2021 NBA Draft
(Corey Sipkin/Associated Press)

2021 NBA Draft: Biggest Winners

The 2021 NBA Draft class was extremely deep, but some teams walked away bigger winners than others. Here are my biggest winners from draft night.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors had two lottery picks and the prevailing thought was that they would try to move both picks for a win-now veteran player. That trade did not occur, and the Warriors really did the best they possibly could with the two selections they had. Getting Jonathan Kuminga a No. 7 overall was a fantastic high-upside choice – one I had mocked in Mock Draft 3.0. The G League Ignite alumnus has one of the highest ceilings in his draft class. Golden State followed up the Kuminga pick by stealing Moses Moody at No. 14 overall. Many evaluators considered Moody a top-10 prospect. His combination of perimeter defense and three-point shooting will be excellent off the bench. The 19-year-old finds himself in one of the best situations possible getting to learn from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Golden State really showed out with their only two selections of the draft. Honestly, these picks might be more valuable after turning into players because the Warriors got extremely good value for both of them. If the Warriors still want to trade for a vet, these two players might carry even more weight in a trade than the picks would have before the draft.

Charlotte Hornets

The Charlotte Hornets might have been the biggest winners of the 2021 NBA Draft. Getting James Bouknight at No. 11 was an absolute steal. His offensive skillset makes him one of the best scorers in the class and pairing him with LaMelo Ball for the future will pay massive dividends for Charlotte. They then traded back into the first round to get Texas’ Kai Jones at No. 19, who I had Charlotte taking at No. 11. Jones to the Hornets is one of the best fits of the draft – his athleticism and above-the-rim play will mesh with their style of basketball.

Charlotte continued to put on a clinic in the second round, selecting Auburn’s JT Thor with No. 37 and Florida’s Scottie Lewis with No. 56. Thor is a prospect that saw an immense rise in his draft stock in pre-draft workouts, so much so that many graded him as a mid-first round pick. Scottie Lewis is a very good defensive guard who was ranked in the top 10 of the 2020 high school class. Charlotte got really good value with every single pick they had in the draft.

NBA G League Ignite Team

The NBA G League Ignite program capped off its first year of existence with two players drafted in the top seven picks in Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. The Milwaukee Bucks then drafted forward Isaiah Todd with the first pick of the second round. The 2021 NBA Draft cemented the Ignite team as a very viable option for young prospects to put their skills on display in a professional environment. Even as NIL rules change the landscape again, it looks like the G League Ignite pathway is here to stay.

Brooklyn Nets

Because Brooklyn had such a good regular season, they didn’t have great draft picks. They took LSU’s Cameron Thomas at the end of the first round and traded back into the first to get Day’Ron Sharpe from North Carolina at No. 29. Thomas is an elite scorer who will likely see some run with the second unit. Sharpe was the best fit for Brooklyn’s roster and filled their need for a true center.

The Nets also had three second-round picks, all of which turned out pretty well. Kessler Edwards of Pepperdine was getting first-round looks from some. Nabbing him at No. 44 is a steal. Creighton’s Marcus Zegarowski is a solid offensive guard with playmaking chops. Brooklyn took Florida State’s RaiQuan Gray with the second-to-last pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, and he has some upside as a versatile defensive forward. Overall, the Nets did a great job with the draft capital they had.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets had an awesome draft. They might have hit fast forward on their franchise rebuild with this draft. I’ve been on the Jalen Green hype train for months. The kid is going to be an offensive superstar. Alperen Sengun has a pretty high floor and should be a plug-and-play option down low. Usman Garuba is probably a top-three defender in the draft class. I’m still not high on the Josh Christopher pick, especially in the first round, but he could return to his elite form from high school and prove me wrong. Altogether, the Rockets got an impressive haul on draft night, a few of which could become franchise cornerstones.

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