The 2021-22 NBA regular season has concluded and while teams are still fighting one another to get to the NBA Finals in the playoffs, it is worth giving attention to this past year’s rookie class.
The 2021 NBA Draft brought a plethora of talent into the league and looking back on this draft class, it is very clear to see that some rookies outperformed where they were drafted and others maybe got lucky being selected where they were.
It can be difficult at times to evaluate a draft class as a whole and oftentimes, this is done at least five years down the road, but this year’s rookie class was special and five years from now, we could be looking back at a handful of All-Stars coming from this draft!
If the 2021 NBA Draft was to start over and teams were given a second-chance to change their selections, would anything change?
A lot of the re-draft you will see below is based on long-term potential and how each rookie performed during the 2021-22 season. It is worth noting that the order seen below did not factor in traded picks and players were selected to the team that previously owned the draft pick.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in and start redrafting this season’s 2021 rookie class.
Picks #30-21 - End of the First-Round
#30 Utah Jazz: F Jalen Johnson (Atlanta Hawks)
Looking for a solid long-term fit near the end of the first-round, Utah would have definitely been happy with seeing Jalen Johnson’s name still on the draft board simply because of the potential he has moving forward. He barely played with the Atlanta Hawks this season, but Johnson averaged 21.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and shot 47% in the G-League this year as a 6’9” forward.
Having the ability to spread the floor and evolve into a threat defensively as well given his length, Jalen Johnson checks off all the boxes to be a high-level talent down the road, especially since he just turned 20 back in December.
Actual Pick: Santi Aldama (Traded to MEM)
#29 Phoenix Suns: G/F Aaron Wiggins (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Aaron Wiggins was a name nobody really knew coming out of Maryland and as a result, he was drafted 55th overall by the Oklahoma Thunder in the actual draft. With Oklahoma City this season, Wiggins averaged 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and shot 46.3% from the floor in 50 total games, 35 of which he started in.
Being an efficient scorer and having real “3-and-D” potential moving forward, Wiggins would have fit in nicely behind Mikal Bridges on the wing in Phoenix as a potential second-unit guy and long-term secondary talent.
Actual Pick: Day’Ron Sharpe (Traded to BKN)
#28 Philadelphia 76ers: G Josh Christopher (Houston Rockets)
Known for his athleticism attacking the rim, Josh Christopher is a combo guard that possesses length and a high IQ in the backcourt. He can be turnover prone at times because of his high motor, but Christopher’s playmaking abilities are what stand out about his game.
Only seeing about 18.0 minutes per game down in Houston this season, the former Arizona State Sun Devil averaged 7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 74 total games, 72 of which he came off-the-bench. Long-term, Christopher has a chance to be a real difference-maker in his team's second-unit.
Actual Pick: Jaden Springer
#27 Brooklyn Nets: C Day’Ron Sharpe (Brooklyn Nets)
The Nets ended up trading for Day’Ron Sharpe during the actual 2021 NBA Draft and here in the re-draft, they ended up with him again!
Sharpe has all the tools to be an avid rim-protector in this league for a long-time and he is a very physical rebounder. Stepping up this season when the Nets had no big man depth with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Claxton hurt, Day’Ron Sharpe showed flashes of long-term potential, especially when he had a career-best 20 points and 7 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls in 22 minutes of play.
Spending some time in the G-League when he was not playing with Brooklyn this season, the 6’11” center averaged 18.8 points, 13.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in ten games.
Actual Pick: Cameron Thomas
#26 Denver Nuggets: F/C Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Oklahoma City Thunder)
The Denver Nuggets got exactly what they needed in the 2021 NBA Draft with Bones Hyland, but they will not be as lucky here to end up with Bones near the end of the draft!
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl fell to the second-round in the actual draft for some reason and Denver would be getting good value for him with the 26th overall pick. He came out of Villanova ready to play and at 21-years-old, the 6’9” big man has a well-versed game in terms of filling different needs for his team on both ends of the floor.
Whether he has his back-to-the-basket or he finds himself out on the perimeter with the ball, the young big man always seems comfortable and more importantly, confident in his decision-making. With Oklahoma City this season, Robinson-Earl averaged 7.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and proved to be a factor defensively as well.
