2021 NBA Draft grades: Pick-by-pick evaluations in trade-filled night with a bunch of high marks


The biggest news of the 2021 NBA Draft probably was the trade that pre-empted it -- the Los Angeles Lakers getting Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards in a trade hours before the first pick of the night. And that trade wasn't the only one. Picks moved hands at a rate that felt inconceivable, particularly in the second round. 

But the picks were made, and the grades were, too. Gary Parrish (first round) and Kyle Boone (second) offered their analysis below. A note before you read: There might seem like a lot of A+ grades in that first round, but Parrish would like for you to understand that his A+ grades were simply teams making the "right" choice -- the one he would make, the one he believed to be the best pick available. Trades aren't factored into these grades, but we've got team grades coming.

Takeaways from NBA Draft night | NBA Draft trade tracker

Round 1 NBA Draft Grades

BY GARY PARRISH

1. Detroit Pistons: PG Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

Cunningham is the best prospect in this draft and should've gone No. 1 regardless of which franchise picked first. So Detroit got this right. If the Pistons spend the coming years building back to a place of relevance, this decision they made tonight will be the biggest reason why. Grade: A+

2. Houston Rockets: SG Jalen Green, G-League Ignite

Green makes a valid point in saying he might have been the No. 1 pick if he'd gone to college. He was awesome in the G-League, and you could argue that what he did there was more impressive than starring in college because he was going against grown men. He has the best chance of anyone other than Cunningham to be a star, and he has the talent to be a future scoring champion. Grade: A+

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Evan Mobley, USC

I actually think this is the easiest pick in the draft. There was nothing to think about. He can defend and score, stretch it out with the jumper and do more. They've got a potential star with this pick. Grade: A+

4. Toronto Raptors: SF Scottie Barnes, Florida State

I usually trust the Toronto front office. They get things right. The worry here is the 3-point shot, where he's obviously not good enough yet. But he does everything else, and his work ethic draws rave reviews from people who know him. If the Raptors can build that shooting out, he'll be great. Grade: A-

5. Orlando Magic: PG Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga

When Jalen Suggs is available at 5, you take him at 5. We talk a lot about how he was a high school quarterback, and I think that helps him see and make passes that other point guards can't make. He also has incredible athleticism and can guard and run fast breaks. He's a tremendous two-way player, and if he figures out his jumper, he's going to be tremendous. Grade: A+

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: SF Josh Giddey, Australia

I don't think this is as crazy as it might seem. I would have gone Jonathan Kuminga, but the first five picks had begun to seem clear over the past few days, and the next five were nowhere near as predictable. Again, his only obvious weakness is the 3-point shot, but if he can develop that, he's got the potential to be special. Grade: B+

7. Golden State Warriors (from Minnesota): SF Jonathan Kuminga, G-League Ignite

Kuminga is a big swing, and I know Golden State is probably conflicted because in theory they'd want to take somebody who is ready to help them contend next year. And 18-year-olds typically aren't that, but man, there's so much to like. He has a big body and should be a switchable player on both ends. He's the highest upside guy left on the board and the smart pick here. Grade: A+

8. Orlando Magic (from Chicago): SF Franz Wagner, Michigan

He's very young, so there's a lot of room to develop. He played two years of college basketball, and he was never a top-two player on his own team. People call him a shooter, but he never really made his 3-pointers that well. People love his team defense, but that's an odd thing to hang your hat on as a top-10 pick. He could definitely work out, but this is not what I would have done here. Grade: B-

9. Sacramento Kings: PG Davion Mitchell, Baylor

I thought Mitchell was a top seven prospect in this draft, and there's great value here at No. 9. Tenacity and skill combine to make him an outstanding prospect. His defensive intensity is unique and should translate quickly to the pros. Grade: A+

10. Memphis Grizzlies (from New Orleans): SF Ziaire Williams, Stanford

This is much higher than most people had Williams, but it's completely in line with what the Grizzlies are doing. They were looking for a young prospect who can play on the wing between Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., and Williams has huge upside. This is the big swing to build a real future. Grade: A-

11. Charlotte Hornets: SG James Bouknight, Connecticut

I didn't think as of this morning that Bouknight would be available outside the top 10, and Charlotte was smart to snatch him up. He can play with the ball, play off the ball and is a top-shelf athlete. He didn't shoot that well at UConn, but by all accounts, he shot the cover off the ball in workouts and at the combine. If I'm a Hornets fan, I'm thrilled right now. Grade: A+

