2021 NBA Draft Grades: Winners, Losers, Surprise Picks

2021 NBA Draft Grades

After an exciting few days, the 2021 NBA draft grades are in. As expected, Cade Cunningham was the first overall pick to the Detroit Pistons. Jalen Green and Evan Mobley followed, as potential superstars for the future. There were a few teams expected to trade their picks, but they stood pat. All-in-all, most teams did very well in the draft and we should see a lot of players in this class have long careers.

AtlantaHawksAtlanta Hawks

Draft Picks:

No. 20 – Jalen Johnson, Forward (Duke)
Andrew’s Grade: A-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jalen Johnson or Usman Garuba

No. 48 – Sharife Cooper, Guard (Auburn)
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Sharife Cooper

Team Grade: A

Analysis: Atlanta capitalized on its picks this year. Despite some potential issues, these picks are fantastic. Cooper can learn behind Young for the foreseeable future and provide depth to the Hawks’ backcourt. Also, Johnson should be a great backup immediately for Collins.

Boston CelticsBoston Celtics

Draft Picks:

No. 45 – Juhann Begarin, Guard (France)
Andrew’s Grade: C
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Charles Bassey or traded the pick

Team Grade: C

Analysis: In my opinion, the Celtics only need another piece or two to be in contention for a championship. Ideally, they should have traded the pick for a future pick or drafted another big like Charles Bassey with long-term upside, mainly since they just traded Tristan Thompson.

Brooklyn NetsBrooklyn Nets

Draft Picks:

No. 27 – Cameron Thomas, Guard, LSU
Andrew’s Grade: B+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Cameron Thomas or trade the pick

No. 29 – Day’Ron Sharpe, Center, North Carolina
Andrew’s Grade: C+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – J.T. Thor or traded the pick

No. 44 – Kessler Edwards, Forward, Pepperdine
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Kessler Edwards or Sharife Cooper or Charles Bassey or traded the pick

No. 49 – Marcus Zegarowski, Guard, Creighton
Andrew’s Grade: C+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Traded the pick

No. 59 – RaiQuan Gray, Forward, Florida State
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – RaiQuan Gray or traded the pick

Team Grade: B-/C+

Analysis: The Nets are poised for a championship run next year with a floor of making the Eastern Conference Finals and a ceiling of winning the NBA championship. Why they would decide to draft five players is beyond my level of comprehension. Two picks would have done the job.

It makes sense for Brooklyn to have drafted Thomas and then a big, but much past that, they should have tried to package the picks for a “win-now” player or future picks.

Charlotte HornetsCharlotte Hornets

Draft Picks:

No. 11 – James Bouknight, Guard, UConn
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – James Bouknight

No. 19 – Kai Jones, Center, Texas
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Kai Jones

No. 37 – JT Thor, Forward, Auburn
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – J.T. Thor

No. 56 – Scottie Lewis, Guard, Florida
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Scottie Lewis or Jericho Sims or Joel Ayayi

Team Grade: A+

Analysis: Where can I buy the Hornets over on regular-season wins next year? Charlotte made out like bandits with these picks and is one of the only teams that basically made every single correct decision. I believe the Hornets were not expecting Bouknight to drop to them, but when he did, they scooped him and then audibled in the late-teens of the first round to scoop Kai Jones, who they probably were planning on taking at number 11 in the first place.

This was brilliant work. The combination of Jones rim-running with LaMelo at the point and Bouknight on the wing ready to catch-and-shoot or score off the dribble make me very excited for the future of this team.

Chicago BullsChicago Bulls

Draft Picks:

No. 38 – Ayo Dosunmu, Guard, Illinois
Andrew’s Grade: A+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Ayo Dosunmu

Team Grade: A+

Analysis: If there has ever been a basketball take (hill) that I would die on, Ayo Dosunmu’s tremendous upside would be it. Ayo averaged roughly 20 points, six rebounds, and five assists on a top-five team in the nation last year.

He has proven to be an effective shooter with above-average splits, yet teams didn’t see him as a first-round type of player. I don’t understand it; however, with Chicago’s sole pick in this draft, it potentially could have snagged the sleeper of the draft. Let’s give the Bulls a standing ovation.

