The 2021 NBA Draft went by with no major surprises near the top of the board, though there were a few players that slid down the ladder and were grabbed later than expected.
News of Russell Westbrook’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers stole the headlines last night, but now that the draft is over, the overall impact and major takeaways from Thursday’s events are beginning to coalesce.
2021 NBA Draft Picks
These are the biggest surprises and steals from the 2021 NBA Draft; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Warriors Get Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody in the Lottery
Many wondered if the Warriors would trade their picks in return for players that could help them win immediately, but they responded by picking Jonathan Kuminga seventh and stealing Moses Moody at 14.
Kuminga is a freakish athlete that can fly around the court with impressive skills and strength for a 6-foot-7 wing, though the main concern is his jump shot. The 18-year-old shot only 24.6% from three and 62.5% from the foul line in the G-LEague last year and he must improve his consistency to see regular NBA minutes; if he figures it out, though, then he will be a matchup nightmare.
The 6’6 Moody had been labeled as the best “Three and D” guy in the draft, which will be a perfect fit in the Warriors’ perimeter-centric system. He also has experience playing for a team in Arkansas that thrived pushing the ball up and down the court, which should transition well into Oakland.
The New Orleans Pelicans Steal Trey Murphy III and Herbert Jones
The Pelicans managed to turn Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, and the 10th pick into Jonas Valanciunas, Trey Murphy, and Herb Jones; that is a significant deal.
Murphy, a 6-foot-9 wing that can play guard or forward, shot 43.3% at Virginia last year and was an excellent defender, though his rebounding average of 3.4 is worrying for a player with his size. The 17th-overall pick brings a lot of what the Pelicans need this coming year: floor spacing, intelligence, and unselfishness; expect him to play close to 20 minutes per game as a rookie.
Herbert Jones, in a similar vein, helps New Orleans out tremendously in areas where they are weak, namely floor spacing and defense. The reigning SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year fell all the way to 35th in the draft, where he was a serious steal for the Pels.
The Charlotte Hornets Grab Five Players
After finagling a few trades, the Hornets ended up with James Bouknight, Kai Jones, JT Thor, Scottie Lewis, and Balsa Koprivca, Bouknight being the biggest steal at the 11 slot.
All of Charlotte’s new players have high upsides, even if the last three may be a couple of years away from becoming true contributors in the NBA— Bougknight and Jones will be exciting to watch for a team with a slew of players capable of scoring at any moment and will create headaches for James Borrego as he determines the team’s rotation next year.
There could be some serious roster turnover in Charlotte after they selected five players in the NBA Draft, so that is a situation to monitor.
The Oklahoma City Thunder Select Josh Giddey Sixth Overall
Basketball media may have a newfound craze for triple-doubles, which fits Giddey’s profile, but it is hard to justify him being taken sixth overall. In one season with the Adelaide 36ers in Australia, Giddey averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds on 29.3% three-point shooting and 69.1% free-throw shooting— the last two numbers are worrying.
Looking at the Thunder’s current roster, they revolve largely around the playmaking of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; on one hand, drafting Giddey will spell him from some of these duties, but it will also take their young guard off the ball, where he is best.
With players like Kuminga, Franz Wagner, Bouknight, Moody, and others still on the board at this position, the Thunder could have taken a more sure-fire prospect or traded down to get value for the sixth pick and still take Giddey later on.
The Sacramento Kings Pick Davion Mitchell Ninth Overall
Mitchell increased his draft stock more than any other player in America during Baylor’s run to the NCAA Championship this spring, putting on a clinic on both ends of the court against a previously undefeated Gonzaga team in the final game.
The newest member of the Kings is probably going to turn into a solid NBA player, but with De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Tyrese Haliburton taking priority, there is simply no place for him on this roster.
Sacramento has been in the basement for a long time and is unlikely to get out with this pick; Mitchell can contribute as a role player on a good team, but asking him to be a transformative star might just be beyond his capabilities.
The Wizards Take Corey Kispert with the 15th Pick
It is hard to understand where the Wizards were going with this; of course, there is a premium on shooting in today’s NBA, but Kispert does not offer much else other than that; he is not that athletic, does not defend well, is an average rebounder, and cannot create his own shot.
Although the Wizards did acquire Aaron Holiday from the Indiana Pacers in another move, Russell Westbrook’s trade to the Lakers meant that minutes at point guard were available— with Tre Mann headlining a group of players still on the board at the position, it is interesting that they did not take him.
It is also hard to see Kispert getting on the floor immediately, especially given that Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrel will be arriving soon.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.