Five Things to Look Out for During the 2021 NBA Draft


(Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

1. What do the Warriors do with their first-round draft capital?


I promise, this is the only question that will have immediate repercussions, which makes it the most important by a long-shot. Golden State has the 7th and 14th picks in this year’s draft, and what they plan on doing with those picks is completely up in the air. Will they put them in a trade package for Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam or Bradley Beal? Will they keep them and select one of Jonathan Kuminga, Davion Mitchell, James Bouknight, Moses Moody or Franz Wagner? Despite not having a top five pick, Golden State controls this draft. With the window slowly closing on Steph and Klay's mini-dynasty, watch out for the Warriors to make a splashy move.


2. How much does the league still value pass-first point guards?


Jalen Suggs is one the best pure point guard prospects since Chris Paul in 2005. He’s a few months removed from one of the greatest shots in NCAA Tournament history, and was on the brink of a title with Gonzaga until he ran into the mammoth that was Baylor. He has the best on-court vision in the entire class and a knack for elevating his teammates’ abilities to score. However, Suggs is somehow barely considered a top three prospect. General managers have fallen in love with rangy wing defenders like Scottie Barnes and Franz Wagner, as well as score-first guards like Jalen Green. What will it mean for facilitating guards like Suggs if he falls out of the top three, or even top five, despite his jaw-dropping talents and decorated resume as a traditional point guard?


3. Where does the NBA stand in the Base-Hit vs. Home Run argument?


The NBA Finals told us more than we could’ve ever hoped about the NBA Draft. There are two sides of the coin to this: the Mikal Bridges side and the Giannis Antetokounmpo side. Bridges was selected 10th overall out of Villanova in 2018, where he’d won two National Championships under Jay Wright.


Bridges was an immediate contributor for a blossoming Suns team and eventually became a reliable starter on a Finals roster. Giannis was selected 15th overall in 2013, and didn’t become a valuable contributor for Milwaukee until the 2015-16 season. Although he wasn’t an immediate impact player, he evolved into the best science project of all-time, ultimately winning the MIP award, two MVPs, a DOPY, and a Finals MVP to compliment his Larry O’Brien trophy.


However, for every Giannis, there are 100 Frank Ntilikinas. Promising prospects that require nurturing and patient development that never blossom into who we thought they could be. In other words, disappointing potential. Will general managers gravitate towards the proven players who can make an immediate impact or the science experiments who may become job savers or annihilators?


4. The NBA has had a long-running conundrum of whether teams should draft for fit/need or simply take the best player available. The Houston Rockets will be the first of many victims of this conundrum in the 2021 NBA Draft — so how will they respond?


The Houston Rockets have been linked to both Evan Mobley and Jalen Green since they acquired the second overall draft pick in the lottery. With Cunningham off the board, Houston set their sights on a lengthy big man with a feathery touch and an explosive guard who could fill up one area of the stat-sheet much better than his peers. However, Houston already has their stretch-four spot occupied by Christian Wood, a player who only improved with a larger responsibility placed on his shoulders during his first year in Houston. Will this prevent Houston from selecting someone who is, according to the critical consensus, the second-best player in the draft? Or will they say, “Fuck it. They’re both supremely talented, so why can’t we find a way for Mobley to fit alongside Wood?”


5. What does this draft mean for Blue Blood colleges?


For the first time in years, it’s unlikely that any of the Top 10 draft picks will feature a player from Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, or Kansas. Instead, the top-tier talent pool is littered with players from historically less notorious power-five conference schools like Oklahoma State or USC, as well as the first batch of young stars who will represent the G-League Ignite.


This draft is teaching us that the Anthony Davis’s and Zion Williamson’s of the world won’t always choose Calipari over home-base loyalty any longer. They’ll opt for the basketball situation that suits them best. And that decision won’t always impact their draft stock. Cade Cunningham would’ve been the first pick in the draft if he’d gone to OSU, Duke, Australia or the Ignite. So how will the Blue Bloods react to this new reality?