Draft Thoughts: Connecting the Dots
Welcome to Draft Week. It's Time to Buckle Up.
Can you feel the tension building? As each day inches closer, the smoke will continue to get stronger. Be careful out there, the week of the draft is always a famous time of the year for some chaotic rumors to rise to the surface. We've warned you before, but it's important to remember...take every rumor with a grain of salt, but make sure you keep track of some of the names floating around. As they say, where there's smoke...there's also fire.
Names are going to continue to be floating around rapidly throughout the next 48 hours. Intel will be flooding in and that could swing the stock of certain prospects in a hurry. It can get confusing and that's okay. This is an important time to try to gather all of the information you can and try to put the pieces together. After seeing some of the names that are "buzzing" in draft circles, I thought it'd be important to take a look at some interesting storylines that are quickly becoming fascinating when it comes to this year's 2021 NBA Draft.
ARE WE BUYING BOUKNIGHT TO OKC?
Yes, we should be buying this. After a lot of thoughtful thinking, it makes a lot of sense for Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder. If you're going to build this team with your massive army of future draft selections, then you better try to put together some intriguing talent. While teams might not be sold on G-League Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga (more on that soon), it sounds as if Bouknight has quietly had himself an impressive pre-draft process. It's not difficult to understand why when you turn on the tape. Bouknight is shifty with the ball in his hands and he can score in bunches from anywhere on the floor. His athleticism is something that is a bit "slept on" at times. He's got some eye-opening bounce and he can finish around the rim with craftiness. If OKC believes that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a building block moving forward, then they should look to get him a running mate in the backcourt to grow with. A combination of SGA and Bouknight would have some explosive upside and would create some immediate excitement for Thunder fans.
At the end of the day, this could all be some smoke and OKC could be intrigued by adding a young raw talent like Jonathan Kuminga. It would seem as if the buzz has gotten loud enough as of late that there's some serious steam to the Bouknight momentum at 6. When you sit back and think, it makes all of the sense in the world, especially with the Thunder having two more selections at 16 and 18.
IS DAVION MITCHELL SLOWLY FALLING?
It would seem as if so. I don't consider this as much of an "age issue" as some might be pointing out when it comes to Mitchell potentially slipping down some draft boards. This is simply just how the process works out. There are always going to be some prospects that just simply slip through the cracks and go a bit later than some of us might have expected on draft night. Davion Mitchell looks to be a player who could fit that category this year. Whoever ends up landing Mitchell is going to get a heck of a player. He's a defensive demon who has shown the ability to use his explosive change of speeds to pick apart defenses as an offensive weapon as well. As of now, I would think that Indiana should be a team that should target Mitchell at 13. There's a realistic chance that he will be on the board, especially if the buzz about Memphis being intrigued with Josh Giddey at 10 is true.
If you go down the board, there's just not a lot of potential "fits" early on for Mitchell. Let's start at 8 with Orlando. That roster is filled with ballhandlers such as Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, and RJ Hampton. So Mitchell is probably not an option at 8 unless the Magic throw us a big curveball (probably likely). At 9 we have Sacramento who has a talented backcourt to grow with involving De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. Now a team could target that pick to try and trade up with Sacramento to potentially target Mitchell, but I'm betting teams would be trying to move up for different players potentially if a Sacramento trade were to happen. Memphis at 10 seems to be heating up when it comes to Josh Giddey. That leaves Charlotte at 11, who has Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball getting ready for his sophomore campaign. At this point, it would be shocking if the Hornets didn't target a wing or big man with their selection. From there, the wildcard is San Antonio who would seem like a bit of a wildcard to take a player like Davion Mitchell with their current roster. Sure, there have been some rumblings that the Spurs might try to move one of their talented guards this offseason, but they are deep enough at that position that it would seem like they would most likely go another direction. That leaves Indiana sitting pretty at 13 and that could be the best possible fit for Davion. If he gets past 13, I would think that the Golden State Warriors at 14 would be extremely intrigued at the idea of adding him to their rotation.
