2021 NBA Draft GradesAugust 19, 2021
We still need to post our MLB Draft recap but for today the goal is to provide a look at the 2021 NBA draft and who we thought had the best draft’s overall what follows is Draft HD’s 2021 NBA Draft Grades.
Draft Picks: No. 20 – Jalen Johnson, F, Duke; No. 48 – Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn
Analysis: The Hawks selected Johnson with their first-round pick – a scoring forward out of Duke. Johnson is active on the glass and likes to push the ball in transition with plus-ball handling and passing skills as a forward. He’s a threat in pick-and-rolls because of his ability to score for himself or find an open man if the defense collapses – something that should fare well with elite guard Trae Young. Johnson slipped in the draft because of character concerns. The talent is real but he’s not a polished player and unfulfilled potential is almost a proverb.
Cooper was a steal at No. 48, giving the Hawks a serviceable backup point guard. He’s one of the best passers in the draft and his feel for the game makes him a great floor general. I think he could even potentially be a lower level starter but a solid pick none the less.
Draft Picks: No. 45 – Juhann Begarin, G, Paris Basketball (France)
Analysis: The Celtics went with a draft-and-stash player in Begarin, an athletic guard with a 7-foot wingspan, a knack for putting pressure on the rim with a quick first step and great hops.
Draft Picks: No. 27 – Cameron Thomas, G, LSU; No. 29 – Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina; No. 44 – Kessler Edwards, F, Pepperdine; No. 49 – Marcus Zegarowski, G, Creighton; No. 59 – RaiQuan Gray, F, Florida State
Analysis: For a team that is looking to contend for championships, it was surprising to see the Nets make five different draft selections. They landed Thomas, who is the second-best pure scorer in this draft class after No. 2 pick Jalen Green, but scoring is far from Brooklyn’s biggest issue. While Thomas gives the Nets’ second unit a shot creator and bucket-getter, it may have been wise to target a versatile defender.
I wish the Nets had addressed their defense more but Thomas could be in the argument for rookie of the year and is possibly a future 6th man of the year. His scoring ability is that explosive.
The aforementioned defensive versatility comes in with second-rounders Edwards and Gray.
Draft Picks: No. 11 – James Bouknight, G, UConn; No. 19 – Kai Jones, C, Texas; No. 37 – JT Thor, F, Auburn; No. 56 – Scottie Lewis, G, Florida
Analysis: The Hornets had a good draft Bouknight fits the mold of a sold 10 year NBA player. They were the beneficiaries of Bouknight sliding out of the top 10 – a player that was anticipated to go just outside of the top five on most final mock drafts. Then, they reportedly traded a future first-round pick to the New York Knicks for the No. 19 pick, in which they landed an athletic and mobile big man in Jones, filling a much-needed void in the middle. Jones to Charlotte is a good fit, and great value where drafted.
The idea of LaMelo Ball pushing the pace in transition with Bouknight on the wing and Jones running the lane is scary to think about, adding to weapons like Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington.
And before the night even began, they reportedly sent a second-round pick to the Detroit Pistons for veteran center Mason Plumlee and the No. 37 pick. With that selection, they grabbed a lengthy defender in Auburn’s Thor.
It was a productive evening for Charlotte.
Draft Picks: No. 38 – Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
Analysis: I am personally a huge fan of Dosunmu’s. He is a pure winner and a floor general that leads by example. He’s a strong playmaker, embraces contact on drives to the rim and plays tough on-ball defense. He was one of the best guards in college basketball last season and he could give Chicago a steadying and experienced presence in its backcourt. I am higher on Dosunmu than most I think he has at least tier 2 star or all star potential.
Draft Picks: No. 3 – Evan Mobley, C, USC
Analysis: The Cavaliers got their guy. Standing pat at pick No. 3, Cleveland adds the best big man in the draft in Mobley. His versatility to be able to play inside or out, and power forward or center, makes the fit work, even if the team elects to match any offers on restricted free agent center Jarrett Allen. Together, Mobley and Allen make one of, if not the, best young frontcourt tandem in the NBA. I personally would be shocked if Mobley isn’t at least a star but he has a superstar level ceiling.
