2021 NBA draft: Winners, losers, surprises and bold predictions

The 2021 NBA draft was a success. Cade Cunningham went to the Detroit Pistons, JalenGreen to the Houston Rockets, and Evan Mobley went to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The chaos began with the fourth pick. There were many intriguing trades and draft-night selections that took over the spotlight.Many were surprised when the Toronto Raptors selected Scottie Barnes from Florida State with the No. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected their highest lottery pick, No. 4, and took the 4th pick. 6 to select Josh Giddey from Australia, the first international draft selection.The blockbuster: In exchange for Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell–Pope, the Los Angeles Lakers signed former MVP Russell Westbrook.Which teams earn an A-grade? Which team was the most successful in their deal-making skills? Which teams were the least impressed with their selections Our NBA experts have the answers to all your questions and bold predictions for the 2021 NBA Draft.More: Details and trade grades for every offseason deal in 2021Which lottery pick do you like the most?Kevin Pelton: Jalen Suggs in Orlando. The Magic are desperate for a perimeter star, and they don't have one since Jameer Nelson or Hedo Turkoglu. Orlando's former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz and 2020 first-round picks Cole Anthony and RJ Hampton are both interesting young guards. Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick, and Cole Anthony and RJ Hampton in 2020's first-round selections are both Orlando's most interesting young guards. However, none of them have the potential to be the dominant playmaker that contending teams often need.Ohm Youngmisuk - Cade Cunningham. Detroit has waited for Cunningham to become an elite player. Since 1994, when Grant Hill was drafted third overall by the Pistons, it's been 27-years since they had a star franchise player to build around. Cunningham, a 6-foot-8 point guard who can play multiple positions and takes over games, is similar to Hill. Although he might not be as explosive and dynamic as Hill, Cunningham should bring excitement to Detroit, which is growing its core of young prospects.Jonathan Givony - I love Orlando's surprise slide. But, with Franz Wagner, they now have two of this draft's best defenders. Wagner is able to make teammates better, without the ball or needing to be called for. Wagner is a top-level off-ball defender with exceptional instincts. He can protect the rim, close out on shooters, dig down on the posts and mess up opposing offenses. His game is simple on both ends. He keeps the offense moving with his intelligent touch passes, bounce passes towards the post, and pushes ahead in transition off of the defensive glass. The Magic's defense could be one of the best in the NBA, with Wagner and Jonathan Isaac serving as forwards and Markelle Fultz and Suggs in the backcourt.Which team receives an "A" grade in this draft?Bobby Marks: The Golden State Warriors could have traded one of their lottery picks to get much-needed bench support. They chose Jonathan Kuminga, who could be the best player in a loaded draft. Golden State acquired Moses Moody at 14. Kuminga is a more developmental project so expect Moody to get more playing time in 2021-22. The contracts of Klay Thompson, Klay Curry, DraymondGreen, Andrew Wiggins and Andrew Curry limit the Warriors' financial flexibility. Kuminga, Moody have four-year contracts totaling $42 million for combined salary.Myron Medcalf: Detroit Pistons. This draft is full of high-ceiling players, but there are no guarantees. It is possible to place most of those players in the top five in this category. Cade Cunningham? He is a 6'8-inch, smart playmaker who is eager to excel in the NBA. As a do-it all Oklahoma State player, he made 40% of his 3-pointers in the last season. Cunningham is a promising young star that will be a great addition to the NBA. Second-round pick Isaiah Livers, however, is a fascinating prospect.Andrew Lopez: Last season, the Houston Rockets had the worst record in league and needed to attract talent immediately. Mission accomplished. Jalen Green was drafted by the Rockets with the No. Jalen Green was the Rockets' No. 2 pick and could be the star that the team needs to return to contention. The team also acquired two standout big men from abroad at No. 16 and No. 23 with Turkey’s Alperen Sgun and Spain's Usman Gauba. They also picked up Josh Christopher from Arizona State as their final first-round selection. The Rockets were able to find talent on a team that was desperate for it.Which team was underwhelmed by their draft selections?Bobby Marks: The New York Knicks. During the draft, I mentioned that New York would get two players at 19-21 who would have been picked in the lottery last year (possibly Jalen Johns and Cam Thomas). The Knicks traded the 19th pick to Charlotte to secure a future protected and moved four spots back to 21 to 25 (they would choose guard Quentin Grimes in a trade made with the Clippers). High marks should be given to the Knicks for their selections of Jericho Sims, Rokas Jokubaitis and Miles McBride during the second round. Now comes the real work in New York. With a projected cap space of $50 million, the Knicks hold the top spot.Tim Bontemps. The San Antonio Spurs pushed a little to select Josh Primo as the 12th overall pick. This could be a good move for the long-term. Remember, the Phoenix Suns took Cam Johnson 11th overall a few years back, and he was a key player in the NBA Finals. Primo is a fascinating prospect and was the youngest player selected in the draft. However, he was 26th in ESPN's draft rankings. This means that the Spurs have to prove that this selection will be a success.Royce Young: The 76ers. It was a pretty quiet night for Sixers fans. They played it patiently, didn't take Ben Simmons' offers seriously and stayed with their No. 1 pick. 28 -- Jaden Springser -- and did some light shopping during the second round.What non-lottery pick will have an immediate impact on next season's season?Givony: Alperen Sungun has the chance to win rookie of the Year next season or put up numbers that will make him stand out. Sengun, an 18-year-old European basketball prospect, was the most productive. He won MVP in the strong Turkish league. His scoring skills were exceptional, and he also played a key role as a defensive playmaker. Sengun is expected to play 25-30 minutes per Houston game, so there is no reason for him not to put up big numbers.Medcalf says: The Brooklyn Nets scored a steal with Cameron Thomas at Number. 