2021 NBA Draft Night Grades

July 30th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Oklahoma State’s prodigious 6-8 freshman point guard, Cade Cunningham was drafted first overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2021 NBA Draft.
(Photo:
Brad Penner/USA Today Sports, via The Guardian)

Yesterday was a wild and crazy night that consisted of surprise picks and trades that were made in the 2021 NBA Draft.  Some of the selections went as expected, such as Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley going 1-2-3 in the top 3 of this draft.  From the fourth pick and on, there were curveballs at plenty of turns.  There were definitely some surprise selections, and not all of them seemed to make sense. 

I am here to break it all down to make sense of the entirety of what happened that night.  Overall, my snapshot of the 2021 draft night were that the big winners were the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, and the Utah Jazz.  Here are my thoughts on how each of the teams did on draft night among the 28 teams that participated via picks or trades on July 29th. Also, here is the NBA draft night trade tracker.

Atlanta Hawks

20. Jalen Johnson, F, Duke
48. Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn

Jalen Johnson took a bit of a tumble on draft night, and some wondered if him leaving Duke midway through the season might have been a significant reason why.  Regardless, he is a very athletic combo forward whose versatility, especially from a defensive standpoint combined with his upside may make him secretly one of the best finds in this draft.

Sharife Cooper had a very good freshman season, and he is a speedy playmaker that can drive the ball to the hoop to frequently score and get assists on offense.  On the downside, he is undersized at the point, and he doesn’t shoot the ball very well from the outside.  He could be a sparkplug off the bench if he stays as is, but added an improved jump shot could really expand his game and help him take off as a player in the NBA.

Overall, the Atlanta Hawks drafted very well, and they had a strong draft night where they made smart, shrewd picks that also fit the needs of their roster.

The Atlanta Hawks’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: A- (3rd Overall)

Boston Celtics

45. Juhann Begarin, G, Paris Basketball (France)

He is a very athletic, young swingman that may be far away from being ready to contribute in the NBA right now.  He’s not at all a polished shooter or scorer by any means, but his tremendous athleticism combined with his playmaking and defensive potential could make him an intriguing player in the future.

The Boston Celtics had only one pick, but they used this selection to reach for a very athletic project player that may be years away from being ready to reliably contribute in the NBA.

The Boston Celtics’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: C (27th Overall)

Brooklyn Nets

27. Cameron Thomas, G, LSU
29. Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina (drafted by PHO and traded to BRK)
44. Kessler Edwards, F, Pepperdine
49. Marcus Zegarowski, G, Creighton
59. RaiQuan Gray, F-C, Florida State

Cameron Thomas is a skilled combo guard that can put up points in a hurry.  He is a flat out scorer that excels at taking the ball to the rim and making mid-range jumpers.  He’ll need to improve his three-point shot and playmaking skills, but he is a gifted scorer that could contribute right away to the Nets.

Sharpe is a strong, athletic big man that excels as an interior player on the court.  He operates well as the roll man and out of the post, and he also can rebound and block shots.  He’s not always the most consistent player in games and he will need to improve his perimeter skills, but he already has a pro body and can immediately step into a backup center role at the bare minimum.

Kessler Edwards is an athletic forward that projects to be a 3 and D type of role player in the NBA.  He struggles to create his own shot and he’s not an elite playmaker, but his ability to space the floor, hustle, and defend makes him a solid pick in the second round.

Marcus Zegarowski is a smart, skilled playmaker that can shoot and pass the basketball.  He is a reliable table setter that can smoothly run the team.  He doesn’t possess elite size or physical tools, but his solid skill set should enable him to carve out a niche role as a backup point guard in the NBA.

RaiQuan Gray had a very good season this past year at Florida State.  He’s an athletic big man that handles the ball well, and he is a rangy defender that can cover plenty of ground.  He’s not a great shooter and he can sometimes tend to fade into the background too much at times, but he is an intriguing prospect that could be like a poor man’s version of Draymond Green in this league.

Trades:
The Brooklyn Nets traded Landry Shamet to the Phoenix Suns for Jevon Carter and the 29th draft pick (Day’Ron Sharpe).

It is a little surprising that the Nets traded Shamet after just a season’s worth of work for them, but Shamet didn’t seem to quite fit in nearly as well as he had fit in with the 76ers or the Clippers.  Nets’ fans may have been a bit disappointed in Shamet’s play this past year, so trading him to another team could help him return to form as a talented sharpshooter once again.

Jevon Carter was a solid, defensive minded backup point guard that could shoot, but he didn’t play nearly as much when the Suns acquired Chris Paul, so this will be a fresh start for Carter, as he was traded to the Nets.  The Nets were able to get an extra draft pick, and they elected to draft Day’Ron Sharpe, is a strong, athletic big man that can be an imposing presence in the interior on both ends of the floor, and they have plenty of talent and depth so that they don’t have to rush him into the lineup right away.

Overall, the Brooklyn Nets were refreshingly aggressive on draft night.  They acquired plenty of talented players, and while someone may not agree with all of the moves that they made here, they made moves to increase the talent and depth of their roster.

The Brooklyn Nets’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (13th Overall)

Charlotte Hornets

11. James Bouknight, G, Connecticut
19. Kai Jones, F-C, Texas (was drafted by NYK and traded to CHO)
37. J.T. Thor, F-C, Auburn (was drafted by DET and traded to CHO)
56. Scottie Lewis, G, Florida

James Bouknight is an athletic, skilled combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball.  He has a high motor, and he competes hard on both ends of the floor.  He has a very good mid-range shot, and he also rebounds the ball well.  He’ll need to improve his three-point shot and playmaking skills, but his ability to score and get his own shot makes him a solid pick for the Hornets at 11.

Kai Jones is an athletic big man that had a solid sophomore season at Texas.  He’s still a relative mystery man because he barely played as a freshman, and he suddenly turned in a breakout year.  He can score in the post and off motion plays, and he’s shown a promising three-point shot and face-up game.  He can tend to be too inconsistent in games, but his potential to shoot and defend makes him a solid pick for the Hornets at 19.

J.T. Thor is an athletic big man that also possesses promising shooting and defensive skills.  He also can handle the ball a little bit.  His skills overlap a bit with Kai Jones, but Thor is skinnier and is more of a forward than Jones.  Thor isn’t a polished prospect by any means, but his size, tremendous physical tools, and upside makes him a solid pick for the Hornets at 37.

Scottie Lewis is a very athletic guard that defends well.  He is a feisty defender that can lock down his man, he can get steals, and he is also a good shot blocker for his size.  He struggled offensively in his two seasons at Florida.  He came in with the expectations for him to be a high volume scoring slasher, and he ended up being a low volume, inconsistent shooter instead.  His jump shot fell off this year, and his shooting stroke looks worse off than it was previously.  He’ll need to fix his jump shot, and if he does, that would complement his strong defensive skills very well.

Trades:

The Charlotte Hornets traded away a protected future first round pick to the New York Knicks to acquire Kai Jones (19th overall pick).

This is a solid move on the Hornets’ part.  They are a young team that is still looking to make talent upgrades, and this move could help them become the new lob city.  Kai Jones had a solid sophomore season, and he is a versatile, athletic center that has plenty of upside, and he’s going to a team that also has plenty of upside as an NBA team for the future.