Actual Pick: Bones Hyland
#25 Los Angeles Clippers: F Corey Kispert (Washington Wizards)
One of the more ready players and experienced players in the 2021 NBA Draft, Corey Kispert ended up having a really solid rookie campaign with the Washington Wizards, averaging 8.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and shooting 35% from three-point range.
Him slipping late in the first-round of this re-draft is a little surprising, but the Los Angeles Clippers are a championship contending team in the Western Conference that would utilize the older rookie on the perimeter alongside Luke Kennard, another reliable three-point shooter.
Kispert’s upside as a well-balanced perimeter shooting threat makes him a player from this year’s draft class that could end up staying in the league for quite some time.
Actual Pick: Quentin Grimes (Traded to NYK)
#24 Houston Rockets: G Joshua Primo (San Antonio Spurs)
The youngest player in the 2021 draft, Joshua Primo being selected 12th overall by the San Antonio Spurs was a little bit of a surprise to some. His long-term upside being an athletic, lengthy guard is definitely present, but his rookie season was pretty underwhelming overall, averaging just 5.8 points on 37.4% shooting from the floor in 50 total games.
The Rockets are rebuilding and as a result, they are looking for long-term building blocks as depth, which is why Primo at 24th overall makes sense. This is more of a “best player available” selection here and taking a chance on a young, athletic player that has shown flashes of his two-way potential at the shooting guard position.
Actual Pick: Josh Christopher
#23 Houston Rockets: G Tre Mann (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Stepping up at the end of the season in the absence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and fellow rookie Josh Giddey, Tre Mann really established himself as a key backcourt option in Oklahoma City.
A solid blend of playmaking and three-point shooting, Mann finished the season ranking 12th out of all rookies in scoring and 6th in made three-pointers (98). Mann has the ability to be a “microwave” scorer in the sense that he can get going and get hot at any moment in a game, exactly what Houston could use in their backcourt.
Actual Pick: Usman Garuba
#22 Los Angeles Lakers: G Ayo Dosunmu (Chicago Bulls)
Selected 38th overall in the actual draft, Ayo Dosunmu turned out to be a diamond in the rough for the Chicago Bulls. Due to Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Coby White dealing with injuries, Dosunmu stepped up for the Bulls this season and established himself as a crafty playmaker and facilitator at the point guard position.
His energy is also something that makes Dosunmu an interesting, long-term fit in any team’s backcourt. A potential starter for many years to come, Ayo Dosunmu would have been a “spark” off-the-bench for the Los Angeles Lakers and possibly the bench scorer they were missing this season.
Actual Pick: Isaiah Jackson (Traded to IND)
#21 New York Knicks: G Cam Thomas (Brooklyn Nets)
Other rookies outplayed him this season and his numbers may not say so, but I still believe Cameron Thomas is the best pure scorer in this draft class. When he wants to, Thomas can absolutely light things up on the offensive-end of the floor and no team in the league needs this kind of talent more than the Knicks.
New York’s offense outside of R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle this season really struggled and being able to score from any spot on the floor, Thomas would have been a perfect fit in Madison Square Garden. Long-term, Cam Thomas has a chance to turn himself into an electric sixth-man-like scorer and a perfect complimentary player next to his team’s All-Stars.
Actual Pick: Keon Johnson (Traded to LAC)
Picks #20-15 - Mid-First-Round
#20 Atlanta Hawks: G James Bouknight (Atlanta Hawks)
Suffering a wrist injury this season, James Bouknight really did not play much with the Charlotte Hornets and his numbers have not translated to him being a lottery pick.
However, his athleticism and length still makes him an intriguing long-term project and the Atlanta Hawks could use some depth in their backcourt behind Trae Young. The Hawks took a long-term project in Jalen Johnson in the actual draft, so settling with a more experienced project in Bouknight could make sense.
Actual Pick: Jalen Johnson
#19 New York Knicks: C Isaiah Jackson (New York Knicks)
Until Myles Turner went down with an injury for the Indiana Pacers this season, Isaiah Jackson was kind of abandoned on Indiana’s bench. When his number was called though, Jackson immediately stepped into a key role for the Pacers, averaging 8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and shooting 56.3% from the floor in 36 total games.
