Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs vaults up to No. 2 in pre-lottery field

Had the 2020-21 NBA season not been pushed back due to COVID-19, the NBA draft would’ve been showcased this week. Instead, the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Finals are underway and we’re still a month out until this summer’s draft – held on July 29.

Although the draft lottery on Tuesday will determine the order of lottery teams and the draft combine this week will allow prospects to bolster their stocks, USA TODAY Sports provides an early look at how everything can unfold in late July.

Which players are out front to hear their name called early by Adam Silver? A look at the projected first round:

1. Houston Rockets

Cade Cunningham • Oklahoma St • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-8 • 220

Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Cade Cunningham (2) drives to the basket while defended by Texas Longhorns forward Brock Cunningham (30) during the first OT at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Cunningham (rightA lock at this point to be the top pick. The All-American guard used his freshman season with the Cowboys to show that he’s more than just a dynamic playmaker who’s built for the NBA physically. Cunningham (20.1 ppg in 2020-21) consistently showed a clutch gene, making several game-winning shots and exuding leadership well beyond his years.

2. Detroit Pistons

Jalen Suggs • Gonzaga • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-4 • 205

Jalen Suggs celebrates his overtime buzzer-beater.

The Pistons have bigger needs than a point guard. But Suggs (1) is the best player on the board with immediate upside. His table-topping buzzer-beater in this year’s Final Four will live on in March Madness lore, but his freshman season under coach Mark Few saw him blossom into an NBA-ready point guard with poise and smart decision making. Gonzaga’s offense caters well to the pro level so Suggs should be ready to make a splash.

3. Orlando Magic

Evan Mobley • Southern California • Freshman • Center • 7-0 • 215

Drew Timme #2 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs shoots the ball against Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans during the second half in the Elite Eight round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 30, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Mobley’s shot blocking ability, length and size position him to make an impact right away. But his potential as a long-term All-Star at the big man position that’s most intriguing. Mobley (4) will need to bulk up to have better strength against NBA bigs.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

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Jalen Green • USA • G-League • Guard • 6-5 • 172

Jalen Green #4 of the G League Ignite brings the ball up the floor during a G-League game against the Westchester Knicks.

Green (left) would’ve been a star in the NCAA but instead opted to play in the G-League. He’s not a great decision maker but he’s a bucket-getter who can score at will and has the skillset to develop into a formidable combo guard. A no-brainer for the Thunder.

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5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Jonathan Kuminga • Congo • G-League • Small Forward • 6-8 • 205 pounds

Jonathan Kuminga #0 of the G League Ignite drives to the basket during a G-League game against the Westchester Knicks.

Another G-Leaguer, Kuminga (0) is an oversized wing with a tall ceiling. He won’t be an All-Star right away but has all the intangibles to develop into one. Kuminga averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in the G-League.

6. Golden State Warriors

Scottie Barnes • Florida State • Freshman • Small Forward • 6-9 • 227 pounds

Florida State guard Scottie Barnes (4) drives down court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball Championship game against Georgia Tech at the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Barnes brings raw abilities as a playmaker and versatile defender, but his shooting (27.5% from three) and overall offensive production (10.3 ppg) are not there yet. Put him on the right team (ahem, Golden State) and all his growth can come in stride.

7. Toronto Raptors

Davion Mitchell • Baylor • Junior • Point Guard • 6-2 • 205

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24) dribbles the basketball against Baylor Bears guard Davion Mitchell (45) in the second half during the national championship game in the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The key catalyst of the national champion Baylor Bears squad, Mitchell (left) is a do-everything guard who can bolster any NBA team with his ballhawking defense. He’s also a capable passer who can stuff the stat sheet without needing to score. He can create and nail threes when he’s open or creates for himself.

8. Orlando Magic

Moses Moody • Arkansas • Freshman • Shooting Guard • 6-6 • 205

Moses Moody #5 of the Arkansas Razorbacks shoots over Mark Vital #11 of the Baylor Bears during the second half in the Elite Eight round of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Moody’s defense will make him hard to pass up in the top 10, as he proved to be an excellent perimeter defender for an Elite Eight-finishing Razorbacks team this past March. He’s also one of the best spot-up mid-range shooters in the whole draft.

9. Sacramento Kings

James Bouknight • Connecticut • Sophomore • Shooting Guard • 6-5 • 190

Connecticut Huskies guard James Bouknight (2) shoots against the DePaul Blue Demons in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.

Bouknight gave coach Dan Hurley a go-to scorer every night at the NCAA level. In the NBA, Bouknight has all the tools to be a potent scorer — possessing the ability to score both off the ball and with it in his hands.

