NBA Draft Lottery 2021: With Cade Cunningham likely to go No. 1, here’s what each team should do at No. 2

Table of Contents Houston Rockets Detroit Pistons Orlando Magic Oklahoma City Thunder Cleveland Cavaliers Minnesota

The expectation on the evening of July 29, 2021, when NBA commissioner Adam Silver steps to the dais to announce the top pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, is that Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham will be the first prospect to hear his name ring over the loudspeaker. A 6-foot-8 lead guard with point guard vision and wing size, Cunningham is viewed by teams as the type of plug-and-play two-way player franchises can reboot around with confidence because of his shot-creation, size and versatility.

There’s really no major flaws in Cunningham’s game. Scouts I have spoken with in recent months are convinced he will undoubtedly be a productive two-way NBA player. In evaluating him, fit isn’t much of a concern at all, either; he’s likely capable of fitting in on any team.

Simply, he’s the top prospect in the draft and the overwhelming favorite to go No. 1 overall with just over a month until draft night. And right now, the decision for whichever team wins the lottery is likely a no-brainer, regardless of roster construction.

There is, however, a debate at No. 2. And there’s four players who could reasonably land at that spot. So as we prep for Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery, we’ll operate under the assumption that Cunningham will go No. 1 to the team that wins the lottery, as he is expected to, and run through scenarios for what each lottery team should do if it finishes runner-up in the Cunningham sweepstakes and lands the No. 2 pick.

The full lottery order will be determined on June 22.

Houston Rockets

Chance at No. 1: 14.0% | Chance at No. 2: 13.4%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jalen Suggs

As quickly as possible, the Rockets should race to the phones and make a call to the league office informing them of their intentions to take Jalen Suggs. Heck, if I’m Houston, I’m probably already letting the NBA know about this now. Based on their league-worst 17-55 season, I’m not taking any chances for a misstep. This team has very few quality pieces on it and even fewer pieces that fit a rebooting timeline, so the idea of selecting Suggs — a franchise-caliber lead guard — at No. 2 would be a nice consolation.

Detroit Pistons

Chance at No. 1: 14.0% | Chance at No. 2: 13.4%  

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Evan Mobley

One name that consistently comes up as a You know this prospect could potentially unseat Cade as the No. 1 player in this class candidate is Evan Mobley. The 7-footer from USC is a dynamic big man who shots swats at an elite level, has a smooth stroke, and displayed some interesting shot-creation in college. Put simply, when evaluating every facet of his game, the overarching takeaway is that he is not your run-of-the-mill big man. I like the idea of pairing Mobley with Killian Hayes, Detroit’s No. 7 pick from last year who ranked third among all rookies in assist rate. And I don’t think Isaiah Stewart looking like a quality rotation big as a rookie last season would dissuade me from going this direction, even if there’s perhaps a question of how the two would co-exist. Mobley is such a unique prospect I wouldn’t sweat it.

Orlando Magic

Chance at No. 1: 14.0% | Chance at No. 2: 13.4%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jalen Suggs

Orlando has some interesting options at guard but I’d love to give this team more shot-creation with Suggs. And, in a vacuum, he’d be my first pick among all current Magic guards if I’m resetting the franchise over Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony. Suggs is a gifted passer who elevates those around him and has the competitive drive and mentality to be a future All-Star at one of basketball’s most important positions.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Chance at No. 1: 11.5% | Chance at No. 2: 11.4%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jalen Green

Pairing a star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander next to another young talent like Jalen Green in Oklahoma City is a fever dream. That Thunder duo would be dynamic on offense. Green’s major skill is his shot-making and he’s best suited playing off the ball, which makes him an ideal fit next to SGA, who is best on the ball as a lead creator.

Jalen Green bypassed college for the G League. Now he’s a lock to go in the top five. Eye on College Basketball (subscribe here) has more. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Chance at No. 1: 11.5% | Chance at No. 2: 11.4%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jalen Green

Collin Sexton had nearly a 30% usage rate and Darius Garland had nearly a 25% usage rate last season. So I don’t necessarily think adding another guard whose talent will command a similar usage rate is the fix-all solution. For my money, give me some Jalen Green to this roster and let’s really shake things up. Green is a scoring guard who is probably best playing off the ball as his handle develops, and the situation in Cleveland would leave him with no option but to do what he does best as a shot-making weapon who can also affect the game with his athleticism.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Chance at No. 1: 9.0% | Chance at No. 2: 9.2%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jalen Suggs

Suggs is a Minneapolis native, for one. So bringing him home would make for an incredible story. But more than that, the Timberwolves need help at point guard, so this would be a great fit, too. Ricky Rubio is a placeholder and it remains to be seen if D’Angelo Russell is a player this franchise wants to build around long-term. I like Suggs’ fit next to 2020 No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards as well, and it’d likely relieve some of Edwards’ shot-creation burden in the long run, which would be a good thing.