The Detroit Pistons trade Mason Plumlee and the 37th overall pick (J.T. Thor) to the Charlotte Hornets for the 57th overall pick (Balsa Koprivica).

This was a big win for the Hornets here, even though they acquired a lot of big men on this night.  They get a solid role player in Mason Plumlee, who was the starting center for the Detroit Pistons, and the get a very athletic, skilled project player in 6-10 forward, J.T. Thor, who is a versatile player that may have a great deal of upside.  They had to take on the contract of Plumlee and give up the 57th overall pick, but that may be a small price to pay in order to get the talents of Plumlee and Thor.

Overall, the Charlotte Hornets made shrewd picks and trades to increase the talent level of their team, and their smart acquisitions will make their fans excited and ready for a playoff push next season.

The Charlotte Hornets’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B (7th Overall)

Chicago Bulls

38. Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois

Ayo Dosunmu was another very talented guard who saw his stock tumble, for seemingly no apparent reason whatsoever (or perhaps it was due to recency bias).  Sure, he had one bad showing in his team’s loss to Loyola-Chicago in the NCAA Tournament, but Dosunmu had played well all season long, which included a win over Duke in which he manhandled them with his superb scoring, shot making, and all-around play early in the season.

He is a tall, athletic combo guard that can play either backcourt position, and he can do a little bit of everything.  He is a solid player, if not spectacular, but his ability to make plays, especially in the open floor will make him a good pick for the Bulls at 38.

The Chicago Bulls drafted very well in selecting Dosunmu for their team.  They both selected a very talented player and made the hometown pick that will fit in nicely with their team.

The Chicago Bulls’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B+ (5th Overall)

Cleveland Cavaliers

3. Evan Mobley, F-C, USC

The Cavaliers made a good pick by selecting Evan Mobley at 3.  They drafted a very talented big man that has the skills to be a franchise center.  He is a gifted defender that can block shots, and he has the potential to be a versatile defender on the court.  He also is a high-motor player that excels at scoring in the post and off the dribble, and he is a good playmaker, especially for his size.  Mobley projects to be one of the best players in this draft.  If he becomes a reliable outside shooter and perimeter defender, he could be a terrific player that could be a superstar in the NBA.

The Minnesota Timberwolves traded Ricky Rubio, a 2022 second round pick, and cash to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Taurean Prince.

The Cavaliers may have felt that they had plenty of swingmen on their roster, and they may have wanted to get a veteran backup point guard to help mentor their younger guards on their team.  Ricky Rubio is that wise veteran playmaker that can pass and defend, and while he may never be an elite shooter or scorer, he’s a good guy to have on a basketball team.  Plus, the Cavs managed to get another draft pick in the future as well.

Overall, the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted very well in getting Evan Mobley, but that they already added another guard to their stable of many guards in a trade that doesn’t really move the needle may bring their grade down a bit.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (17th Overall)

Dallas Mavericks

They had no picks, so their grade is incomplete on this night.

The Dallas Mavericks’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: I

Denver Nuggets

26. Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, G, VCU

Bones Hyland is an athletic, skilled combo guard that can flat out score the basketball.  He is a shooter that handles the ball very well, and he can get any shot he wants.  He is a fleet-footed guard in which shooting and scoring are his specialties.  He may need to show teams that he can successfully run the point at the NBA level, but his strong shooting and scoring skills make this a good pick up for the Nuggets at 26.

The Denver Nuggets made a solid pick, as they picked a very skilled, speedy guard that will definitely bring some scoring punch to their team.

The Denver Nuggets’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B (10th Overall)

Detroit Pistons
1. Cade Cunningham, G-F, Oklahoma State
42. Isaiah Livers, F, Michigan
52. Luka Garza, C, Iowa
57. Balsa Koprivica, C, Florida State (was drafted by CHO and traded to DET)

Cade Cunningham is a tremendously skilled, all-around player that just does everything well when he is on the court.  He is a smooth, tall point guard that can shoot and score the basketball, and he also has a very good all-around game.  He’s not overly explosive, but he’s a good athlete nonetheless, and he is most likely the best player in this draft.

Isaiah Livers is an athletic, 3 and D type of player that had a very good senior season when healthy, but he ended up missing the NCAA Tournament due to a foot injury.  He’s a solid pick at 42, and he projects to be a solid role player in the NBA.

Luka Garza had a storied collegiate career, and he is a strong, skilled center that can score in a variety of ways, especially down low.  He excelled as a scorer and rebounder, but there are concerns about his mobility and athleticism that may have caused his stock to slip a bit.  Still, this was a solid pick, considering that they were able to get the Wooden Award winner this late in the draft.

Balsa Koprivica is a tall, athletic center that played at a defensive-minded, well-schooled Florida State program.  He’s not the most offensively skilled big man, as he doesn’t possess much perimeter skills and can be foul prone, but he can be a serviceable interior player and provide some backup center minutes if called upon to do so in the NBA.  That said, drafting Koprivica at 57 may be a reach, and it seems that he may be duplicating a similar role to Garza, who also projects to be a backup center in the association.

Trades:
The Detroit Pistons trade Mason Plumlee and the 37th overall pick (J.T. Thor) for the 57th overall pick (Balsa Koprivica).

This was a major head scratcher for the Detroit Pistons.  They just signed Mason Plumlee to a sizable three-year contract last year, and they did so by prioritizing signing him over a much more talented big man in Christian Wood.  They also traded down 20 spots in the draft to pick up a project big man that was merely a rotational backup center at Florida State, and it was likely that Koprivica could’ve been had as an undrafted player.  Koprivica also may duplicate the role of Garza to an extent. While Koprivica can be a capable backup center in this league, there were much more talented players that they could’ve opted to take at 57.

Overall, the Detroit Pistons get the best player in the draft, as they got a franchise player in Cade Cunningham, and they also made solid draft moves to get Isaiah Livers and Luka Garza.  However, their trade of dealing away Mason Plumlee and the 37th overall pick (J.T. Thor) for the 57th overall pick (Balsa Koprivica) was a major head scratcher, especially considering they just signed Plumlee last year, and they did so over the likes of Christian Wood. 

That and their 57th overall selection, Balsa Koprivica was another head scratcher, as there were better players on the board, and he may be duplicating a similar role to Garza on this team.  Therefore, the Pistons’ lackluster trade and questionable pick at 57 may wash out some of the good vibes of their earlier picks, to an extent.

The Detroit Pistons’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (22nd Overall)

Golden State Warriors

7. Jonathan Kuminga, F, G-League Ignite (D.R. Congo)
14. Moses Moody, G-F, Arkansas

Jonathan Kuminga is a very athletic, skilled combo forward that has versatile scoring skills, and he also has good defensive potential.  He played very well early on in the G-League season for the G-League Ignite, and he especially thrived as a scorer in the post, off the dribble, as well as off hustle plays.  He is a fantastic athlete that can finish plays above the rim.  However, his opponents made adjustments to him later on, and he struggled to make shots consistently afterwards, and he doesn’t always give great effort defensively.  There’s no doubt that Kuminga has superstar potential though, and if challenged, he could end up being a significantly better player than he is right now.

