NBA Draft Results 2021: Easy-to-Read Grades, Picks for All 30 NBA Teams

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJuly 31, 2021

NBA Draft Results 2021: Easy-to-Read Grades, Picks for All 30 NBA Teams

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    A new class of NBA rookies entered the league Thursday night. After excelling in either the college, international or G League ranks, these players are set to embark on their professional careers.

    While some of these players are likely to live up to expectations, some may end up being busts. Others who were picked late during the two-round event could prove to be steals.

    However, we won't know exactly which NBA team has the best draft class until we see these players in action. And for some, it will take a few years before they can be evaluated fairly.

    Nonetheless, it's still possible to grade the performances of the NBA teams on draft night based on projections and how these players are likely to turn out. So here's a look at the results from the 2021 NBA draft, along with a grade for each team.

2021 NBA Draft Results and Grades

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    Atlanta Hawks: A

    Brooklyn Nets: B+

    Boston Celtics: C

    Charlotte Hornets: A

    Chicago Bulls: A-

    Cleveland Cavaliers: A-

    Dallas Mavericks: N/A

    Denver Nuggets: B+

    Detroit Pistons: A+

    Golden State Warriors: A

    Houston Rockets: A

    Indiana Pacers: B-

    Los Angeles Clippers: A-

    Los Angeles Lakers: N/A

    Memphis Grizzlies: C+

    Miami Heat: N/A

    Milwaukee Bucks: C

    Minnesota Timberwolves: N/A

    New Orleans Pelicans: B-

    New York Knicks: B

    Oklahoma City Thunder: B

    Orlando Magic: A-

    Philadelphia 76ers: B+

    Phoenix Suns: N/A

    Portland Trail Blazers: C

    San Antonio Spurs: D+

    Sacramento Kings: B+

    Toronto Raptors: B-

    Utah Jazz: A

    Washington Wizards: B+

Cunningham Begins Quest to Help Turn Around Pistons

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Detroit Pistons needed some star power. And they got just that when they drafted Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, the consensus top prospect in this year's draft class, with the No. 1 overall pick.

    It didn't come as much of a surprise, and Detroit would have been heavily criticized if it hadn't taken the 19-year-old, 6'8" guard. Considering it was a selection that pretty much every mock draft got right, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver called the pick "anticlimactic." But that doesn't change the fact that it was the right decision.

    "He gives our roster so much flexibility because we can play him in the frontcourt or the backcourt," Weaver said, per Dave Hogg of the Associated Press. "That and his leadership—he's a human connector—are two of the things that put him over the top."

    Detroit hasn't won a playoff series since 2008. It's only reached the postseason three times since then. And in each of the past two seasons, it's won only 20 games.

    But with Cunningham leading a young core, the Pistons could soon be turning things around.

Rockets Now Have Plenty of Talent to Build Around

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The 2020-21 season was a difficult one for the Houston Rockets, but that was to be expected. They traded away James Harden and Russell Westbrook and then went an NBA-worst 17-55. Houston was also in need of some young, talented players to develop for the future.

    On Thursday night, the Rockets got plenty of those. First, they landed G League Ignite shooting guard Jalen Green, who has the potential to be the franchise's centerpiece player for years to come. Houston may not have landed Cunningham, but Green is right up there in talent and skills.

    "Clearly we think he can be a special player," Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said, per Kristie Rieken of the Associated Press. "Exactly how that plays out or the exact timing of everything else I just don't know. ... But in terms of his path, the only thing I ask is that we get absolutely the utmost effort, and I'm confident that we will."

    It was a busy night for Houston, as it added three additional players in the first round: Besiktas power forward/center Alperen Sengun (No. 16 pick), Real Madrid power forward/center Usman Garuba (No. 23) and Arizona State shooting guard Josh Christopher (No. 24).

    That's a strong core for the Rockets to build around. And while it may take some time, they appear to be back on the right track.

Mobley Gives Cavaliers Needed Boost in the Paint

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    Phil Long/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Cavaliers used their first pick in the draft to take a guard every year from 2018-20. That changed in 2021, though, because they couldn't pass over USC center Evan Mobley. Not only that, but Cleveland also needed to bring in a young big man to build around in the post.

    Mobley should fit perfectly in the Cavs' plans. There are going to be a lot of talented guards around the 7-footer, and he's eager to start playing with them.

    "I've done a little homework on Cleveland the last couple of weeks," Mobley said, per Brian Dulik of the Associated Press. "They've got a lot of really young, athletic guys—just like I am—so I thought I would fit right in."

    Perhaps Mobley will also be the key to the Cavaliers starting to produce better results. Although they have brought in players such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro in recent drafts, they have won 22 or fewer games in each of the past three seasons.

    But with Mobley in the mix, Cleveland is building a core that could get it back to having success.