2021 NBA Draft: Live Grades for Every Pick

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 29, 2021

2021 NBA Draft: Live Grades for Every Pick

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The 2021 NBA draft class will never look better than it does right now.

    It’s all potential and promise in the aftermath of Thursday’s talent grab, which saw fanbases find new franchise favorites and teams tie their hopes to the latest incoming batch of ballers.

    The Detroit Pistons did the right thing and nabbed Cade Cunningham at the top. The Houston Rockets found their new centerpiece with Jalen Green at No. 2. The Cleveland Cavaliers stood pat at No. 3 and let Evan Mobley fall in their laps. Once the three marquee prospects were gone, that’s when the mystery started and the drama unfolded.

    So, how did everyone do? Well, all 60 picks were put under the microscope and came out of it with a letter-grade assessment.

1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, PG/SG, Oklahoma State

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    Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

    This always seemed like the right choice, but credit Detroit for not overthinking it.

    Cunningham isn’t alone in possessing superstar potential, but he might have the most pathways to superstardom. The satin-smooth 6’8” guard pairs preternatural passing with a deep bag of isolation scoring tricks, plus he could become an all-league defender at the other end.

    Any questions about his individual offense were likely answered when he gave the Cowboys 20.1 points per night and splashed 62 triples at a 40 percent clip. You won’t find his weaknesses without laboriously picking nits.

    With Cunningham, the Pistons have their centerpiece of a quietly intriguing core already featuring Jerami Grant and 2020 draft picks Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey.

    Grade: A+

2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, SG, G League Ignite

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    Photo by Ashlee Espinal/NBAE via Getty Images

    Houston, you have a franchise face. Jalen Green is off to Space City ready to put the Rockets offense on his back and maybe one day get the defense turned around.

    Green packs the offensive punch of a future scoring champ. Realizing that potential will require more consistency with his jumper, but his combination of internet-breaking bounce and blink-and-he’s-by-you burst should make him a highlight machine.

    He’s still developing as a playmaker and must bulk up his 178-pound frame to hold his own defensively, but it’s easy to bet big on his explosive athleticism and three-level scoring.

    The Rockets needed a lead actor for their post-James Harden chapter, and they just got a showstopper in Green.

    Grade: A+

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, PF/C, USC

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    Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

    Trade winds seemed to blow around this selection, but the Cavs were right to keep the pick and invest it in Mobley. They need someone with a skyscraper’s ceiling, and the 7-footer out of California could certainly have the best career of anyone in this class.

    The modern NBA places do-it-all-demands on bigs, and Mobley looks up to the task. His ceiling stretches all the way to go-to scoring and annual contention for Defensive Player of the Year honors.

    He’s a dream screen-setter in pick-and-rolls with above-the-rim finishing, off-the-dribble attacking, pinpoint passing and mid-range shooting all in his arsenal, though he needs time to develop his deep ball. Defensively, he has the length, timing and hops to erase shots at the basket, plus the fluidity to silence perimeter scorers on switches.

    This pick might put restricted free agent Jarrett Allen in a tough spot, but Mobley is a different caliber of interior player. He’ll be a dream screening partner for Darius Garland and help solve some of Cleveland’s defensive problems sooner than later.

    Grade: A

4. Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes, SF/PF, Florida State

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    For the second straight draft, a lanky Seminoles forward made a late charge up to No. 4. Last year, it was Patrick Williams to Chicago. Now, it’s Barnes to Toronto.

    Barnes has some eye-of-the-beholder aspects of his profile. On one hand, he’s a jumbo playmaker with elite, five-position versatility on defense. On the other, he’s a non-center with a shaky jumper and limited shot creation.

    His path to stardom is narrow and limited with obstacles, but the fact that it’s present at all puts him near the top tier of this class. College stats aren’t the perfect measure of pro potential, but his woeful shooting rates from three (27.5 percent) and the stripe (62.1) point to the offensive strides he’ll need to make to become a two-way asset.

    The Raptors can cover a ton of defensive ground with a Barnes-Pascal Siakam-OG Anunoby frontcourt. But spacing could be tight, and scoring could be hit or miss. That’s a lot to risk with Jalen Suggs still on the board.

    Grade: B-

5. Orlando Magic: Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Magic needed someone to make sense of their scrambled, 29th-ranked offense. Suggs could be the perfect point guard to get them going.