Moses Moody is a strong, mobile sharpshooting swingman that can shoot and score the basketball.  He is a savvy scorer that can make shots in a variety of ways.  He doesn’t always assert himself enough on offense, and he’ll need to give more effort on the defensive end.  Still, he is a good shooter, and that combined with that he is a solid athlete that also has a pro body makes this a solid pickup for the Warriors at 14.

Overall, the Golden State Warriors did a nice job of balancing out their swing for the fences, reach for the stars pick at 7 with a solid, safe pick at 14, and both Kuminga and Moody will give their team a collective talent upgrade next season.

The Golden State Warriors’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B (9th Overall)

Houston Rockets

2. Jalen Green, G, G-League Ignite (USA – Fresno, CA)
16. Alperen Sengun, F-C, Besiktas (Turkey) (was drafted by OKC and traded to HOU)
23. Usman Garuba, F-C, Real Madrid (Spain)
24. Josh Christopher, G, Arizona State

Jalen Green is a tremendously athletic, speedy combo guard that played well in the G-League this past season.  He is a fleet-footed scorer that can attack the rim to score at will, and he is also a good shooter.  He has the playmaking skills to be able to play either backcourt position.  On the other hand, there are some major question marks about him defensively.  He can tend to gamble too much, and he also sometimes doesn’t seem to give enough effort on that end of the floor.  Still, Green is a very talented prospect that has multi-All-Star potential, and he may have the most upside among any player in this draft.

Alperen Sengun is a very productive, skilled Turkish big man that played really well overseas this past season.  He excels at scoring in the low post as well as off of rolls, and he is also a very good rebounder.  He’s also an underrated passer, and he can quietly rack up assists.  On the other hand, he still needs to develop a more reliable outside shot, and there are some concerns about his mobility and ability to defend out on the perimeter.  Still, he projects to be a solid role player in the NBA, which would make this a solid pickup for the Rockets at 16.

Usman Garuba is a very athletic, physical big man that plays bigger than his listed size.  He is an Olympian that is currently playing for Spain in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and his ability to score on hustle plays combined with his defensive versatility are major reasons why.  That said, there are still concerns about his offensive skills, as he doesn’t possess a reliable jump shot or dribble game.  If he can develop a reliable jumper to his arsenal, that could really help him round his game.

Josh Christopher is a very athletic combo guard that excels at slashing to the basket.  He is a tremendous athlete that possesses two-way potential, and he is also a fairly solid defender.  On the other hand, he needs to improve his jump shot, and his shot selection can tend to be suspect in games.  If he can be a more reliable shooter, he could prove to be a very good pick up for the Rockets in this draft.

Trades:

The Houston Rockets traded their 2022 1st Round pick (via DET) (top 16 protected in 2022, top 18 in 2023 and 2024, top 13 in 2025, top 11 in 2026, top 9 in 2027, else a 2027 2nd Rd pick), and a 2023 1st Round Pick (via WAS) (top 14 protected, top 12 protected in 2024, top 10 in 2025, top 8 protected in 2026, else they become a 2026 and a 2027 2nd Rd pick) to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 16th overall pick (Alperen Sengun).

It’s clear that the Rockets wanted Alperen Sengun.  Considering that he’s a very productive, skilled young big man that fell to them at 16, this was a good acquisition for them, though they may have given up quite a bit by trading away two first round picks (albeit both heavily protected) to the Thunder to get him.  They do have a surplus of picks, so it allowed them to be more aggressive in the draft, so they could swing a trade to acquire Sengun.

Overall, the Houston Rockets got a game-changing super athletic guard in Jalen Green, and they also were able to surround him with other very talented role players to grow with him.  They also found a way to acquire Sengun, and they may have gotten an absolute bargain by getting him at 16.

The Houston Rockets’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B (7th Overall)

Indiana Pacers

13. Chris Duarte, G-F, Oregon
22. Isaiah Jackson, F-C, Kentucky (was drafted by LAL and traded to IND)

Chris Duarte is an athletic, skilled swingman whose versatility and all-around skills makes him a solid pick for the Pacers at 13.  He is a solid player that does everything well.  He is one of the older prospects at age 24 and while he is a solid player, he may not be elite at any one thing in particular.  He may not have nearly as much upside as some of the higher-end prospects, but his solid all-around skills makes him a good get for the Pacers.

Isaiah Jackson is a very athletic big man that projects to be a solid rim protector in the NBA.  He is a good rebounder and shot blocker, and he has the capacity to ably defend out on the perimeter as well as in the paint.  He may be fairly raw offensively, but he is a high-motor player that could be a solid pick up for the Pacers.

Trades:
The Indiana Pacers traded Aaron Holiday, and the 31st overall pick (Isaiah Todd) to the Washington Wizards for the 22nd overall pick (Isaiah Jackson).

The Pacers get their guy in drafting Isaiah Jackson, and Jackson is a very athletic big man that projects to be a good rim protector in the NBA.  He’s a solid defender that projects to have defensive versatility, and he is also an underrated playmaker for his size.

The Milwaukee Bucks traded away the 31st overall pick (Isaiah Todd) to the Indiana Pacers for the 54th overall pick (Sandro Mamukelashvili) and the 60th overall pick (Georgios Kalaitzakis), and two future 2nd round picks.  The Pacers later traded the 31st overall pick away to the Washington Wizards.

The Pacers were able to package two late second round picks and two future second round picks to move up to get the first pick of the second round, and they managed to be able to package that to get an extra first round pick in this draft.  While that may have been a lot of second rounders to give up, they did manage to go up considerably to 31.

Overall, the Indiana Pacers drafted well by acquiring Chris Duarte and Isaiah Jackson, but they now have too many big men on their roster.  They didn’t trade Myles Turner, even though Turner and Domantas Sabonis don’t play well together

They also have Goga Bitadze, their last year’s first round pick, so it’s uncertain how much playing time will be there for Jackson.  There may not be much of a talent gap between Jackson and Todd.  That they traded away a rotation player to acquire another big man, albeit a talented one may leave them on a slightly sour note in what was otherwise a solid draft for them.

The Indiana Pacers’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (21st Overall)

Los Angeles Clippers

21. Keon Johnson, G, Tennessee (was drafted by NYK and traded to LAC)
33. Jason Preston, G, Ohio (was drafted by ORL and traded to LAC)
51. B.J. Boston, G-F, Kentucky (was drafted by MEM and traded to LAC)

Keon Johnson is a tremendously athletic swingman that can jump out of the gym, and he literally had the best max vert of all time in a Combine showing by jumping an impressive 48 inches there.  He is also a rangy defender that can get steals and blocks, and he can quickly convert his steals into fast break points.  He also can score off the dribble as well as in the post.

On the other hand, he just didn’t shoot the ball very well this year, and he will also need to improve his playmaking skills.  Johnson didn’t quite have the year as expected on offense, but his solid defensive skills and strong physical tools makes him a solid pick for the Clippers at 21.

Preston is a smart, skilled playmaker that can reliably run the team on offense.  He is a crafty scorer that can make shots in a variety of ways, and his size and playmaking skills allows him to make plays over the defenses.  He’s not the most athletic player, and he may struggle to guard quicker players on the defensive end.  It may have been a bit of a reach to draft him at 33, considering there were more talented players on the board, but Preston definitely has the skills to be at least a backup point guard in this league.

