Best and Worst Landing Spots for Every Projected 2021 NBA Lottery Pick

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJune 3, 2021

Best and Worst Landing Spots for Every Projected 2021 NBA Lottery Pick

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Landing with the right team out of the NBA draft can expedite a player's development. The wrong fit could derail it.

    Defined roles and early playing time helped jump-start the careers of Saddiq Bey and Desmond Bane. Obi Toppin struggled this season mostly spotting up in limited minutes behind Julius Randle.

    Based on the strengths and weaknesses of lottery prospects, plus the roster of their potential suitors, we picked the best and least desirable destinations for each one. 

    We only picked teams that we deemed to have a realistic chance to select each prospect based on lottery odds.

Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State, PG/SG, Freshman)

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    Jerry Larson/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Cade Cunningham appears ready for a featured workload, and he'd get it in Oklahoma City for a franchise loaded with draft picks and young players.

    Still, defenses couldn't load up on Cunningham alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They'd form one of the league's bigger, most versatile backcourts, with Luguentz Dort playing the Marcus Smart-like role from either wing spot. 

    Throw in Aleksej Pokusevski, whose potential could make him one of the league's most unique players, plus all the picks Oklahoma City has at its disposal for drafting or trading, and Oklahoma City should offer Cunningham an attractive mix of freedom, support and assets to rebuild.


    Worst landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers

    The Cavaliers need Cunningham, but does he want Cleveland?

    The roster already has high-usage ball-handlers in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. Cunningham would naturally be forced into more spot-up possessions, playing away from his strengths as an advanced creator, scorer and playmaker. 

    He'd either have to push Garland into a sixth-man role or play the wing and move Isaac Okoro to power forward. Regardless, even with Cunningham, the Cavaliers' ceiling appears capped unless the team makes a surprise trade or free-agent signing.

    Cleveland isn't owed any future first-rounders, and it's tough to feel confident in what kind of return the team would get in a Garland or Sexton deal.

Evan Mobley (USC, C, Freshman)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Toronto Raptors 

    The Raptors have a 31.9 percent chance at jumping into the top four, and Evan Mobley will need it to happen to land in the best situation. 

    Even if Kyle Lowry signs elsewhere, Toronto is well equipped for a quick turnaround, particularly if it's able to add Mobley's defense and scoring versatility from the center position. 

    Opponents would have a difficult time finishing against a frontcourt that includes Mobley, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. 

    Mobley would ultimately receive an opportunity to start for a team with established talent and a short path back toward the playoffs.


    Worst landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Unless the Cavaliers are willing to let Jarrett Allen leave in free agency, drafting Mobley would mean the team plans on squeezing him in at power forward. 

    It's a fit easier to picture long term when Mobley is more reliable from outside. In the short term, there wouldn't be great spacing with Allen and Mobley for a team that just finished last in three-point percentage.

    Even if the Cavaliers did prioritize Mobley and move on from Allen, the Cavaliers have an offense that ranked No. 28 this season, and a front office with limited trade assets and no extra first-round picks. 

Jalen Green (G League Ignite, SG, 2002)

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    Best landing spot: Houston Rockets

    Houston has room and a need for a scorer like Jalen Green. He wouldn't have to adjust much, as he'd settle right into a high-usage role for a roster that could use what he offers.

    John Wall still being there wouldn't be bad for Green, who could use a veteran to take decision-making responsibilities for the offense. Green should still have plenty of freedom to unleash his improved creation skills while providing the lineup with a player who can generate his own offense, both in transition and from three levels in the half court. 

    He could play loose for a franchise that won't be expected to win soon after the James Harden trade, which the Rockets made to collect future picks for their rebuild.


    Worst landing spot: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Green would have a tough time maximizing his potential based on his projected usage in a lineup with multiple scoring guards. He's far more comfortable pulling up for shots than spotting up, which is what he'd be doing next to Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in Cleveland.

    He'd also be forced to guard small forwards, assuming the Cavaliers aren't interested in Sexton running the point and moving Garland to the bench. 

Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga, PG, Freshman)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Chicago Bulls 

    Jalen Suggs should be rooting for the Bulls' 20.3 percent chance of jumping into the top four. Otherwise, they'll lose their pick to the Orlando Magic, and Suggs loses a chance to start in a favorable situation. 

    The Bulls could move Coby White into the sixth man role and use Suggs next to Zach LaVine. Chicago could use the Gonzaga star's ability to get downhill or create open shots for teammates in transition.

    His athleticism, passing and defense are better suited for Chicago's starting lineup than White's streaky shot-making. 


    Worst landing spot: Detroit Pistons

    Suggs would play 2-guard in Detroit, which he can do for stretches. But he wouldn't be a great fit alongside Killian Hayes, a limited shooter.