    He has the skills, smarts and savvy to step into a leadership role out of the gate. His energy is contagious, his shooting is courageous (albeit streaky at the moment) and his defense is suffocating.

    His Orlando teammates will love running alongside him, because he’s always looking to make the extra pass or fire hit-ahead deliveries down court. His speed and springs will give defenders fits, especially if they have to really respect his outside shot.

    The Magic have a ton of long-term questions to tackle in their rebuild, but Suggs provides some welcome certainty.

    Grade: A

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Giddey, PG/SG, Adelaide 36ers

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    Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

    Whoa. Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs brought the night’s first mild surprise, but this qualifies as its first stunner. The value is a question mark here, though the fit intrigues.

    Giddey has the game of a floor general, which is impressive for anyone but highly intriguing for a 6’8” player who won’t turn 19 until October. If he isn’t the best passer in this draft, he’s at least in the conversation. He already manipulates defenses with quick changes of speed and direction, and his understanding of passing angles points to instincts beyond his years.

    But passing and instincts can only take him so far without significant improvements as a shooter and stopper. He needs to clean up his shooting mechanics and fine-tune his defensive awareness, because he might always be vulnerable against speedy guards and strong wings.

    Sharing a backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could help bring out the best in Giddey, since SGA can handle as much offense as Giddey needs. It’s a long-term gamble, but no team is better positioned to stay patient than OKC.

    Grade: C-

7. Golden State Warriors: Jonathan Kuminga, SF/PF, G League Ignite

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    Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

    Fascinating. The Warriors, who need win-now talent more than any team in the lottery, just took one of the night’s biggest swings with Kuminga.

    Patience is a must with Kuminga, who could need years of seasoning to even approach his ceiling. If he ever gets there, though, he’ll become a dynamic slasher with an array of dribble moves, an ability to find open teammates and tenacious defense across multiple positions.

    Physically, few prospects in this draft can compete with his raw tools. But raw is the key word there. Like a freshly butchered chicken breast, he needs serious seasoning to come to life.

    In a vacuum, Kuminga is a good value at No. 7. But Golden State’s timeline makes this tricky. Even drafting him and holding him as a trade chip is tough, because the Warriors can only give him so many minutes to drive up his value without disrupting their championship plans.

    Grade: B-

8. Orlando Magic: Franz Wagner, SF/PF, Michigan

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Magic needed help on the wings, and Wagner offers the plug-and-play kind. But did they play it too safe given their lack of blue-chip talent?

    Orlando likely understands it’s not getting a star with Wagner, who doesn’t score a lot of style points and isn’t a standout in any particular area. But his all-around skills pave such a clean path to glue-guy status that his representatives should be ironing out an endorsement agreement with Elmer’s.

    On offense, he brings spot-up shooting, secondary playmaking, sound decision-making and timely off-ball movement. On defense, he can diagnose plays as quickly as opponents call them out, and his instincts help him wreak havoc as an off-ball disruptor. He’s plenty polished for a 19-year-old with overseas experience and two seasons with the Wolverines.

    Wagner can do a lot of things that help good teams win games. Can the Magic win enough to take advantage of them? I’m skeptical.

    Grade: C+

9. Sacramento Kings: Davion Mitchell, PG, Baylor

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Trapped in a record-tying playoff drought, the Kings are perpetually searching for winners and culture-changers. They just got both in Mitchell, a national champion who gives his all at both ends.

    A late bloomer, the 22-year-old skyrocketed his draft stock with serious strides as a scorer, shooter and playmaker in his junior season. He gets from zero to 100 real quick, downshifts when he needs to and has the agility to change directions at ludicrous speed.

    Skeptics might question how much of his shooting will translate, since he converted just 65.7 percent of his free throws across three college seasons. But there’s no denying his defense, which is turbocharged by hustle, lateral quickness, strength, discipline and great instincts.

    Can the Kings get by with a lot of minutes running Mitchell alongside De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton? I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to see them try.

    Grade: B

10. Memphis Grizzlies (via Pelicans): Ziaire Williams, SG/SF, Stanford

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    Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Grizzlies agreed to a bold trade to get this pick from the New Orleans Pelicans. They doubled down on that boldness by buying Williams’ pedigree as a top-10 recruit and overlooking his uninspiring season at Stanford

    A choppy 20 games with the Cardinal doesn’t automatically dim his NBA outlook. He’s a 6’10” shot creator with featured-scorer potential if everything clicks.

