The 2021 NBA Draft offered up a number of prospects who were very productive in school, the NBA’s G League or overseas in other professional basketball leagues. Our NBA draft recap profiles each of the draft’s selections and we begin with a polished playmaker taken by the Detroit Pistons.
1 (1) Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham 6’7 220 G/F-Oklahoma State
Cunningham comes from a lineage of athletes and his on-court skills link up with his smooth game. The Pistons needed someone to be an all-around star and Cunningham offers a multitude of skills. In the process, the former Cowboy became just the fourth Oklahoma State product to go in the draft’s Top 10 over the last 70 years and the first to go number one overall.
2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green 6’6 180 SG-NBA G League Ignite
As Green continues to grow into his frame, his game will expand. In terms of comparisons, the team hopes he has a similar run to former Rocket Tracy McGrady, who excelled for the squad after a productive five-year stint in Orlando.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley 7’0 215 PF-USC
Mobley’s quiet demeanor shouldn’t taken for granted on the court. He plays on both ends of the floor and is capable of guarding multiple spots. Mobley posted 12 double-doubles for the Trojans this past season.
4. Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes 6’8 225 SF-FSU
If Barnes can continue to improve his long distance shooting, there really isn’t much he doesn’t do on the floor. He can play the point forward, guard any position and rebound effectively. Barnes is the second consecutive Seminole to be drafted in the fourth overall spot as Leonard Hamilton continues to build on the team’s basketball tradition.
5. Orlando Magic: Jalen Suggs 6’4 205 PG-Freshman Gonzaga
Much like former Big 12 Freshman of the Year Trae Young, Suggs went fifth overall after being projected perhaps a pick or two higher. The second-team All-American’s physical nature provided plenty of big moments for a team that relied on him late in games. After being down by 12 points in the WCC Championship, no one stood bigger than Suggs in the game’s final moments. These performances became the norm for the former Zag.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Giddey 6’7 205 PG-Adelaide NBL Australia
The team needed depth in the backcourt and on the wings, more specifically another playmaker. With three first-round picks they had flexibility. Giddey was the NBL (Austrialia) Rookie of the Year in 2020-21 after averaging nearly 11 points per game. His size and overall playmaking skill (7 RPG, 7 APG) could complement the recent addition of former Celtic Kemba Walker.
7. Golden State Warriors: Jonathan Kuminga 6’7 200 SG-NBA G League Ignite
The Warriors chose James Wiseman with the second overall pick in 2020 and the results were mixed. With the team’s health a question mark, a ready-made player would have seemed to be the focus. Kuminga’s athleticism gives the team flexibility on the defensive end and his scoring should improve over time. The former five-star recruit signed with the NBA G League Ignite and averaged nearly 16 points per game in 2020-21 (15.8 PPG).
8. Orlando Magic: Franz Wagner 6’7 220 SF-Michigan
Orlando uses its second Top 10 pick to take the scorer on the wing to complement the earlier selection of Suggs. This is another team that hasn’t been able to keep its core players healthy for the entirety of the year. Wagner finally puts an end to Michigan’s drought in the Top 10 of the NBA Draft.
9. Sacramento Kings: Davion Mitchell 6’1 202 G-Baylor
Who will be the big defensive stopper down low for the Kings? It is still in question, but the draft’s best defender helps seal up the perimeter. Even with that said, he also shot 45% from beyond the arc in 2020-21. His tenacity and play speed should help him overcome his relative lack of length at the next level. Mitchell was a big reason the Bears successfully disproved DraftNasty’s model for picking a national champion this past spring.
10. New Orleans Pelicans (traded to Memphis Grizzlies): Ziaire Williams 6’10 188 PF-Stanford
Despite a less than stellar collegiate stop, Williams – a former five-star recruit- still went in the range many scouts projected when he entered school. He showed off his athleticism during the 2021 NBA Combine with a 39 1/2” max vertical jump and a 10.69 time in the lane agility drill.
