Winners and Losers From an Eventful 2021 NBA Draft

Winners and Losers From an Eventful 2021 NBA Draft

This article is part of our NBA Draft series.

The 2021 NBA Draft is officially in the books, so it's time to look back and assess which teams and prospects won the night. Here's a look at a handful of the winners – and losers – from another eventful evening in Brooklyn.


Detroit Pistons

This is an obvious one, but the Pistons have to be mentioned. With apologies to Blake Griffin (and, briefly, Saben Lee), Detroit had been a rudderless ship for several years now, and the arrival of Cade Cunningham immediately changes that. While they'll likely still be a bottom-feeder next season, Detroit finally has a potential superstar in the door who should kickstart their rebuild.

Collin Sexton and Darius Garland

Evan Mobley always seemed like the most likely option for Cleveland at No. 3, but had Houston taken the USC product, the Cavs would've almost certainly selected Jalen Green. With a big man en route to Cleveland, Sexton and Garland appear to be safe – for now, at least – as the projected starting backcourt again in 2021-22. After an encouraging sophomore season, Garland looks to be the higher-upside player of the two, but Sexton quietly averaged 24.3 points, 4.4 assists and shot 47 percent from the field for the second straight season.

Orlando Magic

Time will tell if Toronto taking Scottie Barnes at No. 4 was the right move, but the Magic have to be beyond thrilled to land Suggs with the fifth pick. Like Detroit, the Magic have some nice pieces but lack a true keystone asset – Suggs changes that immediately.

The Magic took Cole Anthony in the first round a year ago, but they're at the stage in their rebuild where accumulating high-end assets should be the number one goal. Both Anthony and Suggs profile as true point guards, but Suggs has the size to play off-ball, and it wouldn't be surprising if the two open the season together in the backcourt. 

Josh Giddey

What a ride it's been for the 18-year-old Australian. In the months leading up to the draft, Giddey was nowhere near a household name – he still isn't, if we're being honest – but he gradually worked his way up draft boards and heard his name called all the way up at No. 6 on Thursday night.

For an 18-year-old, Giddey is ahead of schedule in his development. He thinks the game at a higher level than most of his peers. But he's still in need of plenty of NBA reps, and the Thunder are the team best-positioned to offer him exactly that. Eventually, Oklahoma City is going to shift back into contention, but for now the Thunder is the perfect spot for a player like Giddey to continue to develop at his own pace.

Ziaire Williams

Coming into the night, Williams had one of the widest ranges of any prospect in the draft, but 10th overall is higher than even his biggest supporters would have expected. The Grizzlies will have their eye on another playoff berth next season, so it's likely Williams will be brought along slowly. But the Grizzlies clearly view Williams as a potential star talent to complement Ja Morant in the long run.

Charlotte Hornets

One of several teams in best-player-available mode, the Hornets were able to land a player most believed would be long gone by the time their pick at No. 11 rolled around. If you go by the odds, James Bouknight was widely expected to go sixth to OKC or seventh to Golden State, but after both teams passed, he tumbled all the way out of the top-10.

Bouknight does carry some question marks – he was a sub-30% three-point shooter last season – but landing arguably the best pure scorer in the draft outside of the top-10 is a major win for a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

Houston Rockets

Landing Jalen Green – a No. 1-pick-caliber prospect – at No. 2 was the big prize for Houston, but the Rockets did well to trade up with the Thunder and snatch the free-falling Alperen Sengun at No. 16. Later in the first round, the Rockets picked up another faller, Usman Garuba, and snagged high-upside scorer Josh Christopher one pick later. It's no guarantee that any of those players will turn into stars, but the Rockets gave themselves four bites at the apple, which is exactly how a franchise in their position should attack the draft.


The Lakers' spacing

Just before the draft began, it looked as though the Lakers were set to acquire Buddy Hield from Sacramento for a package of role players, plus the No. 22 pick. However, the Lakers' attention quickly turned to Russell Westbrook, and less than an hour later a deal had been struck.

While Westbrook is undoubtedly a major upgrade from a talent perspective, the Lakers would be hard-pressed to find a star who fits worse next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Three-point shooting was by far the Lakers' biggest issue last season, and for all of his pluses, Westbrook is one of the NBA's most damaging shooters – both from three and the free throw line. James has made it work with much lesser supporting casts, but Westbrook's fit is questionable at best.

Jarrett Allen

The Cavs taking Mobley at No. 3 doesn't mean Allen won't be back, but it certainly gives GM Koby Altman an alternative path if another team swoops in with a big-money offer. If Allen does remain in Cleveland, he'll likely play alongside Mobley (assuming the Cavs find a landing spot for Kevin Love), which would be fine in the short-term but probably isn't the long-term solution. Mobley is best-suited to play center, and while Allen is a promising player and still just 23 years old, ensuring Mobley develops into the best player possible should be the Cavs' top priority going forward.

Cole Anthony

The Magic landing Suggs at No. 5 could be the steal of the draft, but it's not an ideal scenario for Anthony, who took over as the starter last season after Markelle Fultz went down. Not only will Anthony have Fultz to compete with once he returns, but the arrival of Suggs instantly changes the landscape of Orlando's rebuild. Certainly, the Magic will find time for all three guards, but Suggs and Fultz have the size to play both backcourt spots, which could give them a leg up over the former Tar Heel.

Golden State Warriors

Chances are, at least one of Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody is going to develop into a very good NBA player, so the Warriors aren't losers in that regard. But if their goal is to compete for the title next season with a healthy Klay Thompson, I'm not sure they moved a whole lot closer to accomplishing that goal.

To be fair, there wasn't an obvious great player the Warriors passed up, but rolling the dice on a G Leaguer and a one-and-done prospect is a high-risk/high-reward strategy for a team whose best player will turn 34 in March. Maybe Kuminga and Moody help carry the Warriors beyond the Curry-Thompson-Green years, but Golden State may have missed an opportunity to add win-now talent like Corey Kispert, James Bouknight or Chris Duarte.

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Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Nick was awarded the FSWA Best Podcast -- All Sports award in 2017 and 2018. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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