By Hocine LOUKKAF on 8/1/2021
Despite the fact that the experts have talked about the gap between the top 4-6 (depending on whether you included Barnes and/or Kuminga) and the rest of the prospects, the biggest winners may be out of this top or may have done their best deals out of the lottery (see Houston). Let’s check every team’s picks by grade.
Picks : Jalen Green (6-5 SG, G-League Ignite, 2nd pick), Alperen Sengun (6-10 C, Besiktas TUR, 16th pick), Usman Garuba (6-8 PF/C, Real Madrid SPA, 23rd pick), Josh Christopher (6-5 SG, Arizona State, 24th pick)
At 2, Houston had several options between Green, Mobley or Suggs. Green is the most spectacular prospect of this draft and displayed improvement and motor, two much needed skills for the Rockets. Houston really hit the jackpot by drafting two great international prospects with very complementary profiles, the highly-skilled Sengun and the defensive Swiss knife Garuba, who were expected to be picked earlier and could end up having great career in the league. Christopher seems a bit of a chucker a la Nick Young and maybe the Rockets could have drafted better at 24 as many interesting prospects were still available (Hyland, Thomas, Springer, Butler…)
Picks : Jalen Johnson (6-8 SF/PF, Duke, 20th pick), Sharife Cooper (5-11 PG, Auburn, 48th pick)
Johnson has top ten talent for sure and if wasn’t for him leaving Duke early, he may have ended up in the top five. He’s an versatile forward both on offense and defense who can do a bit of everything and had some of the most impressive statline this year. Cooper at 48 is another great pick to give Young some rest and Cooper a mentor. They both are the last to average more than 20pts and 8as in their freshman year and despit ehis physical limitations, Cooper could have easily been a first rounder on draft night.
Golden State Warriors
Picks : Jonathan Kuminga (6-7 SF, G-League Ignite, 7th pick), Moses Moody (6-5 SG, Alabama, 14th pick)
If they decided to keep their draft picks, the Warriors have a potential star and a great versatile shooter. Kuminga slips a bit because of his play in the bubble but has the tools (if he can shoot and defend consistently) to be a star. Moody is another great pick as he has potential to be a great shooter and the length to be a good rebounder and defender at his spot.
Picks : James Bouknight (6-5 SG, Connecticut, 11th pick), Kai Jones (6-11 C/PF, Texas, 19th pick), JT Thor (6-10 PF, Auburn, 37th pick), Scottie Lewis (6-5 SG, Florida, 56th pick)
Charlotte wants to add other spectacular players around Ball and it succeded pretty well on draft night. Bouknight had an impressive combine that was supposed to make hil rise. At 11, it’s a nice get and if he can display the same shooting ability he displayed during the combine, he will be a nice target for Ball. Jones was expected to be a lottery pick but his raw abilities may have worried some teams. He remains an impressive athlete and could turn into a steal at 19. Thor is another player whose stock skyrocketed in the month preceding the draft. He’s a versatile big who can run, block shots and shoot some even if he needs to improve his skills and nody. Finally, Lewis could be a great role player if he’s asked to defend the best outside scorer. He’s limited offensively but can shoot and never forces the issue.
Picks : Jared Butler (6-3 PG/SG, Baylor, 40th pick)
A 30th pick traded against the 4Oth and two future second rounders who could turn into the perfect player for the Jazz. With Conley aging, Utah will need a complementary player alongside Mitchell. Butler has all the tools but slipped because of a heart condition which was not considered a problem by a panel of physicians. The Bear can shoot, defend, pass the ball and is a winner. A great pick by the Jazz at 40.
Picks : Cade Cunningham (6-8 SG/PG, Oklahoma State, 1st), Isaiah Livers (6-5 SG, Michigan, 42nd), Luka Garza (6-11 C, Iowa, 52nd), Balsa Koprivica (7-1 C, Florida State, 57th)
Cunningham seemed the obious choice at 1 and will fit very well with Hayes. Livers was not projected that high but is a local guy who will bring shooting and size at his spot. Garza is another great midwest guy who will bring toughness and shooting behind Stewart. It will be harder for Koprivica to get minutes but maybe he could be a long-term third rotation at C who will just do his job without complaining.