A side note: the Cavaliers also reportedly made a pre-draft trade, sending forward Taurean Prince and a 2022 second-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for veteran guard Ricky Rubio. It was a subtle but productive draft night for Cleveland.
Draft Picks: None
Analysis: The Mavericks had no picks in this year’s draft.
Draft Picks: No. 26 – Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, G, VCU
Analysis: The Nuggets went into the draft with one pick and they needed to use that selection to fill a void in their backcourt. They did exactly that with Hyland, who bursted onto the scene following a strong showing at the NBA Combine. He’s a fluid scorer and shot creator who already has step-backs and floaters in his arsenal. He’ll give Denver much-needed guard depth while also providing a necessary scoring punch from the position while Jamal Murray recovers from a torn ACL.
Draft Picks: No. 1 – Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma St.; No. 42 – Isaiah Livers, F, Michigan;, No. 52 – Luka Garza, C, Iowa; No. 57 – Balsa Koprivica, C, Florida State
Analysis: As what was expected since the time the Pistons won the Draft Lottery, Cunningham lands in Detroit. The 6-foot-8 jumbo guard has the most polished skill set of any player in this class. I still worry about his scoring efficiency and his attitude comes across as somewhat unmotivated but on paper he was a no brainer pick. He can play point guard and initiate the offense for budding players like Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, or play off the ball alongside last year’s lottery pick, Killian Hayes.
The Pistons also had three second-round picks. Livers is a two-way forward with good size and his defensive presence will be welcomed in Detroit. Garza was the most dominant player in college basketball last season, earning every Player of the Year honors. Well worth a flier, he has a relentless work ethic and has even developed some touch on his 3-point shot, but is limited with his speed and lateral movement.
Golden State Warriors
Draft Picks: No. 7 – Jonathan Kuminga, F, G League Ignite; No. 14 – Moses Moody, G, Arkansas
Analysis: The Warriors cannot be anything short of ecstatic about how things turned out on draft night. Kuminga was once seen as a lock of a top five pick as a 6-foot-8 forward with an NBA-ready body and true two-way star potential. His draft stock dipped following an up-and-down G League season, but it’s undeniable that Kuminga still has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class and he will surely benefit from learning under Golden State’s star trio. Don’t take this as a guarantee Kuminga is a project and I worry about him reach this ceiling but Golden State is a dream location to make it happen.
Moody is an excellent 3 and D player he was great value as their 2nd pick. He shockingly fell to them at No. 14, giving Golden State one of the steals of the draft.
The Warriors added two players that brighten their future beyond this title window, but both prospects can contribute certain things to their win-now timeline.
Draft Picks: No. 2 – Jalen Green, G, G League Ignite; No. 16 – Alperen Sengün, C, Besiktas (Turkey); No. 23 – Usman Garuba, F, Real Madrid (Spain); No. 24 – Josh Christopher, G, Arizona State
Analysis: The Rockets needed a player they can build their offense around following the departure of the elite scoring James Harden last season, and they got that in Green. If the 19-year-old reaches his full potential, I truly believe he could lead the NBA in scoring some day. He’ll immediately become the focal point of Houston’s offense. Green has superstar potential and was number two on our draft board for a reason.
The Rockets then reportedly traded two future first-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 16 pick, selecting Turkish League MVP Sengün to solidify their frontcourt of the future alongside Christian Wood. That’s an expensive price for a No. 16 pick, but I do believe Sengün has a bright future in the NBA and his physicality will complement Wood nicely.
Houston also took the other projected first-round International prospect off the board in Garuba – a high-energy, defensive-minded forward who fits a need on that end of the floor. Garuba has the potential to be a star in the NBA I love his playmaking ability for a big.
Draft Picks: No. 13 – Chris Duarte, F, Oregon; No. 22 – Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
Analysis: The Pacers didn’t have a draft night that will make headlines, but they quietly added two pieces that will perfectly fit their currently constructed roster. Duarte is as NBA-ready as they come in this class, a 3-and-D wing that will knock down shots and defend at a high level right away. With 3-point shooter Doug McDermott set to hit unrestricted free agency, Duarte gives the Pacers a safety blanket in that role.
