NBA draft winners, losers: Warriors, Rockets impress most

Jonathan Kuminga, Jalen Green

The most highly anticipated NBA draft in nearly 20 years is complete, and certain teams came out of it much better than others.

The 2021 NBA Draft began as widely predicted with Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley being selected with the first three overall picks. But what followed didn't necessarily stick to the expected script.

There were reaches. There were unanticipated drops. And, of course, plenty of trades.

Here are the three winners and losers of the 2021 draft:


Golden State Warriors

The draft, above all, is about maximizing value. And it's difficult to envision a scenario in which the Warriors could have gotten more value out of their two lottery selections.

Jonathan Kuminga might be a project, but among all the prospects who were still on the board at the No. 7 overall pick, his star potential far outshines that of the rest. Commonly regarded as a sure-fire top-five pick for the vast majority of the last year, getting a prospect of Kuminga's promise at seven is a major coup. Either he develops into a star with the Warriors, or he helps them acquire one via trade.

And that arguably wasn't even Golden State's best value pick. One could make the case that landing Moses Moody with the 14th pick was the steal of the entire draft. He was in consideration for the Warriors at seven, so getting him at the tail end of the lottery was both a stunning surprise and shockingly good value. The Warriors aced the draft.


Houston Rockets

If the Warriors aren't the biggest winner of the 2021 draft, that's only because the Rockets also had a tremendous night.

Jalen Green projects as a perennial All-Star. While they surely gave Mobley heavy consideration, they couldn't go wrong at No. 2 overall. But that was the easy pick. It's what Houston did throughout the rest of the draft that was so impressive.

They got a major steal in trading up to snag Alperen Sengun with the 16th pick. Then the Rockets followed that up with the selections of Usman Garuba and Josh Christopher with back-to-back picks at 20 and 21, respectively. All four of Houston's first-round picks possess high upsides and fit into the franchise's current timeline. The Rockets' rebuild is well on its way.

Charlotte Hornets

I love what the Hornets did on Thursday night. Sticking at No. 11 overall proved to be an excellent decision after James Bouknight fell into their laps. Of course, they didn't stay still throughout the remainder of the first round. Charlotte traded a future first-rounder to the New York Knicks for the 19th pick, which ultimately was used to select Kai Jones.

Jones is an unfinished project, but few prospects in the draft can compare to his upside. Bouknight should have a significant role in the immediate future, and Jones is worth betting on for his future contributions.


Sacramento Kings

The Kings are not in a position where they can afford to screw up lottery picks, but that sure seemed to be the case with the selection of Davion Mitchell at No. 9 overall. It's not about Mitchell; it's about the fit. De'Aaron Fox is entering the first year of a max contract. Tyrese Haliburton was the steal of the 2020 draft and has established himself as a franchise cornerstone. Buddy Hield is ... still on the team (for now, at least). So, where exactly does Mitchell figure into the plans?

Even if Hield is traded, that's still a logjam in Sacramento's backcourt, and essentially amounts to the Kings using the ninth pick on an undersized backup point guard. That's not good value. If circumstances change and Mitchell has a better avenue to significant minutes, then it's a different discussion. But as of right now, the Kings' first-round pick was a major head-scratcher.

San Antonio Spurs

One questions the Spurs' draft choices at his or her own risk, but there was no bigger reach in the entire draft than San Antonio's selection of guard Joshua Primo with the 12th overall pick. As the youngest player in the entire draft, he's still quite raw, and though he has an enticing physical and statistical profile, it's going to be quite a while until Primo lives up to the promise that the Spurs have placed upon him by taking him that high.


Perhaps the Spurs view Primo as the eventual replacement for Dejounte Murray. Even if that's the case, they surely could have traded back, accrued more assets and still been able to get him, especially considering the teams that directly followed San Antonio in the draft order.  

RELATED: Why Kuminga believes Warriors are 'perfect fit' for him

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder were the big losers of the draft lottery, and then had their noses rubbed in it during the actual draft itself. After seemingly falling outside of the range to land one of the draft's top-tier prospects, it briefly appeared like Oklahoma City would have a chance at Jalen Suggs. And then the Orlando Magic took him right before the Thunder went on the clock.

OKC ultimately selected Josh Giddey at No. 6 overall, which was a fine pick given the options on the board. But trading out of a pick that was then used to select Sengun seems like something the Thunder will regret before long. And Tre Mann arguably was a bit of a reach at 18, considering the other guard options that were still available at the time.

The Thunder did acquire two more future first-round picks, so that should be factored into their haul. But sooner or later, they have to turn those into picks into worthwhile value, and thus far, their efforts have been underwhelming.