Picks : Evan Mobley (7-0 C, USC, 3rd)
One of the top three prospects who could turn into the best player, Mobley has length and versatility to be an impactful player in the league. The Cavs may try to pair him with Allen to create their own twin towers. Whatever happend, Mobley has all the tools to be a two-player and an All-Star within some years.
Picks : Jalen Suggs (6-4 PG/SG, Gonzaga 5th), Franz Wagner (6-9 S/PF, Michigan, 8th)
The Orlando management must have been delighted to see Suggs still available at 5. Despite having Cole Anthony, Suggs is too good to pass on and has displayed in one year his skills and will to win. Maybe he will be paired with Anthony or take over the PG spot but he was an obvious choice at 5. Wagner’s stock has risen during the last month and he seemed an analytics’ favourite. He’s a solid forward for sure who can defend and shoot but maybe Murphy and even more Jalen Johnson could turn into better players. The Magic went for the safest thing, which I can understand.
Picks Juhan Begarin (6-5 SG, Paris FRA, 45th)
I’m not overhyping the kid because I’m French but, despite the fact he needs to tighten his handles as much as his shooting, Begarin has the physical tools, athleticism, and already some skills to be a far better player than what you expect from your 45th pick. At 6-5 with a 7ft wingspan ang great athleticism, Begarin has played his last two years in what is considered the best 2nd division in Europe, helping his team get rewarded with an opportunity to play in the French top league next year. His 36% from three and 3.1as prove that he’s more than just an athlete as he’s averaged 11.9pts against adults at age 18 (will turn 19 in a few days).
Picks : Chris Duarte (6-6 SG, Oregon, 13th), Isaiah Jackson (6-9 PF/C, Kentucky, 22nd)
With many SGs available at 13th, the Pacers went with the high floor low ceiling guy, the 24yo Duarte. The Oregon alumni is a nice defender and shooter who averaged more than 40% from three on more than five attempts. He can also pass the ball pretty well and fits Indiana’s style of play. Now, was it not better to gamble on a higher ceiling or more versatile prospect prospect like Moody, Murphy or Jalen Johnson, time will tell. Jackson is a very nice pick at 22nd. He’s a very good rim protector and rebounder with much to unlock offensively, a potential steal in this deep draft.
Picks : Davion Mitchell (6-2 PG, Baylor, 9th), Neemias Queta (6-11 C, Utah State, 39th)
Many experts criticized Haliburton’s selection last year but it has turned out pretty well for the Kings. Mitchell may not be the best fit but he could form a tough three-guard rotation who can bring great defense and versatility on offense and allows the Kings to find the best deal out of Hield. Of course, there were plenty of options there and also the opportunity to trade down with many available high-ceiling guys in the 20s. The Kings also desperately need help at C and Queeta, one of the best shotblockers in the country and a great athlete at 6-11, has the potential to bring efficient minutes above all on defense.
Picks : Cam Thomas (6-4 SG, LSU, 27th), Day’Ron Sharpe (6-10 C, UNC, 29th), Kessler Edwards (6-7 SF, Pepperdine, 44th), Marcus Segarowski (6-2 PG, Creighton, 49th), RayQuan Gray (6-7 SF/PF, FSU, 54th)
If the Nets want to extend Irving, Harden and Durant, they need to find cheap players with some talent. Thomas at 29 is a great pick. He may be a bit unidimensional but getting such a scorer at 29th is perfect for a team like the Nets. Same goes with Sharpe, whose stock has risen lately and brings toughness in the paint to help the aforementioned superstars. It will be harder for forwards Edwards and Ray and Segarowski to find minutes but the lack of salaray cap room may give them an opportunity.
Picks : Jaden Springer (6-4 SG, Tennessee, 28th), Filip Petrusev (6-11 C/PF MegaBasket SER, 50th), Charles Bassey (6-11 C, Western Kentucky, 53rd)
As the Sixers are still looking for the best deal to trade Simmons, they used the draft pretty nicely to find some good talents lower than expected. Springer is one of the youngest talent at his spot but the depth of the guard class make him slip to the 28th spot. He has the potential to end up a starter and has a lot to prove in the league. Petrusev and Bassey were both projected as first rounders once but they slipped to the late second. They bring versatility at the C position with Petrusev being able to shoot from outside while Bassey is the better defender.
