With a star-studded NBA draft and the 2021 Summer League in our rear view, it’s high time for a still-way-too-early Rookie Of The Year Community Shootaround! The three top picks this season are widely considered to be the players with brightest long-term futures in the NBA, but that doesn’t preclude someone else from swooping in for 2021/22 Rookie Of The Year award honors.
Top pick Cade Cunningham, selected by the Pistons out of Oklahoma State, is a lead ball-handler with the size of a forward (6’8″), beloved by scouts for his shooting ability and passing acumen.
Long-term, the Rockets are hoping No. 2 selection Jalen Green can replace ex-Houston All-Star James Harden as an All-NBA caliber shooting guard with a versatile offensive portfolio. Green opted to spend his post-high school season with the NBA’s G League Ignite rather than in a collegiate program. How much Green produces during his inaugural NBA season remains an open question, though he at least will see plenty of looks for a presumably lottery-bound Houston team.
Though the Cavaliers frontcourt is crowded between $100MM man Jarrett Allen, pricey former All-Star Kevin Love (owed $60.2MM over the next two seasons), and new addition Lauri Markkanen (signed to a four-year, $67MM deal), exciting USC big man Evan Mobley, the third pick in the draft, is a good bet to get major rotation minutes.
The top five selections were rounded out by two other intriguing prospects this season. 6’8″ FSU forward Scottie Barnes, selected with the No. 4 pick, will join a seasoned Raptors team loaded with forward depth and should have ample time to develop as a bench player.
The Magic chose 6’4″ Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs with the fifth pick in the draft, and subsequently added 6’9″ swingman Franz Wagner with the No. 8 pick. Suggs should receive significant scoring opportunities on an Orlando team not expected to compete for the playoffs.
The Thunder drafted 6’8″ guard Josh Giddey from NBL club the Adelaide 36ers with the sixth pick in the draft. The Thunder appear poised to continue their rebuilding project in Oklahoma City after trading away Chris Paul to the Suns during the summer of 2020, and as such should be able to find extended playing time for Giddey.
New Warriors lottery selections Jonathan Kuminga (the No. 7 pick), a 6’8″ forward out of the G League Ignite, and Moses Moody (the No. 14 pick), a 6’6″ guard out of Arkansas, are likely in line for smaller roles on a club trying to return to title contention this year, though of course that could change should Golden State opt to move them for veteran depth during the season.
6’2″ Kings guard Davion Mitchell, chosen with the ninth pick out of Baylor, will likely begin the 2021/22 season in a reserve role behind incumbent backcourt starters De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton, but after proving he could score in bunches during the 2021 Las Vegas Summer League (where he was named co-MVP), it seems clear he’ll get plenty of run for Sacramento. Mitchell averaged 10.8 PPG, 5.8 APG and 1.4 RPG.
Grizzlies forward Ziaire Williams, Hornets guard James Bouknight, Spurs guard Joshua Primo, and Pacers guard Chris Duarte rounded out the lottery picks this season. All will suit up for teams who appear hopeful to at least qualify for the play-in tournament.
Beyond the lottery, Mitchell’s Summer League co-MVP Cameron Thomas, who averaged 27 PPG, 2 APG, 1.75 RPG, and 1.25 SPG, may yet carve out a role for himself on a star-studded Nets team hoping to compete for a title. That said, it’s tough to see the 6’4″ LSU alum getting enough touches in the backcourt, playing behind two All-Stars, to warrant Rookie Of The Year consideration.
We want to hear what you think! Who among these contenders is your pick to win Rookie Of The Year honors for the 2021/22 season? Will anyone else we haven’t mentioned sneak in to the conversation? Please weigh in with your own early predictions in the comments section below.