It is way too early to judge the 2021 NBA draft class, but let’s get our first-round hot takes on the record.
2. Jalen Green (6-6, 186), SG, G League Ignite
16. Alperen Sengun (6-9, 235), C, Turkey
23. Usman Garuba (6-8, 229), PF, Spain
24. Josh Christopher (6-5, 215), SG, Arizona State
Green is an incredible consolation prize at No. 2, a dynamic athlete who will generate excitement in a market that just lost James Harden to a trade demand. Just check out the kid’s suit. He has swagger.
Then, the Rockets packaged a pair of future first-round draft picks to move up and grab Sengun, a skilled big and advanced statistical darling. He was MVP of the Turkish League at age 18 and is getting only better.
Second-year Houston general manager Rafael Stone also used the back-to-back first-round picks he acquired from Portland and Milwaukee to mix Garuba’s ready-made defense with Christopher’s offensive potential. The Rockets compiled a fascinating blend of talent to rebuild following a tumultuous season.
5. Jalen Suggs (6-4, 205), PG, Gonzaga
8. Franz Wagner (6-9, 220), SF, Michigan
The Magic lucked into Suggs at No. 5, and then snared another high-floor prospect three picks later in Wagner, a more versatile big than his brother Moe. Instead of taking a chance on a raw talent like Jonathan Kuminga, Orlando drafted a pair of players who should positively contribute right away. It is a welcome change of speed from the gambles that landed them Mo Bamba and Mario Hezonja in recent drafts.
1. Cade Cunningham (6-8, 220), PG, Oklahoma State
The Pistons received the No. 1 overall pick in a highly anticipated draft, and after serious consideration of Jalen Green and Evan Mobley, they chose the most complete player in the draft. Cunningham can fill every gap on a promising young roster — as a scorer, playmaker, defender, you name it. He is a future superstar.
3. Evan Mobley (7-0, 215), C, USC
The same can be said of Mobley, a versatile big whose talent would make him worthy of a No. 1 pick in most years. He can play alongside Jarrett Allen in the frontcourt and rounds out a roster that features three more recent lottery picks: Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in the backcourt and Isaac Okoro on the wing.
11. James Bouknight (6-5, 190), SG, UConn
19. Kai Jones (6-10, 218), PF, Texas
Bouknight fell to No. 11 after climbing into the top 10 on most draft boards since the end of the college season. His pure scoring ability makes him an ideal offensive backcourt partner for rising Hornets star LaMelo Ball, who needs Bouknight’s spacing and can find his fellow dynamic guard anywhere on the floor.
Jones gives Charlotte an interior defensive presence they have lacked in the Cody Zeller era, and his athleticism should help him develop into a rim-running pick-and-roll partner for Ball and Bouknight.
15. Corey Kispert (6-7, 220), SF, Gonzaga
31. Isaiah Todd (6-10, 220), G League Ignite
Not only did the Wizards nab Kispert to space the floor for Bradley Beal, they rid themselves of Russell Westbrook’s contract, acquiring Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and the No. 22 overall pick from the Lakers.
Washington flipped that pick for Aaron Holiday and No. 31, which it used to snare Todd, a one-time top prospect in his high school class who showed glimpses of his potential in limited G League action. None of them is the talent that Westbrook is, but the Wizards reshaped their roster in one night and created salary cap flexibility for future moves. There is a plan behind it all, a once unfamiliar concept for Washington.
New Orleans Pelicans
17. Trey Murphy (6-8, 206), SG, Virginia
The Pelicans dumped $72.5 million of future salary for Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe on the Grizzlies, acquiring Jonas Valanciunas and his expiring contract. It cost them seven spots in the first round, but they scored a player they might have taken there anyway. Murphy has all the tools to be a highly versatile 3-and-D wing, fit for a roster boasting Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball (assuming he re-signs).
Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Josh Giddey (6-8, 185), SG, Australia
18. Tre Mann (6-5, 190), PG, Florida
The Thunder could not package their cache of assets to move up in the draft, as they had tried, but they scored Giddey, a surprising pick, but also one who makes sense for them. Add the 18-year-old playmaker to a long and skilled young team that includes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Aleksej Pokusevski and Lu Dort.
Likewise, Mann is a pick-and-roll scorer with a lot of room to grow on a team years from being serious.
San Antonio Spurs
12. Josh Primo (6-6, 190), SG, Alabama
The Spurs did what the Spurs do, making a surprise pick in Primo who does not seem so surprising at second glance. The kid has a shooting stroke and understanding of the game that belies his 18 years.
9. Davion Mitchell (6-2, 205), PG, Baylor
Mitchell is an incredible defender and skilled playmaker who rose to the occasion in the NCAA tournament. He is a commanding presence both on and off the floor, even at 6-foot-2. At 22 years old, he will help right away, but how he fits into a backcourt featuring De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton remains a question.
13. Chris Duarte (6-6, 190), SG, Oregon
22. Isaiah Jackson (6-11, 206), PF, Kentucky
The Pacers went safe with Duarte, a 23-year-old sharpshooting bulldog, before taking a gamble on Jackson, a raw and slight athlete who could develop into a replacement for Myles Turner at center. Sharing a frontcourt with All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, Turner is perennially in trade discussions. The No. 22 pick cost them Aaron Holiday and No. 31, no small price for a project misfit on the current depth chart.
Golden State Warriors
7. Jonathan Kuminga (6-8, 220), PF, G League Ignite
14. Moses Moody (6-6, 205), SG, Arkansas
The Warriors shopped both picks in an effort to find established help for a veteran roster hoping to contend this coming season, and instead they drafted Kuminga, the rawest high-end prospect in the draft. He has tremendous upside, but that could come when Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are no longer capable of carrying a champion. Brown is a safer bet to help right away as a 3-and-D wing, but this grade will look a lot better if Golden State general manager Bob Myers can flip them into something better.
10. Ziaire Williams (6-8, 185), SG, Stanford
The Grizzlies must really like Williams, because they took on two bad contracts from the rival New Orleans Pelicans and sent their starting center packing in return for moving up seven spots in the draft. Memphis has rarely missed on first-round prospects in recent years, and this one better be another good one, because it just cost them Jonas Valanciunas and $72.5 million worth of Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe.
4. Scottie Barnes (6-9, 227), SF, Florida State
The Raptors shockingly passed on Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs — the fourth and final member of a clear top tier in this draft — to take Barnes. They moved up three spots in the lottery, striking gold, and rather than draft the best prospect available (and a Kyle Lowry replacement), they took a defensive-minded wing with offensive limitations when they have two (Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby) in the starting lineup already.
Check back soon for more grades.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
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