10. New Orleans Pelicans

Corey Kispert • Gonzaga • Senior • Shooting Guard • 6-7 • 220

Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24) shoots the ball during the second half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the national semifinals of the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Kispert could develop into a Kyle Korver replica. His 44% three-point shooting for a nearly undefeated Gonzaga team was the highlight of his game, but he’s also got great instincts on defense and can do the little things to make just about any team in this draft better.

11. Charlotte Hornets

Keon Johnson • Tennessee • Freshman • Shooting Guard • 6-5 • 186

Jan 26, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Keon Johnson (45) shoots a free throw against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-439426 ORIG FILE ID: 20210126_gma_bs1_190.jpg

Johnson can develop into an All-Star but he’s not ready to come into his own yet, as his offensive prowess still needs some work. He averaged 11.3 ppg for the Volunteers and showed flashes his true potential in his lone NCAA season.

12. San Antonio Spurs

Josh Giddey • Australia • Forward • 6-8 • 205 pounds

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA – MAY 11: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Josh Giddey of the 36ers competes for the ball with Justin Simon and AJ Ogilvy of the Hawks during the round 18 NBL match between the Illawarra Hawks and Adelaide 36ers at WIN Entertainment Centre, on May 11, 2021, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775644797 ORIG FILE ID: 1317432450

Giddey’s best asset is his court vision, passing and playmaking. His offense outweighs his mediocre defense — which needs help. But at 18 with pro experience already in Australia, he’s got time to hone his craft and adjust to the league’s style.

13. Indiana Pacers

Franz Wagner • Michigan • Sophomore • 6-9 • 220

Michigan Wolverines guard Franz Wagner (21) blocks a shot by UCLA Bruins guard Jules Bernard (1) during the Elite Eight round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. Mandatory Credit: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar via USA TODAY Sports ORIG FILE ID: 20210330_jla_usa_094.jpg

Wagner has size and handle around the perimeter, can knock down threes accurately and play great team defense. His game will parlay much better at the pro level than at Michigan where he was only starting to blossom.

14. Golden State Warriors

Kai Jones • Texas • Sophomore • Power Forward • 6-11 • 220

Jones’ stat line (8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) at Texas won’t raise eyebrows, but he’s a gamble-type pick based on huge upside.

15. Washington Wizards

Alperen Sengun • Turkey • Center • 6-10 • 240

A standout in the Turkish pro league, Sengun is just 18 as the Basketball Super League’s MVP. While he’ll have a transition from the international game to NBA, particularly on defense, he’s got all the tools to excel.

16. Boston Celtics

Jaden Springer • Tennessee • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-4 • 204

NASHVILLE, TN – MARCH 13: Jaden Springer #11 of the Tennessee Volunteers drives to the basket against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of their semifinal game in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 13, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775629790 ORIG FILE ID: 1231692453

Springer (12.5 ppg, 44% three-point shooting) has the ability to progress into a starting point guard, illustrated by his strong outside shooting at the NCAA level.

17. Memphis Grizzlies

Ziaire Williams • Stanford • Freshman • 6-8 • 185

Feb 27, 2021; Stanford, California, USA; Stanford Cardinal forward Ziaire Williams (3) warms up before the game against the Oregon State Beavers at Maples Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-444540 ORIG FILE ID: 20210302_ter_yl1_103.jpg

Williams was on the trajectory of a lottery pick but wasn’t very impressive in his lone NCAA season at Stanford. Teams like his ceiling once he gets some reps in the league.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder

Ayo Dosunmu • Illinois • Junior • 6-5 • 200 pounds

Illinois Fighting Illini guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) drives the ball quickly down the court during the Big Ten Tournament title game Sunday, March 14, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Via OlyDrop)

The USA TODY Sports national college basketball player of the year 2021-22, Dosunmu was a triple-double machine who helped the Fighting Illini land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He’s reminiscent of John Wall and Russell Westbrook with his do-everything ability.

19. New York Knicks

Cameron Thomas • LSU • Freshman • Guard • 6-4 • 210 pounds

Dec 29, 2020; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers guard Cameron Thomas (24) dunks the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies on a steal during the second half at Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-439333 ORIG FILE ID: 202012.29_jrs_la1_160.JPG

An explosive scorer, Thomas averaged 23 points a game for the Tigers and erupted for a bundle of 30-plus scoring nights. He had the ball in his hands a lot at LSU but he’ll have to find a way to make an impact when he’s not scoring at will at the pro level.

20. Atlanta Hawks

Isaiah Jackson • Kentucky • Freshman • 6-10 • 205

Mar 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Isaiah Jackson (23) runs down the court during the second half of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-449387 ORIG FILE ID: 20210306_neb_kt3_147.JPG

Jackson’s best attribute is his motor in the open court. His athleticism skills around the rim will make him a contributor to any team that selects him in this draft. Kentucky coach John Calipari helped fine-tune his craft in one season in Lexington but there’s still a long way to go to reach his full potential.