    If it doesn’t, he could be doomed by his thin frame, inconsistent shooting and aversion to contact. Among the draft’s boom-or-bust prospects, he has one of the widest gaps between ceiling and floor.

    That’s more risk than I would take at No. 10, especially when Ja Morant is ready to win right now. But if Memphis’ hunch is right, it could eventually have two go-to scorers on the perimeter.

    Grade: D+

11. Charlotte Hornets: James Bouknight, SG, Connecticut

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    Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

    It wouldn’t have been surprising to see Bouknight go five picks earlier. To get him at No. 11 is a big win, even if scoring guard isn’t atop Charlotte’s wish list.

    Bouknight’s bag is built from the playground with dizzying dribble moves to ditch defenders and a finishing package featuring equal parts finesse and ferocity. He’s a natural, effortless shot creator who should pile up points in bunches right out of the gate.

    Letting him play off playmakers like LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier will let Bouknight laser focus on his scoring. He should feast on transition chances and spot-up threes when he’s not carving up defenders off the dribble.

    Great value for Charlotte, plus an insurance policy in case Malik Monk leaves this offseason or Rozier heads out in the next.

    Grade: A

12. San Antonio Spurs: Joshua Primo, SG, Alabama

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Hmmm. Can’t say I saw this coming. Primo wasn’t even a lock for the first round, let alone the lottery. But clearly the Spurs saw something they like.

    Primo is the youngest prospect in this draft—he won’t turn 19 until December—but his game doesn’t show it. He already has a reliable three-ball and a willingness to do the dirty work on defense.

    He always loomed as an intriguing flier to take. The Spurs just invested plenty more than that, so they really need him to pan out.

    Grade: D

13. Indiana Pacers: Chris Duarte, SG, Oregon

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Duarte, 24, is older than Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, so what you see now is what you’re likely to get going forward.

    But Indiana is getting a reliable wing who can play right away, consistently make shots and fit into a team defensive scheme. If the Pacers are angling for a quick climb back up the Eastern Conference standings—as the hiring of head coach Rick Carlisle suggests—Duarte is the kind of instant-impact prospect who can help them find their footing.

    Theoretically, you’d like more upside from a lottery pick, but his poise and polish might be worth the sacrifice. 

    Grade: B-

14. Golden State Warriors: Moses Moody, SG, Arkansas

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The basketball gods shined some favor on the Warriors, who considered grabbing Moody at No. 7, as Adrian Wojnarowski reported on the ESPN broadcast. Stopping Moody’s slide at No. 14 is a no-brainer.

    He may never grow beyond role player status, but at least he plays the most coveted role in the modern NBA as a three-and-D wing. He is a knockdown spot-up shooter with sporadic flashes of off-the-dribble shooting, and he has the length, strength and agility to guard multiple positions.

    He looks rotation-ready out of the gate, which the Dubs desperately needed after going the risk-reward route with Kuminga earlier.

    Grade: A-

15. Washington Wizards: Corey Kispert, SF, Gonzaga

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Wizards made two steps to improve their spacing around Bradley Beal on Thursday. First, they agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, per Wojnarowski. Then, they grabbed arguably the draft’s top shooter in Kispert.

    He is a professional sniper, and he doesn’t just shred nets from distance. He could force his way into the famed 50/40/90 club, and when shots aren’t open, he’ll keep the ball moving.

    He doesn’t offer much in the way of off-the-dribble offense, though, and he’ll have trouble keeping in front of perimeter speedsters. But if he gives Beal more breathing room and buries the open jumpers the All-NBA guard creates, Kispert will have done his job.

    Grade: B

16. Houston Rockets (via Thunder): Alperen Sengun, PF/C, Besiktas

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    For the second time tonight, the Rockets snagged an impact scorer, trading two future first-rounders for this one, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.  

    Sengun looks like he was transported from a different era with an interior arsenal built around fancy footwork, a deep package of post moves and ambidextrous finishing. He is hyper productive in his unique role—he won the MVP of the Turkish League as an 18-year-old—though his place in the modern NBA will be debated.

