From well-anticipated first overall pick Cade Cunningham to plenty of surprise picks, the 2021 rookie class has it all. Once the draft is complete, the next conversation topic for the rookie class besides who’s in the summer league, is who will have the brightest future? It is hard to predict that any rookie will shine bright, but an educated guess never hurts right? Let’s check it out.
Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons: Sure, it might seem cliché to put the number one pick on here but oh well. Cunningham comes into the NBA as essentially a “do it all” player. Cunningham is easily a three-level scorer, and any first overall pick with that skill set can make an impact. The Pistons were in desperate need for a pick that would be their future superstar, and Cunningham will be just that. I think Cunningham has the brightest future ahead because the Pistons are putting all of their chips into him immediately. None of the other picks are being put in that role right out of the gate.
Jalen Green, Houston Rockets: Again, I am being cliché, but here is the number two pick of the draft. Jalen Green brings dynamic range and can jump out of the gym. Green brings a scoring skillset that if developed correctly could make him one of the best in the league sooner rather than later. If Green can combine all of his skills and earn his time on the floor, he will easily be an All-Star within the next two years. The Rockets were another team in need of replacing superstars, and Green has the ceiling to be that guy for Houston.
Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers: Despite being the number three pick, I think Mobley will take hardly any time to adjust. Mobley brings a diverse skill set of defense and paint presence that can help Cleveland immediately. I fully believe that he still has room to improve on offense, especially from the three point arc. However, Cleveland’s versatile guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland can stretch the floor for Mobley to expand his game. Give Mobley two years of development and he will be a significant player for the Cavs.
Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors: Here is where I will raise some eyebrows. Kuminga will by no means lead this team in scoring, or any category really. However, I think his role will be more important earlier than most think. With the Warriors trading Eric Paschall away, a big open role has emerged. I think Kuminga could fill that role with his high-level defense that allows him to guard any position. While his offense does lack, he is on a Warriors team with plenty of scoring, so his defense will be helpful. Kuminga has one of the more foggy and unclear outlooks, but I think he could make it big with the Warriors.
James Bouknight, Charlotte Hornets: Yet another one that might not be a popular pick. Bouknight is one of the most versatile scoring guards in this draft class. At UCONN, Bouknight spread the floor and tore up defenses via scoring and dishing assists. As far as translating that into the NBA, Bouknight has a high ceiling if he develops the right way. He tends to over dribble sometimes and force things, so if he can keep composed, he is dangerous. The Hornets are a young and on-the-rise team, and Bouknight’s court vision will pair well with LaMelo Ball. If Bouknight and Ball can run the floor efficiently together, it will be “lob city” all over again with Miles Bridges and PJ Washington waiting for the alley oops. Charlotte will be a good fit for Bouknight, he just needs to find the NBA level court vision.
Again, it is way too early to fully choose which rookies will have an impact in the NBA. All that matters now is for the rookies to take advantage of their time on the floor. From a civilian perspective, making an NBA roster seems like a rather difficult task. However, the challenge is where you find out if these rookies are the real deal. The names listed above are just educated guesses based on their scouting reports and stats so take that with a grain of salt. Summer League is underway and the regular season is a few months out, so keep an eye on this rookie class.
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