There is a lot of uncertainty in the New York Knicks’ frontcourt right now with Mitchell Robinson and Nerlens Noel possibly being on the move soon, which is why going after a young rim-protector like Jackson makes sense in this scenario. Much like when Bam Adebayo came into the league out of Kentucky as a shot-blocker and high-flyer on offense, Isaiah Jackson could turn himself into a very similar talent.
Actual Pick: Kai Jones (Traded to CHA)
#18 Oklahoma City Thunder: G Moses Moody (Golden State Warriors)
Moosey Mosey, Mody Moses, Mudy Moosey… No matter what you call him, Moses Moody is an electric scorer with the ball in his hands!
In the G-League this season, Moody averaged 31.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and shot 41.3% from three-point range. In the NBA with the Golden State Warriors, the rookie shooting guard shot 36.4% from three-point range in about 11.7 minutes per game.
Having the potential to be an elite-level scorer, Moses Moody is a long-term building block that Oklahoma City would probably love to have next to guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort on the wing.
Actual Pick: Tre Mann
#17 Memphis Grizzlies: G Quentin Grimes (New York Knicks)
Ziaire Williams worked out for Memphis this season as a lengthy, athletic wing and given their standing as a young playoff contender, Quentin Grimes would fit right in because of his defensive tenacity.
However, the best attribute for Grimes is his perimeter scoring, as the rookie shot 38.1% from three-point range on 189 total attempts. The epitome of a “3-and-D” guard, Quentin Grimes would join a strong backcourt with Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones.
Actual Pick: Trey Murphy III (Traded to NOP)
#16 Oklahoma City Thunder: F/C Kai Jones (Charlotte Hornets)
The Thunder did well for themselves in the actual draft, selecting Josh Giddey and Tre Mann in the first-round, but what Oklahoma City failed to do was address their frontcourt depth.
Kai Jones possesses explosive athletic abilities at the center position and while he did absolutely nothing in Charlotte during his rookie year, Jones showed flashes of his full potential in the G-League, averaging 17.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and shooting 60.9% from the floor.
The good thing here with this fit is that OKC has time to wait around and develop long-term talents, which is why Kai Jones would be a good investment with the 16th overall pick.
Actual Pick: Alperen Sengun (Traded to HOU)
#15 Washington Wizards: G Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets)
Corey Kispert played well for the Wizards in his rookie season, but they really need to find a long-term fit in their backcourt next to Bradley Beal.
Bones Hyland emerged as a high-energy point guard for the Denver Nuggets this season that does not back down to anyone. Offensively, he shot 36.6% from three-point range and exhibits a certain level of confidence that even some of the league’s best stars do not have.
Rebounding, scoring and grit are the three things you get with Hyland as a combo-guard; three things the Wizards really need.
Actual Pick: Corey Kispert
Picks #14-7 - Back-Half of Lottery
#14 Golden State Warriors: G/F Trey Murphy III (New Orleans Pelicans)
It is hard to say a guy deserves to be drafted higher than he actually was after not really doing much in his rookie season, but Trey Murphy III has one of the highest upsides in the 2021 draft class.
He has length, can defend multiple positions and can knock down multiple three-pointers in a game, which is why Murphy would work out well in Golden State, a team that does not necessarily need him to contribute right away and can spend years toning his craft. Maybe I will be wrong on this one, but Trey Murphy III has shown me enough to say that he has long-term All-Star potential as a small-forward in this league.
Actual Pick: Moses Moody
#13 Indiana Pacers: F Ziaire Williams (Memphis Grizzlies)
Selected 10th overall in the actual draft, Ziaire Williams has really turned out to be a nice long-term building block for the Memphis Grizzlies as a lengthy wing.
Williams’ athleticism allows him to play multiple roles on the floor and he actually shot quite well from three-point range this season despite his 31.4% shooting percentage from deep. Indiana has been searching for their next star since Paul George was traded and Ziaire Williams definitely has a lot of long-term potential on the wing.
Actual Pick: Chris Duarte
#12 San Antonio Spurs: F Herbert Jones (New Orleans Pelicans)
Somehow, Herbert Jones fell to the second-round in the 2021 NBA Draft, but he will not be escaping the lottery in this re-draft!
