Nearly three weeks into the season, here’s a look around the NBA landscape, with ten observations ranging in impact from having a direct effect on the chase for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, teams who are exceeding or failing to meet expectations, examining the play of some of the league’s top rookies, taking note of milestone accomplishments and much more.
1. The Return of the Slim Reaper
In the Brooklyn Nets’ preseason opener against the Washington Wizards, it quickly became evident Kevin Durant is the same player he was before tearing his Achilles. He was slithering through the defense, stopping on a dime for pull-up jump shots and getting to the rim in a couple of strides.
Then, during a Christmas matchup against the Boston Celtics, Durant erupted for 16 points in the third quarter. He finished with 29 points, helping the Nets earn a 123-95 win. In Brooklyn’s next game, the former MVP poured in a season-high 33 points, en route to a 145-141 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
The only questions Durant has left to answer are how he’ll hold up as we get deeper into the season, and later, as the Nets advance further into the playoffs. Those questions are matters of durability. In terms of performance, Durant’s playing like an MVP candidate.
2. Joel Embiid, Early-Season MVP
The early-season front runners for MVP are Joel Embiid and Durant. You can certainly argue the latter’s in the lead, but the former is an offensive force who’s also making a compelling opening statement in his case for Defensive Player of the Year.
Defensive stats are flawed, so it’s best to avoid relying on one or two of them to paint the entire picture of how a team or individual is performing on that end. Yet, across the board, Embiid’s registering numbers that speak glowingly about the impact he’s making defensively. According to Basketball-Reference, Embiid’s yielding the third-fewest points per 100 possessions.
Additionally, he ranks fifth in defensive win shares and eighth in defensive box plus-minus. Embiid’s blocking 1.8 shots per game this season, the seventh-most in the NBA, and he’s corralling 10 defensive rebounds per game, which are the third-most in the league.
Offensively, Embiid’s producing 24.6 points per game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and averaging nine free-throw attempts per contest, which are the fourth-most in the NBA, and he’s converting them at an 83.3 percent clip. Though the sample size is small, Embiid’s shooting 45.8 percent from beyond the arc while taking a respectable three attempts per game. For the last three years, he’s been a below-average three-point shooter.
What matters more for Embiid’s development and the Philadelphia 76ers’ title chances is his improvement in passing out of double teams in the low post. In previous years, he’s struggled to read where the second defender was coming from or how the defense would subsequently rotate. Last season, he lost confidence his teammates would make opponents pay when he kicked it out to them after drawing two defenders.
Now, Embiid is flanked by Seth Curry, who’s a career 44.9 percent three-point shooter that’s splashing 59.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season. He’s also showing trust in Danny Green, a career 40 percent three-point shooter that is converting 37.7 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season.
This season is in its infancy and the Sixers have mostly feasted on bad teams. But surrounded by players who are well-suited to complement Embiid’s game, he’s playing the best ball of his career, turning in an MVP-caliber performance that’s helped place Philadelphia in a four-way tie atop the NBA standings. For further reading, that’s even why Basketball Insiders’ Drew Maresca is calling to speed up the process.
3. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are Evolving
Jayson Tatum has an impressive ability to get significantly better at weaker parts of his game during the season. Last November, he shot 51.9 percent at the rim, and he took considerable flak for it. The next month, Tatum improved by 11 percent.
Being named an All-Star lifted a weight off Tatum’s shoulders, and his game subsequently soared to new heights. As his scoring average rose to over 25 points per game after receiving that validation, Tatum had to adapt to regularly dealing with double teams; especially, when operating out of the pick-and-roll.
Here’s an update on how that’s going:
Tatum’s also working on breaking his habit of settling for step-back three-pointers with the game on the line. Fortunately for him, a week after that exact shot clanked off the rim, sealing a 108-107 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Tatum got an opportunity to redeem himself.
As for the other half of Boston’s burgeoning duo, Jaylen Brown, who’s even more impressive off the court than he is on it, continues to maximize his time in the offseason to achieve significant growth every year.
