The 2021 NBA draft is in the books and as always, there are several winners and losers from the night. The Detroit Pistons held the No. 1 pick and after reportedly having some doubts, ended up selecting Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State. The Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers followed that up by taking Jalen Green and Evan Mobley, respectively.
Here are our winners and losers from draft night.
Winner: Detroit Pistons
The Pistons were reportedly not sold on Cade Cunningham for the past few days, probably trying to gauge some trade interest. Ultimately, Detroit took the best prospect in the draft and should be very happy with the selection over the course of Cunningham’s career.
The Oklahoma City Thunder took Josh Giddey at No. 6, which many will consider a big reach for the Australian. The NBL Rookie of the Year got a boost from LaMelo Ball’s performance this past season and should thrive in OKC’s development system. This is a big win for the NBL and basketball in Australia. Expect to see more top prospects coming from the league over the next few years.
Winner: Orlando Magic
The Magic got a gift when Jalen Suggs, a two-way point guard with tremendous upside, fell to them at No. 5. Orlando added another talented playmaker with Franz Wagner at No. 8, who will bring versatility defensively to a group looking to improve on that side of the floor. These two selections look really good for a franchise going “all in” on its homegrown talent.
Winner: NBA community awareness
Clarke was tragically killed in a car accident in April, ending his dreams of reaching the NBA. Adam Silver made a tribute on behalf of the league and gave Clarke’s family a special moment on draft night. Silver did this Baylor’s Isaiah Austin when he was unable to play in the NBA after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. This was the right thing to do for Clarke and his family and showed once again how the NBA is ahead of the other sports leagues when it comes to community awareness.
Winner: Cameron Thomas
Thomas had to wait for his name to be called, but the LSU scoring machine wound up in a great situation with the Brooklyn Nets. He’ll be tasked with providing points off the bench immediately for a team with championship aspirations. This is a great spot for Thomas to develop and a great value pick for the Nets.
Winner: Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets took James Bouknight at No. 11 and then traded into the No. 19 spot with the Knicks to take Kai Jones. Charlotte is building something around LaMelo Ball and both players should fit well alongside him. Jones has the potential to be a big steal if his post game develops while Bouknight’s scoring will help when Ball struggles.
Winner: Three-point shooting
Joshua Primo, Chris Duarte and Trey Murphy all climbed up draft boards due to their ability to hit the deep ball. Shooting is always going to have a place in the league, but it is becoming more and more important of late. These players got some extra cash with their jumps on draft night and should have long careers due to their ability to hit from behind the arc.
Loser: Stephen Curry
The Golden State Warriors are heading into the waning years of their dynasty with an aging Curry still playing like an MVP. Klay Thompson’s health throws some questions into the mix, but the Warriors had the assets to trade for an All-Star to bolster their chances for the next few seasons. Instead, Golden State held onto the No. 7 pick and took someone who won’t provide immediate assistance in the championship chase in Jonathan Kuminga. Moses Moody, who Golden State took at No. 14, offers some immediate assistance but might not get minutes ahead of Andrew Wiggins. The Warriors can still make a trade, but this was an interesting message to send to your star player as he enters the tail-end of his career.
Loser: New York Knicks
In what many were calling a deep draft, the Knicks traded out of both their first-round picks. The team broke a long playoff drought only to be bounced in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks and decided to not add cost-controlled talent with potential. Tom Thibodeau has a good group in New York, but this is a difficult strategy to justify. The team stayed in the first round in a trade with the Clippers for No. 25, but there was no reason to move down. They did get a solid player at No. 25 in Quentin Grimes.
Loser: Positional need over best available
There’s always a debate over whether a team should take the prospect it thinks is the best player or account for positional need. The Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Hornets continued to tilt the scales towards “best available” in this draft, taking players who could be considered redundancies on the current roster. It’s safe to say positions largely don’t matter when it comes to building a team in the draft.
Loser: Mock drafts
Almost every leading mock draft was thrown off after the No. 4 pick when the Raptors took Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs. Chris Duarte and Joshua Primo went much higher than expected and James Bouknight, a riser in draft process, ended up going outside the top 10. This just goes to show everyone whatever they think they know, they really don’t know until the pick is officially made. Great job by the respective teams concealing their intentions until draft night.