This 2021 NBA Draft is filled with talent. The top four picks could have all been number one picks in different years. After that, there are still some players who have flashed potential to become a star.
The NBA has become positionless. The traditional position assessments of point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center is still used but are kind of limiting. In this exercise, these positions will still be used, but may not be the most accurate designation for them. Years down the line they could be playing completely different positions, but today they will be ranked as their most likely position in the league.
#5 Tre Mann, University of Florida
Mann, a sophomore, showed great growth after his freshman season. He went from a bench role to becoming the Gators’ best player. Mann is a big point guard at 6’5″ and gives him the flexibility to slide over to the shooting guard if his NBA team asks him to. He projects as more of a scoring point guard. He is not the greatest playmaker in the world, but he shows a very smooth understanding of the game.
His great length will hopefully help him become a plus defender at the next level. He has a pretty shooting stroke that is sure to translate. Mann is another example of a point guard that is good at most things but does not quite excel in any one aspect. Teams will love him for his versatility, but it is unlikely he ever reaches star status.
#4 Josh Giddey, Adelaide 36ers
Giddey could be the best passer in this entire draft class. Combine that with his 6’8″ size and you get a very unique prospect. Giddey played in the NBL this past season for the Adelaide 36ers. He led the entire league in assists per game, with 7.5. His full stat line was 10.9 points, 7.5 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game. He did all this at the age of eighteen playing against grown men. His playmaking is truly impressive and with stats like that at his age, you would surely think he was the next best thing. That is until you look at some of his glaring weaknesses.
Giddey only shot 29.3% from three. If you are trying to make it in the NBA as a point guard, you’re going to have to be able to shoot, unless you’re an athletic freak. Giddey is not that either. Giddey is a below-average athlete who cannot shoot. He is also below average at the defensive end of the floor due to his lack of quickness and slender frame.
Giddey is truly an exceptional passer with great height for the position. The question is if he will be able to do anything else besides that against NBA athletes.
#3 Davion Mitchell, Baylor University
Before this season, there was not a lot of NBA hype for Mitchell. He is older for an NBA prospect, turning 23 in September, but a lot of teams liked the growth he showed on his way to an NCAA championship. Mitchell is one of the best perimeter defenders in the class, if not the best. He won the BIG 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a guard. He is a pest who will pick up full court the majority of the time. Everybody knew he was a talented defensive player who had a knack for getting under an opponent’s skin, but it was the encouraging signs of offense that shot him up draft boards.
This past season, Mitchell increased his three-point percentage by 12.3%, from 32.4% to 44.7%. This had scouts believing in his potential to be a great 3-and-D point guard. Then, he took his game a little further and started showing signs of playmaking. He will never be the best passer in the league, but he was able to create for his teammates in their championship run. He was efficiently running pick and rolls and attacking downhill and kicking it to shooters.
Mitchell may not get much better than he already is now, but what he is now, is a high-end role player for a great team.
#2 Jalen Suggs, University of Gonzaga
Coming out of high school Suggs was a top recruit in both basketball and football. He was a quarterback with offers from schools such as Ohio State and Georgia. He chose basketball and brought his quarterback mentality to the hardwood. Suggs stepped into an experienced Gonzaga team and immediately became their starting point guard. He is the type of player that can do a little bit of everything and fit into any situation.
Suggs projects as a primary point guard, but he has the size at 6’4′ and 205 lbs to play some off guard in the NBA. He showed his ability to play off of another guard when played with Joel Ayayi. Suggs will fit into pretty much any team’s system. He is very well-rounded. The only real flaw is that he did not shoot the three very consistently. He started off his college career shooting it very well, he even had a 7-10 from three game against Iowa. He then started to cool off, but he has shown that he has the ability to hit them.
Suggs will be a great fit for most teams due to his adaptability and the intangibles that scouts have raved about.
#1 Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State University
This one was a no-brainer. Cunningham is the large favorite to be the first player off the board in this upcoming NBA Draft. He has the size of a forward at 6’8″ and 220 lbs, but the handling, passing, and shooting of a traditional point guard. Coming into his freshman season, everybody knew about his special playmaking. It was his shooting that surprised everybody. He shot exactly 40% from three in his lone season at Oklahoma State. That number is elite. Cunningham would have likely gone first without a convincing jump shot, but it is just a nice cherry on top of the sundae for whatever team lands him.
On defense, he showed some solid anticipation skills. He is able to read offenses fairly well and get his hand into passing lanes. He has the ability to guard positions 1-4 due to his size. While he is not the best athlete in the world, he is still quick enough to hold his own against most guards. He may struggle against the NBA’s shiftiest guards, but in these cases, he can easily switch onto another forward and allow a teammate to take on that assignment.
Cunningham has the whole package. There is no real weakness in his game. Whoever lands the first pick in the lottery should be running to the podium come draft night.