12. San Antonio Spurs: SG Joshua Primo, Alabama

This is the biggest reach of the draft so far. But Primo is only 18, and he is a shooter. Even so, I'd probably go a lower grade if this were a different franchise than San Antonio. He simply has not had the track record of other prospects still available in terms of his production in college. It's not what I would have done, but we'll have to see how it plays out. Grade: C+

13. Indiana Pacers: SG Chris Duarte, Oregon

This is a guy who was a JUCO player of the year and then led Oregon to back-to-back Pac-12 titles. Yes, he's 24, but you'll be very happy with that when he's ready to play on Day One. I love Duarte, and I think he's going to be one of the 10 best rookies. Grade: A-

14. Golden State Warriors: SG Moses Moody, Arkansas

I had Moody as a top seven, eight, nine prospect in this draft. If you can get him here, that's a great value. He was the best player as a freshman on a power-conference team that went to the Elite Eight. Golden State gets a young prospect who is actually ready to play minutes next season. Grade: A+

15. Washington Wizards: SF Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

I never liked Kispert as a top-10 prospect, which was his hype at one point. There are too many things, many of which we saw in the championship game, that could hold him back. But this guy is probably the best shooter in this NBA Draft, and I have no issue with Washington using the 15th pick on that. Grade: A-

16. Houston Rockets (from Oklahoma City): C Alperen Şengün, Turkey

The Rockets traded for this pick on draft night, sending two future first-rounders to the Thunder. Şengün is an incredible force around the basket, both in the post with his back to the basket and facing up, as well as his offensive rebounding. If you want to be skeptical, he's a traditional big. But analytics love him, as he was historically productive for a teenager in a very good league in Turkey, and he was the best player left on my board. Grade: A+

17. New Orleans Pelicans (from Memphis): SG Trey Murphy, Virginia

This pick is all about Zion Williamson and how to maximize him. The Pelicans knew they had to surround their superstar with shooting, and Murphy is a 6-9 wing who can really, really shoot it. I have been touting Murphy for a while, and he was the highest-ranked player on my own big board, plus he's a great fit. Grade: A+

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Miami): PG Tre Mann, Florida

A lot of future freshmen considering the draft should consider Mann's story. He wasn't great as a freshman, came back to be a sophomore and did everything NBA teams wanted to see in Year 2. His ability on the pick-and-roll and particularly with step-back jumpers is very tantalizing. Grade: A-

19. Charlotte Hornets (from New York): PF Kai Jones, Texas

The Hornets got this pick in a draft-night trade for a future first-rounder with the Knicks. He has so much potential, but does it bother anybody that he didn't really show he was a good basketball player in his two years in college? You're asking him to be better in the NBA than he was in college, and that's worrisome. But you can see the athletic ability and potential, and he was late to the highest levels of the game. Grade: B-

20. Atlanta Hawks: SF Jalen Johnson, Duke

Everybody has used different phrases for how Johnson's Duke tenure ended. "Quit" is what it was. That's not a good look. But I can't overstate this enough: We are now at the 20th pick in the draft. What are you going to do? Take the big swing on the player who might have some issues, the same way Denver did with Michael Porter Jr. a couple years ago. If you can tap into Johnson's talent, you're going to be very happy. Grade: A+

21. Los Angeles Clippers (from New York): SG Keon Johnson, Tennessee

The Clippers got this pick in a draft-night trade with the Knicks that sent No. 25 to New York along with a future pick. Johnson was the best player available, a terrific athlete who slots in nicely here. He's a one-and-done guard who projects as a nice two-way player in the NBA for many years to come thanks to freakish athleticism that allowed him to set a vertical record (48 inches) at the combine. Grade: A+

22. Indiana Pacers (from LA Lakers): PF Isaiah Jackson, Kentucky

The Pacers got this pick in a draft-night trade with the Lakers. He's certainly more defense than offense, more athleticism than skill. But he's so gifted on that end with blocking shots, that he still has to learn some things on the defensive side, too. That said, he's got things you can't teach with all that physical talent. Grade: B+

23. Houston Rockets (from Portland): PF Usman Garuba, Spain

The highest remaining guy on my board, so the grade might be self-evident. Garuba is a versatile high-level defender who could help as a rookie and eventually develop into one of the best defensive bigs in the world. Grade: A+