In one season, Herb Jones has established himself as one of the better defenders in the entire league and all of the pieces are there for him to be a factor offensively as well. While he is older and will be 24-years-old next season, Jones is someone that can come in and immediately contribute, which is what the San Antonio Spurs are lacking right now.
Joshua Primo was not a bad long-term selection for San Antonio this year, but Herb Jones gives them everything they need next to Keldon Johnson on the wing defensively.
Actual Pick: Joshua Primo
#11 Charlotte Hornets: C Alperen Sengun (Houston Rockets)
The Charlotte Hornets have been searching for a long-term fit at center. Alperen Sengun turned out to be the best center from this year’s draft class.
This seems like a very obvious selection here and while Sengun’s style of play does not necessarily mesh with that of the Hornets’ off of first-glance given his slower approach to the game, he did play in a fast-paced offense this year with the Houston Rockets.
Alperen Sengun has really good footwork and proved to be a strong rebounder in his rookie season, setting him up to be a long-term building block in a team’s frontcourt.
Actual Pick: James Bouknight
#10 New Orleans Pelicans: G Jalen Suggs (Orlando Magic)
Going from 5th overall to 10th overall is a big fall for Jalen Suggs, but the former Gonzaga Bulldog really struggled in his rookie season, primarily because of injuries. Suggs played in 48 games and was never able to really find his groove and settle in as a rookie.
One season does not define a player though, especially one that is fresh into the league, which is why Suggs should still be regarded as a young combo-guard with high-level potential.
Always playing tough defensively and willing to make those around him better, Jalen Suggs would fit in nicely on a team with Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and now CJ McCollum.
Actual Pick: Ziaire Williams (Traded to MEM)
#9 Sacramento Kings: G Davion Mitchell (Sacramento Kings)
The Sacramento Kings actually did something right… Wow, that feels weird to say.
Davion Mitchell turned out to be the right pick for them at 9th overall and there really is no need to give them anyone else in this re-draft. Averaging 11.5 points and 4.2 assists this season, Mitchell is going to earn All-Rookie honors and he ended up being one of the more complete players in this draft class because of how strong of a perimeter defender he can be.
The Kings just need playmakers and guys who can step up around De’Aaron Fox, which is exactly why this fit continues to make sense now and long-term.
Actual Pick: Davion Mitchell
#8 Orlando Magic: F Franz Wagner (Orlando Magic)
Another actual draft pick that turned out to make a lot of sense, Franz Wagner had a really strong rookie season in Orlando. There were questions about his playmaking abilities and defensive awareness coming out of Michigan, but Wagner quickly showed everyone that he was one of the most “NBA-ready” players in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Averaging 15.2 points and shooting 46.8% from the floor, the rookie forward ranked second on the Magic in scoring and he turned out to be a very dangerous isolation scorer driving from the perimeter to the paint.
Starting in all 79 games he played in this season, Franz Wagner has the skills to be a focal point for many years to come in Orlando.
Actual Pick: Franz Wagner
#7 Golden State Warriors: G Chris Duarte (Indiana Pacers)
For some reason, Chris Duarte fell to the Indiana Pacers at 13th overall in the actual draft. Here though, he will not make it past the Golden State Warriors, a team that really felt they could grab him at 14th overall last offseason when he began slipping.
Duarte is about to turn 25, making his overall upside limited, but the 6’6” shooting guard proved to be a valuable scorer and is able to contribute to a championship contender like the Warriors right away.
Not many rookies come into the NBA being able to create for themselves, but this is exactly the kind of talent Chris Duarte is and he is the perfect spot-up shooter for Golden State to have on their bench.
Actual Pick: Jonathan Kuminga
#6 Oklahoma City Thunder: G Jalen Green (Houston Rockets)
Jalen Green’s upside is enormous and his ability to lead his team’s offense is what makes him a top prospect. Maybe it is a little unfair to say he shouldn't go second overall again, but Oklahoma City would be a perfect spot for Green, especially since he could pair up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, creating arguably the best, young backcourt in the league.
This season, Green averaged 17.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and shot 42.6% from the floor, recording a total of eight 30-point games for the Houston Rockets.