With Kemba Walker injured and Gordon Hayward now on the Charlotte Hornets, the Celtics rely more heavily on Brown to facilitate their offense. He’s risen to the challenge, demonstrating improved handles and better court vision, allowing him to create quality scoring chances for himself and his teammates.
Brown’s averaging 26.3 points per game; shooting 59 percent from inside the arc, while taking 5.7 three-point attempts per game and connecting on 42.1 percent of them. After never dishing out more than 2.1 assists per game in the first four years of his career, the 24-year-old is averaging 3.5 assists per contest to start this season.
All four of those teams made it to the Finals, and three of them won championships.
Just sayin' 🤷♂️https://t.co/iRJnq8tsXT
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) January 9, 2021
4. The Improving New York Knicks
One of Tom Thibodeau’s strengths is he can immediately change the culture of a franchise. In his first season with the Chicago Bulls, the team won 62 games, tying the NBA record for the most wins by a rookie head coach. He was named Coach of the Year, and the Bulls won their first division title since Michael Jordan was on their roster.
In 2018, in his second season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he helped guide the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
Fast forward to this season, and while it’s early in the campaign, it’s clear the New York Knicks are reaping the benefits of buying into what Thibs is preaching.
They beat the Milwaukee Bucks by 20 points and came from behind to earn road wins against the Pacers and the Hawks. Those two victories away from Madison Square Garden, along with their home win over the Utah Jazz, meet NBA.com’s definition of clutch wins, meaning the game was within five points in the final five minutes.
The Knicks performed so well in crunch time of those games, their plus-minus rate in the clutch is seven, which is second-best in the category.
That is the result of a stingy defense yielding 3.7 points per game in its first three opportunities of the season to play in contests that came down to the wire. Furthermore, New York has yet to allow a point off a turnover, fast break, or surrendered a second-chance basket in the clutch. The Knicks’ late-game success is also a testament to an offense that ranks in the top 10 in crunch-time scoring, averaging 10.7 points in those wins against Indiana, Atlanta and Utah.
In terms of individual performances, RJ Barrett is averaging 17.3 points per game, and opponents can’t keep him out of the paint, where he’s scoring 55.1 percent of his buckets. Those drives to the paint are often getting Barrett to the foul line – and he’s averaging 5.1 free-throw attempts per game and converting on those opportunities at a 71.7 percent clip.
As for the rest of his game, the former third overall pick is averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per contest and he’s contesting 4.6 three-point attempts per game, which ranks fifth in the association, and is a sure-fire way to win over his new head coach.
Barrett’s also forming an effective tandem with Julius Randle:
Speaking of Randle, he is playing like an All-Star, averaging 22.6 points, 12 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game, which is a testament to him passing up shots to play a more unselfish brand of basketball. Randle’s also exerting more energy defensively, limiting opponents to 105 points per 100 possessions. The sample size is small right now, New York has played nine games, but his defensive rating is lower than it has ever been in his career.
The Knicks are also getting quality minutes from their point guards: Elfrid Payton’s producing 14.8 points, 4.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Austin Rivers is generating 13 points per contest while shooting 48.1 percent from beyond the arc, providing much-needed spacing for the likes of Barrett and Randle. And rookie point guard, Immanuel Quickley, is off to an impressive start to his NBA career, including a 16-point performance against the Hawks, a game he played 18:47 minutes.
Barrett and Randle ranking first and second in minutes per game, respectively, is concerning, yet not a surprise, considering who their coach is. However, the Knicks are off to an expectation-defying start to the season, and Thibodeau appears to be living up to his reputation as a head coach who can quickly change a franchise’s culture.
5. Standout Rookies
Anthony Edwards: 15.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists
The decision to make Anthony Edwards a part of the second unit is paying off for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’s shooting 51.4 percent from inside the arc, and while he has a lot of work to do to round out his game, averaging 26.3 minutes and not having to deal with the opposition’s starters as often as he would be if he were starting, helps that cause.