24. Houston Rockets (from Milwaukee): SG Josh Christopher, Arizona State

I appreciate the big swing, and he was a projected lottery pick a year ago. College basketball didn't work out so well for him, but I think the Rockets are seeing a player with potential to develop alongside a longtime friend, Jalen Green. Grade: B+

25. New York Knicks (from LA Clippers): SG Quentin Grimes, Houston

I had a few guards ahead of Grimes, but I have no doubt he'll be impactful in the NBA. He showed a lot by struggling at Kansas but picking himself back up, transferring to Houston, locking down on defense and really thriving under Kelvin Sampson. Grade: B+

26. Denver Nuggets: PG Nah'Shon Hyland, VCU

He was a little outside my top 30, but a lot of people I respect had him in this range. He's a scoring guard who should be able to shoot with NBA range. Grade: B+

27. Brooklyn Nets: SG Cameron Thomas, LSU

There's some people asking, wait, you have Kyrie Irving and James Harden, why do you need Cameron Thomas? But that's not the way to think about it. Thomas gives them a player who can play in the same style as those guys, as he's a big scorer built to score 20 on any given night. This is really smart. Grade: A+

28. Philadelphia 76ers: PG Jaden Springer, Tennessee

I am a fan of what Springer could become, but there's a reasonable concern that he has used his power to get places in high school and college and might not have the skill to do that stuff in the NBA. Jared Butler and Ayo Dosunmu might have been better picks. Grade: B+

29. Brooklyn Nets (from Phoenix): C Day'Ron Sharpe, North Carolina

This pick was made by Brooklyn after a trade with Phoenix. And it's a pick for fit. Nobody was better in college basketball at offensive rebounding than Sharpe, so this is a very sensible fit for a team with a ton of scorers. Grade: B+

30. Memphis Grizzlies (from Utah): PF Santi Aldama, Loyola-Md.

The Grizzlies reached up via trade to get perhaps the biggest surprise of the first round. This is a young man who clearly has some skill set. Size, shooting, rebounding. But he put up big numbers against weak competition for a bad team. He's had knee surgery and only played 26 games in two seasons. Defense is an issue. But he rose late, and the Grizzlies have made smart picks in this range in recent years. Grade: C+

Second Round NBA Draft Grades

BY KYLE BOONE

31. Washington Wizards (from Milwaukee): PF Isaiah Todd, G-League Ignite

Todd is an interesting pick here for a rebuilding Wizards team that got the pick via draft-night trade. Not sure he helps right away. At 6-10 and only 19 years old, though, he has the talent foundation to be a floor-spacing big man if he can continue his growth as a shooter and add to his long, wiry frame. Grade: C+

32. Oklahoma City Thunder (from New York): PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova 

The rebuilding Thunder got this pick via trade and are getting the reigning Big East Player of the Year at very good value in the second round. Tenacious defender with a nose for the ball who does everything well and could be a starter for OKC. Grade: A

33. Los Angeles Clippers (from Orlando): PG Jason Preston, Ohio

Very interesting developmental pick for the Clippers, who got this pick in a draft-night trade. Preston's skinny and needs to pack on muscle and while he has some holes in his game to iron out, he is one of the most electric passers in the draft with a very good feel from the point guard position. Grade: B+

34. New York Knicks (from Oklahoma City): PG Rokas Jokubaitas, Lithuania

The Knicks are getting one of the best-kept international secrets in Jokubaitis. The left-handed 20-year-old has real verve to his game as a crafty scorer who can create on offense, and he is regarded as a reliable shooter with range that extends beyond the 3-point line, too. Probably not going to blow by defenders because of his average athleticism, Joku is a well-rounded offensive player who has tools to fit in the modern NBA eventually. Grade: B-

35. New Orleans Pelicans (from Cleveland): SF Herbert Jones, Alabama

In Jones, the Pelicans add a defensive monster who can guard multiple positions and and is coming off a career-best year in which he won SEC Player of the Year honors. The shot still needs some refinement -- he's never hit above 30% from 3 outside of last season -- but what he can bring to the table with his length on defense and with his passing and playmaking on offense could bode well for his role-playing potential next to Zion Williamson. Grade: B+

36. New York Knicks (from Oklahoma City): PG Miles McBride, West Virginia

I love this pick. I had McBride as a top-20 guy on my board, so getting him in the second round is great value. He's a tough, gritty guard who can really get after it defensively and has the tools to be a really high-level shot-maker in the NBA. Grade: A+

