1. Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons)
The Detroit Pistons drafted Cade Cunningham No. 1 overall in a top-heavy 2021 NBA draft for several reasons, the first being his ability to lead. He’ll have the opportunity to do plenty of that with the ball in his hands as he tries to revive the winning tradition in the “Motor City.”
#Pistons Rodney McGruder on Cade Cunningham: "He's one of the most mature No. 1 picks that I've ever seen — kinda like Derrick Rose."
— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) October 4, 2021
CC has all the tools to be a star, and the only thing he seems to lack is that “killer instinct”. As the anointed Pistons savior, the former Oklahoma State star will have to be willing to take over and not always be so unselfish. Cunningham won’t have to earn any stripes with the organization. It’s his show in “DEEETROIT.”
Let’s see how he handles it. He showed some real flashes in the Vegas Summer League.
2. Jalen Green (Houston Rockets)
Houston Rockets rookie Jalen Green had the best hair in the NBA draft, but was chosen No. 2 overall. Some guys hold grudges and use them for inspiration. Green doesn’t really have any reason to be upset about being the second player chosen in the 2021 draft, but everyone needs something to draw on for motivation.
He appears intent on embarrasing any veteran player who thinks they can take a night off in his presence. The fact that someone was chosen ahead of Green doesn’t sit well with him.
Jalen green treating Kyle kuzma like a drew league bench player lmaoo pic.twitter.com/qCTqzxS9PI
— jw (@iam_johnw2) October 6, 2021
Green’s considered the most explosive scorer out of the rookie crop and he embraced the bright lights, playing well in the Vegas Summer League, where he averaged 20 points per game.
He was also pretty dynamic as a member of the G-League Ignite last season. With the Rockets moving on from John Wall, Green will have an expanded role early on.
3. Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Evan Mobley should help the young and inexperienced Cleveland Cavaliers right away. He’s a rim-running big with the ability to protect the paint and possessing an offensive skill set that’s steadily improving.
Evan Mobley's defensive versatility was on full display against the Hawks last night. Changed so many shots around the rim, especially with his left hand. Really comfortable sliding on the perimeter with wings and guards alike. Connects the dots on both ends of the floor. pic.twitter.com/wGYFUXEiFU
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 7, 2021
Mobley is comfortable facing the basket and has a sweet 12- 15-foot jump shot. He’ll need to add strength at this level, but unlike 10-15 years ago, when bulking up was imperative from the jump, the league has changed. It’s more skill-focused than based on power and athleticism.
If Cavs guards Colin Sexton and Darius Garland use Mobley the proper way then he can make the game easier for both of them. Great get for the Cavs at No. 3 overall.
4. Jalen Suggs (Orlando Magic)
The Orlando Magic have a weirdly constructed roster and added rookie Jalen Suggs to that mix with the No. 5 overall pick. Suggs led the Gonzaga Bulldogs to the brink of an NCAA title in his only season in Spokane. His buzzer-beater in the national semifinal was heard around the world.
The big combo-guard will provide a myriad of things to a team whose direction is very vague at best. Suggs, 2017 No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, and rookie sensation Cole Anthony comprise a talented and intriguing trio down at the “Magic Kingdom.”
5. Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors)
Experts have compared Scottie Barnes to a combination between Scottie Pippen and Kawhi Leonard. There’s a snowball’s chance in Hades that he’ll be that good, but he does possess some similarities to both. Barnes has a unique blend of athleticism and range. He’s a great defender, rebounder and streaky shooter.
Scottie Barnes opening night pic.twitter.com/kjrVBESXkj
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) October 5, 2021
Barnes shined in his one year at FSU, after he and Cunningham dominated on the high school circuit at Montverde Academy. With the Raptors moving on from stalwart Kyle Lowry (Miami Heat), now is the time for Pascal Siakim and Fred Vanvleet to step to the forefront. Barnes was drafted No. 4 overall to be the third piece of Toronto’s new core.
The Other Young Bloods
Jonathan Kuminga (Golden State Warriors) — Will play a role for the Warriors, especially defensively. He can guard four positions.
Jonathan Kuminga suffered a strained patella tendon and he will be re-evaluated in a week. pic.twitter.com/VAspj1D00w
— theScore (@theScore) October 7, 2021
Davion Mitchell (Sacramento Kings) — The Kings have about as talented a quartet of guards you’ll find in the league with Mitchell’s arrival. DeAaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton are the goods. Mitchell, however, brings a gritty attitude on defense that the others don’t.
James Bouknight (Charlotte Hornets) — A bona fide scorer who will see minutes early in Charlotte, especially with the team trading away DeVonte Graham.
Bouknight will be on the receiving end of many LaMelo Ball assists.