Jackson is a raw, rim-running, lob-catching center who has the potential to some day be a solid rim protector. Learning under Myles Turner will be great for his development. I like what Indiana did with these two picks.
Draft Picks: No. 21 – Keon Johnson, G, Tennessee, No. 33 – Jason Preston, G, Ohio, No. 51 – Brandon Boston Jr., G, Kentucky
Analysis: At the reported cost of the No. 25 pick and a future second-round pick, the Clippers moved up four slots in a trade with the Knicks to acquire pick No. 21. After leaping forward, LA selected the most athletic player in this draft class in Johnson, who set an NBA Combine record with a 47-inch vertical. Johnson was once receiving top 10 consideration, but his raw offensive skill set needs a lot of fine tuning. However, he can make an immediate contribution to the Clippers with his defensive prowess and ability to score at the rim as a cutter. Johnson could be a solid pro the other picks I don’t expect to be NBA players long term.
Los Angeles Lakers
Draft Picks: None
Analysis: Prior to the start of the draft, the Lakers reportedly traded the No. 22 pick, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Wizards for nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook and two future second-round picks. Although the Lakers are in desperate need for shooting around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it’s hard to criticize the addition of a player of Westbrook’s calibre, regardless of how he fits.
Draft Picks: No. 10 – Ziaire Williams, F, Stanford; No. 30 – Santi Aldama, F, Loyola
Analysis: The Grizzlies traded the No. 17 pick and Jonas Valanciunas to the Pelicans for the No. 10 pick, Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe earlier this week. There was a report linking them to Australian guard Giddey, but when he went off the board much earlier than expected at No. 6, it may have shaken up Memphis’ plans.
The Grizzlies took a roll of the dice on Stanford freshman Williams, who was one of my favourite high-risk, high-reward prospects in this class, but No. 10 is early. He was a five-star, top-10 recruit coming out of high school, so the potential is there, but he’s still a raw scorer and needs to bulk up to make an impact defensively.
Williams has star level talent but he’s an unpolished lottery ticket style pick. He’ll be something special or he’ll be out of the league in four years.
Draft Picks: None
Analysis: The Heat had no picks in this year’s draft.
Draft Picks: No. 54 – Sandro Mamukelashvilli, F, Seton Hall; No. 60 – Georgios Kalaitzakis, F, Panathinaikos (Greece)
Analysis: After reportedly trading pick No. 31 to the Wizards, the Bucks only had two late second-round picks in this draft. The reigning NBA champions didn’t have much in the area of needs on a night like this, but added a pair of forwards in Mamukelashvili and Kalaitzakis.
Mamukelashvili was co-Big East Player of the Year last season, averaging 12 points and six boards per game. Kalaitzakis is a draft-and-stash prospect from Greece, who led the FIBA Europe U20 Championships in scoring in 2019. The Greek stash was probably a favor to Giannis agent but if it keeps Giannis around long term it’s worth it.
Draft Picks: None
Analysis: The Timberwolves had no picks in this year’s draft.
New Orleans Pelicans
Draft Picks: No. 17 – Trey Murphy III, F, Virginia; No. 35 – Herb Jones, F, Alabama
Analysis: The Pelicans did everything they could with the picks they had. In desperate need of defense and shooting, New Orleans got a bit of both with its two picks. Murphy is one of the top 3-and-D prospects in this class and his draft stock skyrocketted following the NBA Combine. He’s a knockdown shooter, which will space the floor for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, but he’s also a smart cutter, which bodes well for when the defense focuses too much on those two stars. His long arms, IQ and great anticipation make him a sound defender.
And speaking of defense, Jones brings exactly that to the Pelicans. The 6-foot-8 forward took home SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, giving New Orleans a high-quality defender that can match up against practically any position. His versatility, intensity and effort on that end of the floor will be key for the Pelicans’ biggest weakness.
New Orleans went 2-for-2 here.