27. He was a pure scorer at all levels, scoring an average of 23.0 points per game at LSU. He'll be waiting his turn with Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant. This team has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons which has allowed for opportunities for younger players. Thomas will be a great fit in that fast, high-scoring offense.Lopez: Although the Pelicans lost seven spots in their first round, they were able to land Trey Murphy III, Virginia's wing. Murphy, who stands 6'9" and is 206 lbs, provides immediate shooting assistance for the Pelicans. Murphy was solid defensively and shot 50.3% overall last season. He also shot 43.3% from 3, 92.7% at the line and 43.3% from 3. He'll be able to find minutes quickly.Which draft-night trade was the most memorable?Youngmisuk: A blockbuster Lakers-Wizards. Rob Pelinka brings a third, playmaking star to LeBron James' and Anthony Davis' teams. Russell Westbrook adds much-needed intensity as well as a relentless drive that will make the Lakers better. Frank Vogel will need to find a way to make this trio work. Los Angeles still needs perimeter defenders and shooters. The Westbrook era was only one year long for the Wizards. They were able add defense and future cap room around Bradley Beal, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma. They also traded the No. 22nd pick for Indiana point guard Aaron Holiday.Marks: I liked what the Charlotte Hornets did during and before the draft. The Pistons acquired Mason Plumlee, a veteran center player. This was a solution to a pressing need. They were expected to have $22million in cap space and spent $8.8 million on Plumlee. This left them with $14 million free agency to improve their bench. Trade with New York to acquire the No. Their 19th pick was a bold move by their conservative front office. Kai Jones, who had lottery potential, was traded to New York for the No. James Bouknight's selection was not a trade; the guard was an insurance policy to cover the possible departure of Malik Monk, a free agent.Bontemps: The Washington Wizards moved Russell Westbrook, without having to give up any first-round picks or take on unfavorable money. They also received a first rounder as part of the deal. Tommy Sheppard did a fantastic job, turning John Wall's contract, which is arguably the worst in the league, into long-term flexibility. And this without a draft-pick deficit. Let's be clear for the Lakers: I don't believe this will work out as Westbrook is heading to his fourth team in the same number of seasons.What second-round pick is most likely to be an All-Star First?Givony: Sharife cooper had an historic season. He was the second freshman in 30 years to average more than 20 points and 8 boards. Cooper is a potential draft pick. He's one the most skilled ball-handlers, has an incredibly fast first step, and can get anywhere he wants to on the court. Cooper, despite his small stature, was able to lead college basketball in points per game (40), proving that he can create offense against top-level defenders. Cooper will be staying in Atlanta, where he'll likely play in the G League. He is waiting to prove NBA teams wrong.Medcalf: Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title. He is a 6-foot-3 defensive tyrant and made 39% of his 3-pointers in this season's NBA championship. Jared Butler, a 6-foot-3 point guard, won the national title for Baylor last season. He made 42 percent of his 3-pointers. He can be a top-level NBA player if he can improve his shooting skills and become a better defender (Baylor's opponents made turnovers on one-fourth their possessions with Butler at the floor).Young: It is difficult to project second-rounders, but Isaiah Todd, the 31st overall pick, is a good one to place a bet on. He was a G-LeagueIgnite player last season, and was one the best high school prospects for 2020. He was relegated to the second round but many boards had him as a first-rounder due to his unique combination in size and skill. He is stepping into a Washington situation that desperately needs frontcourt depth.What was the most surprising thing about this draft?Pelton: Josh Primo was the first SEC guard to be selected. In ESPN's Top 100, he was one spot behind Cameron Thomas of LSU and three other guards -- Tennessee's Keon John, Arkansas' Moses Moody, and Auburn's Sharife Cooper. Primo was 14th in my consensus projections, which I thought was a high score. However, the San Antonio Spurs clearly had a higher projection and he was ranked No. 12.Lopez: I didn't expect the NCAA tournament's best player to make it that far in the second round. But that's exactly what happened when Jared Butler dropped to No. He was selected by Utah via Memphis and New Orleans at number 40. Butler was flagged by the NBA Combine for a medical problem, but was eventually cleared by a medical panel. His college record speaks for itself. He was a third-team All-American in 2020, and consensus first-team All-American 2021 when he led the Bears towards a national championship.Bontemps: Jalen Sugs was not among the top four choices. Although it may not seem like much, going from fourth to fifth seems like a significant drop. However, when I entered the NBA Draft Lottery last month, there seemed to be a consensus at the top: Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green. Evan Mobley was also present. Suggs was the only one who didn't make the cut. It was quite a surprise to see Suggs sit there for the Toronto Raptors, and then be passed over for Scottie Barnes, Florida State forward. Suggs is now in an interesting situation with the Orlando Magic. He will be given the keys of the Magic Kingdom immediately and will be the face of the franchise. This was evident by his stunning silver suit on Thursday night.Who will be the 2022 NBA rookie of the year?Cade Cunningham scored 20.1 points per season in Oklahoma State. Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty ImagesPelton: Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham should both be well-positioned to win Rookie of Year. However, I would give the slight edge to Cunningham. He is in a position to succeed with the ball in his hand on a team that should have more success than Green's Rockets.Youngmisuk: Jalen Green. Green has had a taste of playing against men in G-League, which should make it easier for him to transition to the professional ranks than his college peers. Green should also have ample scoring opportunities. Green's scoring and explosiveness should shine, even with Kevin Porter Jr. and John Wall in the backcourt.Young: Jalen Suggs. Suggs will be able to get the keys to his car very quickly after the Magic has been completely rebuilt. Suggs is a fierce competitor and culture setter. Suggs will be entering the Magic franchise with a view to changing the script. Suggs may produce the type of moments that create award buzz, as Cade Cunningham did in Detroit.