    He could quiet some of those concerns by adding contemporary enhancements to his game. Expanding his shooting range is almost certainly a must if he hopes to handle more than a reserve role, and he needs to sharpen his defensive instincts to help compensate for limited lateral quickness and a lack of verticality.

    It might take time to find the optimal pace to maximize Sengun, but he’s worth the effort.

    Grade: B

17. New Orleans Pelicans (via Grizzlies): Trey Murphy III, SF/PF, Virginia

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    Ethan Hyman/Associated Press

    The Pelicans might need to win sooner than later to keep Zion Williamson happy. Fixing the defense and improving the shooting are the first and second steps of that process, and they scratched both itches with Murphy.

    He won’t be a star, but he can star in his role as a 6’9” shooter with defensive versatility.

    He’ll bump into his ceiling sooner than most players in this draft, but he’ll look like a veteran quicker than those guys, too. New Orleans needs his spacing and savvy.

    Grade: A- 

18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tre Mann, PG/SG, Florida

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Is the three-guard lineup coming back to OKC? After grabbing Josh Giddey at No. 6, the Thunder added another fascinating backcourt partner for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with Mann.

    He is among the more intriguing shot creators in the class as a 6’4” combo guard with deep range on his jumper and the ability to shoot on the move. He’s more scorer than distributor, but he has some playmaking in his arsenal, especially out of the pick-and-roll.

    Saying that, he relies heavily on craft and creativity because he isn’t a great athlete and doesn’t possess an elite first step. Tack on inconsistent defensive effort with sloppy fundamentals, and there are major red flags at the game’s less glamorous end.

    But the Thunder could have a shot creator for every situation, especially if last year’s No. 17 pick, Aleksej Pokusevski, pans out.

    Grade: B-

19. Charlotte Hornets (via Knicks): Kai Jones, PF/C, Texas

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Hornets entered the night with a glaring void at center and just took a big step toward filling it for the cost of a future first-rounder, per Wojnarowski.

    Jones could be an impact rim-runner early in his career, but it’s his long-term potential that should really excite Charlotte fans.

    There are flashes of handles, off-the-dribble shooting and finesse finishes that, when paired with his explosive verticality and fluid mobility, point to a wildly intriguing future. The Hornets offense could come at teams in waves as soon as next season.

    Charlotte is having a night.

    Grade: A

20. Atlanta Hawks: Jalen Johnson, PF, Duke

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Johnson’s ceiling is higher than this draft slot. Between his limited track record and holes in his game, though, this feels about right.

    When he gets out in transition, his game is very easy on the eyes. The 6’9” forward can grab rebounds and go, flashing a drool-worthy blend of handles, vision and finishing.

    But when the game slows down, so does his impact. He needs plenty of polish to find a half-court niche. His shooting is erratic, he shies away from contact, and his defensive motor comes and goes.

    He’s worth a shot here for the Hawks, who have enough depth to take a risk.

    Grade: B+

21. Los Angeles Clippers (via Knicks): Keon Johnson, SG/SF, Tennessee

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Clippers climbed four spots to add the draft’s most explosive athlete, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

    Even in a league littered with world-class athletes, Johnson’s hops will stand out. His record-breaking leap at the combine already did.

    His physical tools might one day manifest in shutdown on-ball defense, off-ball defensive playmaking and, if everything breaks just right, maybe go-to scoring, too. He has a long road to reach that potential, but stardom isn’t completely out of reach.

    Grade: A-

22. Indiana Pacers (via Wizards): Isaiah Jackson, PF/C, Kentucky

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Pacers gave up Aaron Holiday and the No. 31 pick to get this pick away from the Wizards, per Charania, and spend it on Jackson.

    If he can add some heft to his 206-pound frame without sacrificing mobility, Jackson might have some All-Defensive honors in his future. As it is, he’s already an active shot eraser with the lateral quickness to defend on the perimeter.

    He can crush lobs and has some face-up tools at his disposal, but his shooting growth will set his ceiling. His face-up game won’t be nearly as valuable without a reliable jumper in the arsenal.

    Jackson is a good prospect, but the fit is hard to figure out. The Pacers were already overcrowded on the interior with Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and Goga Bitadze. This feels like a stay-tuned situation.

