Redrafting the 2021 NBA Draft: Scottie Barnes vs. Evan Mobley debate continues; Austin Reaves lands in lottery

The 2021 NBA Draft has yet to produce an All-Star, but that could change very soon.

Including Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes and Franz Wagner, the class has a number of stars in the making. Additionally, the likes of Austin Reaves, Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green and Trey Murphy III could join the conversation depending on how they continue to develop. The same goes for Josh Giddey and Jonathan Kuminga.

Cunningham was the clear No. 1 pick in 2021. Barnes was named the 2021-22 season’s Rookie of the Year. Mobley and Wagner then took big steps forward in 2022-23 while Cunningham was sidelined with injury and Barnes struggled.

With how fluid the top of the draft has been to date, two of our writers — Steph Noh and Scott Rafferty — put on their GM hats and redrafted the lottery. Noh won the very official coin toss for first-pick honors. Noh and Rafferty then alternated picks and made their selections based on who they thought most deserved to go in the spot rather than what the team needed most.

Got it? Great. On to the first pick …

MORE: Victor Wembanyama is showing he is already one of the top defenders in the NBA

Redrafting the 2021 NBA Draft

1. Evan Mobley, Pistons

  • Original pick: Cade Cunningham
  • Mobley’s original draft position: 3rd (Cavaliers)

There were four legitimate candidates for this No. 1 spot, showing how great this draft is. Ultimately, I went with Mobley because of his two-way ability. 

It took only two years for Mobley to finish third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He will continue to improve on that end of the floor, and he might be able to sneak in a trophy win before Victor Wembanyama takes it for the next decade.

MORE: Victor Wembanyama is showing he is already one of the top defenders in the NBA

Mobley is a great rim protector who is also mobile enough to guard on the perimeter or close out quickly to jump shooters. He was the glue that helped the Cavs have the best defense in the league in the 2022-23 season. 

Mobley’s offensive game isn’t quite as polished. He had trouble making an impact against the Knicks in the playoffs, for example, and his jump shot hasn’t developed as quickly as Cavs fans might hope. But he’s a solid finisher at the rim and always a threat to dunk it when he gets it inside. He led the league in 2022-23 with 214 of them, per Basketball-Reference

— Steph Noh

2. Scottie Barnes, Rockets

  • Original pick: Jalen Green
  • Barnes’ original draft position: 4th (Raptors)

Few players have impressed me as much as Barnes has to start the 2023-24 season. Not only has he been an absolute menace on defense, but he’s made a big leap offensively, too.

Unlikely as it is that Barnes will continue to shoot this well all season, his form does look smoother and he is playing with a different level of confidence. There’s reason to believe at least some of the shooting we’ve seen from him so far is sustainable, in which case he becomes a totally different player.

MORE: How sustainable is Scottie Barnes’ hot start?

After a disappointing sophomore season, Barnes is back on track to looking like someone the Raptors could build something around. He’s showing signs of being a nightly triple-double threat and an All-NBA-caliber defender. Even if he doesn’t reach the Defensive Player of the Year heights Mobley does as a defender, Barnes is further along offensively.

— Scott Rafferty

3. Franz Wagner, Cavaliers

  • Original pick: Evan Mobley
  • Wagner’s original draft position: 8th (Magic)

Wagner very well could end up as the best player in this draft. He’s a solid defender with great size, at 6-10, and the versatility to guard multiple positions. He has great feel, which he uses to get steals and deflections. 

Wagner is a very well-rounded offensive player with some star potential. His ball-handling skills and size make him tough to stop on his drives, and he’s a great shot-creator. He’s a capable shooter from 3 and a solid passer, too. His ability to play on or off the ball allows him to fit well in any type of situation. 

— Noh

4. Cade Cunningham, Raptors

  • Original pick: Scottie Barnes
  • Cunningham’s original draft position: 1st (Pistons)

I’m still a big believer in Cunningham.

He’s going to have to become a more efficient scorer, especially around the basket, but it doesn’t help that spacing can be limited for him in Detroit. He’s shown real flashes of being the type of big guard every team is looking for nowadays. He’s shooting the ball better from 3 to start the 2023-24 season, he’s comfortable creating for himself from midrange and his court vision is legit.

Had Cunningham not missed basically all of last season with an injury, I doubt he falls to No. 4.

— Rafferty

Austin Reaves and LeBron James

5. Austin Reaves, Magic

  • Original pick: Jalen Suggs
  • Reaves’ original draft position: Undrafted

Reaves is a playoff-tested scorer who has a great bag to get to his shots. He has a very high feel on the court, enough that LeBron James has entrusted him with the ball multiple times late in games. And he’s been a good shooter in the NBA, hitting 35.9 percent of his career attempts in the regular season and 44.3 percent in the playoffs. He’s also elite at drawing fouls, helping to prop up his efficiency. 

Reaves isn’t the best defender in the world. He will get picked on in the post by stronger players. But he’s better than he’s given credit for and very solid as a help defender. 