Having an explosive first-step and playing well above his 6’4” stature, Jalen Green possesses All-Star potential and could eventually turn into one of the better scorers in the league one day.
Actual Pick: Josh Giddey
#5 Orlando Magic: G/F Josh Giddey (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Being able to do just about everything, Josh Giddey established himself very quickly as one of the better rookies in this draft class. With the ball in his hands, Giddey is an elite-level playmaker and a very dynamic passer.
A triple-double threat on offense, Giddey’s only weakness right now is his three-point shooting, as the Thunder rookie shot just 26.3% from deep in his rookie season.
He is not the best athlete in the league, but Giddey still has superstar potential moving forward because of how he is able to impact the game in more ways than just scoring. Orlando has been looking for this superstar-like player for years, hence why this would be an easy pick for them if the Australian was still on the board.
Actual Pick: Jalen Suggs
#4 Toronto Raptors: F Jonathan Kuminga (Golden State Warriors)
The Toronto Raptors struck gold drafting this year’s Rookie of the Year in Scottie Barnes, but taking Jonathan Kuminga would be just as good because of his long-term potential on both ends of the floor.
Masai Ujiri has always been aggressive in his pursuit for guys that play hard and can make an impact defensively, which is exactly why Kuminga fits in with the Raptors.
Being able to handle the ball on offense and be a major factor defensively both now and in the future, Kuminga has a chance to be the best two-way player from this 2021 draft class. At just 19-years-old, he is young enough to still change his style of play and it is not hard to imagine him turning into a more athletic version of All-Star Paul George in time.
Actual Pick: Scottie Barnes
#3 Cleveland Cavaliers: F Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors)
Not getting Evan Mobley again really stinks for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but getting this year’s Rookie of the Year in Scottie Barnes would work out pretty well.
There were a ton of questions about if Barnes could be an impactful offensive talent in the NBA right away, but this is where he thrived for the Raptors this season.
Barnes proved that he has an outside game, as well as being able to be a secondary facilitator for the Raptors when Fred VanVleet is not in the game. Shooting is a slight concern for Scottie Barnes right now, but everything about his game screams All-Star moving forward, especially given that he has entered the league as a high-level defender.
Finishing the regular season ranking second in both Win Shares and Box Plus-Minus amongst all rookies, Scottie Barnes has lived up to the hype of being a Top-4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Actual Pick: Evan Mobley
#2 Houston Rockets: G Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons)
Throughout the pre-draft process, Houston was torn between Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham. Here in the re-draft, they get their No. 1 guy in Cunningham, securing what many believe will be a future All-NBA talent.
Cunningham missed the early portion of the 2021-22 season due to injury, but once he got settled in with the Detroit Pistons, he immediately took over as their best player. Averaging 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 64 games, the Pistons’ rookie proved to be one of the most impactful first-year players in the league and he showed that he is an all-around weapon on the offensive-end of the floor.
Cade Cunningham is only 20-years-old and is already being regarded around the league as a triple-double threat that really can’t be contained. His 31.4% three-point percentage is a little bit of a concern, but there really are no limitations to Cunningham’s game.
Shooting and defense will be the next stages of development for Cunningham entering Year 2 and he is no doubt one of the best young talents in this league.
Actual Pick: Jalen Green
#1 Detroit Pistons: F/C Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Cade Cunningham went No. 1 overall in the actual draft and Scottie Barnes was the Rookie of the Year this season, but Evan Mobley proved to be the best rookie during the 2021-22 season.
While Cunningham proved to be the perfect fit for the Detroit Pistons, Mobley brings a different dynamic in the frontcourt and is an All-Star in the making because of the way he plays on both ends of the floor.
He was an integral part of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ success this season and on the year, Mobley averaged 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and shot 50.8% from the floor.
Having the ability to play either the power-forward or center positions, Evan Mobley is the type of player that could begin to redefine the way teams evaluate and draft big men moving forward.
Standing 7’0” tall and possessing length that rivals the best in the league, Mobley checks off all the boxes in terms of being an All-Star talent in the near future.
Leading all rookies in Box Plus/Minus and Win Shares this season, all you have to do is watch Evan Mobley play once to understand how special of a talent he truly is.
Actual Pick: Cade Cunningham