NBA Draft 2021 Results: Grades for Each Team, Top Prospects and Sleepers

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 30, 2021

NBA Draft 2021 Results: Grades for Each Team, Top Prospects and Sleepers

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Detroit Pistons made one of the biggest roster upgrades through the 2021 NBA draft by adding Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick Thursday.

    Cunningham was the cornerstone of the draft class, but the players the Pistons added in the second round reinforced their depth and could help accelerate their rebuild.

    Detroit landed Isaiah Livers and National Player of the Year Luka Garza with their two second-round selections. Those two Big Ten stars could be solid role players for the team's young core as it attempts to build out of the Eastern Conference basement.

    Livers and Garza were two of the many experienced collegiate players who were chosen in the second round, and they could be two of the biggest steals of that part of the draft.

    The Chicago Bulls' selection of Ayo Dosunmu and the New Orleans Pelicans' choice of Herbert Jones fall under the same category of sleeper picks that could pay off during the 2021-22 season and beyond.

NBA Draft Grades

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    Atlanta: B+

    Brooklyn: A-

    Boston: C-

    Charlotte: A-

    Chicago: B+

    Cleveland: B+

    Dallas: N/A

    Denver: B

    Detroit: A

    Golden State: A

    Houston: A

    Indiana: B+

    Los Angeles Clippers: B

    Los Angeles Lakers: N/A

    Memphis: B-

    Miami: N/A

    Milwaukee: C

    Minnesota: N/A

    New Orleans: B-

    New York: B

    Oklahoma City: B-

    Orlando: A

    Philadelphia: B-

    Phoenix: N/A

    Portland: B-

    San Antonio: C

    Sacramento: A

    Toronto: C

    Utah: B

    Washington: B-

Detroit Takes Cunningham, 2 Strong Role Players

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Detroit's selection of Cunningham at No. 1 will be the team's most effective pick of the 2021 draft.

    The Oklahoma State product should slot right into the starting five as the point guard to command an offense that already features Jerami Grant and Saddiq Bey.

    The Pistons did not have to do a ton of work to reach their decision since Cunningham was the clear-cut top prospect in the class.

    Where Detroit's research and scouting could pay off is with the second-round selections of Michigan's Livers and Garza out of Iowa.

    Livers was a four-year player at Michigan who helped the Wolverines reach the 2018 National Championship Game. He will bring strong defending off the bench in reserve of Bey and other backcourt players.

    Garza has the potential to start as a backup frontcourt player behind Isaiah Stewart after Mason Plumlee was traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

    The Iowa product carries value in the NBA because of his three-point shooting ability. If that skill translates to the professional level, he will provide the Pistons with offensive and defensive depth.

    The trio of Cunningham, Livers and Garza could turn into one of the better units from the draft, especially if they all work into a squad that showed some individual promise last season.

    If Detroit's young stars form a solid bond, it should avoid the basement of the East at minimum.

Chicago Gets Steal in Ayo Dosunmu

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Chicago's lone pick of the 2021 draft could turn into one of the franchise's smartest offseason decisions.

    The Bulls jumped at the opportunity to land Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu at No. 38. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 20.1 points per game.

    Dosunmu likely dropped into the second round because of the three years he spent at the collegiate level. Teams typically call on young players with potential in the first round. Only five college upperclassmen were selected in the first round, but once the second round began, the selections of experienced players flowed in.

    To start, Dosunmu can be used as a scorer off the bench in relief of Zach LaVine and Coby White, but he does have a chance to earn more minutes by the time the regular season ends.

    Dosunmu increased his scoring total in each of his three seasons at Illinois and recorded his best three-point percentage in college last season.

    If Dosunmu continues to work on his three-point shot and keeps cutting through the paint for easy baskets, he could turn into one of the more exciting bench players to watch from this draft and give the Bulls more depth behind their stars.

New Orleans Lands Pair of Sleeper Picks

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Virginia's Trey Murphy III and Alabama's Herbert Jones will not go down as the most notable picks, but they could be viewed as two of the more effective selections when we evaluate the draft in a few years.

    Murphy was chosen with the No. 17 pick. New Orleans finalized a trade with Memphis that saw the No. 10 pick went to the Grizzlies. The trades can't be officially announced until the start of the new NBA league year.

    With the 35th pick, the Pelicans landed Jones from an Alabama program that has been on the rise in recent years under Nate Oats.

    Jones was one of the best defenders in Division I last season and should bring some defensive bite off the bench to start off his career in New Orleans.

    The Pelicans know Murphy comes to the league fundamentally sound because of the values installed inside the Virginia program.

    Murphy, who transferred to Virginia from Rice, averaged a career-best 11.3 points per game and shot 43.3 percent from three-point range with the Cavaliers last season.

    Both players should strengthen the second unit in New Orleans to help the team avoid a major drop off from Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Co.

    If the Pelicans benefit from their newly added depth, they could make a better push at a Western Conference playoff position with Williamson leading the way.