The Eastern Conference held four of the first five selections and saw some potential future superstars enter the conference last night in Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, and Jalen Suggs. The Magic found themselves two lottery selections. Some teams found themselves a first-round pick to build around, while other teams had to wait to the second round to see who will join their roster. And the Heat, well, they did not get to join in on one of the most exciting nights in the NBA off-season, but that won’t stop us from recapping the exciting night that was the 2021 NBA Draft. We will review last night’s selections and grade each team’s night as a whole. Some of you may be here to relive a triumphant night for your fanbase while others may be coming to see if someone can explain some questionable moves you believe your team made. No matter what brought you here, we will attempt to put each team’s haul into focus and evaluate the selections with regard to who was available and how well they addressed any glaring team needs.
R1, P20: Jalen Johnson, SF/PF, Duke Blue Devils
R2, P48: Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn Tigers
After opting out of the college basketball season in February, Jalen Johnson faced a lot of criticism and scrutiny for his decision. How much this affected his draft stock is debatable, but it clearly didn’t help. And a player with Johnson’s talent does not belong at pick number 20. The 6’9 point-forward is an excellent playmaker and flourishes in transition offense. He can put anyone onto a poster and make phenomenal reads and passes with the ball in his hands. Shooting and turnovers are a major question mark coming out of college, but he started to improve his perimeter shooting as the season went on and at only 19 years old, he has plenty of time to refine his skills and set himself apart as a future star. The slide of Sharife Cooper finally ended at #48 and Hawks have to be happy with the value of their two selections tonight. Cooper is a potential starter if he can improve his perimeter shooting and limit his turnovers, a tall ask perhaps, but he is a young prospect with plenty of time to learn under a superstar in Trae Young. Atlanta grabbed a couple value picks that may have slid due to attitude concerns, but they will hope that teams overreacted to this and they can blend into a team environment.
R2, P45: Juhann Begarin, PG/SG, France
The lone Celtics draft pick this season may not join the team immediately as a potential stash player, but he is only 19 years old with a seven foot wingspan at only 6’6. The long arms and scoring ability are evident, but he still needs to refine his skills in order to play at the NBA level. I doubt we will see Begarin anytime soon, but he has a ton of potential and could be able to help the Celtics out in the long run. It is rare to see an uneventful night for the Celtics on draft night, but they are a team undergoing a lot of changes and it will be interesting to see how they respond over the next year.
R1, P27: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU Tigers
R1, P29: Day'Ron Sharpe, C/PF, North Carolina Tar Heels
R2, P49: Marcus Zegarowski, PG, Creighton Blue Jays
R2, P59: Raiquan Gray, SF/PF, Florida State Seminoles
The Nets add another exciting scorer to their squad in Cameron Thomas. He is not afraid to shoot the ball, but playing alongside three superstars in Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving should humble him and force him to improve his shot selection. He is simply a walking bucket who is not afraid to score and has an extremely high ceiling when it is his time to shine. The Nets are preparing for life without their Big Three by taking a high risk, high reward selection in Cam Thomas and they are pairing him with an imposing paint presence in Day’Ron Sharpe. Sharpe dominated on the interior with Roy Williams and posted the most offensive rebounds per minute in the entire country. The Nets were high on Sharpe from the beginning, and they get their guy at #29. A solid rotational big man with brute strength, impressive rebounding, and decent passing ability out of the post.
Zegarowski will struggle to find his way into the rotation, but he is a dynamic point guard and an excellent shooter who averaged over 15 points per game while shooting over 40% from distance during his three-year career. Gray is a swiss-army knife type player who can do everything and do it with high intensity. Not many teams can have this impressive of a draft after trading for a superstar mid-season and boasting three of the league’s true superstars. A great night for the Nets who will be the favorites to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2022.
