Re-drafting the 2021 NBA Draft

Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, NBA Draft (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, NBA Draft (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The 2021 NBA Draft yielded several immediately impactful rookies. Some of them even played major roles on contenders. Scottie Barnes ultimately won Rookie of the Year for his chameleonic contributions in Toronto, but players like Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Green all flashed star upside. There’s a lot of talent on the board.

With our 2019 and 2020 re-drafts in the rearview mirror, let’s reflect on the most recent batch of NBA rookies and decide where they should have been picked in hindsight. There’s still plenty of time for players to develop and prove me wrong — we will likely revisit this down the line — but with one full NBA season under our belts, this is how the 2021 NBA (re)Draft shapes up.

With the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select…

PG. Detroit Pistons. Cade Cunningham. 1. player. 64.

Re-drafting the 2021 NBA Draft — 1. Cade Cunningham, Pistons

It was a bumpy rookie season for Cade Cunningham, but in the end, he got my unofficial and ultimately unreciprocated Rookie of the Year vote. No first-year player reached the heights Cunningham did at the helm of Detroit’s young, inexperienced offense. He still has warps to work over — turnovers, 3-point efficiency, etc. — but he’s already a supremely gifted jumbo-point guard who can carry the offense with his scoring or leverage his gravity to elevate teammates.

The Pistons were actually competitive over the last month or so of the season, largely because of how well Cunningham played. He’s going to be in the All-Star conversation as soon as next season, and the Pistons finally have a clear direction after years in purgatory. Cunningham is the future of Motor City.

He’s not half-bad on the defensive end either, where his versatility and athleticism should ultimately make him quite valuable as a two-way force. You need to be able to fill multiple roles and survive on both ends of the floor in the postseason. Cunningham should one day thrive on that stage.