James Wiseman: 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks
James Wiseman’s NBA career is off to an impressive start. As a shot blocker, he times his leap well, and he can quickly cover a lot of ground around the rim. Wiseman runs the floor well in transition, and he generates easy points for the Golden State Warriors when he dives to the cup. If the defense leaves him open from beyond the arc, he’ll make them pay for that decision, as evidenced by him shooting 42.9 percent on 1.6 three-point attempts per game. And as if that wasn’t enough to earn the second overall pick rave reviews, he’s also comfortable making plays off the dribble.
Simply put, Wiseman looks like the total package.
LaMelo Ball: 12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists
On Jan. 9, Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, putting together a 22-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist performance.
Ball’s three-point shooting and his defense are noticeable blemishes, but he’s a 19-year-old rookie who’s ten games into his NBA career. He has a preternatural feel for the game and delivers highlight-reel passes with regularity.
Deni Avdija: 7.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists
The ninth pick in the draft has started every game for the Washington Wizards, making a positive impact on both ends of the floor.
Deni Avdija’s 6-foot-9, he sets his feet quickly and he has a fast release. That combination makes it difficult for defenders to challenge his shot. What’s worse for his opponents is he’s knocking down 45.7 percent of his three-point attempts. Shortly, expect him to increase his current average of 3.5 shots from beyond the arc per game.
The other part of Avdija’s offensive repertoire that requires mentioning is he’s a flashy passer, especially off the dribble.
Defensively, Avdija’s effort doesn’t wane. According to NBA.com, he’s contesting 7.5 shots per game, which is the fourth-most among rookies this season. He’s also averaging 1.9 deflections and 1.1 steals per game.
The Wizards have gotten off to a slow start this season, and even their most optimistic fans probably don’t envision them getting past the first round of the playoffs. However, Avdija’s play has been a bright spot, and he’s quickly proving he can be a part of this team’s turnaround.
Tyrese Haliburton: 12.1 points, 5.5 assists, 1.4 steals
Tyrese Haliburton is playing like he’s a 10-year veteran. He has a tremendous feel for the game, he’s decisive, and he’s a threat with and without the ball.
At 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-7.5 wingspan, Haliburton’s long strides allow him to quickly get to the basket, where he effectively utilizes his length to finish at the rim. As a shooter, despite unorthodox mechanics, the former Iowa State Cyclone is averaging 4.8 three-point attempts per game and making 50 percent of them. His deep range permits him plenty of space when he shoots, but when defenders close in on him, he’s unfazed.
Defensively, even when shooters create space against Haliburton, his length typically allows him to recover quickly enough to challenge their shots.
Payton Pritchard: 8.6 points, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals
The most surprising name on this list is Payton Pritchard. He plays like a veteran point guard, rarely picking up his dribble, patiently probing the defense until he finds a weakness to exploit.
Pritchard’s provided the Boston Celtics with a much-needed boost off the bench, serving as the catalyst for their comeback win over the Pacers and tipping in the game-winning shot against the Miami HEAT.
For more on how this season’s freshman class is performing, Basketball Insiders’ Ariel Pacheco wrote in-depth about the race for Rookie of the Year.
6. Steph Curry’s 62-Point Bonanza
In a Jan. 3 showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers, Steph Curry put on a scoring clinic en route to a career-high 62 points, which remains the highest individual scoring output in the NBA this season.
Curry was in rhythm from the opening tip, setting the tone for his milestone performance by scoring 21 points in the first quarter. The two-time MVP had 31 at the half and 45 after three quarters. Curry scored 17 points in the final frame, guiding the Warriors to a 137-122 win.
The anatomy of Curry’s career night is as follows: He shot 58.1 percent from the field, made eight of his 16 three-pointers and converted 18 of his 19 free-throw attempts. This season is in its infancy stage, yet it would hardly be a surprise if no one tops Curry’s performance.
7. Bradley Beal’s Career Night
The Washington Wizards don’t win many games, but no matter how much they’re trailing by, they seem capable of making the matchup competitive. That is mostly thanks to Bradley Beal, who in a Jan. 6 tilt with the Sixers, nearly helped his team overcome what at one point was a 21-point deficit by going supernova for the first three-quarters of a career-high, 60-point performance.