R1, P11: James Bouknight, SG, Connecticut Huskies
R1, P19: Kai Jones, C, Texas Longhorns
R2, P37: JT Thor, PF/C, Auburn Tigers
R2, P56: Scottie Lewis, SG, Florida Gators
After drafting LaMelo Ball a season ago, the Hornets now are attempting to surround him with prolific scorers and shooters. They got both of those here with James Bouknight. This kid shined as bright as anybody in the pre-draft process and put on a shooting clinic during his individual workouts that caught the eye of every team in the lottery. A backcourt of Ball and Bouknight could torment opposing teams for a decade or longer as they can put up 30 points apiece any given night. Bouknight attacks the basket extremely well and is an excellent shot creator for himself. He now has one of the best young playmakers alongside him who can take a lot of pressure off of him and give him a ton of one-on-ones to exploit on the wing. This is a home run for the Hornets who are a big man away from being legit contenders in a few years.
I wrote the previous sentence prior to the Hornets trading with the Knicks for Kai Jones and I am absolutely loving this pick up. Jones is a modern big man with a high ceiling and tremendous potential on the offensive end. He soars above the rim for alley-oops and rim runs and is able to handle the ball and create for himself and others with a little refining and development. The Hornets found their pieces for the future with massive potential and perfect fits to play alongside LaMelo Ball. Thor is another lengthy big man who can stretch the floor and has a boatload of potential. LaMelo will only expedite his growth and as long as the Hornets are patient with these guys, they could have a sensational draft class when we look back in a few years. Just to cap it off, the Hornets also added Scottie Lewis who should be a great rotational wing capable of sparking the defense and slowing down opposing guards. This is an incredible night for Charlotte, and I truly believe they had as solid a draft night of any team in the Eastern Conference, considering their draft position and willingness to deal for Jones.
R2, P38: Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois Fighting Illini
This is a great value pick for the Bulls in the second round. They faced a lot of criticism for trading away a lottery pick for Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline, but they still get a first-round caliber player in local product, Ayo Dosunmu who is a work horse and a terrific playmaker who can also get to his spot and score. He compiled a pair of triple doubles in his college career and could very easily turn into a fairly consistent triple double threat if he ever works his way into the starting lineup. Great value for a great competitor and hard worker for the Bulls here.
R1, P3: Evan Mobley, PF/C, USC Trojans
The Cavaliers got themselves a generational talent last night and the most exciting big-man prospect since Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015. Mobley carried the USC Trojans all the way to the Elite Eight in his only season at USC and he did it with defensive versatility, dominance in the paint, and a modern style of perimeter shooting and great touch around the rim. This guy is an automatic contender for the number one overall pick in most seasons, and the Cavs very easily could have found themselves their next face of the franchise.
R1, P1: Cade Cunningham, PG/SG, Oklahoma State Cowboys
R2, P42: Isaiah Livers, SF/PF, Michigan Wolverines
R2, P52: Luka Garza, C, Iowa Hawkeyes
R2, P57: Balsa Koprivica, C, Florida State Seminoles
It would have been extremely difficult for the Pistons to mess this one up after receiving the #1 overall selection during the lottery. The Motor City will be getting a future all-star and culture changer in Cunningham, and they finally have a reason to be excited for the future. “Motor-Cade” automatically puts the Pistons in playoff contention and a core of Cunningham, Jerami Grant, and Saddiq Bey should give them an exciting core of young players to build around. The first overall selection has everything you’d want in a star from a high-motor, leadership, and the clutch gene and will instantly become a matchup nightmare as a 6’8 point guard.
Livers provides experience and is an NBA ready wing who is a knock down shooter and should play well off of Cunningham if he gets in the rotation. The addition of Luka Garza is an excellent selection here as well. The Pistons go with three college stars and Garza is a man on a mission after slimming down and working on his lateral movement so he can improve his ball-screen defending, a major criticism of his game. He has the heart of a lion and his work ethic is unmatched. Koprivica made the most of his limited minutes in a deep FSU rotation and showed his versatility on both ends of the floor. He is a major project, but could turn out to be worth it in time. A great night for the Pistons that was all but guaranteed after winning the lottery a few weeks ago.