    Grade: C

23. Houston Rockets: Usman Garuba, PF/C, Real Madrid

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    After focusing on offense with their first two picks, the Rockets are getting defensive here.

    Garuba is tricky because he might be the best defender in this draft and that’s not something that should be easily dismissed. But he’s also either a 6’8” center or a non-shooting power forward.

    His tools, instincts and experience should help him carve out an NBA niche, but it could be rough at the offensive end early on. He isn’t a shooter or a shot creator, and he isn’t the most explosive finisher at the basket, either.

    His defense is really good, and his motor is better. But that offense is a problem until he proves that it isn’t.

    Grade: C+

24. Houston Rockets: Josh Christopher, SG, Arizona State

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Houston needs more blue-chip talent, so a swing for Christopher seems sensible here.

    His big moments are loud. He’ll work aerial magic in the open court, free himself off the dribble and make some really tough shots.

    The style is there, he just needs more substance behind it. Every aspect of his game is inconsistent, so even if he has a high ceiling, he has a lot of areas where the bottom could drop out, too.

    Grade: B-

25. New York Knicks (via Clippers): Quentin Grimes, SG, Houston

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Selecting Grimes might reveal a lot about New York’s feelings following this year’s playoff breakthrough. There are younger, high-ceiling players still on the board—Cameron Thomas, Sharife Cooper and Jaden Springer chief among them—but the Knicks went the high-floor route instead.

    Grimes never quite tapped into the marquee talent that once made him a 5-star recruit at Kansas, but his two-year tenure at Houston prepared him well for a complementary NBA role.

    He’s a consistent shooter and high-motor defender. He could get pretty interesting if he makes big strides with his handles and in-between game.

    He has a chance to earn Tom Thibodeau’s trust next season, and not all rookies-to-be can make that claim. But unless all of the Knicks’ offseason dreams come true, they aren’t close enough to contention to make a prospect’s early impact their primary focus.

    Grade: C-

26. Denver Nuggets: Nah’Shon Hyland, SG, VCU

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    Zach Gibson/Associated Press

    With Jamal Murray working his way back from an ACL tear and Will Barton hitting the open market, Denver had a suddenly pressing need for perimeter scoring. Hyland is an exciting way to attack it.

    He is a confident shot-maker who will push his range as far as the arena allows. He has the tools to grow into a respectable defender, too.

    Spark-plug scoring is an obvious role, but he could grow out of it by tightening his handle and improving his vision.

    Grade: B

27. Brooklyn Nets: Cameron Thomas, SG, LSU

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The NBA’s best offense just got even harder to handle with Thomas joining Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.

    In just two seasons at the famed Oak Hill Academy, Thomas became the program’s all-time leading scorer. He followed that up by pacing all NCAA freshmen with 23 points per game during his one-and-done run at LSU.

    He’s a bucket with the shake to dust defenders off the bounce, the confidence to pull from anywhere and the power to finish at the rim. The question is what else he can provide beyond points. Right now, he’s a ball-stopper who lacks vision and too often fails to engage defensively.

    But Brooklyn’s championship hopes already revolved around isolation scoring, so why not add another point-producer to the mix?

    Grade: A

28. Philadelphia 76ers: Jaden Springer, PG/SG, Tennessee

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Sixers needed a guard here, especially as they continue discussing deals for Ben Simmons. Springer won’t walk into a starting spot, but he can handle a reserve role and has more room to grow.

    Wherever Springer’s ceiling sits, his hustle, energy and poise give him a good chance of getting there. He powers through contact on his way to the rim, stays in his matchup’s air space on defense and makes quick reads as a playmaker.

    But it’s fair to question his potential in the NBA, where his size and strength will no longer give him advantages to exploit. He doesn’t have dynamic dribble moves, can struggle to separate from defenders and has a tendency to take tougher shots than he should.

    Grade: B-

29. Brooklyn Nets: Day’Ron Sharpe, C, North Carolina

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The Nets traded into this spot before the draft, sending Landry Shamet to the Phoenix Suns for the pick and Jevon Carter, per Wojnarowski. Brooklyn used the selection to add some power to complement all its finesse.

    Sharpe is a 6’11”, 265-pound hustler. There are certainly sharper skill sets in this draft, but he makes the most of his minutes with screen-setting, glass-cleaning and all kinds of interior activity. He is a really good passer, which could be weaponized with all the scorers he’ll have around him.