Cleveland CavaliersCleveland Cavaliers

Draft Picks:

No. 3 – Evan Mobley, C, USC
Andrew’s Grade: A+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Evan Mobley

Team Grade: A+

Analysis: With Cleveland’s sole pick being at No. 3, the Cavaliers did the only logical thing: draft either Jalen Green or Evan Mobley. The Cavs had Mobley available to them, so they pulled the trigger. Simple and easy.

Dallas MavericksDallas Mavericks

Draft Picks:

No Picks

Team Grade: Not Available

Analysis: There were no picks for the Mavs this year.

Denver NuggetsDenver Nuggets

Draft Picks:

No. 26 – Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, Guard, VCU
Andrew’s Grade: C+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jared Butler or Ayo Dosunmu

Team Grade: C+

Analysis: I certainly didn’t mind whichever guard the Nuggets took in the first round, as long as they took a guard. We saw in the playoffs that they lacked depth in their backcourt. Of course, it didn’t help that Murray was injured, but still, they were missing another solid backup guard.

Detroit PistonsDetroit Pistons

Draft Picks:

No. 1 – Cade Cunningham, Guard, Oklahoma St.
Andrew’s Grade: A+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Cade Cunningham

No. 42 – Isaiah Livers, Forward, Michigan
Andrew’s Grade: A-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Isaiah Livers

No. 52 – Luka Garza, Center, Iowa
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Luka Garza/Charles Bassey

No. 57 – Balsa Koprivica, Center, Florida State
Andrew’s Grade: C+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jericho Sims

Team Grade: A/A+

Analysis: Under the assumption that the Pistons take Cunningham first, there is no real way they could get lower than an “A” on draft night. I’m also very bullish on the Livers pick in the second round. Had he stayed healthy and Michigan went a little further in the tournament, Livers could have been a first-rounder.

Also, I am a fan of taking Luka Garza late in the second round. If his feet can get faster on the perimeter and in defensive pick-and-roll situations, then he could become a rotational player in the future.

golden state warriorsGolden State Warriors

Draft Picks:

No. 7 – Jonathan Kuminga, Forward, G-League Ignite
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jonathan Kuminga

No. 14 – Moses Moody, Guard, Arkansas
Andrew’s Grade: A-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Moody or Trade

Team Grade: A+

Analysis: There were talks for a while that Golden State would move the No. 7 and No. 14 picks for a veteran player; however, there didn’t seem to be any sufficient offers on the table. Instead, the Warriors held on to the picks and received the best possible outcome. Kuminga gives them an immediate defensive presence and motor.

He won’t be relied on heavily for offense, and this will provide him with a proper amount of time to develop on that end without feeling so much pressure. Moody resembles a young Bradley Beal, so the Warriors certainly could use him in a rotational role in the beginning. Altogether, the Warriors look like a championship team again.

houston rocketsHouston Rockets

Draft Picks:

No. 2 – Jalen Green, Guard, G League Ignite
Andrew’s Grade: A+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jalen Green

No. 16 – Alperen Sengün, Center, Besiktas (Turkey)
Andrew’s Grade: B+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Alperen Sengun

No. 23 – Usman Garuba, Forward, Real Madrid (Spain)
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Usman Garuba

No. 24 – Josh Christopher, Guard, Arizona State
Andrew’s Grade: B-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Miles McBride

Team Grade: A

Analysis: Offensively, the Rockets are in great shape. Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green both can fill it up at an extremely high level. They also have Christian Wood returning, who also provided a lot of offense inside the paint and outside.

Personally, it seems that the Rockets should have focused on rotational backcourt players after they secured Garuba and Sengun to add to their frontcourt. Deuce McBride would have been my pick here, as he would instill a culture of effort on both ends. Regardless, Christopher has a secondary scorer upside, so it’s not a bad pick by any stretch.

Indiana PacersIndiana Pacers

Draft Picks:

No. 13 – Chris Duarte, F, Oregon
Andrew’s Grade: C
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Moses Moody

No. 22 – Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Not Traded For The Pick

Team Grade: C+/B-

Analysis: While I am high on Chris Duarte, he belongs on a team that can win now. He would be perfect on Atlanta, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Golden State, Los Angeles (Lakers), or a team similar. I feel the Pacers should be thinking about more long-term prospects like Moses Moody. Additionally, Indiana traded for the 22nd pick to scoop Isaiah Jackson.

Jackson is of great value at No. 22, but the only way this pick makes sense is if it trades Myles Turner. Even then, they need a more perimeter-centric power-forward to complement Sabonis’s inside game. In the near future, the best-case scenario for the Pacers is a No. 4 or No. 5 seed, so if they are content with that, then mission accomplished.

