The case for NBA draft No. 1 pick: Cade Cunningham is favorite, but 2 others are intriguing

·4-min read

Cade Cunningham might be the runaway favorite for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, but the Detroit Pistons should also take a hard look at shooting guard Jalen Green and center Evan Mobley for the top spot. 

All three players were the No. 1 player in high school at one point with Cunningham finishing atop the final rankings. The Pistons had three first-round picks in last year’s draft and are looking for a potential star to add to the young core of Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart.

Here’s a look at what Cunningham, Green or Mobley could bring to the Pistons next season.

Cade Cunningham warms up before a game.
Cade Cunningham would be the safest option at No. 1 for the Pistons, who could plug him in right away and he would have an instant impact. (AP Photo/Mitch Alcala)

Cade Cunningham

Class: Freshman

Oklahoma State: 20.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.5 apg

BetMGM odds: -5000

After the draft lottery was set, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Cunningham planned on working out for only one team, the Pistons. That showed a lot of confidence heading into the draft, and Cunningham is the safest pick at No. 1. The 6-foot-8 point guard is a phenomenal playmaker and carried Oklahoma State to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

“I sometimes had to remind myself that he’s 19,” head coach Mike Boynton told Yahoo Sports. “He came in with a lot of hype, deservedly so, and I think he’s the best player in the country, period.”

Cunningham was excellent in isolation situations, scoring 1.1 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. He’s a player the Pistons can plug in right away next season and he’ll make an instant impact in the backcourt or on the wing. Cunningham has drawn early comparisons to Luka Doncic and Paul George. If there’s any player in this draft class who can work to meet those lofty expectations, it’s Cunningham.

Jalen Green drives to the basket.
Jalen Green, left, has the most potential to be a franchise-changing player in the NBA. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jalen Green

G League Ignite: 17.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.8 apg

BetMGM odds: +1200

Green has the potential to be the best long-term prospect in this draft class and can be a franchise-changing player down the road. The shooting guard out of Fresno, California, held his own against professional players during the G League bubble season and was the only player on the Ignite who scored 30 or more points in a game. There are glimpses of Kobe Bryant in Green’s game, someone he has studied growing up.

“I’m always trying to take things from Kobe’s game and add it to mine. He’s one of the greatest to ever play the game,” Green said before the G League season. “I can remember the first time I drove baseline for a reverse dunk on the other side of the basket in a game. That’s a Kobe move I had been working on for a while.”

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Green is great at getting downhill and to the rim, but he’ll need to work on his body control at the NBA level when facing bigger, stronger players in the post. He’s not the safest pick at No. 1 like Cunningham, but Green has the most potential out of any player in this draft class and is definitely a player the Pistons should consider drafting No. 1 overall.

Drew Timme shoots the ball against Evan Mobley who has his arms outstretched to defend.
Evan Mobley was one of the best shot blockers in college, recording 95 blocks last season. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Evan Mobley

Class: Freshman

USC: 16.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3 bpg

BetMGM odds: +1800

If the Pistons are looking to add some size in the frontcourt alongside Stewart, Mobley is the best pick. The 7-footer has a 7-foot-5 wingspan and was one of the best shot blockers in college basketball last season, recording 95 blocks. No other player his size handles the ball as well as Mobley, and he isn’t afraid to get the rebound and push the ball up the court himself. He is a dream in the pick-and-roll option for any point guard and has worked on extending his game past the 3-point line.

“I think Evan Mobley will definitely get a look at the No. 1 spot,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He’s the best center in this draft and a player that shouldn’t be overlooked as the No. 1 pick.”

It took Deandre Ayton a couple years to find his footing in the NBA. Now, he’s one of the best young centers in the league battling with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for a chance at an NBA title. Mobley will definitely have to add weight to his frame, but there is a lot of potential for the young center out of USC.

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