WHAT THE HECK IS ORLANDO GOING TO DO AT 8?
Welcome to the Chaos Factory. This is where things are going to get absolutely nuts when it comes to the Draft. Everyone you ask around the league seems to have a different opinion of the direction that the Orlando Magic could go at 8. One thing is for sure, it looks as if they are zeroed in on adding Florida State forward Scottie Barnes at 5. The direction that the Magic go in with the 8th selection is going to depend largely on what the Golden State Warriors do at 7. From the rumblings I've heard, it seems as if Jonathan Kuminga would be the selection for the Magic if he is still on the board at 8, regardless of if they draft Scottie Barnes at 5. While it might seem odd for the Magic to double down on forwards, it really does make a lot of sense when you look at the bigger picture. Both Kuminga and Barnes have terrifyingly fun upside, especially if they can both can grow as offensive players. With Jonathan Isaac hopefully returning to full speed this year, as well as the impressive young talent of Chuma Okeke, the Orlando Magic would all of a sudden have a stable of forwards with SERIOUS two-way versatility. For a team like the Magic, who are almost retooling their roster on the fly, adding a player with the upside that Kuminga has at 8 would simply be too juicy to pass up.
But let's say that the Warriors do actually take Kuminga at 7, something that has been rumored throughout the last week after Golden State has spent some personal time getting to know the young forward. What direction could the Magic go then? Well, there's a lot of names being thrown around so let's try to break down each possibility. One of the hottest names this last week has been Michigan forward Franz Wagner. Could the Magic still go with another forward even if it's not someone with the freakish upside that Kuminga has? Possibly. Another name that has been floated around, which would make a ton of sense, is Arkansas sharpshooting wing Moses Moody. From a "fit" argument, Moody would be a great addition for Orlando. He has the potential to turn into a dynamic two-way weapon at the NBA level, and Orlando could use some more help on the wings, especially when it comes to shooting guards. Another name to keep in mind is Alperen Sengun who could be filed as a bit of a wildcard here. It seems the more you ask around, the more uncertainty you get when it comes to this selection. Bleacher Report Draft Analyst Jonathan Wasserman even doubled down on an earlier report that there's some serious steam about the potential for Stanford forward Ziaire Williams to be in the discussion at 8. For what it's worth, when I reached out to other "insiders" about that rumor...they did not show as much optimism about Ziaire at 8...to put it "kindly."
HOW HIGH DOES CHRIS DUARTE GO?
You could argue that the Oregon guard has been the hottest name throughout the pre-draft process. Chris Duarte will have his fair share of doubters when it comes to his age (24), but the kid can flat out play basketball. It's not a shocker to see why teams are so smitten about his talent. Duarte has good size for a wing at 6'6" and he can shoot the crap out of the ball. The offensive versatility and feel for the game jump out immediately on tape. At this point Duarte's stock is so hot, you have to ask yourself...just how high could this kid go in the draft?
It would seem that Golden State will be seriously intrigued with Duarte at 14 if he's still on the board, especially if they were to swing for a bit of an "upside" selection at 7. He would be able to come in right away and give them some offensive firepower in their rotation. But this is always where things get interesting. If the entire NBA knows that the Warriors are intrigued by adding Duarte at 14, could someone try to jump Golden State in order to land the former Oregon Duck? Now I'm just speculating here, so let's not say that I'm reporting anything that NBA Central needs to post tomorrow (thank you very much). There have been rumblings that the New York Knicks even tried to package 19 and 21 to the Warriors in an effort to move up in the draft before being rejected. If that's true, it would seem that Golden State would potentially not want to risk losing out on a player like Duarte. Indiana could be a team that potentially could move back from 13, and maybe that's the team that others will need to call if they want to try and get up in front of the Warriors.
WHAT IS MEMPHIS UP TO?