11. Charlotte Hornets: James Bouknight 6’5 190 SG-UConn
Bouknight missed time in 2021 due to an elbow injury, but he bounced back in time to still earn first-team All-Big East honors. The former LaSalle Academy (N.Y.) product shot 46% from the field in 2020-21 due to his combination of handle and floor speed.
12. San Antonio Spurs: Joshua Primo 6’5 189 SG-Alabama
Primo was just one of many big long range artists for the Crimson Tide’s arsenal this past season. He reclassified to the 2020 class and that’s one of the reasons he entered the draft as an 18-year old. He will combine with 2020 11th overall pick Devin Vassell to increase the team’s youth in the backcourt.
13. Indiana Pacers: Chris Duarte 6’6 190 SG-Oregon
The first-team All-Pac-12 performer becomes the oldest first-round pick since Melvin Ely in 2002. Duarte -the AP’s Pac-12 Player of the Year- shot over 42% from three-point range in 2020-21 for the Ducks.
14. Golden State Warriors: Moses Moody 6’6 211 SG-Arkansas
The SEC Freshman of the Year scores in a number of ways and rebounds with equal effectiveness. His length could combine with Kuminga’s to increase the team’s backcourt defensive capability.
15. Washington Wizards: Corey Kispert 6’7 223 SF-Gonzaga
The Wizards received Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to increase its backcourt scoring after the trade of Russell Westbrook (LA Lakers), but they still needed another shooter. Kispert has enough of a mid-range game to complement his catch-and-shoot ability (41% career three-point shooter).
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Boston picking for the Houston Rockets, whom they traded the pick to): Alperen Sengun 6’10 243/C-Besiktas (Turkey)
The Rockets get a skilled scorer who averaged 19 points per game in the Turkish League to earn MVP honors as an 18-year old. Will he be able to defend consistently to stay on the floor?
17. Memphis Grizzlies (picking for New Orleans-trade): Trey Murphy III 6’9 206 F-Virginia, Rice
Murphy is a strong catch-and-shoot player with enough range to complement Williamson and Ingram on the wing. Before arriving at Virginia, Murphy actually 42% from three-point land while at Rice back in 2018-19. The Durham native’s father, Kenneth, played for East Carolina in the late 1980s.
18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tre Mann 6’4 178 SG-Florida
Mann’s ability to create off the dribble has never been in question, but his improved shooting depth expanded his game exponentially in 2020-21. After weighing in at 178 pounds at the 2021 NBA Combine, he still needs to put on more bulk. We explored the possibility of Mann ending the Gators’ infamous draft streak earlier this summer. Mission accomplished.
19. New York Knicks (traded to Charlotte Hornets): Kai Jones 6’11 1/2” 221 PF-Texas
Jones has nearly a 7’2” wingspan and he brings potential as a low post scorer. Despite just one double-double in 2020-21, he shot an impressive 75% from the free throw line. He has enough explosiveness to add a different element to the Hornets frontcourt.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Jalen Johnson 6’9 210 F-Duke
In the 13 games in which Johnson did play for the team, he averaged over 11 points per game and snagged six rebounds per contest. Turnovers, however were an issue, as he posted six games with at least three. The powerful 6-foot-9 forward has a diverse game that includes enough range, strength and open floor capability.
21. New York Knicks (traded to Los Angeles Clippers): Keon Johnson 6’5 185 SG-Tennessee
While Johnson did post a record vertical jump at the 2021 NBA Combine (48″), his lane agility time was only “OK” (11.45). His shooting needs to improve but he can guard and run the floor (3.0 seconds in 3/4 court sprint). One of the key positives is the ability to get to the free throw line, where he connected at a 70-percent clip.
22. Los Angeles Lakers (for Indiana Pacers via Washington): Isaiah Jackson 6’10 206 PF-Kentucky
Jackson (a Michigan native) is a shot-blocking maestro who led the SEC in that category (2.6 per game). Even with limited bulk, Jackson averaged 6.6 rebounds in 21 minutes per game for the Wildcats. He won’t be asked to do much more than follow shots and rebound initially, but he does have some potential as a scorer that has yet to be tapped.