37. Detroit Pistons (from Toronto): PF JT Thor, Auburn

Detroit takes a bit of a gamble here on Thor. He didn't shoot that well at Auburn, but he proved he is at the very least capable of spacing the floor and brings excellent length to the Pistons. Thor is the type of long-term prospect who could grow and benefit alongside a player of Cade Cunningham's caliber in Detroit. Grade: B

38. Chicago Bulls (from New Orleans): SG Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

How a top-25 guy on my board slipped to the second round and a team playing in a state where he's already beloved is anyone's guess. He's a tough-nosed two-way guard who really improved as a scorer last season and his all-around game should translate to NBA success with the Bulls. Grade: A

39. Sacramento Kings: C Neemias Queta, Utah State

Sacramento gets a 7-footer in Queta who was dominant at the college level as an interior player. He's an efficient scorer around the rim and effectively uses his massive wingspan to swat shots at an elite rate. Not a lot of potential here, though, and I think he'll struggle to defend in space and eventually settle into a role as a situational big. Grade: C

40. Utah Jazz (from New Orleans): PG Jared Butler, Baylor

Getting red-flagged medically at the NBA draft combine may have torpedoed Butler's stock (even though he was cleared earlier this month), but he is a top-20 prospect on my board and one of the most NBA-ready guards in this draft. Getting him at No. 40 for a contending Jazz team -- who got the pick in a draft-night trade -- is robbery. Grade: A+

41. San Antonio Spurs: SG Joe Wieskamp, Iowa

Next to ball-dominant Luka Garza, Wieskamp was able to become an elite spot-up shooter with a quick release, and he has good positional size to boot. He's the type of role player who can fit on any roster, and I think that is especially true of the Spurs, who should put his shooting to good use. Grade: B-

42. Detroit Pistons (from Charlotte): PF Isaiah Livers, Michigan

Off-and-on injury issues have plagued Livers the last few seasons, but when healthy, he is a two-way force who defends at a high level and a career 41.2% 3-point shooter. He has a helper's skill set tailor-made to complement No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham. Grade: B-

43. Portland Trail Blazers (from New Orleans): PF Greg Brown, Texas

Big swing here for the Trail Blazers who trade back into the draft to get a springy leaper with a five-star pedigree in Brown. He can finish above the rim yet has the skills of a perimeter player at 6-foot-9. Brown's still learning the game and may require a few years before being NBA-ready, but he has All-Star athleticism worth betting on for Portland in hopes of the other parts of his game developing. Grade: B+

44. Brooklyn Nets (from Indiana): SF Kessler Edwards, Pepperdine

I was more in on Edwards than just about anyone, so it won't be a surprise to hear me say this is incredible value for the Nets. I had a first round grade on Edwards because of his positional size and scoring ability. He has all the tools to step in and be a contributor on a Nets team primed to compete for a title next season. Grade: A+

45. Boston Celtics: SG Juhann Begarin, Guadeloupe

I am surprised Begarin was on the board here at 45. He's been a strong producer for Paris Basketball, particularly as a scorer and slasher, and at 18 years old with a 7-foot wingspan, he's a young stash prospect who has the physical tools to in time become really interesting if he continues to add polish to his game. Grade: B+

46. Toronto Raptors (from Memphis): SF Dalano Banton, Nebraska

This feels like a quintessential Raptors pick, particularly after taking Scottie Barnes at No. 4. Banton has a huge frame at 6-9 and can put it on the floor similar to Barnes, but also similar to Barnes, he's still a bit of a project -- a tough sell for someone who turns 22 this year. Grade: C-

47. Toronto Raptors (from Golden State): PG David Johnson, Louisville

He was at one time viewed as a potential first-rounder because of his positional size advantage from the point guard spot. It's just a tough sell for me with this being the third draftee for the Raptors whose primary function is as a lead playmaker. Grade: C-

48. Atlanta Hawks (from Miami): PG Sharife Cooper, Auburn

This might be my favorite pick of the draft. Cooper was a top-25 prospect on my board, and I didn't think it was possible he'd slip to the second round, much less to No. 48. He gives Atlanta one of the best passers and playmakers in this draft to pair with (or likely back up) Trae Young -- one of the NBA's best passers and playmakers. So much fun. Grade: A+

