Redrafting the 2021 NBA Draft

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I think it’s time to rank these upcoming second-year players. I know that it’s “too early” and “we don’t know how they’re careers are going to pan out”, but that takes the fun out of this exercise.

I’m going to redraft the first round of this draft using VORP, my favorite advanced metric. I will also subtract 0.5 from their score if they played less than 48 games. I’m proving to everyone that there was no bias in this draft. I will, however, analyze each selection. Undrafted players will not receive consideration in this redraft, only the 60 players actually selected will. This is also not a perfect exercise and will undoubtedly change in possibly the first week of this upcoming season. It’s an essential part of being a basketball fan, though, don’t you think?

1. Detroit Pistons: Scottie Barnes

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With the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select Scottie Barnes from Florida State University. Yes, that Scottie Barnes. The one who won Rookie of the Year while averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while playing for a playoff team. In this universe, the Pistons pass on Cade Cunningham, instead pulling out their crystal ball and stealing this gem in Scottie Barnes. The future is bright with this one.

2. Houston Rockets: Evan Mobley

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This was an easy one. Mobley was easily the second-best rookie in the league this past season, averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds on 50% shooting. The Rockets nab him instead of Jalen Green in this universe, ushering in the post-James Harden era of Houston basketball.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Herbert Jones

Does this pick surprise you? It shouldn’t. Herb Jones was easily the best defensive rookie, stealing the ball and swatting shots at a very high rate with his length. The 35th pick in real life’s draft goes 3rd in the redraft to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who don’t get Mobley this time (sorry). Honestly, I would have picked Cade Cunningham here. Jones is definitely one of the best players in this draft class, but I don’t know if he’s quite at the level of Cunningham. I suppose that only time will tell.

4. Toronto Raptors: Franz Wagner

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Cade Cunningham is snubbed again. This time, it’s the man from Germany, Franz Wagner. Wagner had a very good rookie season, putting up 15 points a game to go with 4.5 rebounds and almost 3 assists. The Raptors add another wing to the lineup but greatly improve their shooting. Missing out on Scottie Barnes will hurt this team, but Wagner is a nice consolation prize.

5. Orlando Magic: Josh Giddey

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Orlando decides to take Josh Giddey over Cade Cunningham. What a surprise. It’s not though. Not really. Giddey had an exceptional year with the Thunder and probably could have gone higher in this redraft. The Australian point guard dished out 6.4 assists per game, proving that he was the best facilitator in the draft.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Bones Hyland

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Okay, now I’m really annoyed. Hyland over Cunningham, are you kidding me? I really don’t get it, but I respect the pick. Bones did have an exceptional rookie season, posting over 10 points a game while shooting around 36% from 3-point range. The Thunder miss out on Giddey, who went a pick before, and instead place Hyland into their guard rotation and into a system that will assuredly give him a lot more playing time than he got in Denver.

7. Golden State Warriors: Alperen Sengun

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The Warriors get a center in the draft not named James Wiseman. Outstanding work, front office. Seriously, though, this is a good pick. Sengun is not my favorite prospect on the board, but he does fit this Warriors team the best. His size and length will fit nicely next to a small-ball power forward in Draymond Green and I have no doubt in my mind that the Warriors will teach him how to shoot the long ball. This isn’t a player that would play right away for them, but neither was Jonathan Kuminga.

8. Orlando Magic: Cade Cunningham

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Orlando gets the steal of the draft. Well, two of them, actually. They steal Josh Giddey with the fifth pick in the draft and rob the first seven teams in the draft of that guy from Oklahoma State, Cunningham. This would be a really, really good backcourt. Imagine this: two tall, quick guards run the floor while also hitting long balls at a high rate and playing good enough defense to win a lot of games. That’s a pretty unbeatable combination if you ask me.

9. Sacramento Kings: Trey Murphy III

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Trey Murphy III didn’t do a ton of one thing this year. He scored, but only had 5 points a game. He hit threes, but not quite at a 40% clip. He played defense, but he didn’t shut anyone down. All in all, this versatility to do a little bit of everything is what made him so good this year. The Kings get someone they desperately needed.