R1, P13: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon Ducks
R1, P22: Isaiah Jackson, PF/C, Kentucky Wildcats
R2, P31: Isaiah Todd, PF, G-League Ignite
R2, P54: Sandro Mamukelashvili, PF/C, Creighton Blue Jays
A sneaky good draft class here for the Pacers. This is a team with a lot of talent, and they just added a whole lot more with this class. Duarte is a polished guard who can shoot the lights out and should be an immediate impact player for Rick Carlisle and the Pacers. Isaiah Jackson is a rim-protecting freak athlete who could learn from/replace Myles Turner if they choose to move him. Isaiah Todd, who we actually rated higher than Jackson, is an athletic stretch-four who quietly shined in the G-League in the shadows of Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. These three early selections should be integral pieces to this roster and could threaten the starters’ job security in Indiana under a brand new head coach. “Mamu” is also an intriguing pick here who is a 6’11 point-center who can shoot from anywhere on the floor, rebound well in the paint, and create opportunities for others with surprising ball-handling and court vision. These rookies should make some noise and help lift the Pacers back to playoff basketball in 2022.
An uneventful night for the Heat with no picks and no trades.
Georgios Kalaitzakis, SF, Greece
Could the Bucks catch “Greece lightning” in a bottle twice? They select another Greek prospect with a name I could never pronunciation in my dreams, but this time with the last pick in the draft. The 22-year-old, 6’7 guard rarely played in Greece, averaging no more than 13 minutes per game in any season, but the Bucks took a chance on him here with the last pick. This is a developmental prospect, but given he is already 22, it is a shot in the dark for Milwaukee hoping for another Greek God in the draft. Given the NBA Championship that was won a few weeks ago, Coach Budenholzer did not necessarily need a great night tonight, so it is hard to scrutinize anything they did. The roster they have to begin with should compete for another trophy, but this selection will not be a factor on that journey.
National Basketball Association
Round 1 Selection: Terrence Clarke, SG, Kentucky Wildcats
At the conclusion of the lottery, Adam Silver and the NBA provided an incredible tribute to Terrence Clarke who tragically passed away in April after a car accident. As usual, Silver conducted himself with tremendous composure and a heartfelt tribute to the Clarke family by officially selecting Clarke on behalf of the NBA. Clarke had an incredibly bright future ahead of him and we would like to offer his family our deepest condolences. Thank you to Adam Silver and the NBA for putting time aside to recognize a player who undoubtedly would have had his name called tonight.
New York Knicks
R1, P25: Quentin Grimes, SG, Houston Cougars
R2, P34: Rokas Jokubaitis, PG, Lithuania
R2, P36: Miles McBride, PG, West Virginia Mountaineers
R2, P58: Jericho Sims, PF/C, Texas Longhorns
After picking and trading their picks at number 19 and 21, the Knicks finally kept their pick in Quentin Grimes with the 25th pick. Here, they find a tremendous shotmaker with natural scoring ability a high release point. Grimes is also an aggressive defender who developed considerably under Kelvin Sampson after spending a season with Bill Self at Kansas. It is difficult to play for two better coaches than that in college and Grimes will be a perfect fit in New York. They needed a shotmaking guard who will not lower the defensive intensity level that they implemented under Tom Thibodeau last season, and they got just that in Grimes.
Thibodeau also adds a crafty, playmaking point guard in Jokubaitis to add much needed depth to his backcourt. It was a little surprising to see him drafted above Jared Butler, Ayo Dosunmu, and Sharife Cooper, but there is no denying the natural skill and craftiness of Jokubaitis here. Miles McBride was our highest rated of the four picks and gives them a potential starter and huge sleeper in the second round. McBride and Thibs have one thing in common, both played under Coach Bob Huggins, and both had a defense first mentality instilled into their games. The Knicks needed some depth at every position, and they found just that in the backcourt with Jokubaitis and McBride. The Knicks also waited until the last possible moment to get frontcourt depth and found a steal in rim kisser Jericho Sims. A bouncy and athletic big man who should reinforce the frontcourt with Nerlens Noel likely headed out the door. This is an underrated draft class, and they were also able to obtain future assets by trading back. The philosophy was obviously that the talent in the range 15-20 picks later than where they drafted was very strong, however, the players that were taken at the picks they gave away were both extremely high upside and the Knicks may ultimately regret moving them.