B.J. Boston is a very athletic guard that can in with lofty expectations, much like his former Sierra Canyon teammate, Ziaire Williams.  Boston came in with expectations for him to provide solid shooting, playmaking, and defensive skills for his team, as he was projected to be an athletic, versatile combo guard that could also run the point.

Unfortunately, he just did not play well this year, and Boston turned in a disappointing season.  He didn’t shoot nor pass the ball nearly as well as expected, and he often showed off spotty shot selection, as he would often miss on contested mid-range jumpers.  He proved to be a better rebounder than expected, and he can ably create his own shots.  Boston may be pretty far away from being able to reliably contribute to an NBA team, but his athleticism and upside may make this a decent acquisition for the Clippers at 51.

The New York Knicks traded Keon Johnson (21st overall pick) to the Los Angeles Clippers for Quentin Grimes (25th overall pick) and a future 2nd Round pick.

The Los Angeles Clippers moved up to get a great athlete that may have a ton of upside in Keon Johnson, but he may also be not quite as polished of a prospect right now.  He’s not a great shooter or playmaker right now, but his tremendous athletic gifts and solid defensive skills make him well worth the risk of moving up to acquire him at 21.

The Orlando Magic traded away the 33rd overall pick (Jason Preston) to the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2026 2nd Round pick (via DET) and cash considerations.

The Clippers really seemed to want Jason Preston, and while it’s a bit of a reach to get him at 33 as he lacks ideal physical tools, Preston is a smart, steady point guard that could be a solid pro in the NBA.

The New Orleans Pelicans traded the 51st overall pick via MEM (B.J. Boston) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a future second round pick and cash considerations.

The Clippers didn’t give up much to get a talented project player in B.J. Boston, and being able to get him at 51 sounds like a good deal, which could be even better if he is able to realize the potential that he showed at Sierra Canyon in high school.

Overall, the Los Angeles Clippers made solid trades to be able to acquire Keon Johnson and B.J. Boston in this draft.  They did reach to select Jason Preston at 33, but they were aggressive in making moves and they were able to get the players they wanted.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (15th Overall)

While the Lakers’ roster may still not entirely fit together, the Lakers’ cranked up their fun to watch factor to 11 by trading to get Russell Westbrook.
(Photo:
Graphic via Zain Fahimullah / Silver Screen and Roll)

Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the 22nd overall pick (Isaiah Jackson) to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook, a 2024 2nd Round pick, and a  2028 2nd Round pick.

This was a very interesting trade.  On one hand, Westbrook is a tremendously athletic playmaker that can really attack the rim to score and generate offense for his team, and he also is a very good rebounder and is a solid defender in games.  On the other hand, he doesn’t shoot the ball very well from the outside, and neither do Anthony Davis, or plenty of other role players that the Lakers currently have.  If LeBron is currently be the team’s best outside shooter, then there probably isn’t enough outside shooting on the team.

From a fit standpoint, this is a very curious move, and I’m unsure how it’ll all fit together, as the Lakers likely won’t have enough shooting on their roster.  On the other hand, from a fan standpoint, this is definitely an exciting move, and the idea of LeBron, AD, and Westbrook together will certainly generate excitement and may sound great on paper.   With the Lakers having traded several key role players and their first round pick to add another superstar to their stable, this looks to be their last ditch-effort and their last stand to go on a title run for next season.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (18th Overall)

Memphis Grizzlies

10. Ziaire Williams, G-F, Stanford (was drafted by NOP and traded to MEM)
30. Santiago Aldama, F-C, Loyola (MD) (was drafted by UTA and traded to MEM)

Ziaire Williams may be one of the most divisive prospects in this year’s draft.  He is an extremely athletic, 6-9 swingman that may have a great deal of upside, and he came in with very lofty expectations.  He turned in a strong first game against Alabama, where he showed off his great athletic gifts, combined with solid shooting and defensive skills.

However, opponents adjusted to him shortly after that, and Williams ended up shooting the ball poorly this season.  He struggled to knock down jump shots, and he’s not an elite ball handler either, so he had trouble getting easy shots up on offense.  He turned in a disappointing freshman season at Stanford overall.  That didn’t stop Memphis from trading to select Ziaire at 10, though, and there may be a decent chance the Williams could turn out to be a much better pro than college player.  If the Grizzlies can simplify his role, Ziaire could turn out to be a solid role player similar to Nicolas Batum in the NBA.

Santiago Aldama is a skilled big man that can score in the post, as well as face up to knock down jumpers to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He put up solid numbers at a small, D1 school at Loyola (MD).  On the other hand, he didn’t face top competition at all in his two seasons there, and there are concerns about his mobility and defense.  If he can prove to be a passable defender, his scoring ability and stretch potential could enable him to be a solid rotational big man in this league.

Trades:

The Memphis Grizzlies trade Jonas Valančiūnas, the 17th overall pick (Trey Murphy), and the 51st overall pick (B.J. Boston) to the New Orleans Pelicans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the 10th overall pick (Ziaire Williams), and the 40th overall pick (Jared Butler).

It’s a bit of a curious move for the Grizzlies, but it may make all the more sense if they can flip Bledsoe and/or Adams for more assets.  They traded away their starting center, Jonas Valanciunas, who was productive in the regular season, and they managed to get Steven Adams, whose physicality and interior defense could provide a similarly talented player in a lower usage role.  Eric Bledsoe didn’t play very well for the Pelicans this past year, and perhaps the Grizzlies are looking to rehabilitate his stock and see if he could be a sparkplug off the bench behind Ja Morant.  The big pickups are that they managed to move up from 17 and 51 to 10 and 40, and they managed to turn 40 and another asset into the 30th overall pick, this year.

The Utah Jazz trade the 30th overall pick (Santiago Aldama) to the Memphis Grizzlies for the 40th overall pick (Jared Butler), and two future second round picks.

On paper, it looked to be a good move for the Grizzlies to move up 10 spots to get the last pick of the first round in this draft.  They then selected Santiago Aldama, an unheralded, small school center that put up good numbers at Loyola (MD) this year.  Aldama is a skilled big man that can score in a variety of ways, but there are definite concerns about his mobility, defense, and the level of competition he’s faced, and while he’s a talented enough player to be drafted, taking him at 30 may be a significant reach.

Overall, the Grizzlies’ trades raised eyebrows, but it’s not certain if it is in a good way.  They dealt away proven veteran center, Jonas Valanciunas for a bruiser in Steven Adams, although he is considerably less skilled on offense, and for Eric Bledsoe, who was just terrible for the New Orleans Pelicans this past season.  They did manage to move up to get 10 and 40 from 17 and 51, though their moves and picks continued to make curious head-scratching moves.

Their trades would look better if they were able to flip Eric Bledsoe for players and picks, but they haven’t done so yet.  Their trade to go up to 30 looked good on paper.  However, they took a raw athlete at 10, and a fairly skilled center that had sizeable concerns about his athleticism, defense, and level of competition at 30.  Ziaire Williams may be the ultimate low floor, very high ceiling pick that the Grizzlies are hoping to cash in on.  He could prove the Grizzlies’ front office to be smart, or turn out to be just as bad as he was for Stanford this past season.