10. New Orleans Pelicans: Jonathan Kuminga

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In real life, the Pelicans traded this pick to the Memphis Grizzlies. In this universe, we pretend these trades don’t occur, so the Pelicans get lucky with this one. Kuminga has arguably the highest ceiling in this draft. The Warriors didn’t play him a lot this year (that worked out for them), but maybe the Pelicans do. With no Herbert Jones on the roster, Kuminga slides into the starting lineup and possibly plays his way into the Rookie of the Year race. He’s that good. This might even be too low of a draft slot for him. It’s all up in the air for now.

11. Charlotte Hornets: Ayo Dosunmu

James Bouknight clearly hasn’t been the type of player the Hornets wanted him to be. In this redraft, they change things up. Ayo Dosunmu, the great playmaker from Illinois, leaps from pick 38 to pick 11. He fits well with this Hornets team. LaMelo Ball gets to do some off-ball work when Dosunmu hits the court, utilizing his great scoring ability in ways the team previously couldn’t. This is a great pick for Charlotte.

12. San Antonio Spurs: Chris Duarte

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In real life, the Spurs surprised everyone by picking Josh Primo from Alabama with their lottery pick. This go-around, they take Chris Duarte. Duarte was one of the best scorers among rookies this year, putting up around 13 points a game on 43% shooting. He has a good fit with last year’s Dejounte Murray Spurs, possibly having a larger role on a team that desperately needed a scoring threat. Murray would probably still be an Atlanta Hawk now no matter what had happened in this draft. Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction.

13. Indiana Pacers: Moses Moody

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Sorry, Pacers. Chris Duarte was just selected. However, getting Moses Moody might be just as good of a pick. Moody has far more upside and much more to prove. The Arkansas guard remains one of the players with the highest upside in this draft. Based on his success in the most recent Summer League, Moody could have an exceptional second year. He could have gotten minutes in his rookie year with the Pacers, so this pick is great for a team beginning a rebuild.

14. Golden State Warriors: Corey Kispert

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What’s really funny here is that the Warriors passed on Corey Kispert in the real 2021 draft to pick the aforementioned Moses Moody. The Pacers have forced their hand in this redraft. Kispert’s rookie season was very under-the-radar. He put up 8 points, under 3 rebounds, and an assist, while shooting 35% from 3-point range. Nothing special. Still, that 3-point shooting will increase if we’ve learned anything from how he played at Gonzaga and he still has a high basketball IQ to offer to a contender like the Warriors. For all we know, this pick is better than the Moody one.

15. Washington Wizards: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

I think it is time to point out that Jalen Suggs, Davion Mitchell, and Jalen Green are the lone lottery picks not to get selected there in this redraft. If they don’t get selected in the first round, this draft is extremely unrealistic. Let me remind you we are going by VORP, what I consider to be the most accurate advanced metric. However, it doesn’t account for potential, only performance, which makes Jalen Green, an inefficient shooter, seem worse than what his ceiling actually is. Oh, well. Jermemiah Robinson-Earl has been patiently awaiting his analysis. Here goes. JRE had an unprecedented rookie season. The 32nd pick out of Villanova put up 7 points and just under 6 rebounds per game, displaying great big-man skills for an undersized center. The Wizards happily take him over Jalen Green. *Sigh*.

16. Oklahoma City Thunder: Dalano Banton

When the Toronto Raptors took Dalano Banton from Nebraska at 46th overall, it marked the first time the Raptors drafted a player originally from Canada. Banton did not disappoint. At 6’9″, the point-forward averaged a modest 3.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, but showed flashes of stellar playmaking and defensive ability. If you don’t think those stats are good enough then take a look at what he did in the Summer League. The Thunder wish they had gotten him here.

17. Memphis Grizzlies: Quentin Grimes

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Grimes only played 46 games this season, making his 0.3 VORP a -0.2 for this exercise. Nevertheless, he played well enough to get drafted 17th instead of his original 25th spot. Grimes showcased great scoring ability last season. He notched 6 points per game on fantastic 38% shooting from 3. If he can improve upon that even more, he might be the best shooter in this class by the end. The Grizzlies, recently becoming contenders, could always use more shooting. This is a really, really good match and an excellent pick.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ziaire Williams

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Ziaire Williams, the 6’8″ small forward, was a surprise pick out of Stanford at 10th overall. Williams flashed great scoring ability in his rookie year with the Grizzlies, putting up around 8 points per game on 45% shooting from the field. Right now, he’s a project, but Oklahoma City would gladly take that on. The tank continues with this pick.

