobley falls to Toronto at No. 4? Will the Warriors keep their picks at No. 7 and No. 14? And if so, who should Golden State target as it gears up for another title run?
Nick Whalen and James Anderson are here to answer those questions – and a few more – as the countdown to draft night wears on.
Where do you stand on the Cade Cunningham vs. The Field debate? If you were the Pistons, would you consider trading out of the No. 1 spot, or is Cunningham that much of a no-brainer?
James Anderson: I view it as a Tier 1 of Cunningham and Green, a Tier 2 of Mobley and a Tier 3 of Suggs, so I wouldn't consider trading down to 3 or 4, but I'd strongly consider trading from 1 to 2 if I was getting something of significant value back — an unprotected 1st rounder or a lightly protected 1st plus a future swap or something like that.
I think Cunningham or Green could be the best player on a top four seed in their prime and I think they could each be the second-best player on a title team in their prime. Green is a better scorer and a much better athlete, while Cunningham is easier to fit on a random roster, since he's a more switchable defender. I don't love Cunningham's fit with the Pistons, because they already have below-average athletes at every position other than Jerami Grant, and Cunningham is the worst athlete of the top six prospects in this draft, so if it were me, I'd be happy to get Green and a significant asset.
Nick Whalen: I like Cunningham and think he's easily the highest-floor prospect among the elites, but I wouldn't put him in the Anthony Davis/Luka Doncic/Zion Williamson tier of guys with could be the best player in the league at some point upside. That doesn't mean he's not the right pick at No. 1, but if I'm the Pistons I would at least listen to offers from teams looking to move up. They probably shouldn't move lower than No. 3, but if Houston or Cleveland is dead-set on landing Cunningham, Detroit should explore mining as much value out of the top spot as possible.
With that said, Detroit is still in the early stages of a multi-year rebuild, so leveraging the No. 1 pick to bring in a win-now piece would be a huge mistake. But if they're able to secure Evan Mobley or Jalen Green plus a future unprotected first (and/or a high-upside young player), then the discussion becomes more interesting.
Between Houston, Cleveland and Toronto, which team would be the best fit for Evan Mobley?
James Anderson: I don't think there's any chance of Mobley falling to 4, but I think he'd be an amazing fit with Toronto. Of the more likely landing spots, I think he's a great fit with Cleveland with the caveat that I would not want to draft him and give Jarrett Allen a rich contract in restricted free agency – just because I don't think you want to have that many resources locked into two guys who won't be able to play together against the best teams. Mobley's most obvious avenue to being a franchise player is at the 5, so I think you want to have that spot cleared long term if you're going to take him third overall.
Nick Whalen: As currently constructed, all three teams have some roadblocks in the frontcourt, but I've long been a proponent of never drafting for need – or avoiding a player because of his position – at the top of the draft. If you think Mobley is a future All-NBA player, just make the pick and figure the rest out later.
Toronto is probably the best long-term fit and safest developmental spot, but chances are Mobley comes off the board at No. 2 or No. 3. Teaming up with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in Cleveland would make a lot of sense – especially if the Cavs are able to (finally) deal Kevin Love or perhaps sign-and-trade restricted free agent Jarrett Allen. I am a fan of Allen's, but asking Mobley to play the 4 next to a non-spacing center is a risky proposition.
Is there a prospect projected in the mid-to-late first round who you're higher on than most and would target late in season-long drafts?
James Anderson: I wouldn't take any of the rookies in this class in a season-long fantasy draft outside of Cunningham, Green, Mobley or Suggs without knowing which team drafts them. Obviously, any talented player who lands with the Thunder or Magic could become fantasy-relevant due to the available minutes in those situations, but beyond that, I would expect every rookie outside the top four guys to be net negatives for fantasy in 2021-22. From a real-life standpoint, I think Corey Kispert is the safest pick outside the top 4, so I think some team is going to get a steal with him in the middle of the first round.
Nick Whalen: It's tough to pinpoint late-round targets until we know what the rosters look like following the draft/free agency, but teams like Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio, Orlando and Sacramento could end up being fantasy-friendly homes for rookies. It's all about landing in the right situation, but I have my eye on Cameron Thomas, Alperen Sengun and Jalen Johnson.
Thomas is a bucket-getter who could have some value in deeper points leagues, while Sengun has some Domantas Sabonis to his game. Evaluators are all over the map on Johnson after one up-and-down year at Duke, but he always struck me as the type of player whose skill set is better-suited for the NBA than the college game.
Who is the biggest boom-or-bust player in the draft?
James Anderson: Jonathan Kuminga is as physically gifted as any player in this draft and, unlike with Scottie Barnes, I think Kuminga's jump shot has some serious potential to improve in the coming years. That said, the interviews I've heard with him do not inspire confidence in his ability to be coached up, so he needs to go to the perfect situation where he can connect with the right player development staff and the other players on the roster.
I think Kuminga has a higher ceiling than Jalen Suggs, and Kuminga is a classic Masai Ujiri type of two-way wing, so if the Raptors were to take Kuminga at 4, I'd feel much better about him reaching his ceiling than if he went to the Magic at 5, for instance.
Nick Whalen: Kuminga is probably the correct answer when you're factoring in potential ceiling versus potential floor, but Kai Jones (Texas), Keon Johnson (Tennessee) and Ziaire Williams (Stanford) are also in the conversation. Kuminga carries more risk based on where he'll likely be selected, but Jones, Johnson and Williams are all physical freaks who have a ways to go in terms of skill development. Williams, in particular, could be a borderline-star if things break right, but after a discouraging freshman season his outlook is considerably blurrier than this time last year.
Assuming the Warriors hold on to their pick at No. 7, who should they target if the goal is to compete for a title in 2021-22?
James Anderson: Most rookies are net negatives, but I think Corey Kispert is the exception from this class, so I'd take him to help the spacing when Draymond Green is on the court or – god forbid – both Green and James Wiseman are on the court. There are no other players that I think would help the Warriors win games during the 2021-22 season, with the possible exception of Davion Mitchell if he maxes out any realistic projection as a three-point shooter as a rookie.
Nick Whalen: Even with Stephen Curry staying about as healthy as possible last season, it felt like the Warriors were always a competent player or two short. They don't necessarily need help at any one position – they just need to level up their role-player talent. With two picks in the lottery, they'll have an opportunity to do just that.
Both James Bouknight and Davion Mitchell will likely be options at No. 7, and of those two I would give the slight edge to Mitchell. His height scares me a bit, but his toughness and effort on the defensive end are exactly what Golden State needs in a backup to Curry.
Corey Kispert could also be in play with one of those lottery picks (it would probably have to be No. 7), and he'd be a great plug-and-play option to fill the spot that will likely be vacated by free agent Kelly Oubre. The former Gonzaga star playing alongside Curry and Klay Thompson would give the Warriors a borderline-unfair trio of sharpshooters.