23. Houston Rockets: Usman Garuba 6’8 229 PF-Real Madrid (Spain)
Garuba is a rim-runner who finishes in transition and can project in a role off the bench for the Rockets. In the open court, he flashes some ability to handle the ball. Garuba was named the ACB’s Best Young Player in 2021 after moving up to the Real Madrid’s senior squad 2019-20. He’s currently competing for the Spanish national team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
24. Houston Rockets: Josh Christopher 6’4 214 SG-Arizona State
Christopher’s inconsistency may have cost him a few spots in the draft, but he gives the Rockets hope of developing into a viable secondary scoring option. Christopher contests versus drives to the basket in transition defense without fouling, even when giving up baskets in these instances (2nd half, Arizona ’21). Fouls, however, were an issue in his first 11 career contests, posting four or more in five games.
25. Los Angeles Clippers (For the NY Knicks, whom they traded pick to): Quentin Grimes 6’5 210 SG-Houston, Kansas The AAC Co-Player of the Year increased his scoring every year on campus, and much of it had to do with his ability to finish at the free throw line. Grimes improved nearly 12 percentage points in that category in 2020-21. For a 210-pound guard, he sped 3.07 seconds in the three-quarter court sprint at the 2021 NBA Combine, but more importantly he moved fluently without the ball and continued to thrive as a catch-and-shoot threat.
26. Denver Nuggets: Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland 6’3 169 SG-VCU
The A-10 Player of the Year also impressed during the 2021 NBA Combine with his range, but it was his nearly 10-point jump in one season that caught the attention of NBA scouts. Despite his slender frame, he created for himself and others through traffic during NBA Combine scrimmages. He manufactures room with his handle to get his shots off in isolation; either on the perimeter or when driving to the cup.
27. Brooklyn Nets: Cam Thomas 6’4 210 SG-LSU
The former Oak Hill Academy star brings a mid-range game, underrated strength to finish through contact and outstanding shooting from the stripe (88.2% FT in 2020-21). Of the Top 20 players nationally in terms of free throw percentage, Thomas led the group with 220 attempts (7.58 per game) in 29 contests. Becoming more efficient will be his task as he gets less shots at the next level.
28. Philadelphia 76ers: Jaden Springer 6’4 202 PG-Tennessee
The Tennessee native is following in the footsteps of his father, Gary, a former sixth-round pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. He never seems to be out of control on the court and relies on his rhythm as either a playmaker or shooter. His strength gives him the ability to finish through contact around the rim. If he gets to the stripe, his efficiency should not be underestimated. Springer missed just 19 free throw attempts this past season (81%).
29. Phoenix Suns (for the Brooklyn Nets via trade): Day’Ron Sharpe 6’11 265 C-UNC
Sharpe’s overall skill-set is impressive, and his ability to find open men as a passer -particularly versus double teams- should not be underestimated. Even in a league that is becoming increasingly perimeter-based, his strength to gain position down low stands out.
30. Utah Jazz (traded to Memphis Grizzlies): Santi Aldama 6’11 215 PF-Loyola (Md.)
Aldama impresses with his range out to around the 25-to-27-foot mark, and adequate bulk allowed him to rebound effectively in the Patriot League. The sophomore-entry is patient setting up low post moves and showcases solid hand-eye coordination. He improved his three-point percentage nearly 15 points in 2020-21.
31. Milwaukee Bucks (traded to the Washington Wizards via Indiana Pacers): Isaiah Todd 6’10 219 PF-NBA G League Ignite
It would not have been a surprise to see Todd, who played with fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes on the Nightrydas Elite AAU squad back in 2019, also go in the first round of this year’s draft. He has an 8’11.5″ standing reach, runs the floor well and has potential as a long distance shooter. Despite just two starts for the NBA G League Ignite, he averaged over 12 points per game and shot an impressive 82.4% from the free throw line.
