Grading the 2021 NBA Draft (8/5/21)

2021 NBA Draft Odds: Cade Cunningham Massive Favorite to Be No. 1 Pick

(I’m prefacing this article by telling you that I’m not highly knowledgeable on the guys in this draft class. I’ve done some research (I’ve read articles, watched videos, listened to podcasts, etc.), but the big thing is that I haven’t watched many of these guys play a lot. Therefore, if my opinion is a little wack, forgive me. This is just for fun.)

We are now a week past the 2021 NBA Draft. After watching it live and having all the initial reactions, I’ve thought about it more to make sure I have the most accurate grades I can give out as a draft casual. So without further ado, I’m gonna give a grade to each team for how they did on draft night. 

Atlanta Hawks

Draftees: Jalen Johnson (20th), Sharife Cooper (48th)

Jalen Johnson is supposed to be kind of a project. He’s athletic and has a versatile playstyle, but is inconsistent (especially as a shooter). I’ve heard he’s a lottery level talent, so maybe that’s why the Hawks drafted him. But, especially if John Collins returns (he probably will), then this pick wasn’t great. Jalen could struggle to get consistent playing time this year, which won’t help his development.

I’ve heard good things about Sharife Cooper. Lots of people were really surprised he fell so low. He’s one the best passers in the draft (if not the best). His jumpshot will need to improve (23% from three in college) if he wants to become a consistent rotational guy in the NBA.

Grade: B-

Boston Celtics

Draftee: Juhann Begarin (45th)

I didn’t know who this guy was when he got drafted. After a little research, I found out he’s a raw athletic dude with some upside. What impressed me the most is he is just 6’4”, but has a 7 foot wingspan. He could become a great defender with length like that. Because of that upside, and because he was just the 45th pick, then this was a solid pick for Boston.

Grade: B

Brooklyn Nets

Draftees: Cam Thomas (27th), Day’Ron Sharpe (29th), Kessler Edwards (44th), Marcus Zegarowski (49th), RaiQuan Gray (59th)

Cam Thomas might be the best pure scorer that got drafted. He averaged 23 points in college. I thought he was gonna get drafted higher. He adds even more scoring to the Nets offensive armada. 

Day’Ron Sharpe is a classic paint presence center. The Nets kinda needed that (especially if they look to move on from DeAndre Jordan, so he’s a good pickup at the end of the first round.

Marcus Zegarowski is Michael Carter-Williams’s brother. But, unlike his brother, Marcus can shoot. 

Grade: B+

Charlotte Hornets

Draftees: James Bouknight (11th), Kai Jones (19th), JT Thor (37th), Scottie Lewis (56th)

James Bouknight can score. Lots of mocks projected him going top ten, so the Hornets getting him at 11 is a steal. With Malik Monk becoming an unrestricted free agent (Charlotte isn’t giving him the qualifying offer), Bouknight can fill the scoring guard role. He’ll be able to develop behind Terry Rozier, and then slide next to LaMelo in the backcourt when Rozier leaves. 

Before Bouknight fell to them, I had Charlotte taking Kai Jones at eleven. He fills their biggest position of need (center), and fills it well. He’s very athletic, and will be a serious threat with LaMelo throwing him lobs. He can even kind of shoot. Imagine transition with LaMelo pushing the ball with both Kai and Miles Bridges available for lobs. Woah. 

JT Thor seems like he could be one of the best second round picks. He’s another strong athlete, and dunks the ball a lot. He’s a versatile defender and can defend the rim. He has a nice looking jumper and could become a good NBA shooter. I like this pick. 

Scottie Lewis is another high motor athlete who plays good defense. He has room to grow on offense, but for the 56th pick, he brings good value. 

Great draft for Charlotte. They were one of my favorite teams to watch last year, and I think they’ll be even more fun this year. More competitive as well.

Grade: A

Chicago Bulls

Draftee: Ayo Dosunmu (38th)

Maybe this is me being a draft casual, but I was surprised Ayo didn’t go in the first round. He was a top player in college (Consensus All-American, Wooden Award finalist, and Big Ten Tournament MVP in the 2021 season), and nothing I saw suggested he couldn’t be good in the NBA. 

