Re-drafting the Lottery Picks from the 2021 NBA Draft
Which rookies would go higher, and which ones would go lower? Surprises up and down the lottery
We’re just past the halfway point of the NBA season, and it’s time to check in on the top rookies from the 2021 draft class.
While it’s easy to do Rookie of the Year rankings — Evan Mobley is in the lead while Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham and Franz Wagner supporters have a case as well — I want to do something a bit more challenging: a re-draft for the lottery teams in the 2021 NBA Draft.
ROY rankings look back and tell you what has happened. With a re-draft, we’re focused on the future and what is to come for each player.
So I’m taking the approach most NBA teams — though not all — take toward the draft: What would be the best outcome for these teams in the next five years?
1. Detroit Pistons
(Originally selected No. 3 by the Cleveland Cavaliers)
The Pistons, like almost every other team in the league, seemed all-in on Cade Cunningham from the beginning of the draft process. There was some flirting with Jalen Green, and a source close to the process told me Detroit general manager Troy Weaver was very high on Evan Mobley but that Weaver couldn’t get much traction with the rest of the front office and ownership.
Given Cunningham’s play in the first half of the season, they didn’t make a bad pick.
But could it have been better? I think so.
Mobley clearly has a higher ceiling than Cunningham.
Mobley started the season hot and continues to be awesome for a rookie, especially on the defensive end, where his unique combination of length, size and agility make him the seventh-ranked defender in the NBA (minimum 1,000 minutes), according to RAPTOR, FiveThirtyEight’s player-rating metric. By that measure, Mobley is in the same league as Draymond Green and ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo this season.
He can defend everywhere, and he brings such a unique physical profile to the table that he feels like the type of prospect that comes along only a couple of times in a generation.
Offensively Mobley has been pretty good, but not great. He moves the ball well but he’s still figuring out his stretch game, shooting just 30.5% from 3-point range. If he ever gets that into the 38-40% range, he may be as unbeatable as he is on the defensive end.