Picks : Keon Johnson (6-5 SG, Tennessee, 21st), Jason Preston (6-4 PG, Ohio, 33rd), Brandon Boston (6-6 SG, Kentucky, 51st)
The Clippers traded up to pick Johnson, probably the best athlete at the SG spot and a high-motor player. Selecting him at 21 seems like a steal but Johnson has a major flaw, his shooting. Will he end up better than other guards like teammate Springer or Cam Thomas, time will tell. Then the Clippers adressed the PG spot with Preston at 33rd. With Butler still available here, it’s hard to understand why the Ohio alumni can be a better pick. Boston is a low-risk high-ceiling pick at 51st who may want to prove doubters wrong after a bad season at Kentucky.
Pick : Nah’Shon Hyland (6-3 PG/SG, VCU,
Denver needed a replacement fot the injured Murray. “Bones” Hyland was one of the fastest riser after the Combine and possesses a great mix of shooting and a knack for spectacular passes. His wingspan also allows him to rebound well at his position and get steals. With Jokic mainly handling the ball, the Nuggets don’t necessarily need a pure passer. The A10 POY is a good fit at 26 and coul turn into another steal for Colorado franchise.
Picks : Scottie Barnes (6-8 SF/PF, FSU, 4th), Dalano Banton (6-9 PG, Nebraska, 46th), David Johnson (6-4 PG/SG, Louisville, 47th)
A lot will be said about Toronto’s decision to pass on Suggs to draft another forward, Barnes. With Anunoby and Siakam (still) in the roster while Lowry is said to leave, Suggs seemed an obvious pick. Barnes has all-around talent but like Simmons, is a non-shooter for the moment, something he may really have improved during the draft workouts. Banton and Johnson are two versatile and physical guards even if Johnson is a more ready prospect than the long and skinny Toronto-born Cornhusker.
New Orleans Pelicans
Picks : Trey Murphy (6-9 SG/SF, Virginia, 17th), Herbert Jones (6-8 SF/PF, Alabama, 35th pick)
The Pelicans decided to go with two very similar picks (after trading their 10th pick in the Valanciunas deal), long and wiry forwards who can shoot from outside (albeit on small sample for Jones). Murphy has seen his stock rise lately as his combination of physical tools and shooting cpuld make him a great 3 and D guy. With Jalen Johnson still available, albeit with a different toolbox, we’ll see if the Cavalier was the best choice. Jones at 35th is a bit of a reach with the much younger Thor or Greg Brown still available. The Pels could also have picked a different player like Butler, McBride or Cooper in case they don’t match an offer for Ball.
Picks : Ayo Dosunmu (6-5 PG/SG, Illinois, 38th pick)
The Bulls logically selected the local Dosunmu who was projected as high as the late teens in a guard-stacked draft. He doesn’t have an elite strength but is a versatile guard who can pass, rebound and shoot. Butler was still available but Chicago decided Dosunmu was a better choice there.
Picks : Greg Brown (6-8 SF/PF, Texas, 43rd)
Portland is struggling finding the good pieces to help Lillard and McCollum turn the team into a real ontender. They recently gambled on raw prospects like Simmons, Collins and Little but none of them has become more than bench contributors. Brown is picked lower than the aforementioned first rounders but it seems like he will not reach the high expectations which were put on him as a high schooler as he’s slipped from a potential lottery pick to a second rounder throughout the season. If he proves the doubters (including me) wrong, he has the tools to be an elite forward.
New York Knicks
Picks : Quentin Grimes (6-5 SG/PG. Houston, 25th), Rokas Jokubaitis (6-4 PG, Zalgiris LIT, 34th), Miles McBride (6-2 PG, WVU, 36th), Jericho Sims (6-10 C, Texas, 58th)
Why trading down giving up your 19th and 21th pick to select Grimes higher than expected at 25th before selecting two other solid players but both at the same PG position, all the while leaving the better Butler available ? At 19th and 21st, the Knicks could still select Jalen and Keon Johnson, Isaiah Jackson, Usman Garuba, players with higher ceiling and who could fit well with Barrett and Randle, the most important pieces in New York. If the Knicks needed a guard like Grimes, Hyland, Thomas, Springer, Dosunmu or even Begarin were available. Jokubaitis and McBride are two nice picks in the early second (if you prefere them to Butler) but here again, one of them could have been enough and the second pick could have been used for a higher upside guy like Thor, Begarin, David Johnson (maybe a better prospect than Grimes) or Cooper. At 58th, Sims is a limited but solid player who could bring minutes from the bench as a rim protector.