After a big trade this week with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Memphis Grizzlies have now jumped from 17th overall to 10th, and they look poised to add a talented player to their impressive roster. It's no secret that Memphis has been outstanding as of late when it comes to finding great value in the draft. Last year they found themselves two great pieces in Desmond Bane and Xavier Tillman Sr. Now, the Grizzlies are positioned to get themselves a heck of a player at 10, especially with the strength of this class. But what direction does Memphis want to go in with their newly acquired position?
The early rumblings were that Australian playmaking guard Josh Giddey was the man they made the move for. It's becoming an interesting storyline because while Giddey has some sensational upside...the fit might be a bit awkward. Giddey has great size at 6'8" and he's going to be one of the youngest players in this class. The question would be how does he fit alongside Ja Morant? Giddey is at his best when he has the ball in his hands, making plays for teammates all over the floor with his sensational vision and feel for the game. But he's someone who needs the ball in his hands often to be a weapon. Ja Morant is in the same boat. While Morant has the ability to be a lethal player off of the ball with his quickness and ability to cut for backdoor looks, Morant needs the ball in his hands often to be at his best. At the end of the day the two could work, but it's a bit of a strange idea. Let's say that somehow Giddey is off of the board or the Grizzlies decide to go in another direction. There have been some rumors that the Grizzlies will even try to move up again if possible. They could potentially target someone like Jonathan Kuminga if he is falling. Maybe the Grizzlies can make an offer to Orlando to come down to 10 and it would allow Memphis to go up and get an exciting raw talent like Kuminga to add to their core. The other popular name in this range is Moses Moody, who seems to have plenty of fans around the 8-12 range. Moody would be a fantastic fit for this Memphis team as it would give them yet another up-and-coming scorer who has great potential on the defensive side of the ball. A wildcard here, who I would think should deserve some consideration would be Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert. He would give the Grizzlies some elite floor spacing ability and the idea of Ja Morant throwing dimes to Kispert and Desmond Bane is a heck of an idea to get excited about. If Giddey is off of the board and they can't go up for Kuminga, I would imagine this would be a heavy Moses Moody possibility.
SHOULD GOLDEN STATE JUMP ALL OVER KUMINGA?
I absolutely think that the Golden State Warriors should jump all over Jonathan Kuminga if they have the chance. While Kuminga has had a bit of a "cold" pre-draft process, the talent is still freakish. Kuminga is another player who will be one of the youngest prospects in this entire draft class and you wouldn't think that by seeing his frame. He's 6'8" 210 pounds with a frame that looks like it still has plenty of room to put weight on. Kuminga has the upside and potential to turn into a dangerous weapon on both sides of the floor. Golden State is in a position in which they can swing for upside at 7 while also finding themselves an early contributor at 14. The idea is that Golden State is hopefully not picking this high for at least a couple of years, so you better make it worth it with this selection.
It's been reported that Golden State has spent plenty of time as of late getting a look at Kuminga. They even reportedly took Kuminga out to dinner, which is now becoming an important development because of the "James Wiseman dinner" last year. Okay sorry, I'll try to keep the humor to a minimum. On a serious note, Kuminga landing with the Dubs would just be a phenomenal fit. He would be a young talent they could mold with their strong developmental staff and it's terrifying to think of how good he could be if everything clicks down the road. Imagine being Kuminga and you have to defend Klay Thompson every day in practice while also battling with being defended by Andrew Wiggins. I'm sure you'd get better in a hurry and that culture would do big things for his development. While there's plenty of James Wiseman doubters out there, the idea of Wiseman and Kuminga reaching their potential on the same team down the road is absolutely TERRIFYING. If anything, the Warriors would all of a sudden have two JUICY young prospects they could wave around in trade offers in the near future. It'll be a heck of a discussion in that front office, but the potential and upside might simply be too sensational to pass up. If Kuminga ISN'T the pick at 7, it seems as if there's been plenty of names thrown into the fire as of late. Josh Giddey has started to get some late steam at 7 and Golden State could potentially see Giddey being a type of "Shaun Livingston" type of impact in their rotation early on. It would be funny that the Warriors could potentially add a talent like Giddey this year after passing up on LaMelo Ball last year, as Giddey offers some similar skills. After Giddey there's been a number of names mentioned as possibilities including Franz Wagner and Keon Johnson.