The Memphis Grizzlies’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: C- (28th Overall)

Miami Heat

They had no picks, so their grade is incomplete on this night.

The Miami Heat’s 2021 Draft Night Grade: I

Milwaukee Bucks

54. Sandro Mamukelashvili, F-C, Seton Hall
60. Georgios Kalaitzakis, G-F, Panathinaikos (Greece)

Sandro Mamukelashvili is an agile, skilled big man that can shoot and score the basketball.  He is not the most athletic player nor possesses elite rebounding or defensive skills, but his ability to make shots and facilitate the ball could enable him to be a serviceable role player in this league.

The Bucks drafted a Greek player as the last pick in this draft.  I know what you’re thinking.  No, it wasn’t Giannis’ brother, Alex Antetokounmpo.  Drafting Georgios Kalaitzakis at 60 was a surprise that may have been a considerable reach.  On one hand, he turned in a promising 2020 season when he played in Lithuania, and he is a tall, playmaking guard that can slash to the rim to score the basketball, but he barely played for Panathinaikos in Greece this past year, and he does not shoot the ball well at all.  This looks to be an obvious draft and stash pick, and Kalaitzakis could perhaps one day play in the NBA if he reaches his potential, but I feel like better players could’ve been had with the last pick in this draft.

Trades:

The Milwaukee Bucks traded away the 31st overall pick (Isaiah Todd) to the Indiana Pacers for the 54th overall pick (Sandro Mamukelashvili) and the 60th overall pick (Georgios Kalaitzakis), and two future second round picks.  The Pacers later traded the 31st overall pick away to the Washington Wizards.

The Bucks traded down from 31 to get two assets in this draft, though both were far down this draft.  They were able to pick a decently skilled big man that can space the floor at 54, but their 60th pick is a project guard that barely played overseas this past season, so it’s likely that the Bucks’ last pick may have been a swing and a miss, and better players could’ve been had at 60.  They also did get a couple of future second round picks in this deal though, which also helps.

Overall, the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t really make super impressive picks in this draft, and their selection at 60 was a head scratcher.  Despite that, they also made a solid selection in drafting Mamukelashvili at 54, and they were able to add a slew of second round draft picks to their stable to increase their asset collection.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: C+ (25th Overall)

Minnesota Timberwolves

Trades:

The Minnesota Timberwolves traded Ricky Rubio, a 2022 second round pick, and cash to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Taurean Prince.

The Timberwolves needed wing players that can shoot and defend, and Taurean Prince can be that guy.  It may have been a bit of steep price to trade Rubio and another future draft pick to get him, but Prince could be a solid role player that can help stabilize their roster.  While the Timberwolves didn’t have any draft picks on this night, they were able to acquire another, versatile swingman that can play off Towns, Edwards, and Russell, and Prince could fit in well as a 3 and D role player on their team.

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (20th Overall)

New Orleans Pelicans

17. Trey Murphy, F, Virginia (was drafted by MEM, and traded to NOP)
35. Herb Jones, F, Alabama

Trey Murphy is a tall athletic, skilled sharpshooter that can really shoot the basketball.  Shooting is at a premium, and he actually had a 50/40/90 season this year at Virginia.  He played on a slow pace team this year, but that hasn’t deterred Malcolm Brogdon from playing well in the NBA, and Murphy looks to be a good pick for the Pelicans.

Herb Jones is a very athletic forward that defends well, and he can guard multiple positions.  He’ll need to improve his shooting and playmaking skills, but his defensive versatility could make this a solid pick for the Pelicans.

Trades:
The New Orleans Pelicans trade Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe the 10th overall pick (Ziaire Williams), and the 40th overall pick (Jared Butler) to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valančiūnas, the 17th overall pick (Trey Murphy), and the 51st overall pick (B.J. Boston).

The Pelicans clear some much needed cap space, as they traded away Adams and Bledsoe, and neither of those two really fit Zion’s skills well due to their lack of floor spacing skills.  On the downside, they traded down from 10 and 40 for 17 and 51, but they managed to pick up a solid starting center in Jonas Valanciunas, who provided reliable scoring and rebounding skills this season, and he also showed a solid outside shot in a limited sample.

The Portland Trail Blazers traded away a 2026 2nd Round pick and cash considerations to the New Orleans Pelicans for Greg Brown (the 43rd overall pick).

The Pelicans may have felt that they had too many draft picks, so they traded the 43rd overall pick away for a future second round pick and cash.  They did give up a talented player with upside, but they did get a decent return for trading out of this spot.

The New Orleans Pelicans traded the 53rd overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for $2 million (cash considerations).

The Pelicans felt they probably had too many draft picks, so they traded it away to get cash back in return.

The New Orleans Pelicans traded the 51st overall pick via MEM (B.J. Boston) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a future second round pick and cash considerations.

The Pelicans felt they probably had too many draft picks, so they traded it away to get a future pick and cash back in return.

Overall, the New Orleans Pelicans were certainly busy on draft night.  They drafted fairly well, as they got a tall sharpshooter in Trey Murphy, as well as an athletic defender in Herb Jones.  They were able to trade Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe to nab Jonas Valanciunas away from Memphis, though they had to trade down several spots in the draft to do so.  They traded away a lot of their second round picks for future second round picks and cash, so they basically kept rolling those picks over, but New Orleans definitely seemed to have a solid night overall.

The New Orleans Pelicans’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (14th Overall)

New York Knicks

25. Quentin Grimes, G, Houston (was drafted by LAC, and traded to NYK)
34. Rokas Jokubaitis, G, Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania)
36. Miles McBride, G, West Virginia
58. Jericho Sims, C, Texas

Quentin Grimes is an agile, skilled swingman that has a solid set of all-around skills.  He really improved his jump shot, and he is a creative player that passes and handles the ball well.  His skills may not pop out in any sort of ways, but he is a smart, skilled all-around player that has worked hard to improve his game, and this makes this pick a solid one at 25.

Rokas Jokubaitis is a skilled playmaker that can shoot and pass the basketball.  He struggled more with his jump shot this year, but he’s played fairly well at the highest levels of international basketball.  He’s not super athletic and he’s coming off of a somewhat down season so this may pick may be a bit of a reach, but he could be a solid, steady backup point guard in the NBA.

Miles McBride is an athletic, talented combo guard that may be a good pick for the value.  He is a shooter that excels as a scorer and defender, but he’ll need to improve his playmaking skills.  He may not possess ideal playmaking skills, but his ability to make shots and defend makes this a solid pick at 36.

Jericho Sims is a very athletic center that can certainly finish plays above the rim, and he projects to be an energetic, rim protector in the NBA.  He’s not the most skilled offensive player, but he is a high-motor interior player that could prove to be a solid backup center in this league.

Trades:

The Charlotte Hornets traded away a protected future first round pick to the New York Knicks to acquire Kai Jones (19th overall pick).

This was a very surprising move for the New York Knicks.  They had a chance to draft a really solid player at 19, and they passed in order to acquire a future first instead.  They could’ve had Kai Jones, Trey Murphy, or Keon Johnson, or they could’ve elected to draft Grimes or Jared Butler at 19, but they chose to move this pick instead.

The New York Knicks traded Keon Johnson (21st overall pick) to the Los Angeles Clippers for Quentin Grimes (25th overall pick) and a future 2nd Round pick.