New York Knicks
Draft Picks: No. 25 – Quentin Grimes, G, Houston; No. 34 – Rokas Jokubaitis, G, FC Barcelona (Spain); No. 36 – Miles McBride, G, West Virginia; No. 58 – Jericho Sims, C, Texas
Analysis: It wasn’t the most eventful type of busy for the Knicks, but they did make a handful of moves. They reportedly traded their No. 19 pick to the Hornets for a future first-round pick and also reportedly traded their No. 21 pick to the Clippers for pick No. 25 and a future second-rounder. Grimes fits a need for a scoring guard, as the Houston gunner was one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in the country last season.
They also reportedly traded their No. 32 overall pick to the Thunder for picks Nos. 34 and 36, where New York made two solid selections. Jokubaitis has a ton of potential as a draft-and-stash guard developing overseas for FC Barcelona. McBride has polished playmaking skills and plays hard-nosed defense. I had him as a late first-rounder on my mock draft. In the end the Knicks picked up two more assets and added some solid young talent to boot.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Draft Picks: No. 6 – Josh Giddey, G, Adelaide 36ers (Australia); No. 18 – Tre Mann, G, Florida; No. 32 – Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F, Villanova; No. 55 – Aaron Wiggins, G, Maryland
Analysis: The Thunder shocked the NBA world when they selected Giddey with the No. 6 pick. The Australian playmaker gives Oklahoma City a lead ball handler that will pair nicely in a big backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Giddey’s advanced offensive IQ and court vision gives the Thunder a player that can orchastrate their offence, making sure everyone is getting touches. They also selected a fantastic shot creator in Mann, who uses his shiftiness, burst and quick handle to create separation and get to his spots on the floor. His offensive output will help OKC immediately.
In the second round, the Thunder landed a polished and NBA-ready Villanova product in Robinson-Earl, a switchy forward who can defend, knock down shots and makes winning plays. They also got Wiggins, an explosive and athletic wing out of Maryland, who aggressively attacks the rim on offence while playing in-your-face on-ball defence on the other end.
The reason Oklahoma City ultimately resulted with an A-grade: aside from their selections, they also added two more first-round picks in the reported deal that sent pick No. 16 to the Rockets. This was the first of what will be seven-consecutive drafts where the Thunder will have multiple picks in both rounds, tallying 32 picks over a seven-year span.
Draft Picks: No. 5 – Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga, No. 8 – Franz Wagner, F, Michigan
Analysis: The Magic can’t be mad about Suggs falling to them at No. 5, giving the franchise a born winner and leader to build around for the future. Suggs brings a winning culture with him everywhere he goes and a player of that calibre will immediately elevate a locker room, holding the team to a high standard. His fast-paced play should make for a fun offence alongside Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac. Add to it that the Magic landed Wagner, a jack-of-all-trades forward with the No. 8 pick, and the team has a number of lengthy, switchy, versatile players, adding to a depth chart with RJ Hampton, Chuma Okeke, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba.
Orlando has something special brewing for the future.
Draft Picks: No. 28 – Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee; No. 50 – Filip Petrusev, F, Gonzaga; No. 53 – Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky
Analysis: The 76ers needed a guard and a big in this draft and they got both of those things. Springer adds another strong perimeter defender off the bench, making a suffocating tandem between he and Matisse Thybulle. If his offensive game develops, Philly will have itself a sixth man-calibre player in Springer.
Petrusev may end up being a draft-and-stash pick, as the Gonzaga forward is already playing overseas in Serbia. Bassey gives the 76ers some depth behind All-Star center Joel Embiid, and he was once a five-star, top-20 high school recruit. He was a two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Year at Western Kentucky, while also taking home Player of the Year honours this past season as a double-double machine.
Draft Picks: None
Analysis: The Suns reportedly traded the No. 29 pick and Jevon Carter to the Nets for Landry Shamet prior to the draft. Adding Shamet gives Phoenix an established role player who can fill a reserve guard spot if Cameron Payne leaves in free agency.