Los Angeles ClippersLA Clippers

Draft Picks:

No. 21 – Keon Johnson, Guard, Tennessee
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Keon Johnson

No. 33 – Jason Preston, Guard, Ohio
Andrew’s Grade: A-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jason Preston, Miles McBride, or Ayo Dosunmu

No. 51 – Brandon Boston Jr., Guard, Kentucky
Andrew’s Grade: B+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Charles Bassey or Brandon Boston Jr.

Team Grade: A-

Analysis: The Clippers nailed this draft. They grabbed a mind-boggling athlete in Keon Johnson who can just come off the bench and develop without so much offensive pressure. Los Angeles also scooped underrated Jason Preston, who showed moments of brilliance at Ohio, and Brandon Boston Jr., whose year didn’t pan out how he wanted but still has terrific upside. These additions once again put the Clippers amongst the top teams in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles LakersLos Angeles Lakers

Draft Picks: None

Team Grade: B

Analysis: The Lakers were set to have the No. 22 pick in the draft after getting bounced in the first round by the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Playoffs. Instead, Los Angeles traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the No. 22 pick to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook.

This would garner a significantly better grade if the Lakers went after their true need: shooting. Still, grabbing Westbrook gives them a competitive trio of players to compete with the Brooklyn Nets.

Memphis GrizzliesMemphis Grizzlies

Draft Picks:

No. 10 – Ziaire Williams, F, Stanford
Andrew’s Grade: B-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – James Bouknight

No. 30 – Santi Aldama, F, Loyola
Andrew’s Grade: D
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Not Traded For The Pick

Team Grade: C

Analysis: Memphis had traded Jonas Valanciunas and the No. 17 pick to the Pelicans a few days prior. In return, Memphis got the No. 10 pick, Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. This was an effort for the Pelicans to get rid of Bledsoe and his salary. Ziaire Williams can be a great NBA player, so maybe a B- was a bit harsh.

If I were Memphis, I would have snagged Bouknight or traded down a few picks to take him there. I doubt anyone would have taken Williams higher than 15 or 16, but if he is the Grizzlies’ guy, it makes sense.

Miami HeatMiami Heat

Draft Picks: None

Team Grade: N/A

Analysis: Miami did not have any picks in the draft, nor did it make any moves via trade.

Milwaukee BucksMilwaukee Bucks

Draft Picks:

No. 54 – Sandro Mamukelashvilli, Forward, Seton Hall
Andrew’s Grade: B-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jericho Sims

No. 60 – Georgios Kalaitzakis, Forward, Panathinaikos (Greece)
Andrew’s Grade: C
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Alex Antetokounmpo

Team Grade: C+

Analysis: Realistically, the Bucks have most of what they already need after winning a ring. Anything, or anybody, that would have been worth having probably would have been a little steep in price. The Bucks get an average grade for an average night.

minnesota timberwolvesMinnesota Timberwolves

Draft Picks: None

Team Grade: N/A

Analysis: The Minnesota Timberwolves’ only pick would have been if it landed in the top five of the draft, as that is what was protected. Instead, despite their awful year, the pick landed at No. 7 and thus became the Warriors’ pick. Minnesota had no other picks in the draft.

new orleans pelicansNew Orleans Pelicans

Draft Picks:

No. 17 – Trey Murphy III, Forward, Virginia
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Trey Murphy III

No. 35 – Herb Jones, Forward, Alabama
Andrew’s Grade: B+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Ayo Dosunmu

Team Grade: A-

Analysis: Trey Murphy is one of the steals of this draft. He has an exceptional basketball IQ, having played for Virginia, and his movement off the ball will free up Zion to isolate more. Murphy shoots the three at a high clip and works well off of pick-and-rolls offensively, and knows how to defend them as well.