32. New York Knicks (traded to Oklahoma City Thunder): Jeremiah Robinson-Earl 6’9 242 PF-Villanova
The former McDonald’s All-American had offers from everyone coming out of high school, but settled on the Wildcats. He nearly entered the draft a season ago, which shouldn’t have been a surprise after averaging nearly a double-double (10.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG) as a freshman. At 242 pounds, he battles to gain position with a burly brand of basketball. Don’t be mistaken, however, as his sleek footwork around the hoop often baffled opponents.
33. Orlando Magic (traded to LA Clippers): Jason Preston 6’4 181 PG-Ohio
The kid who was simply going to UCF as a student but made a highlight tape (after agreeing to play in an AAU Tournament) he put on Twitter goes 33rd overall. He has enough size to play either on or off the ball, which wasn’t the case until his growth spurt from a few years back. Opponents have a tough time forcing him to go one way because he can dribble-drive to either the left or right.
34. Oklahoma City Thunder (traded to NY Knicks): Rokas Jokubaitis 6’4 194 PG-FC Barcelona
The 2020 Olympics qualifying rounds gave everyone a glimpse of what Jokubaitis was doing for Lithuania. The trick shot specialist benefits from changing speeds on the floor, and his left-handed game changes angles for opponents. Will the Lithuanian’s savvy approach translate to the NBA game?
35. New Orleans Pelicans: Herbert Jones 6’7 206 SF-Alabama
The SEC Defensive Player of the Year uses his 7’0 wingspan to frustrate guards or forwards on the wings. His shooting improved dramatically from beyond the arc this past season, but if there is a question mark regarding the left-hander’s game, it starts and stops on the offensive end of the court.
36. Oklahoma City Thunder (traded to NY Knicks): Miles McBride 6’2 195 PG-West Virginia
McBride is solid in a number of facets, but his feel for the game shouldn’t come as a surprise. His father, Walt, played for Xavier. The second-team All-Big 12 point guard darts like a defensive back with anticipatory skill to steal passes defensively. Those instincts created a multitude of transition opportunities. McBride shot over 41% from three-point range for the Mountaineers.
37. Detroit Pistons (traded to Charlotte Hornets): JT Thor 6’9 203 PF-Auburn
Not many players come out of the state of Alaska, but Thor does after moving there at the age of five years old. He eventually made his way back inland to play at the prep level. In 27 starts this past season for Auburn, he averaged over one blocked shot per contest. The Hornets hope his 7’3” wingspan and 9’2” standing reach translate into more contested baskets at the next level. Even more so, the lefty’s quick release could expand his game if he gains consistency. He found a way to knock down nearly 30-percent of his 74 three-point attempts as a freshman.
38. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans Pelicans): Ayo Donsunmu 6’5 194 PG-Illinois
Dosunmu, a Nigerian product, gets to stay at home after starring at Illinois. Aside from being clutch (see Michigan ’20), the Bob Cousy Award winner used his 6’10” wingspan to post six double-digit rebounding games in 2020-21. Along the way, he had three triple doubles and cleared the 30-point mark three times in the month of December (2020). Cutting down on the turnovers will be a focus as he ventures to the NBA scene, but his rebounding capability ranks as a plus .
39. Sacramento Kings: Neemias Queta 7’0 248 C-Utah State
Queta’s 7’4” wingspan may even pale in comparison to his 9’4.5” standing reach, which nearly is at the rim without leaping. As a result, the Portuguese native ranked third in the nation in blocked shots. Twice he was named the MWC Defensive Player of the Year. Queta averaged nearly a double-double for his career.
40. New Orleans Pelicans (traded to Utah via Memphis): Jared Butler 6’4 193 PG-Baylor
Butler’s strength and quick hands often contributed to the Bears ability to get out and run on change of possessions. In fact, he posted 11 games in 2020-21 with three or more steals. During the team’s national championship run, his timely shot-making capabilities often wore down opponents, as did his overall pace.