— Noh

6. Trey Murphy III, Thunder

  • Original pick: Josh Giddey
  • Murphy’s original draft position: 17th (Grizzlies)

Murphy is a 6-9 wing who takes and makes a boatload of 3s, jumps out of the gym and gets after it defensively. Who wouldn’t want that on their team?

Time will tell if Murphy can develop into more of a focal point on offense — ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently called him a “vicious dunker with All-Star potential” — but his 3-and-D potential alone makes him an incredibly valuable player. He averaged 14.5 points, 1.1 steals and 0.5 blocks per game last season while shooting 40.6 percent from 3.

— Rafferty

7. Josh Giddey, Warriors

  • Original pick: Jonathan Kuminga
  • Giddey’s original draft position: 6th (Thunder)

Giddey has already turned into one of the best passers in the league. He’s a wizard on sideline out-of-bounds plays, finding the narrowest of gaps to slip the ball through. His size (he’s 6-8) also allows him to make all of the passes and see over the top of defenses. 

Giddey does have some weaknesses in his game, though. He’s not great at creating separation and he doesn’t get to the line enough. His 3-point shot, while much improved, still isn’t above average.

If he can ditch the floater and attack the basket more, then Giddey could move up this list. 

— Noh

8. Alperen Sengun, Magic

  • Original pick: Franz Wagner
  • Sengun’s original draft position: 16th (Thunder)

Offensively, we know Sengun is the real deal. He continues to grow as a scorer and he’s a special passer, to the point where he’s drawn comparisons to his idol and the greatest passing big man of all time, Nikola Jokic.

The big question with Sengun is on the other end of the court. He faces real limitations — he’s slightly undersized at 6-9, doesn’t have great length and isn’t the fleetest of foot — but he’s shown some signs of improvement to start the 2023-24 season. If he puts it all together, he’s going to be a special player.

— Rafferty

Jalen Green Alperen Sengun Houston Rockets

9. Jalen Green, Kings

  • Original pick: Davion Mitchell
  • Green’s original draft position: 2nd (Rockets)

Green knows how to score — he was already averaging 22.1 points per game in only his second year in the league. He’s a threat from all three levels of the floor.

Shot selection and defense have been the biggest issues for him, and he hasn’t been helped by all of the losing in his first few years in the league. There is surefire talent there if he can ever clean up some of his weaknesses. 

— Noh

10. Herbert Jones, Pelicans

  • Original pick: Ziaire Williams
  • Jones’ original draft position: 35th (Pelicans)

Jones was in the All-Defensive conversation as a rookie and sophomore. He’s already proved himself to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, establishing himself as both a stopper and disrupter. If he can develop into a reliable 3-point shooter — 33.1 percent through 151 career games — it would be the icing on the cake.

— Rafferty

11. Jalen Johnson, Hornets

  • Original pick: James Bouknight
  • Johnson’s original draft position: 20th (Hawks)

Johnson didn’t do much in his first few years in the league. He’s exploded in a new role as a dynamic playmaking forward under Quin Snyder. That has unlocked some of the things that make him special — his athleticism, decision-making and finishing at the basket. He’s also a great rebounder and a good defender.

The one skill that might hold him back is a shaky 3-point shot, where he’s hit only 28.7 percent over his first three years. 

— Noh

12. Jonathan Kuminga, Spurs

  • Original pick: Joshua Primo
  • Kuminga’s original draft position: 7th (Warriors)

The Warriors knew Kuminga was going to be a project when they selected him seventh overall. He’s experienced some ups and downs, but it looks like he might be starting to put it together, thanks to some help from Chris Paul.

Kuminga’s the type of player who might get taken in the lottery of any 2021 redraft regardless of how the rest of his career plays out. It’s hard not to be drawn to his two-way potential.

— Rafferty

13. Quentin Grimes, Pacers

  • Original pick: Chris Duarte
  • Grimes’ original draft position: 25th (Clippers)

Grimes is already a rock-solid two-way player. He often takes the toughest perimeter assignments for the Knicks, moving his feet well and using his strength when guarding bigger players. 

Grimes is also a reliable 3-point shooter, hitting 38.3 percent of his looks for his career. He’s never going to lead his team in scoring, but he’s developed into a solid starter for a good playoff team. 

— Noh

14. Cam Thomas, Warriors

  • Original pick: Moses Moody
  • Thomas’ original draft position: 27th (Nets)

The last pick of the lottery came down to Suggs and Thomas for me. I love how hard Suggs plays and what he’s able to do on defense, but until he improves offensively, Thomas gets my vote.

Even though he spent the first two seasons of his career playing limited minutes and being in and out of Brooklyn’s lineup, he already has five 40-point games to his name. That’s tied with Jalen Green for the most from anyone in this draft.

When it comes to getting buckets, few from the 2021 NBA Draft class do it better than Thomas.

— Rafferty

Best players still available: Jalen Suggs, Davion Mitchell, Moses Moody, Bones Hyland, Ayo Dosunmu

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