How 2021 NBA Draftees fit with their new teams

Photo by John Hamilton

There weren’t too many surprises in terms of which names were called during Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Two players from Baylor’s national championship team, three from Texas’ Big 12 Title winning squad and one from Houston’s final four run was about as chalky as it could get from a state’s perspective.

We broke down how each player fits in with their respective franchises and whether we like the marriage.

 

No. 12 Overall: Davion Mitchell – Sacramento Kings

This was one of the first big surprises of the night.

Sacramento already has a crowded backcourt with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton theoretically manning the guard positions for the long-term, plus Delon Wright and Terence Davis playing over 20 minutes per game off the bench. They apparently almost sent Buddy Hield to Los Angeles too before the deal fell apart, but…you get the picture. There are a lot of names here and some space needs to be cleared.

The Kings were also one of the worst defensive teams in the league in 2020-21 allowing a league-worst 48.8 percent shooting from the floor. ESPN’s Mike Schmitz has called Davion Mitchell one of the best defensive prospects he’s covered, and the Kings seem to think so as well.

One would assume that the Kings have moves in the works to free up minutes for Mitchell. He can play both alongside and without Fox with his shooting ability (44.7 percent from 3-point) and defensive efforts but needs to improve his playmaking ability as a creator to likely justify the gamble Sacramento took.

 

No. 19 Overall: Kai Jones – New York Knicks, traded to the Charlotte Hornets

The upside is apparent for Kai Jones, but he needs to take some big leaps.

The ideal situation, in my opinion, was a team where he slotted into an established role and that’s exactly what happened here. Charlotte is one of the top young teams in the league with already one of the best playmakers in LaMelo Ball.

One glance at Jones’ athletic abilities shows how he fits with the Hornets: He’s a rim-runner, shows flashes of a reliable shot, a lob finisher and versatile defender for a team shallow in the frontcourt that could use all of that.

He could develop into a floor spacer (34.5 percent from 3-point in two years at Texas) and potentially play a small-ball five in some years, but his issues are his tendencies to drift away from the basket despite being an excellent finisher and his lack of eye-catching numbers, particularly rebounding. He only averaged 12.5 points and 8.2 boards per 40 in college. The tools are there and luckily for him, the fit might be too playing alongside P.J. Washington, Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller in the frontcourt and Ball who will provide plenty of looks.

 

No. 25 Overall: Quentin Grimes – Los Angeles Clippers, traded to the New York Knicks

This was my personal favorite fit of the night.

The problem for Quentin Grimes as a prospect was his size and lack of defined position, but that almost doesn’t really matter with this Knicks team. Grimes goes from a slow-tempo, defense-first program to a slow-tempo defense-first NBA franchise. The Knicks had the third-best defensive rating in the league and were last in pace. The Houston Cougars were ninth in adjusted defense and 332nd in the nation in tempo per Kenpom, you couldn’t have scripted a better transition for the Woodlands native.

Obviously, Grimes isn’t going to be asked to score 20 points per game, but for a team that relied so much on 32-year-old Derrick Rose and a hobbled Alec Burks in the backcourt, there are minutes to go around for a scoring guard off the bench who’s not a liability defensively.

Ideally, Grimes turns into a reliable 3-and-D while flashing the ability to create for himself and who best to teach him how to be that than Tom Thibodeau?

 

No. 40 Overall: Jared Butler – New Orleans Pelicans, traded to the Utah Jazz

This one surprised me by how far he fell, but then I remembered the recent medical red flags during the NBA Combine. Regardless, Utah got an absolute steal in the second round.

Jared Butler’s ceiling may not be as high as the other Texas college prospects in the draft, but he is who he is: A reliable initiator who can defend. With talks of the Jazz extending Mike Conley, Butler could slot right in as a combo-guard backup for either him or Donovan Mitchell and can play alongside both guards for stretches or Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson.

Despite being the 40th pick, expect Butler to be up to speed right away and play significant minutes for a contender needing cheap, skilled supporting talent immediately.

 

No. 43 Overall: Greg Brown – New Orleans Pelicans, traded to Portland Trail Blazers

Perhaps my least-preferred fit of the night.

I was a believer that Greg Brown could’ve used another year at Texas to craft his game, but I’m also a believer that players should get their money when they see fit. I thought Greg Brown could’ve benefitted from a franchise that isn’t looking to win right now and could let him develop quietly, and that’s not what Portland is.

I’m not entirely sure how he fits with the Trail Blazers’ plan to satisfy Damian Lillard and contend in the West seeing as he’s a player who will likely need a G-League stint or two as he refines the rest of his game to match his unreal athleticism.

The bounce is there and that alone will give him a career in the league, but after that, things are still a mystery. What’s his sweet spot on the floor? He shot poorly for a 6-foot-9 forward, rebounded decently, isn’t great from 3-point range despite taking a lot of them (33 percent at 6.8 attempts per 40) and is prone to foul trouble due to a lack of defensive discipline. The Blazers need frontcourt help and more length, which Brown certainly provides, but is he the right player they need right now or is he someone they’re stashing for a Post-Lillard rebuild?

 

No. 58 Overall: Jericho Sims – New York Knicks

The overshadowed eldest of Texas’ three lengthy bigs in this year’s draft, Jericho Sims doesn’t have the offensive upside of his two younger counterparts, Jones and Brown, but he’s easily the most polished defender and offensively disciplined. Sims is a plus paint-protector who doesn’t foul and rebounds at a decent level (Averaged 12 boards as a starter per 40). He won’t give much in terms of offensive versatility, but he’s a reliable finisher around the rim (nearly 70 percent shooting) and rim-runner.

The Knicks’ front court could use a young rotation piece with Taj Gibson turning 35, Nerlens Noel about to be a free agent and Mitchell Robinson dealing with injury and his long-term future with the team uncertain. On a Thibodeau team, he won’t be asked to do anything outside of his skillset if he does see playing time in his rookie year.

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