41. San Antonio Spurs: Joe Wieskamp 6’7 205 SF-Iowa
Wieskamp averaged nearly 15 points per game, but his ability to put the ball in the hoop stood out at the 2021 NBA Combine and resulted in a draft spot. This was not the first time the former Hawkeye decided to test the NBA waters, but this decision proved to be sound as he went 41st overall. His scoring capability dates back to his prep level days as one of the top scorers in the state of Iowa.
42. Detroit Pistons: Isaiah Livers 6’7 231 SF-Michigan
Livers’ 2020-21 injury may have stopped what could have potentially been a Final Four run for the Wolverines. Down the stretch, his offensive game was missed all the way in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament loss to Illinois. He had a six-game stretch of games in January where he cleared double figures before slowing down considerably prior to going down.
43. New Orleans Pelicans (traded to Portland): Greg Brown III 6’8 1/2″ 206 SF/PF-Texas
Brown actually has some wing capability and his movement complements rare explosiveness and bounce off the floor. His leaping prowess goes back to his days playing for the Texas Titans AAU squad, where he was a teammate of number one overall pick Cade Cunningham. The former Texas Gatorade Player of the Year went under 11 seconds (10.98) in the lane agility and posted a 33 1/2″ standing vertical jump at the 2021 NBA Combine.
44. Brooklyn Nets: Kessler Edwards 6’8 203 SF-Pepperdine
Edwards’ shooting touch has never been in question (career 39% three-point shooter), but he also blocks shots and rebounds. In fact, his 60 blocks in 2019-20 represent one of the school’s Top 10 all-time totals. He will have to improve in finding secondary options, and sometimes he is content passing up shots (see 2021 CBI Championship Game).
45. Boston Celtics: Juhann Begarin 6’5 214 Paris Basketball (France)
Begarin’s creativity at the cup after getting a step on the opposition was noteworthy, going either left or right. There were occasions when he was even more impressively defending the opposition, due to his 8’9” standing reach. The Celtics are betting on the 18-year old’s development as one of the younger draft picks in this year’s class. His performance at the NBA G-League’s Elite Camp helped his draft stock.
46. Toronto Raptors: Dalano Banton 6’9 204 PG-Nebraska, WKU
Banton’s long strides allowed him to often out-pace the competition in transition. The Toronto, Ontario (Canada) product re-classified back in 2018 and actually started 12 games for WKU in 2018-19. While he’s been a stat sheet filler, he will need to speed up his release from long range to further threaten NBA personnel.
47. Toronto Raptors: David Johnson 6’5 203 SG/SF-Louisville
Johnson’s trek from Trinity HS (Ky.) to Louisville didn’t start off on a high note, as he was forced to recover from injury as a freshman. He played in a heavy ball screen offense in school and his range (up to at least 25 feet) helped him excel on occasion. He changes speeds well as a ball handler, which allows him to stay under control when finding perimeter scorers.
48. Atlanta Hawks: Sharife Cooper 6’2 185 PG-Auburn
Cooper did not workout at the NBA Combine and the prevailing thought was that he’d go much higher in the draft after averaging 20 points and eight assists per game in 2020-21. The former McEachern High School (Ga.) product gets an opportunity to return home, where he was named Georgia’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019.
49. Brooklyn Nets: Marcus Zegarowski 6’2 180 PG-Creighton
Injuries have been somewhat of an issue for Zegarowski during his collegiate stay, but his quick trigger release in catch-and-shoot situations helped lead the team to wins in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
50. Philadelphia 76ers: Filip Petrusev 6’11 235 PF/C-Mega Soccerbet/Gonzaga
The Belgrade native withdrew from the 2020 NBA Draft to improve his game with the Mega Soccerbet squad in Serbia. He was named the ABA’s League MVP after averaging 17.5 points and 7.9 rebounds during his last season with the Zags (2019-20).
51. Memphis Grizzlies (through Portland): Brandon Boston, Jr. 6’7 188 SF-Kentucky
The former five-star recruit averaged 11.5 points per game in his lone season at Kentucky, but his poor shooting from the field (35.5%) contributed to a draft day slide. With that said, his jab step to create separation remains in place and his potential on the wing could shine in the right situation.