If their move was to trade down a few spots to pick up an extra asset, then this was a good move by the Knicks, especially if they valued Grimes and felt that they could still get him at 25. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder trade the 34th overall pick (Rokas Jokubaitis) and the 36th overall pick (Miles McBride) to the New York Knicks for the 32nd overall pick (Jeremiah Robinson-Earl).

The Knicks were able to pick up two extra players, as they didn’t have to move down very far in the process.  Both of the players may duplicate each other, as both are jump shot-oriented combo guards, but being able to get two picks in the mid 30s out of the 32nd overall pick is a solid deal for them.

Overall, the New York Knicks were wheeling and dealing pretty much all night, and they managed to get the players they wanted.  Not everyone will be happy with what they came away with, and that they traded away the 19th and 21st overall picks will certainly be to the chagrin of plenty.  They also drafted a couple of players that may sort of duplicate each other in Rokas Jokubaitis and Miles McBride, altbeit both are talented combo guards, and Jokubaitis also can be stashed overseas.

On the other hand, Quentin Grimes was a very good selection at 25, and being able to get the 34th and 36th picks out of the 32nd overall pick was a nice haul.  The Knicks may not have had a perfect evening, but they may have done better than how things appeared to be for them at first on this night.

The New York Knicks’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (16th Overall)

Oklahoma City Thunder

6. Josh Giddey, G, Adelaide (Australia)
18. Tre Mann, G, Florida
32. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F-C, Villanova (drafted by NYK and traded to OKC)
55. Aaron Wiggins, G-F, Maryland

Josh GIddey is an agile, skilled playmaker that played well in the NBL this past year.  He really excelled as a facilitator and rebounder, and he is a tall point forward that has very good court vision.  He’ll need to improve his shooting and defense, but he is a talented player that may have a great deal of upside.

Tre Mann is an agile, skilled combo guard that can shoot and score the baskeball, and he played much better as a sophomore at Florida.  While there may be some concerns about his consistency and playmaking skills, he’s a talented prospect that can play either backcourt position, and he looks to be a solid pickup for the Thunder at 18.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a strong, mobile forward that has a variety of skills, and his versatility could allow him to be very effective on both ends of the floor.  He’ll need to improve his outside shot, but his ability to make plays could enable him to thrive as a role player in the NBA.

Aaron Wiggins is an athletic swingman that projects to be a solid 3 and D type of role player in the NBA.  He played well as a junior this year, and he could prove to be a good pick at 55 in this draft.

Trades:

The Utah Jazz traded Derrick Favors and a future first round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 2027 second round pick and cash considerations.

The Thunder will have to take on the added salary of Favors, but they are also getting a solid backup center, and another first round draft pick to add to their stable.

Trades:

The Oklahoma City Thunder trade the 16th overall pick (Alperen Sengun) to the Houston Rockets for a 2022 1st Round pick (via DET), and a 2023 1st Round Pick (via WAS).

It was surprising that the Thunder traded away a first round pick, but they do acquire two (albeit both heavily protected) first round picks.  They still had two other first round selections and a couple of second round picks to buffer their moves, so this trade likely doesn’t hurt them at all, and might even help them a bit in the future.

The Oklahoma City Thunder trade the 34th overall pick (Rokas Jokubaitis) and the 36th overall pick (Miles McBride) to the New York Knicks for the 32nd overall pick (Jeremiah Robinson-Earl).

The Thunder seemed to really reach by trading two of their mid 30s picks to go up two spots to 32, but they managed to get their guy in selecting Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.  Robinson-Earl is a strong, mobile big man that has a solid set of all-around skills, and he looks to be an underrated prospect.  He’ll still need to improve his outside shot, and if he could’ve been had at 34, then I’m not sure if the Thunder really needed to make this trade at all, especially with other similarly talented players that were still on the board.

Overall, the Oklahoma City Thunder made plenty of moves on this night.  They swung for the fences by taking Giddey at 6, and they also were able to get a slew of solid players with their other selections. 

Drafting Robinson-Earl at 32 was a solid move for them, but giving up 34 and 36 may have been too much to get him, especially if they could’ve acquired him at 34.  I’m sure some of their fans would’ve liked for them to get Sengun on their team, but being able to get two future (heavily protected) first round picks in return will help them in the future.  Also, adding another future first round pick and Derrick Favors were also moves in the right direction for the Thunder.

The Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2021 Draft Night Grade: B (12th Overall)

Gonzaga’s superstar freshman guard, Jalen Suggs was drafted fifth overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2021 NBA Draft.
(Photo:
Corey Sipkin/Associated Press, via Star Tribune)

Orlando Magic

5. Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
8. Franz Wagner, F, Michigan

The Magic made a tremendous pick by selecting Jalen Suggs at 5.  Suggs is one of the most complete, all-around players in this draft, and he is a very athletic combo guard that does just about everything well.  He is an explosive scorer that also excels as a facilitator, and he is also a very good defender.  Suggs will still need to keep working on his outside shot, but he is a very athletic, skilled playmaker that could be a multi-All-Star in the NBA.

Franz Wagner is an athletic, skilled combo forward whose versatility will make him a solid pick for the Magic.  He doesn’t have many weaknesses in his game, and he is a well-rounded player that can do a little bit of everything.  He is a versatile scorer, and he is also a solid playmaker and a rangy defender, and he’ll definitely complement Suggs well on the Magic.

Trades:

The Orlando Magic traded away the 33rd overall pick (Jason Preston) to the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2026 2nd Round pick (via DET) and cash considerations.

The Magic already made two very good picks at 5 and 8, so they didn’t really need to make an extra pick at 33.  Of course, the more may always be merrier, but they were able to get back a future second round pick and cash back in return.

The Orlando Magic had a terrific draft night, and they came away with the best pick of the night, and they paired Suggs with a very good, versatile all-around player in Franz Wagner.  Trading the 33rd overall pick for a future second round pick and cash might put a bit of a damper in their celebratory mood, as they could’ve also had Jared Butler or Ayo Dosunmu in addition, but the Orlando Magic still had a tremendous night overall.

The Orlando Magic’s 2021 Draft Night Grade: A (1st Overall)

Philadelphia 76ers

28. Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee
50. Filip Petrušev, C, Mega Bemax (Serbia)
53. Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky

Jaden Springer is a young, athletic combo guard that may have considerable upside as a prospect for the NBA.  He is a solid playmaker that can score and defend, but he can tend to be inconsistent in games.  He is a talented player that was thought to go earlier in this draft.

Filip Petrušev is an agile, skilled big man that can shoot and score the basketball.  He really improved as an offensive player overseas, and he can score facing up or posting down low.  He’s shown a much-improved outside shot and handles.  He didn’t quite seem to rebound or defend as well though, but his strong offensive skills combined with his above average athletic gifts likely will make this a very good pick for the 76ers at 50.

Charles Bassey is a strong, athletic center that excelled as an interior player for Western Kentucky this past season.  He’ll still need to add a reliable jump shot and more perimeter skills to his repertoire, but Bassey is a talented interior player that was a very good acquisition for the 76ers at 53.

Trades:

The New Orleans Pelicans traded the 53rd overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for $2 million (cash considerations).