21. New York Knicks

Tre Mann • Florida • Sophomore • Point Guard • 6-5 • 190

Feb 27, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Florida Gators guard Tre Mann (1) during the first half of the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-439559 ORIG FILE ID: 20210302_ter_kt3_323.jpg

Mann is the type of of point guard who can play on and off the ball, which could be a nice fit in New York. He shot 40% from beyond the arc at Florida and is used to a physical style.

22. Los Angeles Lakers

Jared Butler • Baylor • Junior • Guard • 6-3 • 195

April 5, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Baylor Bears guard Jared Butler (12) in the second half during the national championship game in the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-446986 ORIG FILE ID: 20210409_kkt_st3_152.jpg

Butler, the leading scorer of a national champion Baylor squad, improved his assists and playmaking this past season as a first-team All-American. But he’s still not a natural point guard and as a combo guard he’s undersized.

23. Houston Rockets

Jalen Johnson • Duke • Freshman • Forward • 6-9 • 220 pounds

Jan 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jalen Johnson (1) warms up before playing the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Petersen Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-443430 ORIG FILE ID: 20210119_gma_al8_085.jpg

Johnson didn’t overly impress at Duke but he still got a chance to develop under arguably the greatest coach of all-time and has the skillset to grow into an All-Star.

24. Houston Rockets

Usman Garuba • Spain • Power Forward • 6-8 • 229

The big man has international experience playing for Real Madrid but he’ll need to develop more because his offense is too raw, while his defense will be of use right off the bat. Garuba was born in Madrid, Spain to Nigerian parents.

25. Los Angeles Clippers

Johnny Juzang • UCLA • Sophomore • Shooting guard • 6-6 • 210

Apr 3, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Johnny Juzang (3) and Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Joel Ayayi (11) go for the ball during the second half in the national semifinals of the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-450929 ORIG FILE ID: 20210403_pjc_usa_279.JPG

The crafty scorer for a surprise Final Four UCLA team this past March Madness, Juzang has length on defense and a hard-nosed knack for playmaking on offense.

26. Denver Nuggets

Miles McBride • West Virginia • Sophomore • Point Guard • 6-2 • 200 pounds

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – MARCH 19: Miles McBride #4 of the West Virginia Mountaineers shoots free throws after a flagrant 1 call against the Morehead State Eagles in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 19, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775630324 ORIG FILE ID: 1308034165

McBride averaged 15.8 points and 4.9 assists for the Mountaineers in 2020-21, and has a high basketball IQ that would make him a great asset off the bench for a contender team.

27. Brooklyn Nets

Charles Bassey • Western Kentucky • Junior • Power Forward • 6-11• 235

Mar 12, 2021; Frisco, Texas, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers center Charles Bassey (23) is guarded by UAB Blazers forward Simeon Kirkland (10) during the second half at Ford Center at The Star. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-447011 ORIG FILE ID: 20210312_neb_sh2_045.JPG

Bassey would likely be higher on this board (and he could vault up following the combine) because of playing for a mid-major in college basketball. He’s excellent on both sides of the ball and can be a menace on the glass. Expect him to become a key role player right away for a team in need of a paint presence.

28. Philadelphia 76ers

Sharife Cooper • Auburn • Freshman • Point Guard • 6-1 • 180

Jan 26, 2021; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers guard Sharife Cooper (2) drives to the basket against Missouri Tigers guard Xavier Pinson (1) during the first half at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-439428 ORIG FILE ID: 20210126_gma_sr5_324.jpg

Cooper’s numbers speak volumes, averaging 20.2 points and 8.1 assists per game with the Tigers. He’s a multidimensional passer and can create for himself, while making open shots. That’s a recipe to boost just about any playoff team. His sign will get knocked, but so did Fred VanVleet’s stature.

29. Phoenix Suns

Nah’shon Hyland • Virginia Commonwealth • Sophomore • Point guard • 6-3 • 175

DAYTON, OHIO – MARCH 14: Nah’Shon Hyland #5 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams puts up a shot against Jalen Adaway #33 of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies in the second half during the championship game of the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 14, 2021 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775629817 ORIG FILE ID: 1307074528

Hyland could be the steal of this draft, as he possesses Steph Curry and Damian Lillard mid-major-to-NBA-star potential. He averaged 19.5 points for the Rams in a breakout season.

30. Utah Jazz

Josh Christopher • Arizona State • Freshman • Guard • 6-5 • 215

Jan 30, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; ASU’s Josh Christopher (13) dunks against Stanford during the first half at ASU. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic ORG XMIT: AZR-446680 (Via OlyDrop)

Christopher didn’t have a major national spotlight last season as the Sun Devils underachieved, but he made great strides as a freshman and is a natural scorer who can slash to the rim with ease.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs vaults up to the No. 2 spot on mock draft board


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