Herb Jones is another talented player the Pelicans scooped who can provide an instant defense. However, I would have gone with Ayo Dosunmu, who could eventually replace Lonzo in some capacity. Altogether, the Pelicans quietly had one of the best nights.

new york knicksNew York Knicks

Draft Picks:

No. 25 – Quentin Grimes, Guard, Houston
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Quentin Grimes or Isaiah Livers

No. 34 – Rokas Jokubaitis, Guard, FC Barcelona (Spain)
Andrew’s Grade: C+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Herb Jones

No. 36 – Miles McBride, Guard, West Virginia
Andrew’s Grade: A+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Miles McBride

No. 58 – Jericho Sims, Center, Texas
Andrew’s Grade: B+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jericho Sims

Team Grade: B

Analysis: This grade could have been an “A” without much effort. The Knicks still could have traded No. 19 and kept No. 21 to draft Usman Garuba, who seemed destined to play under Tom Thibodeau. Then, they could have drafted McBride or Grimes. Regardless, I would still call this a success for New York, who needed shooting and guard-play desperately.

Oklahoma City ThunderOklahoma City Thunder

Draft Picks:

No. 6 – Josh Giddey, Guard, Adelaide 36ers (Australia)
Andrew’s Grade: C-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jonathan Kuminga or Davion Mitchell

No. 18 – Tre Mann, Guard, Florida
Andrew’s Grade: A-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Tre Mann

No. 32 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Forward, Villanova
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

No. 55 – Aaron Wiggins, Guard, Maryland
Andrew’s Grade: B-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Aaron Wiggins or Joel Ayayi

Team Grade: B

Analysis: While I think Giddey at No. 6 was a reach, perhaps the Thunder know something we don’t. Giddey’s ceiling is extremely high as a primary ball-handler and playmaker, but his floor is relatively low if it doesn’t translate, and he becomes an off-ball player solely. It’s a big risk/reward pick. They just as easily could have traded down a few picks.

Either way, the rest of their draft was solid as they added Mann, Wiggins, and Robinson-Earl. Mann has elite offensive potential, while Wiggins could become a substantial defensive threat in the future. Robinson-Earl is one of the most polished all-around players but doesn’t excel in any one area. Another move the Thunder made was trading the No. 16 pick to the Rockets, who were desperate to add Alperen Sengun to their squad. This resulted in two additional first-rounders in the future.

Orlando MagicOrlando Magic

Draft Picks:

No. 5 – Jalen Suggs, Guard, Gonzaga
Andrew’s Grade: C
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jonathan Kuminga

No. 8 – Franz Wagner, Forward, Michigan
Andrew’s Grade: B-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Alperen Sengun or Trey Murphy III or Franz Wagner

Team Grade: B-

Analysis: The Magic were put in a challenging position when Scottie Barnes sky-rocketed to No. 4, so they probably weren’t prepared for Suggs falling to them. This is more telling to me that they expected Barnes at No. 5 and were planning on taking him there.

When he went off the board early, they panicked. Orlando has way more guards than they need, and that’s the only reason that Suggs warrants a “C” rating here. Suggs is a great talent and leader, and if they can figure out how to get every one of their guards on the floor, or at least trade a couple of current guards, it could work out perfectly. The other pick, Wagner, has a high ceiling as a long wing with 3-point shooting potential.

Philadelphia 76ersPhiladelphia 76ers

Draft Picks:

No. 28 – Jaden Springer, Guard, Tennessee
Andrew’s Grade: B-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Ayo Dosunmu

No. 50 – Filip Petrusev, Forward, Gonzaga
Andrew’s Grade: B+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Filip Petrusev or Brandon Boston Jr.

No. 53 – Charles Bassey, Center, Western Kentucky
Andrew’s Grade: A-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Charles Bassey

Team Grade: B+

Analysis: With the impending departure of Ben Simmons via a trade, it made sense for the Sixers to go with a point guard with their first pick. I’m sure that they thought Springer might go off the board before they were on the clock, so they had to have been happy.

Where Philadelphia excelled was late in the second round when it picked Charles Bassey, a traditional big man who can give the Sixers some critical minutes, and Joel Embiid some much-deserved rest.

phoenix sunsPhoenix Suns

Draft Picks: None

Team Grade: A-

Analysis: Phoenix traded Jevon Carter and the No. 29 pick and, in return, got Landry Shamet. This was a phenomenal trade. Phoenix knows that it is in “win-now” mode after making the NBA Finals. Signs indicate Chris Paul will stay in Phoenix, so the Suns will return every one of value.

Portland Trail BlazersPortland Trail Blazers

Draft Picks:

No. 43 – Greg Brown, Forward, Texas
Andrew’s Grade: B+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Greg Brown or Charles Bassey

Team Grade: B+

Analysis: Portland decided to make a deal during the draft to secure the No. 43 pick, which became the athletic forward Greg Brown. Portland needs some interior athleticism, and this is one way to do it.