Ayo is a 6’5” point guard with a 6’10” wingspan. He’s a floor general. He’s crafty, and gets to the hoop. He’s a solid shooter and defender. It seems like Ayo is a pretty good player, and getting him at 38th is awesome for Chicago. I think he’ll be a good fit with the Bulls. 

Grade: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers

Draftee: Evan Mobley (3rd)

Evan Mobley is far and away the best big in this draft class. He does basically everything. He’s a beast in the paint on both ends of the floor. His shot looks good for a seven-footer. He even has some passing vision. He can (and probably will) be a very special player in the league one day. 

Grade: A

Denver Nuggets

Draftee: Bones Hyland (26th)

Nah’son “Bones” Hyland is a bucket. He’s one of the best shooters in the draft. He can score off dribble and off the catch. He can get to the basket. He’s not really a playmaker, but he should do great in a Lou Williams type role. The Nuggets bench could use more offensive firepower, and Bones adds that. I like this pick for the Nuggets. 

Grade: B+

Detroit Pistons

Draftees: Cade Cunningham (1st), Isaiah Livers (42nd), Luka Garza (52nd), Balsa Koprivica (57th)

Detroit got their guy. Cade Cunningham is a Detroit Piston. I think he’s gonna be special. He scores at all three levels. He’s a playmaker. The Pistons get an A for this pick alone. Not because it was some sort of steal (Cade was the obvious guy), but because Cade is a gamechanger for them. 

The second round picks were solid as well. Isaiah Livers is a sniper. He’s an older rookie, so he’ll be more NBA ready. Luka Garza was one of the best college players last season, but fell to 52nd because many question how well his game will translate to the NBA. Because he was picked so low, it’s no big deal if he doesn’t pan out. 

Grade: A half a plus

Golden State Warriors

Draftees: Jonathan Kuminga (7th), Moses Moody (14th)

In terms of talent, getting Jonathan Kuminga at seven is a steal. He was projected around five or six. Excellent value for the Warriors. Kuminga will need a little more development than other top picks, but I trust the Warriors staff to make sure he reaches his potential. However, I am slightly worried that Kuminga might not get the ball touches/playing time he needs this year because the Warriors want to be competitive. 

Moses Moody is another great value pick for Golden State, as he was projected to be taken in the top ten. He is ready to come to the Warriors and make an immediate impact as a scorer and a defender. 

Grade: A

Houston Rockets

Draftees: Jalen Green (2nd), Alperen Sengun (16th), Usman Garuba (23rd), Josh Christopher (24th)

I’m sure the Rockets really wanted Cade, but Jalen Green is still a great player. He has a super high upside because he does it all. He’s athletic. He’s a scorer (although his jumpshot isn’t the most consistent at the moment). He’s a solid defender and playmaker. If all goes well, he should become an All-Star one day (or better). He’ll have the freedom to do so while in Houston. 

Alperen Sengun looks pretty good. He’s got a very good low post game. He has good pass vision for a big man. He’s not a good shooter, but his free throw shooting (81% on 6 attempts per game in Turkey) suggests he could add a jumper one day. 

Usman Garuba is an energy dude who can defend multiple positions. His offense needs to catch up to his defense, but I like his upside. 

Josh Christopher is a scorer. We’ll see if he can add anything else to his game. 

Grade: A-

Indiana Pacers

Draftees: Chris Duarte (13th), Isaiah Jackson (22nd)

Chris Duarte is as old as it gets for a rookie (he’s 24). That limits his upside a little, but he can play right now. If there’s one thing he can do, it’s shoot. He shot 42% on 5 attempts at Oregon. That’s really good. With Doug McDdermott gone, Duarte should fit in nicely as the sniper off the bench.

Isaiah Jackson is one of the best rim protectors in the draft. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game for Kentucky. He’ll be the Pacers backup center this season (I’m not high on Goga Bitadze), and he could slide in as the starter when Myles Turner leaves one day.

I like this draft for the Pacers.

Grade: B+

Los Angeles Clippers

Draftees: Keon Johnson (21st), Jason Preston (33rd), Brandon Boston Jr. (51st)

I was surprised that Keon Johnson fell so low. I thought he was gonna go in the top fifteen. His fit with the Clippers is a bit iffy for me because he’s a project player. He’s super athletic (his 48 inch vertical leap is an all-time NBA record), and he’s a great defender, but his offense needs work. I would have liked him better with a rebuilding team, but that doesn’t mean he’s gonna be bad for the Clippers. 

I like Jason Preston as a player. He’s a floor general. He’s a shooter. He rebounds well for a guard (7 per game in college). I think he’s gonna come in and make an impact for the Clippers this year. 

Brandon Boston was a five star recruit coming out of high school, but he wasn’t that good at Kentucky (35% from the field, 30% from three). Taking him at 51st is a low risk, high reward type of situation. If he doesn’t do anything, then it’s no biggie, but if he becomes a solid player then this pick would look great. 

Grade: B

Los Angeles Lakers

Draftees: None

Although the Lakers didn’t have a draft pick, they signed undrafted rookie Joel Ayayi to a contract right after the draft. He is 3&D type of player, which a LeBron led team could always use. Good signing.

Grade: B+

Memphis Grizzlies

Draftees: Ziaire Williams (10th), Santi Aldama (30th)

Ziaire Williams, another project player, might have been a bit of a reach at 10. I like his potential though. He’s another high flying athlete. He shot just 29% from three in college, but his shot looks good and I think he’ll become a consistent shooter. He plays defense. If all works out, he’ll become a long term contributor for Memphis. I’m just not sure if a project was the right choice with Ja ready to win now. 

I don’t know a thing about Santi Aldama. I hadn’t even heard his name when he got drafted. Go out and make me learn your name, Santi. 

Grade: C+

Milwaukee Bucks

Draftees: Sandro Mamukelashvili (54th), Georgios Kalaitzakis (60th)

Maybe it’s just because I’m a Bucks fan, but I’m high on Sandro Mamukelashvili (Mamu). He’s a 6’10” center, but he can dribble, drive, shoot, score in the post, and playmake. He does it all. I’m gassed to watch him play. Even if he doesn’t work out, he was just the 54th pick and it’s no big deal.

Grade: B+

New York Knicks

Draftees: Quentin Grimes (25th), Rokas Jokubaitis (34th), Miles McBride (36th), Jericho Sims (58th)

Quentin Grimes is a top scorer in this draft class. He shot 40% from three on 8 attempts in college (which is ridiculously good). He can also play off the dribble. He adds another offensive weapon to a Knicks roster that already has Alec Burks and Evan Fournier.

Before the Bucks traded the 31st pick, I wanted them to draft Miles McBride there. After the draft combine, he had some first round buzz around his name. He can shoot, playmake, and defend. He’s a complete player that will make a winning impact for the Knicks this year. 

Jericho Sims catches a lot of lobs, and blocks some shots. He’ll be some insurance if the Knicks move on from Mitchell Robinson one day.

Grade: B+

New Orleans Pelicans

Draftees: Trey Murphy III (17th), Herb Jones (35th)

Trey Murphy is a top 3&D prospect in this draft class. He’ll help the Pelicans out right away.

Herb Jones is a versatile defender going to a team that struggled on defense last season.

Grade: B+

Oklahoma City Thunder

Draftees: Josh Giddey (6th), Tre Mann (18th), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (32nd), Aaron Wiggins (55th)

The biggest surprise of the draft is Josh Giddey at six. He was a projected lottery pick, but six was high. It still might end up being too high, but he’s a good player and fits in with OKC. He’s a 6’8” point guard who can really playmake. He can get to the basket. His jumpshot is still a work in progress, but it will probably come around. He’s just 19, so he has plenty of time to grow.

Tre Mann is another bucket. He can create his own shot. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (JRE) can rebound, score inside, and dribble/drive some. He could become a solid outside shooter. Aaron Wiggins can score, and I think he was a good value pick at 55. 

Grade: A-

Orlando Magic

Draftees: Jalen Suggs (5th), Franz Wagner (8th)

Jalen Suggs was a top four talent that fell to the Magic at five. He’s a true point guard with excellent pass vision. He can score. He’s a good defender. He’s got the potential to be an All-Star in this league. My one nitpick with this pick is Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, and RJ Hampton are already on Orlando’s roster. One of those guys is not gonna get the minutes they deserve. However, the Magic did the right thing by grabbing the best player available.

Franz Wagner is a do-it-all combo forward. He’ll be a great glue guy in the NBA. He would fit in with any team, and Orlando is no different. 

Grade: A-

Philadelphia 76ers

Draftees: Jaden Springer (28th), Filip Petrusev (50th), Charles Bassey (53rd)

Jaden Springer is a solid player. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in this draft. He can also score the ball from all three levels. He should be able to help Philadelphia win right away.

Petrusev and Bassey give Philadelphia more depth at the center position. Charles Bassey is more intriguing to me than Petrusev. He protects the rim at a high level (3 blocks per game in his third year at Western Kentucky), he rebounds, and can even shoot the ball a little (32% from three in his college career). 

Grade: B

Portland Trail Blazers

Draftee: Greg Brown (43rd)

Greg Brown might be the best second round pick. He’s a 6’9” high-flying athlete. He catches a ton of lobs. He’s quick for his size, and has the potential to guard multiple positions. His shot is smooth, and he could become a good shooter in the NBA. He’s probably not going to have the biggest impact right away, but I like his potential a lot. 

Grade: A-

Sacramento Kings

Draftees: Davion Mitchell (9th), Neemias Queta (39th)

Davion Mitchell is one of the more NBA ready prospects in this class. He showed that in his summer league debut. He’s a scorer, a playmaker, and a defender. The problem with this pick is not Davion as a player. It’s his fit in Sacramento. 

As long as De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are in Sacramento, it is unlikely that Davion Mitchell will start. It doesn’t make sense to use your top ten pick on a backup. I think Sacramento should have taken a wing. 

Neemias Queta is a good rim protecting center (3.3 blocks per game in his last season in college), but he joins a crowded Sacramento frontcourt rotation with Richaun Holmes, Marvin Bagley, Tristan Thompson, Damian Jones, and Chimezie Metu. 

Grade: C+

San Antonio Spurs

Draftees: Joshua Primo (12th), Joe Wieskamp (41st)

Coming in close second behind Giddey for biggest surprise pick is Joshua Primo. Josh was a projected second round pick (maybe late first round), but he was taken at 12 by the Spurs. He’s the youngest player in this class, therefore he has solid upside, but I don’t think we’ll know why the Spurs made this pick for a while. I trust Gregg Popovich to help Josh reach his full potential.

Joe Wieskamp adds shooting to a roster that was dead last in three point makes and attempts in the 2021 season. 

Grade: B

Toronto Raptors

Draftees: Scottie Barnes (4th), Dalano Barton (46th), David Johnson (47th)

Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs was a surprise for a lot of people, but I like the pick. I think Scottie Barnes can be really solid in this league. He’s not really a scorer, but he does everything else. I think a Ben Simmons comparison would be reasonable for Scottie. He’s a 6’9” forward, but has point guard skills. He’s the most versatile defender in this class. As a bonus, things I’ve seen on social media suggest Scottie loves Toronto. 

I know nothing about the second round picks. Sorry 🙂

Grade: B+ 

Utah Jazz

Draftee: Jared Butler (40th)

As one of the older rookies in the class, Jared Butler doesn’t have as much upside as other guys, but that’s not what the Jazz needed. They need players to help push them over the hump, and Jared is that. He’s a smart player who can shoot the ball. He’s a winner who will help the Jazz right away. I’m surprised he fell so low in the draft.

Grade: A-

Washington Wizards

Draftees: Corey Kispert (15th), Isaiah Todd (31st)

If the Wizards are trying to win while Bradley Beal is around (I think they are), then Corey Kispert will be able to help. He’s the best shooter in the draft class. He doesn’t do too much else, but elite shooting is very valuable in the NBA and Kispert will have a long career because of it. 

Isaiah Todd is a 6’10” forward with a nice jumpshot who can score at all three levels. However, with Rui Hachimura and Kyle Kuzma on the roster, Isaiah may not be able to reach his full potential in Washington.

Grade: B

So, those are my grades for the 2021 NBA draft! Sorry it took so long. Do you agree with my grades? Let me know! See you next time!

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