    Suggs didn't attempt or make too many threes at Gonzaga (35-of-104 in 30 games). But he'd also need to rely on self-creation more with the Pistons, and his handle in the half court needs more work than the other lottery guards.

Jonathan Kuminga (G League Ignite, SF/PF, 2002)

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    Best landing spot: Sacramento Kings

    For Jonathan Kuminga, Sacramento would be a favorable landing spot because he could play big minutes without having too heavy a workload.

    The offense will continue to revolve around De'Aaron Fox, while Tyrese Haliburton's decision-making and passing should make the game easier for Kuminga. He should be able to start and give the lineup a mismatch at both forward spots, either with his strength and athleticism on the wing or his perimeter creation from the 4. 

    Buddy Hield seems upgradeable (and a sixth-man fit) and Marvin Bagley III can't stay healthy, so Kuminga shouldn't be too worried about a logjam. He could join a lineup with a set backcourt of two strong cornerstones and a need for scoring versatility up front.


    Worst landing spot: Detroit Pistons

    With Saddiq Bey and Jerami Grant locked into the forward spots in Detroit, there isn't room for Kuminga. 

    He's not an easy fit for the Pistons' lineup, while the team's lack of a veteran guard play could make it tougher for Kuminga to get comfortable early. He'd be forced to create too much, and we saw in the bubble that he could struggle with inefficiency based on his shot selection, decision-making and shooting.

Keon Johnson (Tennessee, SG, Freshman)

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: New Orleans Pelicans

    The New Orleans Pelicans have young stars and a need to plug role-player gaps with impact, low-maintenance players. Johnson fits that description and would give the lineup an explosive slasher and perimeter defender.

    Raw offensively at 19 years, he could play to his strengths early off the bench, providing athleticism and energy in a spark role. Eventually, Johnson can leapfrog or replace Eric Bledsoe to play off Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

    The lineup would value his off-ball scoring and defensive pressure.


    Worst landing spot: Orlando Magic

    Orlando had the league's second-worst offense, and Johnson's skill level is behind Cole Anthony's and RJ Hampton's. 

    He'd come off the bench for a rotation that needs playmaking and shot-making, and Johnson isn't equipped to deliver either at an above-average rate soon.

Scottie Barnes (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: San Antonio Spurs

    Scottie Barnes may want to fall a few spots in the draft if it means landing in San Antonio. Assuming DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay aren't Spurs long term, the team figures to move forward with Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell on the wings, and Barnes could add needed passing to the Spurs frontcourt.

    He'd be a strong fit as a playmaking 4 between Johnson and Jakob Poeltl. 

    It would also be fun to see San Antonio's team defense with Vassell and Barnes on the floor at the same time. Between Vassell's shooting and Barnes' ball-handling and vision, they'd work well together offensively while making it difficult for opposing forwards to get clean looks.


    Worst landing spot: Orlando Magic 

    Barnes has trouble creating his own shot and shooting. A poor offensive team as it is, the Magic would really struggle to score with three of Barnes, Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke, Mohamed Bamba or Wendell Carter Jr. on the floor at the same time.

    The Magic already have multiple, versatile bigs, and though it can't hurt to have more, Barnes wouldn't see starter minutes or the right supporting cast for his offensive limitations. 

Moses Moody (Arkansas, SG, Freshman)

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    Michael Woods/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: New Orleans Pelicans 

    The Orlando Magic wouldn't be a bad landing spot, but the Pelicans are too far ahead roster-wise, and they could also offer a sizable role that suits his skill set.

    With an offense already built around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, Moody could play to his strengths as an off-ball shot-maker. He doesn't need many dribbles to score, a valuable trait for a 2-guard in a lineup that already has multiple go-to options. 

    The Pelicans could use his shooting off spot-ups and screens for offense and spacing.


    Worst landing spot: San Antonio Spurs

    Moody fits everywhere, but he could get lost in the shuffle in San Antonio, where the Spurs are trying to develop Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell. It could be two to three seasons before Moody would see consistent playing time, depending on how San Antonio handles free agency. 

    There would be redundancy between Moody and Vassell, and Vassell figures to have an edge for minutes being the one who the Spurs drafted first.

Davion Mitchell (Baylor, PG/SG, Junior)

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Golden State Warriors

    The Warriors would have use for Davion Mitchell's ball-handling and explosiveness, and his improved shooting and experience playing off the ball should suit him well in Golden State.

    He could play alongside the interchangeable Stephen Curry, or he could run the Golden State's second unit as Curry ages into his mid-30s. 

    Regardless, he'd play a valuable energizer role with his defensive intensity and knack for catching fire from blow-by drives and streaky shot-making.


    Worst landing spot: Charlotte Hornets

    The Hornets aren't a desirable landing spot for any guard who wants playing time. LaMelo Ball's role only figures to increase, while Devonte' Graham (if re-signed) and Terry Rozier will take the minutes at 2-guard. 