    Sharpe’s offensive toolbox may never be deep, but he gets the most out of what he has.

    Grade: B+

30. Memphis Grizzlies (via Jazz): Santi Aldama, PF/C, Loyola (Maryland)

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    John MuPhoto by Mitchell Layton/Getty Imagesnson

    The Grizzlies traded into this spot, per Wojnarowski, and added some frontcourt offense with the 6’11” Aldama.

    But it could take a while to reap the rewards. He didn’t play high-level competition at Loyola and might require enough seasoning to justify stashing him overseas. Even then, he’ll never be a plus athlete and could have trouble with the league’s physicality.

    He has offensive skills, though. He’s a sharp passer and smooth shooter who has power and finesse in the low post.

    However, this is a reach. He wasn’t a lock to get drafted, so spending a first-round pick on him—at the cost of No. 40 and two future seconds—is just not a wise investment.

    Grade: D

Picks No. 31-36

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    31. Washington Wizards (via Pacers): Isaiah Todd, PF, G League Ignite — B+

    32. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Knicks): Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, PF, Villanova — C

    33. Los Angeles Clippers (via Magic): Jason Preston, PG, Ohio — B+

    34. New York Knicks (via Thunder): Rokas Jokubaitis, PG/SG, Barcelona — B

    35. New Orleans Pelicans: Herbert Jones, SF, Alabama — C+

    36. New York Knicks (via Thunder): Miles McBride, PG/SG, West Virginia — A

    Good Draft for G League Ignite

    It was never exactly clear how NBA executives would handle G League Ignite prospects, but let’s just say they’re fans.

    Jalen Green took over a franchise at No. 2, Jonathan Kuminga landed in a great spot at No. 7, and now Isaiah Todd gets to play off a dynamic playmaker in Bradley Beal.

    A good draft would turn into a great one if Daishen Nix’s name is called.

    McBride Worth the Wait for Knicks

    It might’ve been a frustrating night for Knicks fans so far with the team trading out at No. 19 and down at No. 21, perhaps playing it safe with Quentin Grimes at No. 25 and drafting a possible stash candidate in Rokas Jokubaitis.

    But the selection of Miles McBride is a moon-shot home run. He has Thibodeau-approved toughness, relentless defense, spot-up sniping and quick processing on the ball.

    McBride will crack the rotation next season and maybe the starting lineup shortly thereafter. Great pick.

Picks No. 37-42

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    37. Charlotte Hornets: JT Thor, PF, Auburn — A-

    38. Chicago Bulls: Ayo Dosunmu, PG/SG, Illinois — B+

    39. Sacramento Kings: Neemias Queta, C, Utah State — C-

    40. Utah Jazz (via Grizzlies): Jared Butler, PG/SG, Baylor — A

    41. San Antonio Spurs: Joe Wieskamp, SF, Iowa — C+

    42. Detroit Pistons: Isaiah Livers, SF, Michigan — C

    Hornets’ Buzz Is Growing

    Save me a seat on the Hornets’ hype train, please. Remember how good they looked with a healthy LaMelo Ball last season? Well, they just turbocharged an already potent backcourt with James Bouknight and then threw two picks at the frontcourt with Kai Jones and JT Thor, both of whom have flashed shot-blocking and floor-spacing.

    Stock up in Charlotte, folks.


    Jared Butler Could Be Steal of the Night

    If Butler is healthy—he was referred to (and later cleared by) a Fitness-to-Play Panel in the predraft process—the Jazz just collected the night’s biggest steal.

    He is rotation-ready right now and will be an effortless fit in Utah. He adds value on or off the ball, scores from the perimeter to the paint and really competes on defense.

    He could spend a decade-plus in the league and a lot of that time in someone’s starting lineup. That’s tremendous value at pick No. 40.

Picks No. 43-48

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    43. Portland Trail Blazers (via Pelicans): Greg Brown, PF, Texas — C-

    44. Brooklyn Nets: Kessler Edwards, SF, Pepperdine — B+

    45. Boston Celtics: Juhann Begarin, SG, Paris Basket — C

    46. Toronto Raptors: Dalano Banton, G/F, Nebraska — C-

    47. Toronto Raptors: David Johnson, PG/SG, Louisville — C

    48. Atlanta Hawks: Sharife Cooper, PG, Auburn — A+

    Portland Misfires on Greg Brown

    The thought process on picking Brown at No. 43 isn’t wrong. He was a celebrated recruit and is one of the most impressive athletes in this draft.

