NBA Draft 2021: Stock watch after a month of college basketball games

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse
NBA Draft

Oklahoma State Cowboys Cade Cunningham NBA Draft Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

While it’s early and the sample size is small, it’s still important to take notice of the player’s NBA Draft stocks. Whose has improved and whose has declined?

In a normal draft cycle, I would probably hold off from writing an article like this at this stage of the season. But the 2021 NBA Draft cycle is not a normal cycle. NCAA programs were limited to 27 games max, and a lot of teams are having games canceled left and right.

Some teams like Texas Tech have played up to nine games, while DePaul has played one. So each game played becomes a tad more important when assessing a player’s stock. I definitely don’t want to jump to conclusions too quickly, but there are certainly some players who have made statements with their play. Let’s dive into some of those players.

Cade Cunningham –  Oklahoma State – 6’7, 220 lbs – Freshman

Stock: Neutral

I was curious to see if we’d get a “player X can overtake Cunningham as the No. 1 prospect” take and despite Cunningham being nothing but excellent, I’ve seen that take and I hate it. Watch any Oklahoma State game, and Cunningham shows you why he is, has been, and always will be the clear top prospect in this class.

His assist numbers are lower than expected, but his potential assists are through the roof. Cunningham makes some incredible passes that his less talented teammates can’t convert. Just look at how he’s being defended.

One of Cunningham’s bigger questions coming into college was how well would he shoot? Cunningham has erased any and all questions related to that. He’s shooting 11-30 from three and 36-45 from the free throw line. Going under ball-screens is not an option, as he’ll pull that shot. He’s looked super comfortable shooting off the dribble, even in big moments.

Cunningham’s incredible offense almost overshadows how sound he is as a defender. His size and strength are obvious, but he’s very smart with his rotations. Cunningham’s pathway to being a multi-positional defender is clear.

The problem with the conversation about someone other than Cunningham being the top prospect (aside from the fact that he’s clearly better than everyone in this draft) is that this isn’t a Zion-Ja situation where someone has clearly established themselves as No. 2.

Going into the college season, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga were two of the top contenders, but they’ve been hidden on the G-League elite team. Two college players that have entered that conversation are Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs and USC’s Evan Mobley.

I like both prospects and they’ve certainly been stock risers, but Cunningham can do anything that Suggs does and he’s bigger. Suggs is gaining notoriety for his impressive performances, but his team context is night and day compared to Cunningham’s.

Playing with another future NBA guard in Joel Ayayi, a knockdown shooter in Corey Kispert and an All-American big in Drew Timme has given Suggs the spacing needed to shine. Mobley has more of a case, but I don’t see how a center can be more valuable than a primary creator.

Cunningham may not end up with the most impressive raw statistics of the freshman class, but it doesn’t matter. Through seven games, it’s abundantly clear how good he is and why he will be the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse