Tempting 2021 Draft Prospects NBA's Worst Teams Should Avoid
Drafting the best player available makes sense if that player can maximize his potential within his NBA team's roster and system.
Certain prospects may need a specific role in order to take off. And some lineups should want to steer clear of a prospect whose weaknesses could amplify a team's problems.
For these teams in the bottom 10 of the projected lottery standings, we identified a prospect whom general managers should avoid because of questions about fit and clashing styles.
The 2021 draft lottery will take place June 22, while the draft is scheduled for July 29.
Avoid: Jalen Green
Green's identity: Explosive scorer
Cons to Green: Isolation-heavy, pull-up happy
Teams interested in Jalen Green will be picturing a potent scorer who can create his own offense. But he's not what the Minnesota Timberwolves need after they drafted Anthony Edwards and re-signed Malik Beasley.
Green is similarly pull-up happy, prefers one-on-one, takes tough shots and isn't a great playmaker.
There wouldn't be enough passing or defense with a lineup of D'Angelo Russell, Green, Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. Jalen Suggs and Cade Cunningham should be targets for the Wolves, who'd value their reputations as two-way players with more versatility and better track records of elevating the play of their teammates.
Houston Rockets: Keon Johnson
Avoid: Keon Johnson
Johnson's identity: Two-way energizer with room to grow offensively
Cons to Johnson: Limited creator and shooter
The Houston Rockets can't go wrong if they land a top-five pick. Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga would all fit. They have to be careful if bad luck strikes during the lottery.
The Rockets could be tempted by Johnson's explosiveness and theoretical upside. But he's too raw and unpolished for a team that ranks No. 27 in offense and 29th in three-point shooting.
Johnson graded in the 21st percentile as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and shot just 13-of-48 from deep in 27 games. He can provide athletic and hustle plays and defense right away, but the Rockets already have Jae'Sean Tate, a similar lower-skill, high-energy player.
Avoid: Jonathan Kuminga
Kuminga's identity: Combo-forward scorer
Cons to Kuminga: Isolation-heavy, shooting, defensive motor
Assuming the Detroit Pistons value Saddiq Bey's shooting, there isn't much room for Kuminga, who left the G League bubble at 24.6 percent from three with 35 assists to 34 turnovers.
He'll draw top-five interest from teams that picture him as a scoring mismatch at 6'8", 220 pounds, with the skills to create and shot-make. But unless the Pistons have plans to trade Jerami Grant, Kuminga isn't a fit for a team that needs savvy guard play and creation, perimeter firepower or a centerpiece at the 5.
Any of the other four projected top-five picks—Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green—would be more useful to Detroit.
Orlando Magic: Scottie Barnes
Avoid: Scottie Barnes
Barnes' identity: Defensive specialist, playmaking 4
Cons to Barnes: Limited creation and shooting
The Orlando Magic front office has been drawn to long frontcourt players. It'll want to avoid one this year in Scottie Barnes, a limited scorer for a team that needs offense (No. 28 in NBA).
The 6'9", 227-pound Barnes projects as a defensive-minded playmaking 4, but his inability to create for himself or shoot is problematic for Orlando. The Magic also already have Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac, who is expected to return from injury in 2021-22.
Barnes would be best off on a team already equipped with scorers and shot-makers that could optimize his glue-guy versatility. The Magic aren't that team after trading Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier.
Avoid: Davion Mitchell
Mitchell's identity: Defensive specialist, offensive spark
Cons to Mitchell: Questionable upside
Davion Mitchell may suddenly look tempting to a number of lottery teams after Baylor's national title run. He makes the least sense for the Washington Wizards, however.
Despite giving off more NBA-ready vibes, he won't move the needle enough for Washington's roster. Early on, he'd serve as an energy player off the bench behind Russell Westbrook. And considering he'll be 23 years old as a rookie, history suggests his upside won't reach star levels.