For the 76ers, while they may have acquired too many big men in this draft, being able to get Bassey at 53 is great for the value.  All they had to give up was cash, and Bassey is a first round talent that can help shore up their interior.

Overall, the Philadelphia 76ers came away with a strong set of picks, as they drafted well at every turn.  Sure, there may be some duplication as both Petrusev and Bassey are centers, but the 76ers were able to get skilled players that will bolster their talent and depth on this team.

The Philadelphia 76ers’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: A- (2nd Overall)

Phoenix Suns

Trades:

The Brooklyn Nets traded Landry Shamet to the Phoenix Suns for Jevon Carter and the 29th draft pick (Day’Ron Sharpe).

It’s a little surprising that the Suns traded out of this draft, but considering their latest draft blunder in picking Jalen Smith over Tyrese Haliburton, I can see why the Suns would want to trade out of this draft.  They also managed to acquire a talented sharpshooting combo guard in Landry Shamet, who will step right into a rotation role to help them next season.

The Phoenix Suns’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (19th Overall)

Portland Trail Blazers

43. Greg Brown, F, Texas

Greg Brown is a very athletic combo forward that came in with lofty expectations coming into the year.  He had a relatively disappointing freshman season at Texas, and he didn’t shoot or score nearly as well.  He really struggled to pass or handle the ball, and he was also quite foul prone at times.  Still, Brown is a tremendously athletic, high-motor player that can throw down really powerful dunks, and he also has shown the potential to be a versatile defender in the NBA.

Trades:

The Portland Trail Blazers traded away a 2026 2nd Round pick and cash considerations to the New Orleans Pelicans for Greg Brown (the 43rd overall pick).

This was a very interesting move for the Blazers to trade into the draft, and they managed to snag a very athletic, high-upside forward in Greg Brown.  Brown is a high risk, high reward type of pick, and it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll fare in Portland.

Overall, this was a bold move for the Blakers to trade into the draft to get Greg Brown.  He’s a low floor, high-upside sort of pick.  He’s not a great shooter nor playmaker, but he is a tremendous athlete whose defensive potential could make him an interesting understudy to Robert Covington in Portland.

The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: C+ (24th Overall)

Sacramento Kings

9. Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
39. Neemias Queta, C, New Mexico State

Davion Mitchell is a speedy, athletic playmaker that helped lead Baylor to win the National Championship this past season.  He is a very good defender that plays pesky defense, and he will often lock his man down.  He also is a quick guard that can consistently get to the rim, and he showed off a much-improved jump shot.  He is a smart, skilled player that did pretty much everything well this year.  While the Kings already may have a glut of guards as they already have De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and Buddy Hield, drafting Mitchell at 9 was a very good value pick for the Kings.

Overall, the Kings made solid value picks to acquire Mitchell and Queta, and both of them will bolster the talent and depth of their team.  The Kings do have too many guards, and they’ll need more wing players, but both prospects will likely be good contributors to the Kings’ team next season.

The Sacramento Kings’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B (11th Overall)

San Antonio Spurs

12. Josh Primo, G, Alabama
41. Joe Wieskamp, G-F, Iowa

The allure to draft Primo was real, and I do understand the appeal.  He’s the youngest player in the draft at 18 years old, and he is a very athletic, 6-5 swingman that projects into a 3 and D role in the NBA.  He also may have considerably more upside than he ever seemed to show at Alabama. 

On the other hand, I’ve never really been wowed by him, and he’s never really seemed to make plays consistently this season.  He’s the type of player that would score 0 in one game, and 22 in another, but he averaged just 8 points per game this year as a freshman.  He could be a better player in the NBA than he was in college, especially now that he’ll be playing for the Spurs next season.

Joe Wieskamp is an athletic, skilled swingman that can shoot and score the basketball.  He shot the ball really well as a junior this season, and he both played and tested really well at the Combine.  There’s a question of how much he can transfer his vast athleticism onto the court, as he didn’t appear to be nearly as athletic in games as he was during the athletic testing.  He’ll need to be a more consistent defender on the court, but his jump shot and motor could allow him to be a solid role player in the NBA.

Overall, it was very surprising that the Spurs made a considerable reach to take Primo at 12, but it’s actually understandable when you look at it.  He’s very young and athletic, and profiles to be like a Keldon Johnson-sort of role player in the NBA.  On the other hand, he just didn’t seem to do anything that special in college, and he didn’t really standout at all at Alabama.  Primo is by no means a polished prospect by any means, but the Spurs feel like they can take on an intriguing, project player.  Drafting Joe Wieskamp at 41 was a nice move, and he’s an athletic 3 and D role player that could step in right away to help the Spurs next season.

The San Antonio Spurs’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: C (26th Overall)

Toronto Raptors

4. Scottie Barnes, G-F, Florida State
46. Dalano Banton, G-F, Nebraska
47. David Johnson, G, Louisville

It was alluded to in the No Dunks video podcast with John Hollinger from John Hollinger that Toronto could draft Barnes at 4, as his size, versatility, and upside could enable them to pull the trigger on making this pick, especially if they would opt for a rebuild.

Sure enough, the Raptors shocked the world, and marched to the beat of their own drum by selecting Scottie Barnes at 4.  Though Barnes isn’t nearly the shooter or scorer that Suggs is, Barnes is a tall, 6-9 point forward that can play all five positions, and he has strong playmaking and defensive skills.  He’s not nearly as polished offensively right now, but he is a smart, versatile player that could really take his game to whole another level if he can add a reliable jump shot to his repertoire in the future.

Dalano Banton is another athletic, 6-9 point forward, as the Raptors looked to take a big swing in the second round of this draft.  Banton is a tall, athletic playmaker that can comfortably run the point, and he also is a fairly solid rebounder and defender.  He doesn’t shoot the ball well at all, and he’s not much of a scorer, either.  The Raptors were looking for versatile wings, and Banton could take his game to a whole another level if he adds a reliable jump shot to his game, but that is a big if.

David Johnson is a strong, physical combo guard that has shown a variety of skills, and he has flashed all-around skills at various times in his two seasons at Louisville.  He can make shots in a variety of ways, and he can be a secondary ball mover that can play the point in a pinch.  He also is a solid defender that can guard either backcourt position.  He’s not an elite shooter, and he can tend to be too turnover prone at times, but he is a talented playmaker that could be a solid project player for the Raptors to have.

Overall, the Toronto Raptors made some bold choices in this draft, and drafting Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs is easily their boldest one by a long shot.  Whether if it’s a good move is to be determined in the long run. 

The Raptors showed a penchant for drafting long, athletic playmaking forwards that can’t shoot, but Barnes is a versatile, skilled player that has star potential.  David Johnson is a strong, athletic combo guard that has shown the capacity to excel at either backcourt position but can tend to be inconsistent in games.  The Raptors will need to find a shooting coach that can get Barnes and Banton to shoot well.  Barnes and Banton could still be solid role players regardless, but this Raptors’ draft may be more prone to second-guessing if they can’t add a jump shot to their arsenal.