19. New York Knicks: Brandon Boston Jr.

The one-and-done out of Kentucky went 51st in the 2021 draft to the Memphis Grizzlies. Before the season, he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers and went on to score about 7 points per game on lackluster shooting numbers. Nevertheless, the potential is there for Boston. This pick is risky, but it’s a risk the Knicks might be willing to take.

20. Atlanta Hawks: Charles Bassey

The number of future role-players in the deep, dark parts of the second round of this draft is baffling. Charles Bassey, for one, was selected 53rd in the real iteration by the Philadelphia 76ers. In his limited playing time in 23 games, Bassey shot almost 64% from the field. That’s exceptional for a rookie who played more than 5 games. I really like what Bassey’s future looks like.

21. New York Knicks: Sandro Mamukelashvili

All there really is to say here is 42% shooting from 3. Yes, you heard that right. The potential is there for Mamukelashvili, all he needs is more playing time. The Knicks would happily hand it to him.

22. Los Angeles Lakers: Cam Thomas

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Gosh, do the Lakers wish they had picked Cam Thomas. Thomas was clearly one of the best scorers in this class, even in the predraft stages. The LSU product scored 23 points per game at the collegiate level, then scored 8 per game in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers needed scoring and they get it in this redraft.

23. Houston Rockets: Greg Brown III

Coming out of high school, Greg Brown was supposed to be one the best players in this class. His athleticism and work-in-progress shooting were signs of a good career in the pros. That went nowhere. Greg Brown played poorly at Texas, then fell to the second round of the draft and showed a limited offensive game in the NBA. This pick is purely potential, or maybe just lack of better talent on the board.

24. Houston Rockets: Isaiah Jackson

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Isaiah Jackson didn’t play much in 2022, but the defensive talent was there when he did play. The former Kentucky Wildcat had about one and a half blocks as well as almost 1 steal per game. He also hit 5 3-pointers on the year, showing that his outside shooting might be improving. All in all, a good pick for the Rockets.

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Usman Garuba

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Usman Garuba played a whopping 24 games this past season, but that doesn’t mean he played poorly. Tallying 3.5 rebounds in 10 minutes of gameplay is impressive in my book. However, the offensive production, or lack thereof, hurts his stock tremendously. This is player with a low ceiling and a high floor.

26. Denver Nuggets: Jalen Green

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In real life, the Nuggets picked Bones Hyland here. This is worthy replacement. The reason that Jalen Green fell to this spot from number 2 in the real draft, however, is not as easily amended. I think it’s pretty simple, though I tend to like production more than potential so that might give me a bit of a bias in this case. Look at the numbers: 17 points per game, 3 rebounds, 2.6 assists. You might say those are tremendous for a rookie. I agree. Nevertheless, the efficiency is the concern. 43% from the field, 34% from 3-point range. These aren’t as tremendous, even for a rookie. The Nuggets will have to hope they can be improved upon.

27. Brooklyn Nets: Josh Christopher

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The concerns with Jalen Green are mostly the same with Christopher, just to a different degree. The scoring average is substantially less (8 points a game), yet the field goal percentage is a little better (45%). I like the potential here just as much as Green’s.

28. Philadelphia 76ers: Kessler Edwards

Kessler Edwards is the very definition of a 3andD player. He just might be a little taller than Danny Green or Avery Bradley. At 6’8″, he has tremendous length at the small forward position and can guard spots 1 through 4. Really. Why didn’t he go higher in this redraft? Because the Nets didn’t figure this out until after the All-Star break. Edwards has a bright future.

29. Phoenix Suns: Jaden Springer

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Springer only played two games, but he made enough impact to garner a score of 0 in VORP. So, with this exercise that’s a -0.5. Springer really just got lucky, but he’s actually a good player. The former Tennessee point guard was drafted 28th in real life by the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup in the future, but that’s about all I can say about him. With James Harden and Tyrese Maxey in the starting lineup, look for his playmaking to be the biggest part of his game if he wants more playing time on the bench of a very good 76ers team.

30. Utah Jazz: Jared Butler

Jared Butler didn’t show much this year. He had a point a game and this is a player whose bread and butter is pure scoring. Nevertheless, the potential for a good catch-and-shooter is there. All he has to do is show it.

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