Portland Trail Blazers
Draft Picks: No. 43 – Greg Brown, F, Texas
Analysis: The Trail Blazers reportedly acquired the No. 43 pick from the Pelicans, but it has not been announced what they sent out for it. Regardless, they get a freakishly athletic forward in Brown, who will bring energy, defense and a leaping lob threat to Portland’s depth chart.
Draft Picks: No. 9 – Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor; No. 39 – Neemias Queta, C, Utah State
Analysis: The grade doesn’t go against Mitchell as a prospect, but against the Kings for neglecting to fill a need with their top-10 pick. With De’Aaron Fox capable of sliding to the two and Haliburton capable of being a great 6th man. Mitchell who Ii think has star potential becomes Sacramento’s PG of the future. He’s a winner, he might be the best on-ball defender in this class and his intensity is contagious – something Sacramento’s culture could certainly use. Sacramento has a log jam at guard and it makes me think Buddy Hield’s days are numbered in Sacramento. The Kings do still need to add some size.
They did snag a monster center in Queta in the second round, though. Queta is 7-feet tall, 248 pounds with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and averaged 3.3 blocks per game at Utah State last season.
San Antonio Spurs
Draft Picks: No. 12 – Joshua Primo, G, Alabama; No. 41 – Joe Wieskamp, F, Iowa
Analysis: The Spurs went way out of their way to select Canadian 18-year-old Primo, a 6-foot-5 guard with solid shot creation skills and a knockdown perimeter jumper. Primo is the youngest player in this draft class and his high upside has to explain why San Antonio used its lottery pick on him as opposed to trading back. That being said, the Spurs appear to be entering a rebuilding stage and their renowned player development system could be perfect to mould a prospect like Primo and help him reach his full potential.
Draft Picks: No. 4 – Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State; No. 46 – Dalano Banton, G, Nebraska; No. 47 – David Johnson, G, Louisville
Analysis: The Raptors were responsible for the first big shock of the draft, taking Barnes over Suggs with the No. 4 pick. While I personally loved what seemed to be an inevitable match between Suggs and Toronto, I still think Barnes will thrive in the Raptors’ organization. At 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Barnes has the body of a forward but plays like a point guard. He is Draymond Green-esque in that sense, and he brings the intensity on the defensive end, too. He can be a lead playmaker on offence and head coach Nick Nurse will have a field day with his defensive versatility. Barnes is a vocal leader and his attitude and work ethic makes him a strong culture fit. I see Barnes having a Kawhi Leonard type ceiling and absolutely love this pick he was number 1 on my draft board.
With Pascal Siakam set to miss the start of the season following offseason shoulder surgery, Barnes can fill his role seamlessly in the starting lineup from Day 1.
In the second round, the Raptors took a couple development project in Canadian Dalano Banton (Toronto, ON), an intriguing prospect as a 6-foot-9 playmaking point guard
Draft Picks: No. 40 – Jared Butler, G, Baylor
Analysis: The Jazz reportedly traded the No. 30 overall pick to the Grizzlies for the No. 40 overall pick and two future second rounders. They landed Butler, who, if not for entering the NBA’s “Fitness-to-Play” panel due to a medical condition prior to the Combine, may have flirted with being a lottery pick. Butler was rewarded as the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament during Baylor’s run to a National Championship last season, playing a lead guard role, initiating offence while still scoring the rock.
The fact that Utah was able to add two future second-round picks while selecting the player they likely would have taken at No. 30 anyway tells you all you need to know about their draft grade.
Draft Picks: No. 15 – Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga; No. 31 – Isaiah Todd, F, G League Ignite
Analysis: The Wizards traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers for Kuzma, Harrell and Caldwell-Pope to kick off draft night, likely altering their draft plans in the process. But shooting should have been at the top of Washington’s priority list regardless of the Westbrook trade, and they added the best marksmen in this class in Kispert. The Gonzaga senior will be ready to come in and knock down shots right away, spacing the floor for Bradley Beal to operate.
I also like the flier they took on Ignite forward Todd, who flashed some raw offensive skills in his one G League season while continuing to show the impact he can make defensively and on the glass.