As badly as the Wizards front office has tried to make Washington competitive and keep Bradley Beal happy, it needs to think long-term past Westbrook's contract. There should be younger players with higher ceilings than Mitchell, who may realistically project as a Marcus Smart-type energy cog with his defense and shot-making.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley
Avoid: Evan Mobley
Mobley's identity: Defensive big with offensive upside
Cons to Mobley: Same position as Jarrett Allen, longer NBA-ready timetable
Mobley is clearly one of the class' top prospects, but there are others in his draft tier who'd make more sense for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland just acquired Jarrett Allen in January as part of the four-team trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, and he is one of the franchise's strongest building blocks and appears to be on the verge of breaking out into his prime.
The Cavaliers are also No. 29 in the league in offense, and Mobley—who's just 210 pounds at 7'0", registered a pedestrian 14.5 rebounding percentage and shot 15-of-40 from the post for USC—will need time to offer more scoring versatility and physicality.
The Cavaliers could try playing Mobley at the 4, given his touch and budding face-up game. But he isn't ready to play from behind the arc, and a team built around Darius Garland and Collin Sexton will need more spacing, particularly if it plans on using Isaac Okoro for over 30 minutes per game.
Cleveland may be better off with Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green as wings or with Jonathan Kuminga at the 4.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Avoid: Franz Wagner
Wagner's identity: Swiss army knife
Cons of Wagner: Limited creator, questionable shooter
Wagner could be a valuable role player for a handful of teams. The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't one of them, at least not at the moment.
Last in the NBA in offense, the Thunder could use a more threatening scorer and playmaker for their starting lineup. And the 6'9" Michigan product will want to be surrounded by creators and shot-makers.
He's an excellent defender, but he struggles to generate his own offense. Wagner should prefer going to a more established franchise like the Golden State Warriors or Indiana Pacers, where he could play to his versatility and off more veteran talent.
Toronto Raptors: Corey Kispert
Avoid: Corey Kispert
Kispert's identity: Shooter
Cons to Kispert: Lack of upside, versatility
Corey Kispert soared into this year's lottery conversation with elite three-point shooting (44 percent), scoring production (18.6 points per game) and overall efficiency for Gonzaga. Some team will overvalue him, and it shouldn't be the Toronto Raptors, who'll want to swing bigger.
They aren't a role player or two away from getting back into contention. If Toronto lands a top-10 pick, drafting a 22-year-old who doesn't create or project as a defensive asset won't be a reasonable decision.
The Raptors also seem set at the forward spots with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. As enticing as the Joe Harris comparisons may be for Kispert, there are higher-upside gambles (with similar risk) who are worth taking.
Sacramento Kings: James Bouknight
Avoid: James Bouknight
Bouknight's identity: Scorer
Cons to Bouknight: Ball-dominant, limited defensive value
A down year from Buddy Hield could make a scorer like Bouknight more attractive to the Sacramento Kings. But unless they have a high level of confidence that he's the best player available, they should steer clear.
With his ball-dominant style, Bouknight isn't a good fit in a rotation that features De'Aaron Fox. UConn's go-to weapon averaged just 1.8 assists per game and ranked in the 14th percentile as a spot-up player, missing 14 of his 15 non-dribble jumpers in those situations.
The Kings are also the NBA's worst defensive team, and Bouknight won't make them any tougher to score on. Sacramento should look for two-way wings, forwards and bigs to play off Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. Those two figure to average 30-plus minutes per game together for the foreseeable future.
New Orleans Pelicans
Avoid: Cameron Thomas
Thomas' identity: Scoring specialist
Cons to Thomas: No defense or playmaking
The New Orleans Pelicans may acknowledge their need to upgrade the shooting guard position. They shouldn't draft Thomas just to fill that need, however. Already top-10 in offense, New Orleans could use another defensive-minded player for its core. And Thomas' provided minimal defensive resistance or effort at LSU.
He's strictly a scorer who hunts for his own shot, offering nothing as a playmaker. He averaged 17.2 field-goal attempts on 31.6 percent usage with just 1.4 assists in 34.0 minutes per game.
Thomas is the type of scoring specialist who can be useful for certain teams, but the Pelicans have plenty of firepower and rank No. 28 in defense. Franz Wagner, Keon Johnson and Moses Moody are better fits.