NBA Draft Grades 2021: Full Results, Analysis and Reaction
The NBA draft never fails to bring the intrigue and drama that comes with teams trying to find their next superstar. The 2021 edition was no exception.
The top three picks went as expected: The Detroit Pistons selected Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham, the Houston Rockets opted for G League scoring dynamo Jalen Green, and the Cleveland Cavaliers went for the athletic seven-footer in Evan Mobley.
Then, for the second consecutive season, the fourth selection was surprisingly a forward from Florida State. The Toronto Raptors eschewed Jalen Suggs from Gonzaga and took Scottie Barnes. It was at that point most mock drafts were reduced to ashes.
As usual, the draft was a lightning rod for player movement outside of the rookies being selected. Multiple teams struck deals involving draft picks that will see some veterans wearing different colors next season.
Below, we'll list every selection, hand out grades for each team and highlight some of the major storylines that emerged.
NBA Draft Results and Grades
Golden State: A
Los Angeles Clippers: B
Los Angeles Lakers: C
New Orleans: A
New York: B+
Oklahoma City: A
San Antonio: C+
Pistons, Cavaliers and Magic Among Biggest Winners
The Detroit Pistons have not drafted an All-Star since they took Andre Drummond in 2012, and they haven't drafted a Hall of Famer since Grant Hill in 1994.
Cade Cunningham seems destined to break that first streak, and the Pistons will have legitimate hopes that the second drought comes to a halt with their first overall pick.
The 19-year-old has everything you'd want from a star in today's game. He has the size and positional versatility on defense to play multiple positions in a rotation, and he showcased a killer instinct when it came to closing out games at Oklahoma State.
College basketball analyst Jay Bilas told ESPN he believes Cunningham is the "most complete basketball player" he can remember coming out of the draft.
The Cleveland Cavaliers should be counted among the biggest winners as well. Picking at No. 3 they were at the mercy of the Houston Rockets. Fortunately for them, the Rockets went with Jalen Green, opening the door for them to take Evan Mobley.
The 20-year-old big from USC figures to be a good fit. ESPN's Jonathan Givony had this to say about how he'll fit in with the Cavs immediate plans:
"With his outstanding combination of mobility, perimeter skill, defensive versatility and feel for the game giving him sky-high upside to grow into as his frame fills out. He'll likely start games at power forward for the Cavs, alongside Allen while soaking up backup center minutes, which suits his slender frame best at this stage of his physical development."
The Cavs already have a pair of young guards who can score in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Taking Green would have simply replaced one of them. Mobley allows them to restructure the roster.
The Magic were also the beneficiary of the way a team drafted ahead of them. There was a sentiment among most mock drafters that the first four players taken would be some configuration of Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Jalen Suggs.
Instead, the Toronto Raptors surprised with their selection of Barnes, leaving the Magic to take Suggs. The Gonzaga product gives them the opportunity to develop a potential star who will have the ball in his hands every possession.
They followed that up by getting Franz Wagner with the eighth pick. His defensive capabilities and shooting should allow him to compete right away and give the Magic a serious shot in the arm.
Russell Westbrook Headlines Draft-Night Trades
The 22nd overall pick wasn't likely to do much to help the Los Angeles Lakers compete for an NBA title with LeBron James heading into his 19th season. Instead, they're going to be hoping that Russell Westbrook coming home to Los Angeles will do the trick.
The Lakers reportedly agreed to a deal with the Washington Wizards that will send them Westbrook while giving the No. 22 pick (which was then traded in principle to the Pacers for Aaron Holiday), Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell.
The deal should be seen as a win for the Wizards. They offloaded Westbrook's contract, which will cost $44.2 million this season and carries a player option worth $47 million in 2022. In his place they will have a young player with potential in Kuzma, some outside shooting to help Bradley Beal in Caldwell-Pope and a strong leader and interior presence in Harrell.
No other deal quite made headlines like Westbook-to-Los Angeles but it was worth noting the Houston Rockets traded for yet another first-round pick. They agreed to deal two future first-rounders for the 16th pick which they used to take Alperen Sengun from Turkey.
It gave the rebuilding Rockets four picks in the first 30 selections which brought them a haul of Green, Sengun, Spanish forward Usman Garuba and Josh Christopher.
It's a clear push to take as many bites of the apple in this year's draft class as they look to build after the James Harden era.