Biggest Winners and Losers from 2021 NBA Draft Day

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2021

Biggest Winners and Losers from 2021 NBA Draft Day

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    The Orlando Magic selected Jalen Suggs with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft.
    The Orlando Magic selected Jalen Suggs with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft.Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Judging an NBA draft—not to mention the wheeling and dealing done throughout the day itself—is a process that takes years to fairly complete. 

    Lucky for us, that process begins now. 

    It's never too soon to start evaluating how teams, prospects and stars on the move fared under the NBA's brightest spotlight. 

    Here to break down the biggest winners and losers of the day are B/R's Jonathan Wasserman and Andy Bailey.  

Winner: Orlando Magic

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Orlando Magic were likely anticipating a future trying to fit Scottie Barnes with Jonathan Isaac—until the Toronto Raptors picked. Scottie Barnes going No. 4 made Orlando's decision easy by allowing Jalen Suggs to be there at No. 5. And though Cole Anthony had a promising rookie year, he's not as complete as Suggs, a better passer and more active defender.

    Aside from drafting a potential stud point guard, the Magic also landed Franz Wagner, Bleacher Report's No. 6 overall prospect who gives Orlando a versatile wing who can shoot, play-make and defend.

    This should wind up being the biggest draft for Orlando in recent memory, and the one that helps expedite their rebuild. 

    —Wasserman

Loser: Jalen Suggs

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Suggs will be fine financially, going top five to the Orlando Magic. But he would have been a lot better off long term as the starting point guard for a Toronto Raptors team with Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. 

    The Magic seem so far away, particularly with Jonathan Isaac coming off a serious injury. Suggs had great success on an elite Gonzaga team. But now he finds himself sharing the ball with Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony for a team with no veteran talent to lean on. 

    Even Orlando's promising frontcourt players in Chuma Okeke and Jonathan Isaac are still lagging offensively. 

    Suggs could have found himself playing competitive games alongside talent in Toronto. Instead, he'll play for a team unlikely to escape the lottery for years while having to create too much of his own offense.

    —Wasserman

Winner: Moses Moody

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Moody couldn't have landed in a better spot than Golden State. His off-ball scoring should fit perfectly in a system that's predicated on ball movement. 

    He'll receive plenty of opportunities, assuming Klay Thompson isn't playing 82 games or full-time minutes. And Thompson is the ideal mentor for Moody, who thrives without needing ball-handling touches or isolation possessions. 

    He gets thrown right into a situation where he'll get playing time and potential playoff experience alongside future Hall of Famers. The Warriors just added an immediate spot-up scorer and shooter who can defend wings.

    —Wasserman

Winner: Russell Westbrook

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    A few hours shy of the draft itself, The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania broke news of a mega-trade that would send the Washington Wizards' Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers.

    The deal isn't official official yet (we'll have to wait for the start of the new league year on Aug. 6 for that), but the main pieces seem to be in place, with Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope going to Washington.

    Regardless of what the final package looks like, Westbrook is a huge winner here. He goes from a Wizards team that scraped its way through the play-in tournament before losing in the first round to a Lakers squad that will be at or near the top of most analysts' contender ladders.

    Figuring out how to fit in with two other ball-dominant stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis will take some time, but his last two seasons suggest he can do that. In both 2019-20 and 2020-21, when he shared the floor and the ball with James Harden and Bradley Beal, respectively, Westbrook had a better box plus/minus after the All-Star break.

    —Bailey

Loser: Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    As good as this trade is for Westbrook, it may have disaster potential for the Lakers.

    Yes, Westbrook was able to figure out how to better coexist with Harden and Beal over time, but it's even trickier with L.A. Harden and Beal can shoot and operated plenty from the perimeter. Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are all at their best in, near or heading toward the paint. And when all three are on the floor, spacing could be a nightmare.

    "Lakers about to have the spacing of a shoe box," Sports Illustrated's Chris Herring wrote. "A small child's shoe box."

    It remains to be seen what L.A. ends up with around those three, but it has next to no flexibility while figuring it out. Next season alone, the Lakers are on the hook for $120.8 million for Russ, LeBron and AD. The salary cap is $112.4 million, with the luxury tax kicking in at $136.6 million.

    —Bailey

Winner: Hornets

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Wojnarowski first reported the deal that has the Detroit Pistons sending Mason Plumlee and the No. 37 pick to the Charlotte Hornets for the No. 57 pick.

    Plumlee is far from a star, but the Pistons dropping 20 spots in the draft to straight-up salary dump him to the Hornets is a bit of a puzzler

    Last season, he was top 60 in the league in box plus/minus and averaged 14.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per 75 possessions.

    He's an immediate and significant upgrade over Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller, and he gives the Hornets an intriguing mix of size and playmaking throughout a presumed starting five that includes 6'7" LaMelo Ball and 6'8" Gordon Hayward.

    And if that was all Charlotte did on draft day, it would've been a success, but the Hornets potentially scored in the draft too.

    At No. 11, they stopped the slide of UConn's James Bouknight, who can bring some perimeter scoring. With the 19th pick, they added an athletic rim-running threat who can also hit some threes in Kai Jones. And finally, with that 37th selection they picked up from Detroit, they took a swing on the defense and athleticism of JT Thor.

    —Bailey

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