NBA Draft Winners and Losers
Which teams did best at the 2021 NBA Draft, and which came out worst? Chad Ford breaks down 10 teams
Draft Grades coming Friday! We will have full rundown on how each team did, from best to worst.
The NBA Draft is always a whirlwind for me. Coming off a six-hour live broadcast, my head is a little mushy, but I do have some initial thoughts about the 2021 NBA Draft.
I’ll be back tomorrow with draft grades on the site and on my podcast. In the meantime, here are a few initial thoughts on the winners and losers in the draft.
They got Cade Cunningham. They got the No. 1 guy on our Big Board.
That makes the Pistons winners tonight.
The Rockets loaded up on talent in the draft, coming into the draft with three first-round picks and walking out with four: Jalen Green, Alperen Şengün, Usman Garuba and Josh Christopher.
Fit is not a paramount issue for the team with the worst W-L record in the NBA last year. Sure, it’s hard to say exactly how Green and Christopher will mesh with Kevin Porter Jr. or how they’ll sort out a crowded frontcourt that includes incumbent Christian Wood. The bottom line is, they got a ton of talent.
Green has the chance to be the most exciting player in this draft, the type of scorer who should eventually average 25 points a night.
Many analytics models had Şengün as a top-4 player (Kevin Pelton had him No. 1), and he was No. 10 on my board. He’s an offensive genius whose ceiling will be determined by whether he can stay on the floor defensively.
Garuba is the opposite, a defensive wizard still figuring it out offensively. I can see them working together in the frontcourt, though they lack elite size.
Christopher was an underrated prospect who is also a great athlete and can really score the basketball.
How will this work on the court? Not sure. But they loaded up and that’s a start.
Evan Mobley has the highest ceiling of any player in the draft, and in a more ordinary draft, he would have been the No. 1 pick.
There has been some hand-wringing about his fit there. But the headline is that the Cavs just drafted a potential superstar -- their most talented draft pick since Kyrie Irving.
The Raptors had an easy choice: Jalen Suggs
They made the harder one by taking Scottie Barnes instead.
Barnes gives Raptors president Masai Ujiri the best chance to get what he wants, another championship trophy for Toronto.
Suggs is a great prospect, but Barnes has the chance to be the best player in the draft if he improves his shooting. He can play all five positions on both ends of the ball. The Raptors will be able to use him in a myriad of ways.
They had a strong second round, too, drafting Dalano Banton, a high upside 6’9” point guard who also can’t shoot, and David Johnson, a 6-5 combo guard who was once regarded as a potential lottery pick earlier in the year.
For the second straight year, the Kings will get a great grade from me in the draft.
I was shocked when they drafted Davion Mitchell at No. 9. I did not see that coming. But the more I think about it, the more I like it. I can see lineups where Mitchell, De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are all on the floor together.
And I loved the Neemias Queta second-round pick. My co-host Rafael Barlowe thinks he’ll be the Kings’ starting center by the end of the season.
The focus on culture, toughness and defense makes sense for a team that was atrocious defensively last year.
The Hornets are going to be fun, as if watching LaMelo Ball wasn’t enough fun already.
James Bouknight is one of the two or three best scorers in the draft and was a great value at No. 11. While Kai Jones and JT Thor have a long way to go, and might not make it, they also provided value relative to their draft position.
If they get these guys running up and down the floor, Charlotte will be one of the most exciting teams in the league in transition.
These picks could hit huge, and the Hornets would be a serious threat in the East in three or four years.
I love it when teams grab talented prospects that slide.
Jalen Johnson was once ranked in my top 10 and seems to have dropped to No. 20 primarily on concerns about his attitude.
Sharife Cooper was a personal favorite of mine and seems like the perfect backup point guard to Trae Young. Somehow he was available at No. 48.
Atlanta collected two of the most talented young players in the draft. Both have warts, which is why they fell, but the Hawks were smart to scoop them up.
The Clippers had a sneaky good draft.
First, at No. 21, they grabbed Keon Johnson, a player I had ranked in my top 10 for most of the year. Then they got Brandon Boston Jr. in the second round. Boston was No. 11 on my first Big Board last season before sliding.
Both players are major projects -- but with significant upside. I was surprised to see the Clippers go that direction, but I fully support it.
I cringed when the Jazz traded the 30th pick in the draft to Memphis with Baylor’s Jared Butler sitting there. Butler, on pure talent, is a top-20 prospect and the perfect fit backing up Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell.
The Jazz got three future second rounders in the deal, including the 40th pick -- and somehow, inexplicably, Butler was still on the board.
I assume he slid because of medical concerns, but the Jazz are comfortable with the information the NBA has provided. In fact, I think they expect him to come in and contribute next year.
Oklahoma City Thunder
I really found only one team that had a draft that I had serious concerns about.
The Thunder spent much of last season in tank mode, and had three first-round picks, and came away from that with Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, some future firsts and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the second round.
That was a lot of pain for what they got in return. I like Giddey a lot, but not at No. 6 ahead of Jonathan Kuminga and James Bouknight. Giddey is an exceptional passer, but his shooting woes and and a lack of elite athleticism make him a questionable pick that high in the lottery.
Mann is a highly skilled guard who lacks elite size and athleticism, and Robinson-Earl is a highly skilled forward who lacks elite athleticism and can’t shoot.
None of these players are game-changers on a team that is supposedly collecting draft picks to get game-changers.
I don’t know what the Thunder ultimately offered to move up in the draft, but given all the assets they had, I’m surprised they didn’t open up the war chest to get Mobley, Green or Barnes (I think Cunningham was essentially unattainable).
It’s going to be another brutal year in OKC.