The 2021 NBA Draft is Thursday night from Brooklyn and if one is to believe the rumors, the top five picks – barring trades, of course – seem to be locked in. There’s no doubt who is going No. 1 as Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham is the heavy favorite on the NBA odds to be chosen first by the Detroit Pistons.
Analysis NBA Draft 2021
- Detroit Pistons Projected Pick: Cade Cunningham
Just about every scout agrees that Cunningham is the top prospect on the Class of 2021 as the Pistons pick first overall for the first time since taking Bob Lanier, a future Hall of Famer, in 1970. Last year as a freshman, Cunningham led the Big 12 in scoring at 20.2 points per game. He was one of only three players in Division I over the last 20 seasons to finish a season with averages of in 20+ points, 6+ rebounds, 3.5+ assists, 1.25+ steals, .75+ blocks. The others were Marquette’s Dwyane Wade (2002-03) and Ohio State’s Evan Turner (2009-10).
Cunningham became just the fourth player in league history to earn Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year honors in the same season. He was the first player in program history to be named to the Associated Press All-America First Team.
- Houston Rockets Projected Pick: Jalen Green
Green opted to skip college last year and play for the G League Ignite. An explosive 6-foot-5 guard, Green averaged 17.9 points (46.1% FG, 36.5% on 3-pointers), 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 15 regular-season games at the G League bubble, which he believes offered superior preparation relative to college basketball. He recently worked out in Houston and it would be an upset if he’s not chosen by the Rockets: “They are an exciting team,” Green said. “They get out and run. They play hard. I think it would be a good fit if it happened.”
- Cleveland Cavaliers Projected Pick: Evan Mobley
The Cavs have been mentioned as one team that could trade down. Mobley was the first-ever No. 1 overall national recruit to sign with the USC men’s program and he lived up to it as a freshman. Mobley earned the Sam Barry Award as the most valuable player by leading USC in scoring at 16.4 points per game, rebounding with 8.7 per game, free throws made with 134, blocks with 95 and finishing third on the team in assists with 79. Mobley helped lead the Trojans to a 25-8 record and to the NCAA Elite Eight before falling to tournament finalist Gonzaga. He was the only Division I player to average at least 16.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 assists for the season.
- Toronto Raptors Projected Pick: Jalen Suggs
The Raptors jumped from the seventh spot to the fourth in the lottery and figure to take Gonzaga guard Suggs as the replacement for free-agent point guard Kyle Lowry. Suggs became one of college basketball’s most dominant players as a freshman averaging 14.4 points, 4.5 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game on an elite Bulldogs team that finished with just one loss – in the national title game. Suggs hit the memorable long-range buzzer-beater to knock off UCLA in the Final Four. “I will say the ones that do pass up on me and take another prospect, you know, it’ll come back, it’d be to their detriment,” Suggs said. “You can look at my track record and what I’ve done and where I’ve been, you know, it’s always win at a high level, at the highest level.”
- Orlando Magic Projected Pick: Scottie Barnes
Barnes didn’t even start at Florida State as a freshman but was named ACC Freshman of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year. Barnes didn’t put up huge numbers in his one season at FSU, averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He shot an underwhelming 27.5% from 3-point range. But he’s super-athletic and a defensive dynamo. Barnes became the fourth one-and-done player in Florida State history joining former Seminoles Malik Beasley (first round pick of the Denver Nuggets in 2016), Jonathan Isaac (first round Draft Lottery pick of the Orlando Magic in 2017), and Patrick Williams (first round Draft Lottery pick of the Chicago Bulls in 2020).
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