The 2021 NBA Draft lottery is in the books, and here are three winners and losers from the ping-pong ball drawing as well as updated futures odds for this year’s draft via SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks. The NBA Draft annually is held in late June, but because the 2021 regular season got off to a late start, this year’s draft will be held July 29. Here is a look at three winners and three losers from the recent draft lottery and any applicable draft odds from SBR’s top-rated books.
Pistons Lead Draft Winners
The Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic had identical 14 percent NBA odds to win the 2021 NBA Draft lottery as they had the three worst-records in the 2020-21 regular season. The Pistons won it for the first time and will pick No. 1 overall for a third time in franchise history: They selected guard Jimmy Walker out of Providence in 1967 and center Bob Lanier, a future Hall of Famer, out of St. Bonaventure in 1970.
Presuming no trade, and I can all but guarantee there won’t be one, it will be Detroit’s first top-five selection since it infamously took Darko Milicic second overall in 2003. That was one of the biggest mistakes in draft history. LeBron James went No. 1 overall, which obviously the Pistons could do nothing about. However, Carmelo Anthony went third, Chris Bosh fourth and Dwyane Wade fifth
On the Bovada NBA odds (visit our Bovada Review) , Oklahoma State freshman guard Cade Cunningham is the massive -10000 favorite to go first overall, and he’s going there. He was the consensus top recruit in last year’s class and lived up to the billing as Cunningham was the first player in program history to be named to the Associated Press All-America First Team.
He was National Freshman of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Cunningham led the conference in scoring at 20.2 ppg. No player from Oklahoma State has gone first overall. That drought will end July 29. The Rockets tanked harder than any team but still were winners by keeping the No. 2 pick. Had that pick slipped to No. 5, Houston would have had to give it to Oklahoma City via the Russell Westbrook trade.
Now, the Rockets can choose among the best non-Cunningham prospects. Most mock drafts expect the choice to be either USC freshman center Evan Mobley (-120 favorite on the NBA odds to go second), G-League player Jalen Green (+110) or Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs (+125).
The other big winner was the Toronto Raptors, who now look smart for resting key players late in the season and tanking instead of trying for one of the play-in tournament postseason spots. The Raptors would have picked seventh had the lottery gone chalk but jumped up to fourth behind Detroit, Houston and Cleveland. Toronto had a nine percent chance of picking fourth. Gonzaga’s Suggs is -120 favorite on the NBA odds to go No. 4 and it’s a safe bet that the Dinos take whomever is left among Suggs, Mobley (+150 to go fourth) or Green (+175) there. Toronto could use guard help because franchise icon Kyle Lowry is a free agent.
Don’t Feel Sorry For Thunder
In a perfect world for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they would have won the draft lottery for the first time and the Houston Rockets would have slipped to No. 5. Then, OKC would have had the top pick and Houston’s No. 5 via the Russell Westbrook trade.
Alas, the Rockets earned the No. 2 pick and Oklahoma City slipped to No. 6 so it didn’t get the Houston pick. Unfortunately for the Thunder, it’s considered a five-player draft at the top in Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga with then a fairly significant drop-off. It is possible the Thunder could trade into the Top 5 because they also have the No. 16 pick via the Boston Celtics (recent Kemba Walker trade) and the No. 18 pick via the Miami Heat.
If the Thunder stay at No. 6, players such as Baylor’s Davion Mitchell, Florida State’s Scottie Barnes and Tennessee’s Keon Johnson have been mentioned as possible targets if none of the top five guys all. No NBA odds yet for picks outside the top four. The lottery hasn’t been kind to the Orlando Magic for a few decades. The last time they jumped from their projected draft slot in the lottery was in 1993 when they picked Chris Webber and traded him for Penny Hardaway.
Orlando finished with the third-worst record in the NBA but will pick fifth – most believe that will be Kuminga. In addition, the Magic had the rights to the Chicago Bulls’ first-round pick if outside the top four; ideally, then, the Magic could have won the lottery and earned as high as the No. 5 pick from Chicago. However, that Bulls pick ended up eighth so Orlando has No. 5 & No. 8.
The lone team as of now without a single pick in the 2021 draft? The Minnesota Timberwolves. They finished with the sixth-worst record in the NBA this past season and had about a 27 percent chance of jumping into the top three. Getting into the top three would have allowed Minnesota to keep its first-rounder, but anything outside of that was owed to Golden State because of the D’Angelo Russell/Andrew Wiggins trade a while back. The Wolves dropped to No. 7 and thus handed over the pick. Golden State now owns No. 7 and No. 14.
NBA Top 5 picks projected draft order: Cade Cunningham (Pistons), Evan Mobley (Rockets), Jalen Green (Cavs), Jalen Suggs (Raptors), Jonathan Kuminga (Magic).