Sacramento KingsSacramento Kings

Draft Picks:

No. 9 – Davion Mitchell, Guard, Baylor
Andrew’s Grade: A-
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Davion Mitchell

No. 39 – Neemias Queta, Center, Utah State
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Neemias Queta or Charles Bassey

Team Grade: A-/B+

Analysis: I have to think that Buddy Hield is on the move with the Mitchell pick. Sacramento may decide to play small ball and have Haliburton, Fox, and Mitchell out there on the floor, but the likelihood of Hield returning is waning.

The Kings may bring Mitchell off the bench, but there are many cooks in the kitchen if they decide to keep Hield. Drafting Queta in the second round was also a good grab. He was one of the two best centers left with an Eagle-like, 7-foot-4 wingspan and great rim protection instincts.

San Antonio SpursSan Antonio Spurs

Draft Picks:

No. 12 – Joshua Primo, Guard, Alabama
Andrew’s Grade: D+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Moses Moody or Corey Kispert, or Alperen Sengun

No. 41 – Joe Wieskamp, Forward, Iowa
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Isaiah Livers

Team Grade: C-

Analysis: The Spurs made one of the more curious lottery selections in recent memory. Primo would likely have not been drafted in the first round if it weren’t for the Spurs. The fact that they like Primo is not the issue. The issue is what they could have gotten in return by trading down.

He’s a long guard with decent secondary scoring potential and is only 18 years old. However, it felt like a panic pick when they just could have traded down. In the second round, San Antonio selected Wieskamp, a sharpshooting guard/forward. I like Livers’ potential a bit more, but it’s not a bad pick.

Toronto RaptorsToronto Raptors

Draft Picks:

No. 4 – Scottie Barnes, Forward, Florida State
Andrew’s Grade: C+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jalen Suggs

No. 46 – Dalano Banton, Guard, Nebraska
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Dalano Banton or Sharife Cooper

No. 47 – David Johnson, Guard, Louisville
Andrew’s Grade: C
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Sharife Cooper or Scottie Lewis

Team Grade: B-

Analysis: Toronto made the first potentially “ill-advised” pick of the NBA Draft by selecting Scottie Barnes instead of Jalen Suggs, who would have perfectly fit Kyle Lowry’s shoes. Lowry’s departure seems inevitable, and while I love Scottie’s upside, it doesn’t seem like the right pick.

The only way this makes sense to me is if the Raptors plan on shipping either O.G. Anunoby or Pascal Siakam. Dalano Banton is another exciting prospect at 6-foot-9 with a point guard skill set.

Utah JazzUtah Jazz

Draft Picks:

No. 40 – Jared Butler, Guard, Baylor
Andrew’s Grade: A
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Jared Butler

Team Grade: A

Analysis: Many teams were scared off of Butler in the late-first round. This is likely because of a heart-related condition that Butler has known about for a few years. The NBA unanimously cleared him, but it was still enough fright for teams to pass.

Utah traded down from the 30th pick to acquire two future second-rounders and the 40th pick, where the Jazz took Butler. Assuming Butler is ready to go, this was a steal.

Washington WizardsWashington Wizards

Draft Picks:

No. 15 – Corey Kispert, Forward, Gonzaga
Andrew’s Grade: B
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Trey Murphy III or Corey Kispert, or Jalen Johnson

No. 31 – Isaiah Todd, Forward, G-League Ignite
Andrew’s Grade: C+
Who Would Andrew Have Picked? – Miles McBride or Jason Preston, or Jared Butler

Team Grade: B

Analysis: Washington secured a “B” by the Kispert pick and its deal to send Westbrook to the Lakers. Everything after that would only be a bonus. What surprised me is when the Wizards selected Isaiah Todd with the 31st pick after the trade with Milwaukee. Washington has its hands full of forwards and could use a point guard now to add depth.

Butler, McBride, and Preston were there at No. 31, and every one of them could have supplied immediate help to the Wizards’ backcourt. It’s a bit head-scratching, but the additional shooting from Kuzma, Kispert, and Caldwell-Pope should help them compete for a playoff spot next year.

Andrew has watched sports since as young as he can remember and was fortunate enough to play college basketball. As a kid, he would sneak his Space Jam Michael Jordan jersey into his pre-school so he could wear it every day. Mom was not a happy camper when she found out.

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