The NBA Draft is tough to follow, especially if you’re not the type who scrolls through Twitter or gets caught up in pre-draft coverage. This year, however, featured one of the buzzier draft nights because of all the prospects involved (and also because the Los Angeles Lakers lost their mind).
The Brodie trade excluded, this draft will be talked about for a while. If you’re worried you don't have a take yet to join in on your friends’ conversations, we have you covered. Take the following as sort of cliffnotes of the 2021 NBA Draft.
You should be happy if you’re a fan of the…
The Orlando Magic have a reputation for being the unluckiest lottery team in the last decade. In 2014, the Magic picked Aaron Gordon fourth when Joel Embiid was taken third. In 2015, Kristaps Porzingis was drafted fourth when the Magic had the fifth selection (which they ended up using on Mario Hezonja). In 2018, the Luka Doncic draft, Orlando picked Mo Bamba sixth after Trae Young went fifth. For years, the Magic have had to settle on projects that barely panned out. Had they been just one spot higher in any of the drafts mentioned, they could have had a franchise star.
This year, though, might be the best draft ever for the Magic. Picking fifth, the Magic were set to pick another project – one of the physically gifted wings that either doesn't have a jump shot or needs to learn to play basketball. However, their luck turned when Toronto reached for Florida State swingman Scottie Barnes with the fourth pick.
This left Orlando with Jalen Suggs, the all-around guard from Gonzaga. Suggs, unlike the Magic's past lottery picks, comes in with plenty of tools. He can play point guard and run their offense or take on an off-ball role and hit spot-up jumpers. He's a versatile defender who competes against any matchup. He isn’t as dynamic an athlete as Aaron Gordon nor does he have the freakish wingspan of a Mo Bamba, but Jalen Suggs is ready to play right now in the NBA and can definitely grow into an All-Star. Just the fact that he has a decent jumper is already a massive win for Orlando.
Then, thanks to the Chicago Bulls-Nikola Vucevic trade, the Magic still had the eighth pick where they selected Michigan forward Franz Wagner. He's another guy that can soak NBA minutes as a solid offensive wing. He has a decent jumper and a penchant for playmaking that will complement Suggs and Orlando's young players like Jonathan Isaac or Markelle Fultz. There probably hasn't been a better time to be a Magic fan since the franchise made the finals in 2008.
You should also be happy if you’re a Houston Rockets fan. After losing James Harden last season, the Rockets landed the best offensive prospect in the draft in Jalen Green (more on him later). Houston also picked up Alperen Sengun by trading for the 16th pick. Sengun was the MVP of the Turkish league as an 18-year-old and was projected to go as high as eighth by some of the most reputable draft experts. The Rockets then finished their night by drafting Spanish forward Usman Garuba and Arizona State's Josh Christopher back-to-back at 23 and 24.
This is a massive prospect haul for the Rockets who took as many swings as they could. Getting a dynamic scorer in Green and picking up a potential post-up beast in Sengun would have already been great for the Rockets, but they also get two potentially disruptive defensive players in Garuba and Christopher. They probably won’t be good next season but the Rockets will be one of the most fun League Pass teams.
...Golden State Warriors
Warriors fans should also breathe a sigh of relief after getting Jonathan Kuminga with the seventh pick and Moses Moody 14th. Kuminga is a rocket science/heart surgery-level project. He could end up being the best player of this draft or out of the league altogether if he doesn’t improve. Golden State, however, should provide a solid environment for him to improve. With Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins filling up four slots in the starting lineup, a limited bench role on a team trying to make the finals should be just enough exposure for Kuminga to work out the kinks in his game and learn the league.
Moody, although less of a complicated project, is still only 19 years old. The Warriors probably want him to be a shooter off the bench for a while, a role Moody should be able to fill.
In any case, the Warriors still picked up two solid prospects that could add the grease needed to get a deal for another star done. The Warriors added pieces for the future or a trade – a pretty solid win-win.
You should be confused if you’re a fan of the…
The Sacramento Kings already had a pretty good backcourt in De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft. Going into yesterday, the Kings had plenty of options to fill a need on their roster. They could have added a solid wing in Moody or a big man for the future in Sengun at ninth.
But the Kings went with Davion Mitchell, the six-foot guard from Baylor. Mitchell is a fine prospect and could end up being a two-way threat moving forward. But it's hard to find how exactly he fits in a crowded Kings backcourt unless Sacramento wants to go ultra-small. This could mean the Kings will make a trade or two to make in the coming weeks. Until then, Mitchell is a shaky fit.
...San Antonio Spurs
The biggest shock of the Draft came when the San Antonio Spurs picked Joshua Primo 12th. The 19-year-old guard out of Alabama is a fine enough prospect but, by all accounts, Primo would have been available later in the draft, maybe even in the second round. Plenty of teams like the New York Knicks parted ways with their late first-round picks, so it's hard to imagine the Spurs didn’t get a deal done to move down in the draft.
The Spurs have been one of the best drafting teams in the last 20 years. They got Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili late in the first round and were ahead of the curve with Kawhi Leonard. Their young core now of Derrick White and Keldon Johnson were also both non-lottery picks. Maybe the Spurs again made a savvy move to reach for Primo. Maybe they’re pounding a different type of rock in San Antonio.
The late pick you should root for…
The Brooklyn Nets lucked out with Cameron Thomas falling at 27th. The lanky wing out of LSU is one of the best scorers of this class. He can create his own shot and could develop into a decent spot-up shooter. Given their cap situation, the Nets can't afford to draft poorly. Getting a potential bench scorer in Thomas was huge.
Is Jalen Green going to be good in Houston?
If Jalen Green's draft outfit seemed familiar, it's probably because he wore your lolo's jewelry and your lola's curtains as an undershirt. Green definitely stood out in a suit that made him look like Michael Jackson in the "Rock With You" video.
But how will the Rockets plan to fit him? With a potential generational talent, the Rockets need to make sure Green succeeds, even if it means making room in the backcourt to make sure he gets his touches.
The Rockets backcourt features several talented young players in Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae'Sean Tate with John Wall sticking out as the lone veteran on the squad. Wall probably won't spend the entire season with the Rockets next year. If he does, he'll be a good mentor for Green.
The worry should be if Green gets too much freedom. A prospect like Green will inevitably struggle in his first year -- just look at Anthony Edwards. The Rockets can give Green all the room to make mistakes but this could also be a bad thing if Green never unlearns the bad habits that come with being a high usage player at 19 years old.
In any case, the Houston Rockets are the Philippines' team now, just below the Lakers. The hopes of 100 million hoop-crazy Pinoys lie in the Rockets' development plan.
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