CHARLOTTE BUZZING FOR KAI JONES?
This is where I think some things could get a little crazy. Earlier this week there was a reported rumor from Chad Ford that said that Charlotte Hornets were high on Kai Jones at 11. With most rumors during this time of the year...I took it with some extreme caution. That was until earlier today I asked around about it and got a similar response. So take it with a grain of salt, as is tradition, but it seems as if Charlotte could very well be positioning themselves to take Jones at 11.
While it's a little rich for my taste, I understand the thought and idea behind the Texas Longhorns big man. Jones is an absolute freak in the open floor and has the tools to develop into a freak of nature type of big man at the NBA level. He's dangerous in transition and looks like a deer running the court at 6'10". The idea for Charlotte is adding a big man who can be a dynamic fit alongside LaMelo Ball and there's no doubt that Jones will be a SERIOUS lob threat early on. The rest of his game needs some serious work though. He has the upside to become a versatile weapon on both sides of the ball but the inconsistency is seriously lacking. If Charlotte is locked in on Jones, maybe they could move back a bit and acquire some more assets while still securing Jones with a later selection. That being said, I'm a big believer of if you have a prospect you love...GO GET YOUR GUY. For what it's worth, Kai Jones will be a player that a fan base goes and watches his YouTube highlights and immediately thinks they just drafted a superstar...they are that much fun.
WHAT DO THE KNICKS DO AT 19 AND 21?
Ah yes, we are obviously saving the best for last. New York Knicks buckle up, it's going to be an exciting night. It's been a popular rumor that the Knicks are doing everything in their power to try to move up in this draft. As reported above, the buzz floating around was that New York tried to move up to 14 with Golden State but was rejected. Now obviously that rumor could be false, but it's worth paying some attention to. I might be in the minority here, but I do believe that the Knicks staying put at 19 and 21 could be the better call. With the strength of this draft class, there's going to be some fascinating value around those selections. It would seem like a smart decision for New York to try to add two pieces to this young talented roster. But what direction could the Knicks go with both of their selections?
There's a number of names that have been thrown around when it comes to the Knicks in the first round. Let's get the obvious one out of the way. Yes, it seems as if the Knicks are high on Oregon wing Chris Duarte, but there's a realistic chance he's not on the board at 19. If the Knicks can't move up, they might have to go another direction. West Virginia guard Miles McBride is a name that's been generating some buzz as of late and I'm in love with the fit. Although some out there might think that's a little "soon" when it comes to McBride, I'm not one of those people. Remember folks...GO GET YOUR GUY. McBride is basically what head coach Tom Thibodeau would create if he was designing a point guard in a laboratory. McBride is a demonic presence on the defensive side of the floor and he can shoot it from deep as well. He would easily become a fan favorite in New York in a HURRY. While there's going to be plenty of Knicks fans banging the drum for Sharife Cooper to get some recognition there, I think the idea is more intriguing than the actual fit. This Knicks team needs to add some shooting and defensive ability, and while Cooper has some sensational potential, he's got a long way to go towards becoming a consistent shooter from deep. Another popular name that's been mentioned when it comes to the Knicks is Kentucky big man Isaiah Jackson. Yes, we know the Kentucky connection talk when it comes to the Knicks, but I'm personally a much bigger fan of Jackson than others might be. If New York could land him with one of those selections, it'd be a great haul. Jackson is going to need some time to let his offensive game develop, but he runs the floor like a wing and he can become a MONSTER defensively with his shot blocking ability.