    But his skills are organic-granola raw, and his feel for the game just isn’t there. With Damian Lillard getting antsy, the Blazers don’t have time to wait on Brown’s development. And while they could try to dangle him as a trade chip, how much does the 43rd overall selection matter on the open market?


    Edwards Just What Nets Needed

    Edwards is a no-maintenance role player who makes open shots and defends his position. Those are the two basic elements you want alongside stars of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving’s ilk.

    Edwards’ skill set doesn’t stretch farther than that—he’s not a handler or distributor—but Brooklyn won’t need it to. In fact, staying in his lane is the best thing he can do for the Nets.


    Cooper’s Slide Made No Sense

    Cooper has lottery talent—and production. But he’s only 6’1” and 180 pounds, so he fell all the way to No. 48.

    That’s nonsense. He has some shortcomings like any other prospect (beyond the lack of size, he could improve as a shooter), but his strengths are legit. He’s an offensive commander with the handles to get where he wants, the vision to find his teammates and the arm talent to make every kind of pass there is.

    Teams are overthinking the problem of Cooper’s size. Atlanta’s ability to recognize that just solved its lengthy search for a shot creator behind Trae Young.

Picks No. 49-54

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    49. Brooklyn Nets: Marcus Zegarowski, PG, Creighton — D+

    50. Philadelphia 76ers: Filip Petrusev, C, Mega Basket — C

    51. Los Angeles Clippers (via Pelicans): Brandon Boston Jr., SF, Kentucky — B+

    52. Detroit Pistons: Luka Garza, C, Iowa — B-

    53. Philadelphia 76ers: Charles Bassey, C, Western Kentucky — A-

    54. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Sandro Mamukelashvili, PF/C, Seton Hall — C


    Right Time, Right Team for Brandon Boston Jr.

    No, Boston never put it together at Kentucky, but the skills are easier to see than with someone like Greg Brown. Boston has some serious shake off the bounce and is comfortable stepping back or pulling up into his jumper. His three-ball can be fiery, and he can set the table for teammates.

    He needs to bulk up and up his awareness, but you can see some light at the end of his tunnel. This late in the draft, it makes sense for the Clippers to take a flier and see if he might one day form a do-it-all trio with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

    Can College Player of the Year Find NBA Calling?

    At Iowa, Luka Garza was more than a superstar; he was a sensation. He was unguardable in the post, impossible to keep off the glass and too accurate to leave alone from three. He was the unanimous men’s college basketball Player of the Year.

    But he had defensive issues in college, and those could expand to the point of making him unplayable in the NBA. He gives great energy, but he can’t get side-to-side quick enough to stay in front of guards and wings.

    It’s smart for the Pistons to see where this is headed, especially when they don’t have too much invested to keep them from walking away if it just isn’t working.

Picks 55-60

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    55. Oklahoma City Thunder: Aaron Wiggins, SG/SF, Maryland — C-

    56. Charlotte Hornets: Scottie Lewis, SG/SF, Florida — C

    57. Detroit Pistons (via Hornets): Balsa Koprivica, Florida State — D

    58. New York Knicks: Jericho Sims, C, Texas — B

    59. Brooklyn Nets: RaiQuan Gray, SF/PF, Florida State — B+

    60. Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers): Georgios Kalaitzakis, PG/SG, Panathinaikos — D

    Best Players Who Weren’t Drafted

    From Ben Wallace to Fred VanVleet, Udonis Haslem to John Starks, hoops history has shown time and again that the undrafted player pool is worth exploring.

    This class could be no different. Michigan State swingman Aaron Henry is a relentless and heady stopper. Daishen Nix of the G League Ignite has the handles and vision to pilot a second-team offense. Gonzaga’s Joel Ayayi has three-and-D skills and tons of hoops smarts. Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves brings a little of everything.

    Per Wojnarowski, the Sixers signed Henry, and the Lakers landed Ayayi. L.A. also added Reaves, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.