The Loaded 2021 NBA Draft | Best Class Since 2003?

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Updated: July 30, 2021
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          The much-anticipated 2021 draft is now behind us and yet much of the selections have left analysts across the league curious if some of these lottery selections were chosen with the intention to package them in free agency. With such a loaded draft class this year, it has left the league with several perceived winners, especially those slotted in the top 5. Detroit took the safest route available with the 6-foot-8 point guard Cade Cunningham, who was almost unanimously seen around the league as the #1 prospect. Houston took maybe the most electric player in the draft, Jalen Green, and Cleveland got the undisputed best Big in the draft at #3 in Evan Mobley. Considering all 3 of these prospects probably would’ve gone 1 over Anthony Edwards in last year’s draft, all three teams should be quite content with the fruits their tanking labor has provided.

           The first shock of the draft was made by Toronto at #4 as they passed on Jalen Suggs. The Gonzaga-bred, 6’4 dynamic combo guard has been slotted as a top 4 prospect for most of the year and was assumed to be the Kyle Lowry replacement. Instead, they opted for the defensive monster, 1-5 defender in Scottie Barnes. An athletic, 6’8 point-forward who has yet to establish a shot is a project piece for the Raptors, but his stock as a draft asset has been skyrocketing on draft boards across the league the last two weeks. They may wish to share the point guard position between VanVleet and Barnes and move Siakam via trade. More will be known in the upcoming days with the beginning of free agency.

           With the decision by Toronto, it left Suggs to be happily swooped up by Orlando at 5. Although they already have a surplus of young guards, none of them are at the caliber of player where Orlando felt they should draft for fit and not take Jalen Suggs. For a team that has been just outside the bubble of top-tier talent in the draft these last handful of years, this was a huge boost for the Magic franchise. At 8 they drafted Franz Wagner, a versatile, 6’9 220 lbs. off-ball wing that spaces the floor. 

           Although the order of 4 and 5 was a shock to some, there were those who had rumored Scottie Barnes would be taken early by Toronto. A pick most people didn’t see coming, was the selection of Josh Giddey at #6 by the Oklahoma City Thunder. An Australian native, he has gotten several LaMelo Ball comps with his court vision and high assist averages. He also had an excellent assist to turnover ratio at 1.9. His problem as with so many other prospects in this draft is he can’t shoot yet. Two or three years down the road, it could be this pick that will either debunk or solidify the genius claims around Sami Presti and The Process 2.0.

           The Warriors who have been at the center of trade rumors sitting on their two (unneeded) lottery picks were unable to move them prior to the draft. It was assumed that if they were to use their picks, they would select NBA-ready players who could be impactful immediately. The pick at 7 was just about the opposite of the description above. They took high-celling-low-flow Jonathon Kuminga. A very odd situation for Golden State, as 6’6 210 lbs. monster wing had #1 pick potential and at times was even projected as the number 1 pick of this draft. Up until a few months ago, he seemed to be a guaranteed top 5 pick, and was one of the reasons this draft was seen as so deep with top tier talent. 

           However, his rawness was exposed in the G-league on Team Ignite, especially with his motor and will on the defensive end. Ironically though, if it would’ve been last year in a shortened season, it’s possible Kuminga would’ve been the #1 pick in the draft over Edwards or Wisemen. His athleticism jumps off the screen, and his defensive potential is limitless if he can find the desire (something much easier to hope for than manifest). And so, they went with the big-ticket talent. It seemed to be the right decision when at 14 the Basketball Gods gifted the Warriors Moses Moody. One of the best shooters in this year’s draft, he looks NBA-ready to make an immediate impact off the Warrior’s bench. At 6’6, he has the potential as a versatile defender and could form into a great piece next to Curry. All the decisions though have left some curious if these selections were made to trade them.

           The biggest shock of the draft though came from the previous dynasty with the San Antonio Spurs and their selection of Joshua Primo at #12. This was a pick that no one outside of the Spurs front office saw coming or can fully explain. The kid wasn’t even projected by most to be a first-round pick let alone a lottery pick, and there were plenty of options to trade down from 12 to the late teens or early 20’s where they could’ve still taken Primo while getting some sort of compensation for their obscure selection. Only averaging 8 points on 43% shooting from the field, if it weren’t for the Spurs brand, there would probably be a dozen memes already attached to Primo’s name. With little knowledge of what he may be, 3 to 4 years down the road we may get our answer on this 18 year old…but is it possible San Antonio no longer is who they once were?

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