52. Detroit Pistons: Luka Garza 6’11 242 C-Iowa
Two-time consensus All-Americans are normally not available at this point in the draft, but Garza -whose Hawkeyes jersey has already been retired- was on the board. The Pistons are getting a prolific college scorer with athletic bloodlines who has both range and low post skills. He did not impress in testing at the NBA Combine and questions about his athleticism continue to persist.
53. Philadelphia 76ers: Charles Bassey 6’10 230 PF-Western Kentucky
Bassey is a shot-blocking maestro who is still developing on the offensive end. The 2021 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year runs the floor well and was extremely impressive on the foul line (77%) in a Hilltoppers career where he averaged a double-double (16 PPG, 10.5 RPG). He had one of the largest wingspans in this year’s draft (7’3″).
54. Indiana Pacers (traded to Milwaukee): Sandro Mamukelashvili 6’10 240 PF-Seton Hall
Yet another Montverde Academy product to get drafted, Mamukelashvili has an 8’10.5” standing reach and 7’1” wingspan. Aside from posting seven double-doubles in 2020-21, Mamukelashvili overcomes just average agility with an ability to put the ball on the floor to get to the hoop. He is also a legitimate factor in pick-and-pop situations.
55. Oklahoma City Thunder: Aaron Wiggins SG-SF 6’5 190 Maryland
Wiggins has nearly a 6’10” wingspan and used it to impress during the G-League Elite Camp on the offensive end. Following that performance, he earned an NBA Combine invite, where he was just okay. Following a career as a potent bench producer for the Terrapins, he got his chance to start in 2020-21 and didn’t disappoint, averaging just under 15 points per game and rebounding at a high clip for a wing (5.8 RPG).
56. Charlotte Hornets: Scottie Lewis 6’5 188 SG-Florida
The selection of Mann in the first round ended the Gators draft futility, and now the team gets two players drafted for the first time since 2011. The sophomore Bronx native averaged just eight points per game in his career, but he has just four percent body fat, a 7-foot wingspan and a max vertical jump of 42 inches. In addition, he went 2.98 seconds in the 3/4 court sprint at the 2021 NBA Combine.
57. Charlotte Hornets (traded to Detroit): Balsa Koprivica 7’1 240 C-FSU
Koprivica comes from professional bloodlines as his father, Slaivisa, played for Paritzan in the EuroLeague. Prior to becoming a four-star recruit, Koprivica actually won gold in the 2017 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championships. He averaged 1.4 blocks per game for the Seminoles in 2020-21 and continued to improve his overall movement skills on the floor.
58. New York Knicks: Jericho Sims 6’10 250 C-Texas
The son of former dentist and Minnesota Golden Gophers Charles Sims put on a clinic during the 2021 NBA Combine, posting a 44 1/2″ vertical jump while also showing off his 7’3″ wingspan. His dunking prowess went viral, but the former Longhorn’s shot blocking and rebounding skills were ultimately what attracted the Knicks to his skill-set. Sims’ quick bounce allows him to rise quickly around the bucket.
59. Brooklyn Nets: RaiQuan Gray 6’8 269 PF-FSU
Gray still needs to get in optimal condition for the NBA but the former Dillard High School (Fla.) product developed nicely after being a top prospect coming out of the prep level. His footwork is above average and the Seminoles team captain flashed defensively by garnering over a steal per game in 2020-21. In addition, he was solid from the free throw line and extended his range this past season.
60. Indiana Pacers (traded to Milwaukee): Georgios Kalaitzakis 6’8 191 SF-Panathinaikos (Greece)
After initially declaring for the NBA Draft back in 2020, the four-time Greek League Champion signed back with Panathinaikos of the Euroleague for another year. It was during his time with Nevezis in the LBL (2019-20), where Kalaitzakis’ quick release and ability to run the floor caught the attention of NBA scouts, as he averaged over 12 points per game.