In the opening frame, Beal had 13 points. He finished the first half with 32. Entering the fourth quarter, Beal had 57 and seemed poised to break Gilbert Arenas’ franchise scoring record of 60 points. Surprisingly, in the final frame, Beal shot 1-for-6 from the field, missed all three of his three-point attempts and he went just 1-for-2 in his lone trip to the free-throw line, meaning he had to settle for tying rather than surpassing the franchise’s single-game scoring record.
At the end of the Wizards’ nearly miraculous comeback win in Philadelphia, Beal had made 20 of his 35 field goals, good for 57.1 percent. He hit 7-for-10 on three-point attempts and 13 of his 15 free throws. For good measure, Beal also chipped in seven rebounds and five assists – but will he end the year as a Wizard?
8. The Chris Paul Effect
Where Chris Paul goes, winning follows. After missing the playoffs his first two seasons in the NBA, his team has only failed to make the postseason once in the last 12 years. Now, the future Hall of Fame floor general is elevating the Phoenix Suns, who are in a tie for the league’s best record.
Paul is averaging 13.2 points, 8.5 assists, the fourth-most in the league, and 4.6 rebounds per game. The stingy Suns are yielding just 106.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranks seventh in the association. Offensively, they’re scoring 112.5 points per 100 possessions, the ninth-most in the league. That two-way production has led to Phoenix having the fourth-highest net rating in the NBA.
Paul is an ideal option to run the point alongside the Suns’ young cornerstones, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, and catch-and-shoot three-point threats such as Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder. They’re making the 15-year veteran’s job easier; in turn, each one of them is benefitting from playing off the nine-time All-NBA point guard.
9. Toronto Raptors Stumbling Out of the Gates
Even those anticipating the Toronto Raptors would regress after finishing with the second-best record in the NBA last season probably didn’t forecast them losing six of their first seven games to start the 2020-21 campaign.
Eight games into their season, they have the fourth-worst record.
As the first team to arrive at the Orlando bubble, the Raptors spent two grueling months there. They had little time to recover, thanks to a condensed offseason, and they’re playing their home games in Tampa Bay this season, creating more strain than usual for organization members who didn’t bring their families with them.
In the offseason, Serge Ibaka signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Marc Gasol joined the Los Angeles Lakers. The Raptors signed Aron Baynes to start at center, yet he’s getting outplayed by Chris Boucher, who’s slender frame restricts how head coach Nick Nurse can utilize him.
While Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet continue to perform at a high level, Pascal Siakam is yet to shake off the struggles that plagued him in the bubble. The Raptors need Siakam, whose $130 million maximum contract extension kicked in this season, to snap out of his funk. Perhaps, his 32-point performance against the Suns is a sign he’s thawing out from his ice-cold start to the season.
10. Los Angeles Lakers’ New Additions Fitting in Seamlessly
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are wisely pacing themselves with the big picture in mind. They’re also two of the best players in the league, meaning they can still average over 20 points and eight rebounds per game.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ new additions, Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews, are veterans who know their roles, helping them mesh quickly with James and Davis.
Though Talen Horton-Tucker isn’t new to the team, he’s already played in more games than he did as a rookie, and he’s contributing quality minutes as well as 7.1 points per game this season. He’s another new member of the Lakers’ rotation, helping keep them atop the Western Conference standings without taxing its superstar duo, which should pay dividends in the postseason.
While the season is still in the early goings, there’s plenty of worthwhile tidbits to dig through. From impressive rookies to future all-timers, the NBA and it’s revolving carousel of parity never fails to disappoint – and it hasn’t thus far through a fraction of the frantic 2020-21 campaign.
NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.
“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.
In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.
Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.
NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.
Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.
However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.
Raptors, Wolves, Cavs, Pacers and Kings have all showed interest in acquiring Ben Simmons, per B/R's @JakeLFischer
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 25, 2021
Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.