49. Brooklyn Nets (from Atlanta): PG Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton

The Nets get one of college basketball's most electric shot-makers here at 49. Zegarowski makes shots off the catch, off the dribble, sprinting off screens and from any distance on the court. He's a tad undersized and has just-OK athleticism but is a potent scorer who could be a rotation guard even for a deep team like the Nets. Grade: B-

50. Philadelphia 76ers (from New York): PF Filip Petrusev, Serbia

Pretty interesting upside bet here for Philly. A former Gonzaga standout, Petrusev spent last season with Mega Basket and sharpened his shooting skills in a real way, hitting 41.9% of his 3s. At 7-foot, he presents good value as a late-bloomer who could be a floor-spacing center. Grade: B

51. Los Angeles Clippers (from New Orleans): SG Brandon Boston Jr., Kentucky

This is the second prospect (along with Keon Johnson) that the Clippers have taken who are developmental projects. Boston needs to add weight, and he really struggled to score it at Kentucky, which is problematic for a player who has been viewed as a scoring wing. I commend the swing, though, so I'll grade high. Former five-star who was at one time viewed as a lottery talent? That's someone you gamble on in the second round. Grade: A

52. Detroit Pistons (from L.A. Lakers): C Luka Garza, Iowa

There are some major questions about Garza's NBA fit. He struggles to defend in space and may really have a hard time adapting defensively in the NBA. But he won National Player of the Year honors at Iowa last season because of his diverse offensive skill set and ability to scorer it inside and outside, and that might just be enough for him to stick with the rebooting Pistons in some capacity. Grade: B-

53. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans): C Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky

I had Bassey mocked to the 76ers in the first round thinking that center depth would be high priority for this Philly front office. Getting him at 53 should be considered a win. He's more of a throwback big man, but he dominated Conference USA as a shot-blocker and interior post presence and has the rebounding chops to at worst be a backup center. Grade: A

54. Milwaukee Bucks (from Indiana): PF Sandro Mamukelashvili, Seton Hall

Mamukelashvili is one of the more productive college players to get drafted and his combination of size and skill presents real upside at 54 for the Bucks. He averaged 3.2 assists per game last season for Seton Hall at 6-foot-11, as the Pirates funneled their offense through him and capitalized on his strong passing ability. He also showed he can step out and knock down 3s after making 43.4% from deep two seasons ago. Grade: B+

55. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Denver): SG Aaron Wiggins, Maryland

The Thunder drafted a wing, a guard, a forward and another wing in a draft where the frontcourt was expected to be a priority. That's my only complaint here. Overall I love the bet on Wiggins' talent. Good size with a 6-foot-10 wingspan who really impressed at the combine and has a shot to stick with his physical ability if the shots fall. Grade: B+

56. Charlotte Hornets (from L.A. Clippers): SG Scottie Lewis, Florida

Charlotte makes a good, low-stakes gamble on a long athlete with a former five-star pedigree. Lewis has the defensive potential to be an elite NBA wing if his shot ever comes around. Right in the range where I anticipated he'd land, so no extra props, but I like the thinking here. Grade: B

57. Charlotte Hornets (from Brooklyn): C Balsa Koprivica, Florida State

This one's a surprise. Didn't have the big Serbian in the top 100 much less in the range of being drafted. He's got NBA size at 7-foot-1 but he's got slow feet and plays a more traditional style for a center. Grade: C

58. New York Knicks (from Philadelphia): C Jericho Sims, Texas

Sims tested as one of the most explosive athletes at the NBA Draft combine and has the athleticism and leaping ability to be a run-and-jump center in the NBA. He is not much of a scorer but knows his role and can really be a good defensive player. Grade: B+

59. Brooklyn Nets (from Phoenix): PF RaiQuan Gray, Florida State

I had Gray mocked to the Nets 10 picks higher than this, so scoring him at No. 59 is a nice value. He had a high body fat percentage at the combine and needs to trim down a tad, but there's some toughness and swagger in his game that gives off some PJ Tucker vibes. Grade: A

60. Indiana Pacers (from Utah): PG Georgios Kalaitzakis, Greece

The last time Milwaukee dipped into Greece for a prospect, it worked out fairly well. This time they go a little bit older in 22-year-old Kalaitzakis. He's easy to like because of his guard skill and wing size (6-foot-8), and he gives the team a potential stash option to develop long-term. Grade: B-