Toronto Raptors

Chance at No. 1: 7.5% | Chance at No. 2: 7.8%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jalen Suggs

It’s very likely Kyle Lowry has played his last game as a Raptor. That development is part of an imminent offseason roster reconstruction, as Toronto was quietly riding a tanker to the end the season. The pick is Suggs for the Raps, who with so much expected roster flux could be a safe addition at a key position. Pairing him next to Fred VanVleet as a creator is a fascinating potential duo that would be a top-10 destination in terms of pure overall entertainment. Suggs also fits the mold of a player the Raptors front office would value, given he’s not the biggest or most physically imposing guard but has moxie and an “it” factor that give him a competitive fire like VanVleet, Lowry and even 2020 draft pick Malachi Flynn.

Chicago Bulls

Chance at No. 1: 4.5% | Chance at No. 2: 4.8%  

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jalen Suggs

I love Coby White’s potential as a combo guard as much as the next guy, but what Suggs can bring to the table as a passer and table-setter — particularly on this Bulls roster — would be too good to pass up. He sees plays before they develop and can deliver dimes with either hand. He’s also more than capable of creating looks for himself and attacking to open up the offense. His presence would allow some of the playmaking responsibilities for Zach LaVine to be reduced, and overall it’d make this Bulls roster far more balanced with a starting-caliber point guard tailor-made for this Chicago team.

Sacramento Kings

Chance at No. 1: 4.5% | Chance at No. 2: 4.8%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Trade pick for assets

Sacramento is stuck in a state of perpetual mediocrity. This franchise hasn’t had a winning season since 2005-2006. And after consecutive 31-41 seasons, it doesn’t feel like right now there’s momentum to meaningfully improve. That’s probably reason enough to just take the best player available here in a very loaded draft. But I’d sure be willing to see if there’s enough interest out there to turn this one pick into multiple assets to try and improve across the board. Call Sam Presti in Oklahoma City and see if he’d throw in this year’s lottery pick and a few of his other eleventy-billion future first-rounders. 

Maybe the Thunder or another team with significant draft capital would pay the steep price for the premium talent. That could give Sacramento flexibility to make moves with its current roster and also build a treasure trove of assets to move away from hovering around or below average with expediency. With De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in tow, I think if you can come away from this draft with Jalen Green or Jonathan Kuminga while also adding other assets, either current or future, it’d be an interesting value proposition worth considering for a team that clearly needs a shakeup. Because what it has been doing for nearly two decades is clearly not working.

New Orleans Pelicans

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft someone named Jalen

Chance at No. 1: 4.5% | Chance at No. 2: 4.8%

Jalen Suggs seems like a strong roster fit next to Zion Williamson, and at this point that should be priority No. 1. Adding to the case for Suggs is the urgency this franchise likely feels to upgrade the position, given Lonzo Ball could walk in restricted free agency and Eric Bledsoe isn’t (shouldn’t be) your answer. Jalen Green could also be a strong fit if the Pelicans feel confident in their point guard position. Green is a natural scorer who can play off the ball and provide a boost on offense next to Green, and he has room to grow into a reliable shot-creator off the bounce as well.

Charlotte Hornets

Chance at No. 1: 1.8% | Chance at No. 2: 2.0%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Evan Mobley

Charlotte picked at No. 3 last year and might’ve lucked out with the best prospect of the class in LaMelo Ball, the flashy point guard who looks like a franchise cornerstone. The Hornets could majorly boost their immediate prospects with a piece like Evan Mobley. I certainly like the idea of adding another backcourt running mate next to Ball, but the center position is in dire need of an upgrade in Charlotte, and Mobley is the type of big whose IQ, length and defensive acumen would play well into some of the team’s flaws.

San Antonio Spurs

Chance at No. 1: 1.7% | Chance at No. 2: 1.9%

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Evan Mobley

The Spurs franchise has for decades been anchored by transcendant big man talent, from David Robinson to Tim Duncan. And with Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and other young, exciting backcourt options, I’d be willing to try to find the next Hall of Fame talent at center in Mobley. He’s one of the most exciting talents at the position since Anthony Davis and his long, lanky arms and defensive IQ give him the inside track to be a defensive anchor for years to come.

Indiana Pacers

Chance at No. 1: 1.0% | Chance at No. 2: 1.1%  

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Draft Jonathan Kuminga

Indiana’s collection of talent is plenty interesting between Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert, but this team more than most could benefit from the addition of Cunningham. It’s unlikely the ping pong balls fall that direction. The Pacers could be a prime fit for another big wing in this draft, however, with Jonathan Kuminga available at No. 2. He’s a big-bodied forward with a 6-foot-8 frame whose game is still raw but whose talent has him on the top tier of prospects from this class with Cunningham, Suggs, Green and Mobley. Fits a need in Indy, and has immense long-term upside.

Golden State Warriors

Chance at No. 1: 0.5% | Chance at No. 2: 0.6%  

What they should do if they get the No. 2 pick: Stub toe kicking tires on Bradley Beal’s availability

If you’re the Warriors, you obviously want to maximize Stephen Curry’s greatness and open up — if possible — a championship window with Klay Thompson returning in 2021-22. The best way to do that would be to trade this pick and cash in as many assets as possible to win now with the Curry-Draymond-Klay trio presumably at full health. 

I’d shop around and see what the pick would get me, and I’d be more than willing to include James Wiseman and Andrew Wiggins (among other non-big-three assets on the roster) in discussions. If you could work up a package that returns an All-Star caliber player I’d jump on that. And by golly, I’d be checking on Bradley Beal’s availability daily with Washington’s front office.