Picks : Corey Kispert (6-7 SF, Gonzaga, 15th), Isaiah Todd (6-10 PF, G-League Ignite, 31st)
With Avdija, Bertans and Hachimura in the roster, who is a bad PF and would have been better suited at SF, why picking another SF ? Washington had more needs at PG and high ceiling inside players who could protect the rim or best talent available. If they ever thought a forward was necessary, it would have been better to gamble on the still available Jalen Johnson rather than selecting Kispert, a nice player but with limited upside (see McDermott, Korver, Mike Miller). There were other players with higher ceilings like Sengun, Isaiah Jackson (that they traded against Aaron Holiday) or Murphy. The aforementioned trade of the 22nd pick (that they got through the Westbrook trade) against Holiday and the 31st brings maybe a solid back up at PG but the Wizards could have traded down to pick McBride or Butler at the same spot, players with a potentially higher ceiling. Todd is a player with potential as a stretch four and not a bad pick at 31st. Maybe the fast-rising Thor would have been a better pick but it’s less a shocker here than the previous choices.
San Antonio Spurs
Picks : Josh Primo (6-5 SG, Alabama, 12th), Joe Wieskamp (6-5 SG, Iowa, 41st)
After Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and swingmen Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell picked in the last four drafts and still in the roster, the Spurs decided to select…two other guards. In a draft stacked with guards, San Antonio took a big gamble as Primo is considered a big reach at 12 who was projected more in the late first/early second round. Obviously, he’s a very young prospect with upside, but is he a better gamble than Moody, Tennesse guards Johnson and Springer, Thomas or even Begarin, not sure. Moreover, Spurs had much more needs in the frontcourt with only Poeltl, Eubanks and Samanic in the roster while they could have traded down to get Sengun, Garuba, Isaiah Jackson or Jalen Johnson. At 41st, adding another shooter was not necessary, above all with Bassey, Petrusev or Garza available to help Poeltl. The Spurs may make so-called experts look stupid but
Picks : Josh Giddey (6-8 PG/SG, Adelaide AUS, 6th), Tre Mann (6-5 PG/SG, Florida, 18th), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (6-8 PF, Villanova, 32nd), Aaron Wiggins (6-6 SG, Maryland, 55th)
SGA looks like a franchise player and Maledon already seemed like a steal in the second round last year. Yet, OKC decided to draft another guard, the 6-8 Giddey, a very talented guard but an inconsistent shooter who may lack some degree of athleticism while the high-ceiling Kuminga was available and would have filled a need at SF. The Thunder staff decided then to pick another combo at 18 despite the fact that players complementary to Poku like Sengun, Garuba or Jackson were available. JRE at 32 is not a reach but he’s a low ceiling prospect while JT Thor could end up better pretty soon. It will be difficult for Wiggins to get a spot as the roster is already stacked with guards.
Picks : Ziaire Williams (6-8 SF/SG, Stanford, 10th), Santi Aldama (6-11 PF, Loyola Marymount, 30th)
Memphis used the Valanciunas trade to get a better pick at 10. They used it to pick the former HS standout Williams. The Stanford alumni has talent but had a disastrous year with awful FG percentages and reminds a lot of less strong/athletic Reddish, but as inconsistent. There were plenty other options here on the wing with Moody or lower by trading down with Jalen Johnson or Trey Murphy. Aldama is another interrogation point as he was never projected that high and played five teams the whole year, including six games against Lafayette and four against the Navy, not the best way to evaluate him. There were plenty of other versatile forwards with Todd, JRE, Thor, players that Memphis may regret to have passed on.
Picks : Sandro Mamukelashvili (6-11 PF/C, Seton Hall, 54th), Giorgios Kalaitzakis (6-7 SF, Panathinaikos GRE, 60th)
Bucks traded the 31st pick for two late second round picks and two future second round picks in 2024 and 2026 while there were still very talented players available who could have helped the team like Butler, Dosunmu, Thor or Queeta. Mamukelashvili is a solid collge player with versatility at his size, but can he bring that versatility in the NBA ? Kalaitzakis is far from being ready and has not really contributed with Panathinaikos.