The Toronto Raptors’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B- (23rd Overall)

The Utah Jazz made a trade to acquire Jared Butler with the 40th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2021 NCAA Tournament after helping Baylor win the National Championship.
(Photo:
Jamie Squire/Getty Images, via KSL Sports)

Utah Jazz

40. Jared Butler, G, Baylor (was drafted by NOP and traded to UTA)

Jared Butler is a smart, skilled guard that played really well this past season to help Baylor win the National Championship.  He is a gifted sharpshooter that can score the basketball.  He made 6 threes in a win over Kansas, and he also shot the ball really well to come away with the MOP in his team’s National Championship game against Gonzaga.  He also is a solid defender, and he was able to put down the clamps in a March 2020 game against Jahm’ius Ramsey to help his team defeat Texas Tech last year.

Unfortunately, questions about Butler’s medicals sent him hurtling down to 40, as many NBA teams were scared off by his heart condition, even though he was cleared to play recently.  There also may be minor concerns that he may be close to already reaching his ceiling, as he is an above average athlete that relies on his smarts and basketball IQ to make plenty of plays in games.  Regardless of the free falling stock, I am sure that the Utah Jazz are ecstatic to be able to draft a high-quality guard this late in the draft, and Jerry Sloan surely would be smiling from above with his team being able to select Butler at 40.

Trades:
The Utah Jazz traded Derrick Favors and a future first round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 2027 second round pick and cash considerations.

On Utah’s end, they are clearing cap space to try to re-sign Mike Conley, but they also had to part with a future first round pick and their backup center to do so.  If they end up being able to re-sign Mike Conley, it’ll have been worth it for the Jazz.

The Utah Jazz trade the 30th overall pick (Santiago Aldama) to the Memphis Grizzlies for the 40th overall pick (Jared Butler), and two future second round picks.

The Jazz managed to get their guy really low in the draft, and Butler is a very skilled guard that easily could have been a first round pick if he had good medicals to begin with.  Utah also added two extra assets, and that they likely also drafted the best player in this trade makes this a definite win for them.

Overall, the Utah Jazz made a terrific pick by selecting Jared Butler at 40, and they get a really skilled, complete player that just does everything well.  NBA teams may have been scared off by his medicals, but he’s reportedly healthy now, as he’s been cleared to play.  The Jazz did trade away a future first round pick in a bid to clear cap by also dealing Derrick Favors to Oklahoma City, but that doesn’t dampen Utah’s celebratory mood that much overall.

The Utah Jazz’s 2021 Draft Night Grade: A- (4th Overall)

Washington Wizards

15. Corey Kispert, G-F, Gonzaga
31. Isaiah Todd, F-C, G-League Ignite (Raleigh, NC) (drafted by MIL and traded to WAS)

Corey Kispert is a smart, skilled sharpshooter that can score the basketball in a variety of ways.  He can flat out shoot the basketball, and he is also an underrated athlete and playmaker on the court.  He’ll need to improve his defense and he may not have nearly as much upside as the top prospects in this draft, but Kispert projects to be one of the best shooters in this draft class, and he likely will thrive as a solid role player in the NBA.

Isaiah Todd is a very athletic big man that possesses promising shooting and scoring skills, and he has also shown the potential to be a versatile defender in the NBA.  He’s a solid shooter that can score in the post and comfortably knock down outside shots, and he also can finish plays well above the rim.  He didn’t rebound the ball well, and he is more of a position defender than a help defender, but he is an athletic, skilled player that has a high compete level, and he looks to be a solid acquisition for the Wizards at 31.

Trades:

The Washington Wizards traded away Russell Westbrook, a 2024 2nd Round pick, and a  2028 2nd Round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the 22nd overall pick (Isaiah Jackson).

The Wizards made a blockbuster trade as they dealt Westbrook and two future second round picks to get three solid role players and a first round pick in this year’s draft. Montrezl Harrell is an athletic, energetic big man that can provide good inside scoring and rebounding skills off the bench. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is an athletic shooter that can be a solid 3 and D role player for the Wizards. Kyle Kuzma is an athletic, scoring forward that has versatile scoring skills, and while he may be too inconsistent at times, he is a fairly high upside player that can put up points in a hurry. Adding the 22nd overall pick also allowed the Wizards to get another solid asset in this trade, which they would later package into another deal.

The Indiana Pacers traded Aaron Holiday, and the 31st overall pick (Isaiah Todd) to the Washington Wizards for the 22nd overall pick (Isaiah Jackson).

The Wizards appeared to make a solid trade here, as they get a quality backup point guard in Aaron Holiday, and they also get a promising, athletic face-up big man in Isaiah Todd.  While Todd may still be a bit lacking in polish, he may be an even more skilled offensive player than Jackson already.

Overall, the Washington Wizards had a very good draft night.  They drafted a sharpshooting forward in Corey Kispert, and they also managed to acquire a rotation player in backup point guard Aaron Holiday, as well as promising athletic big man Isaiah Todd, whose shooting and defensive skills could make him one of the most intriguing second round picks of the night.  They also made a shocking trade to deal Westbrook, but they also got a solid return in getting three solid role players and a draft pick that they were able to put into another deal. The Wizards made good moves all around, and they quietly did very well overall.

The Washington Wizards’ 2021 Draft Night Grade: B+ (6th Overall)

Other Notes:

The NBA made a moving tribute and gesture to pay respects to former Kentucky’s freshman swingman Terrence Clarke, who unfortunately passed away in a tragic car accident just months before the NBA draft. The NBA drafted Terence Clarke, and it was really nice to see that Clarke was honored on this day.

There were some surprises about who went undrafted. I was surprised that Vrenz Bleijenbergh, Joel Ayayi, Matthew Hurt, and Aaron Henry all went undrafted in the 2021 NBA Draft. For Vrenz Bleijenbergh, on his Twitter, he had mentioned that he was offered two-way contracts by NBA teams, but that he’s under contract with Antwerp and that they wouldn’t let him take those deals, so he ended up going undrafted.

Joel Ayayi had a very good season all year long, and he is an athletic, 6-5 guard that can shoot, defend, and really rebound for his size, but it seems that he didn’t quite have a hook that made it easier for him to be drafted, as he had to play a lower volume role on a loaded, Gonzaga team. Matthew Hurt I thought really elevated his game this year, and he shot the ball really well and took on greater responsibilities as a scorer as a sophomore at Duke, so it was surprising that he didn’t get drafted. Aaron Henry is a very good defender and is a team-oriented floor leader that has the playmaking ability to run the point, but his inability to consistently knock down jumpers or score consistently may have hurt his draft stock a bit to the point where he ended up going undrafted. Hopefully, these guys will all go on to have very good NBA careers.

While i wasn’t nearly as high on Daishen Nix as some of the others, I was also surprised that he went undrafted. Surely, I thought somebody would’ve drafted him in the mid to late second round range. He’s a very good facilitator and rebounding guard, and he is a strong guard that plays very physically. On the other hand, he’s not at all a good shooter and he looked to be a disinterested defender in plenty of the G-League games I saw. He also isn’t particularly fast or quick compared to the other point guards, as he tended to rely on size and strength to score more than anything. Nix still needs to improve his outside shot and develop more scoring moves, and another season in the G-League could help him grow as an overall player.

Overall, this was a fun and fascinating night that was full of picks and surprising trades. Cade Cuningham went number one to the Detroit Pistons as expected, but Russell Westbrook ended up getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. It should be an exciting NBA season next year, and it will be fun to watch how it will all play out. Thanks for reading.

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