    Mitchell turns 23 after the draft and won't want to waste any time. Ideally, he is selected by a team that's looking for an NBA-ready contributor. 

Jalen Johnson (Duke, PF, Freshman)

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    Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: San Antonio Spurs

    Jalen Johnson would give the Spurs' frontcourt some needed athleticism and versatility. 

    San Antonio could play him as a playmaking 4 or small-ball 5 who can initiate fast breaks with his ball-handling and earn easy baskets in the paint by driving, cutting, finishing and crashing the glass. 

    With Rudy Gay entering free agency, there would be a quick path for Johnson to start in a lineup that has solid guards and wings.


    Worst landing spot: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Oklahoma City finished with the NBA's worst offense, and Johnson struggles to create his own shot and shoot. There wouldn't be enough talent or playmakers to play off with the Thunder. He'd be forced to create on his own, and his skill set and decision-making aren't up to the task.

Franz Wagner (Michigan, SF, Sophomore)

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Golden State Warriors

    A threat to catch and shoot, slash past closeouts and pass on the move, Franz Wagner has the right skill set for the Golden State Warriors offense. He should be easily interchangeable between positions 2-4, especially because of his defensive range to guard wings and ball-handlers at 6'9".

    Once Klay Thompson returns, Golden State may value Wagner's role-player versatility over Andrew Wiggins' scoring.

    The Warriors figure to jump right back into the playoff picture next season, and there would be an opportunity for Wagner to quickly earn a role. 


    Worst landing spot: Orlando Magic

    No late-lottery or mid-first-round team jumps out as must-avoid for Wagner, given how easily he should fit into different lineups. The Orlando Magic wouldn't be ideal, however. 

    Wagner doesn't possess major potential as a creator, and that's something the Magic need. He wouldn't get as many open looks on the floor with Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton, Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac as its core players.

Alperen Sengun (Besiktas, C, 2002)

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    Best landing spot: Charlotte Hornets 

    Alperen Sengun should hope for a chance to team up with LaMelo Ball and the Hornets' shooters.

    Ball would make scoring easier for Sengun with his pick-and-roll passing, while the Hornets' Devonte' Graham (if re-signed), Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and P.J. Washington should create enough space for the 6'11" big man in the post. 

    Sengun would have a chance to start at center as a rookie for a rising team that needs more offense from the 5 spot. 


    Worst landing spot: Indiana Pacers

    Sengun better hope the Pacers don't see him as the best player available they can't afford to pass on. It seems unlikely they'd take him based on their frontcourt situation. But they did draft Goga Bitadze when they already had Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, evidence that Indiana doesn't lock in to filling needs. 

    Unless the Pacers pull off a major trade, or Sengun quickly develops a perimeter game to play power forward, he'll want to avoid the logjam at center in Indiana.

James Bouknight (Connecticut, SG, Sophomore)

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    David Butler II/Associated Press

    Best landing spot: Memphis Grizzlies

    We have James Bouknight projected in the lottery, but he could go anywhere in the teens or early 20s. He'd be better off falling a few spots to the Grizzlies and playing alongside Ja Morant. 

    Dillon Brooks' emergence may be huge for the franchise, but it could still use another scoring guard who can create his own shot. Bouknight flew up draft boards this season because of his three-level scoring off athletic drives and an ability to separate into jumpers. 

    He could also thrive for Memphis in an instant offense, sixth-man role the way Jordan Clarkson did in Utah. 


    Worst landing spot: San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs already have too many guards like Bouknight, who can score but aren't natural distributors. There would be too much overlap with Bouknight, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White.

    It could be years before he gets an opportunity to play regular minutes in San Antonio. And he could use the early reps to improve his shooting and defense.

Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers, PG/SG, 2002)

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    Best landing spot: Indiana Pacers

    Lottery teams don't have openings at point guard. But Josh Giddey may be better suited as a playmaking 2, given the questions about his ability to beat defenders off the dribble and defend opposing lead ball-handlers.

    He comes off as a fit next to Malcolm Brogdon, a superior shooter and defender, while Giddey, the NBL's assist leader, offers more natural passing skill. 

    Aside from the Chicago Bulls (who lose their pick if its outside the top four), the Pacers were the top lottery team defensively. Giddey would have the right support system that includes a fitting backcourt partner in Brogdon and a scorer in Caris LeVert who could play either wing position. 


    Worst landing spot: Charlotte Hornets

    With multiple ball-handlers in the starting lineup, Giddey wouldn't see enough playmaking touches. He'd be forced to log minutes at the 3, where he'd struggle physically against NBA forwards. 

    Drafting the 6'8" Aussie and trading Terry Rozier would create an interesting backcourt between Ball and another oversized playmaker in Giddey. But without knowing Charlotte's plans, it is easier to feel more confident plugging him into other lottery lineups like the Indiana Pacers', San Antonio Spurs' or Golden State Warriors'.


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