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Veteran Losers After the 2021 NBA Draft

We're just a few days removed from the 2021 edition of the NBA Draft. As is always the case, just a couple of picks were virtual locks with the rest of the picks going left and right and handing us more than a few surprises. And that is without even entering the trade realm and the likes of Russell Westbrook and Ricky Rubio getting moved on different deals.

All of Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley retained their expected no. 1-2-3 spots, but the draft became a thing one pick earlier than expected as Toronto drafted Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs. And that was only the start. The excitement only grew inside of us all watching, but we weren't the only ones glued to the TV. Who else, you say? Vets all around the Association trying to come up with a clear vision of where they'll fit into their teams' rotation factoring in the freshly drafted rookies.

With the draft in the rearview mirror and free agency around the corner, let's take a look at a few veteran players than can be considered losers after the moves that happened on the night of the latest draft. This is mostly focused on fantasy basketball, but there might be a few takeaways that look at the broader picture.

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Buddy Hield, SG - Sacramento Kings

They say where there's smoke, there's fire. Well, turns out that was not the case on draft day after long hours of heavy rumors putting Hield's name in the Lakers front as a potential addition via trade. Too bad for Buddy, it didn't come to happen at the end of the day. Even worse, though, is the fact that the assets that were supposed to lure Hield from Sacto are now going to Washington in another side deal that brought Russell Westbrook to Hollywood.

The Lakers are the Lakers, and that means that they can still somehow find a way to get Buddy Hield to play for the Purple & Gold. That being said, and until it happens and we see it, Buddy looks like a loser staying put in a putrid franchise that doesn't seem to have a way out of mediocrity right now. De'Aaron Fox is sublime, Harrison Barnes is far from bad, but Marvin Bagley III is one of the biggest busts of late and Richaun Holmes is entering unrestricted free agency.

And on top of everything, the Kings went all-in when it comes to drafting guards adding Tyrese Haliburton last summer and Davion Mitchell with their 2021 ninth-overall pick. Not looking good for Buddy's short-term future. He could still close next year as a top-45 fantasy player for the third season in a row, but that's probably closer to his ceiling than his mean/floor.


Cole Anthony, PG/SG & Markelle Fultz, PG - Orlando Magic

Not all rookies got to play important minutes and make an impact in their first year playing in the Association. Most of them have to go through the growing pains of professional basketball and that means coming off the pine, becoming part of second units for the first time since they started hooping, and enduring diminished roles as they develop their abilities to reasonable levels. I'm not saying Orlando's no. 5 pick Jalen Suggs will straight avoid that route, but I'm also not not saying it.

The Magic found themselves in wonderland after Toronto decided to draft Scottie Barnes with the fourth-overall pick Thursday. Seemingly everybody agreed this was a four-man truly starting at Orlando's position with all of Cunningham/Green/Mobley/Suggs getting off the board to kick things off. No, sir. Now, the Magic have a legit player to build around with hopes of watching Suggs turn into a serious leader for a franchise that is just starting their nth rebuilding process.

So, is Suggs going to be out there on the court starting games from day one? Hard to say until we watch some tape from the Summer League. Even then, though, both Markelle Fultz and sophomore Cole Anthony will suffer Suggs' addition to the roster whether the rook plays a large role or not. Suggs is going to eat minutes and opportunities at the guard positions but with a crowded shooting guard slot (Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, Terrence Ross, and even Dwayne Bacon are there in the depth chart) odds are he ends manning the point most of the time.


Kyle Kuzma, SF - Washington Wizards

The minute the rumors got real about the Lakers moving Kyle Kuzma in a trade, Kuzma became an instant loser. It didn't matter if the destination ended being Sacramento, Washington, or anything else. Kuzzy is going from playing with AD/LBJ and making it all the way to the Finals and the chip in 2020 to playing for a Washington that barely made the postseason in 2021, is in the middle of a rebuild, and could very well lose Bradley Beal as soon as this offseason.

For all of the criticism he's had to endure since he became a pro, Kuzma isn't that bad of a hooper. While that's right, he's also benefited from top-tier talent playing around him for the past few years, which has undoubtedly helped his numbers. He won't have a lot of competition in Washington when it comes to starting at one of the two forward positions, but Rui Hachimura is a core piece these days, and Davis Bertans--although coming off an upsetting 2021 season--just signed a rather big deal with the Wiz.

Kuzma better be ready to play a bunch of seasons without sniffing the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, let alone making the Finals as in the good old days of Bubble Basketball. For fantasy, Kuz should still be good for some top-75-to-100 finish has he already got there as a Laker while not starting many games and just playing a smaller off-the-pine role.


Collin Sexton, PG/SG & Ricky Rubio, PG - Cleveland Cavaliers

I certainly wasn't expecting this trade. Just hours after we watched Rubio dancing around Argentine players in Tokyo to put Spain 2-0 up and Argentina 0-2 down in the Olympics, the oft-traded Ricky got himself moved around for the third consecutive offseason--and for the fourth time in such span, as he got traded to OKC a year ago but never got to play for the Thunder.

As ridiculous as it sounds, Rubio is "still" just 30 years old. He's been around forever, but he should still have some juice inside his body to stretch his production for a few more years down the road. Adding Rubio to the fold with both Darius Garland and Collin Sexton already in tow makes this move look more like an insurance trade in case of injuries hitting the Cavs rather than acquiring a bonafide starter--something Rubio still is, don't get that wrong.

The truth is, I only see losers when it comes to all parts involved in this trade. Rubio is most probably going to hit the pine all year long with Sexland taking on starting duties. Collin Sexton, already part of multiple rumors of Cleveland not wanting to extend him for the salary he will command, might find himself closer than ever to getting traded away before becoming a free agent, and Darius Garland will also lose at least some opportunities because of Rubio's talent and presence in the backcourt.


Kevin Love, SF/PF - Cleveland Cavaliers

This could very well be an afterthought now, but man is Kevin Love looking done after the draft... The Cavs, drafting third, had the easiest possible selection to make as they would just go with whoever was left on the board among the top-3 players in this class. Turned out that happened to be PF/C Evan Mobley, former USC Trojan and short/mid/long-term Love Replacement.

I know, I know, you might think Jarrett Allen is the real loser here, but I don't think that's the case. Pretty much as it was talked about before the draft about how Houston could opt to pair Mobley with Christian Wood in the frontcourt, the same can happen with the Mobley-Allen pairing. Love, though, is now on a critical health line when it comes to finding playing time in Cleveland.

Assuming Jarrett Allen is back, there is just no place in the starting lineup for Love anymore. He could have proved his worth this Olympics, but luck didn't side with him and he was forced out of Tokyo due to injury. The Cavs are either going to be forced to play him in order for him to rebuild his value a bit and maybe, in the best of cases, trade Love for some second-round pick, or they will just eat Love's money in bunches before ultimately cutting him at some point. For a 32-year-old, this has been quite a--perhaps the--downfall of the past few years.


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