R1, P5: Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga Bulldogs
R1, P8: Franz Wagner, SF/PF, Michigan Wolverines
After Scottie Barnes went to the Raptors at number 4, the Magic couldn;t wait to get their pick in at the 5th spot. Sometimes a gift falls into your lap, and that’s exactly what happened as Suggs has top pick ability. Suggs is a fierce competitor, an elite passer, and an aggressive playmaker who can lead and lift up everyone around him. There are few other players who I would choose above Suggs to build my team around simply because of his energy and ability to create for everyone around him on the drive. Suggs, who could be seen as a “controlled Westbrook” probably shoots it a little better than advertised and defends a little worse than advertised, but he’s a kid that will certainly work hard to iron out the wrinkles in his game, He can still improve his perimeter shooting, but if he does, he will be an absolute star and a consistent all-star in this league. Orlando has their franchise talent, who will bring the firepower on offense, but the next pick, Franz Wagner, figures to be a standout for the Magic defensively. Most of Wagner’s value offensively comes with movement off the ball, so he should love playing alongside Suggs who can make any pass at any given moment. The Magic needed a ton of reinforcement defensively and they get a tough nosed backcourt defender in Suggs and a versatile frontcourt defender in Wagner who can immediately change the team’s defensive identity.
R1, P28: Jaden Springer, SG, Tennessee Volunteers
R2, P50: Filip Petrusev, PF/C, Serbia
R2, P53: Charles Bassey, PF/C, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Springer projects to be a rotational defensive player for the Sixers and is a player who was a lot higher on draft boards earlier in the year. He has offensive potential, but his value comes from his defensive tenacity, and he should immediately jump into the rotation in Philadelphia to continue their defensive dominance when their stars are off the court. Paired with Matisse Thybulle off the bench, these two could lock down opposing teams to protect leads while their stars get a rest. This is the best possible fit for Springer and a decent role player addition for Doc Rivers and the Philly faithful.
I really like both late selections for the Sixers. Petrusev shined primarily in the paint at Gonzaga with impeccable touch around the rim but expanded his game beyond the arc and shot over 40% from three-point range after his move to Serbia while averaging over 23 points per game. Charles Bassey came a few picks later and is more of a traditional big as a dominating rebounder and rim-protector, but also showed he can shoot the three as a junior. I love the long term potential of Petrusev and if he is a stash pick, Bassey can perform the much needed role of rotational big man in the meantime. Philly needed depth at center, and even if Petrusev is not ready right away, Bassey is a first-round talent and a steal at pick 53.
R1, P4: Scottie Barnes, PF/SF, Florida State Seminoles
R2, P46: Dalano Banton, PG/SG, Nebraska Cornhuskers
R2, P47: David Johnson, SG/PG, Louisville Cardinals
There were rumors that the Raptors were taking a long, hard look at Barnes instead of the favorite Jalen Suggs, and these rumors turned out to be right. Toronto went for arguably the best defender in the draft and a difference maker, Draymond Green/Ben Simmons type, with his aggressive defense and playmaking ability as a point forward. His shooting needs to improve, but Barnes can still be a star without it due to his versatility and strength on the defensive end. The frontcourt combination of Barnes, Siakam, and Anunoby can shut down any team in the league and will cause fits night in and night out next season for whoever has to go up against them. The Raptors also added depth in the back court in the middle of the second round with two talented playmakers and passers in Banton and Johnson. The major shake up tonight is of course choosing Barnes over Suggs, but only time will tell if this was the right selection. No matter what, the Raptors frontcourt will be less than inviting and a steep challenge for any team in the NBA.
R1, P15: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Wizards shocked everyone prior to the start of the draft by trading Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, but regarding their actual draft picks, they found themselves the best shooter in the draft in Corey Kispert. The former Bulldog is incredible from beyond the arc and potentially even better cutting off the ball. Alongside Beal, Kispert and the Wizards will be able to shoot the lights out from beyond the arc as they adapt to a more perimeter-centric style of play without Westbrook and adding Kispert, Kuzma and KCP. It is hard to argue with drafting the best shooter in the draft, so I love this pick for the Wizards who are trying to surround Beal with as much talent and shooting as they can.