On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.
Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.
2021 NBA Draft Best Bets Analysis for the Player Draft Position Market
The 2021 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 29 at 8:00 p.m. (EST). The draft will be televised on ESPN and ABC. The location of the draft is at the Nets’ Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Nonetheless, although ABC is indeed airing the draft this year, they are only televising the first round. This is the first NBA draft to be held in the month of July since the 1947 Basketball Association of America (BAA) Draft.
Of course, that league went on to become the National Basketball Association (NBA). For NBA Draft betting, there are plenty of sports books available for American gamblers. The best sports books include Bovada, DraftKings, MyBookie, FanDuel, and BetUS. For NBA Draft Futures, Bovada, DraftKings, and BetGM are reasonable options. Additionally, there are multiple betting apps in existence nowadays that are accessible and easy to use, such as from BetUS, Bovada, BetOnline, and Intertops.
No. 1 Pick: Cade Cunningham (-8000)
Cade Cunningham is the front-runner for the first overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. He is the Big 12 Player of the Year (2021) and consensus first-team All-American (2021). On November 25, 2020, in his college debut, the 19-year-old native Texan earned 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ 75-68 victory over the UT Arlington Mavericks. On February 27, 2021, he posted a college career-high of 40 points and 11 rebounds, in a 94-90 overtime win over the Oklahoma Sooners. In 27 games played, the six-foot-eight guard averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
On the RSCI Top 100, he also ranked first above all other recruits. With a total of 544 points, Cunningham led the Big 12 in scoring during the 2020-21 season. When asked about how he felt concerning the probability of his No. 1 selection in the draft, he said, “If I am able to go in there and be the No. 1 pick, I’m going to try to carry that same swag in how I walk on the court and make the most out of it and wear the red, white, and blue for sure.” Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver also compared Cunningham to Grant Hill, the No. 3 pick out of Duke from the 1994 NBA Draft.
Reported by CBS Sports, the Houston Rockets are interested in trading up to pick Cunningham. According to Shams Charania of Stadium, the Detroit Pistons and Rockets are negotiating a possible trade. This is considering the fact that Houston also has the Nos. 23 and 24 picks of this draft, too. The sports reporter for The Athletic and Stadium stated, “The Houston Rockets have the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, but I’m told they’re aggressively pursuing Detroit’s No. 1 overall pick. The Rockets have done extensive research on presumptive No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham.” If the organization is serious about trading up, they’ll do everything in their power to make it happen.
No. 2 Pick: Jalen Green (+200)
Jalen Green has the highest odds of being selected second in the draft. According to NBA.com mock drafts and various oddsmakers, his draft position is still most appealing to the Houston Rockets, especially if the Pistons are unwilling to make a trade. Green is a six-foot-six shooting guard from the NBA G League. On March 8, 2021, while playing for the NBA G League Ignite in the first round of the playoffs, the 19-year-old shooting guard finished his performance with a season-high of 30 points, seven assists, and five rebounds, in the 127-102 defeat versus the Raptors 905. In 15 games played in the 2020-21 season, Green averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals in 32 minutes played per game.
Per one report from Kelly Iko of The Athletic, the Houston staff writer stated, “USC’s Evan Mobley has been discussed in some circles, as well as Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs, but smart money would be on the Rockets taking the 19-year-old out of the G League’s Ignite on draft night.” He reaffirmed his position and main point a bout head coach Stephen Silas’ likeness to flexible guards by stating, “It’s well known that head coach Stephen Silas has an affinity for versatile guards, and Green has been said to have the highest upside in his class, from a scoring, explosive, and star standpoint.” The California-born athlete could fit in nicely with the Rockets.
No. 3 Pick: Evan Mobley (-200)
Evan Mobley has the best odds for the third overall pick of the draft. Mobley is the seven-foot tall forward/center Pac-12 Player of the Year (2021) and consensus second-team All-American (2021) from the USC Trojans. On March 11, 2021, in the team’s 91-85 double overtime win against the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals, Mobley scored a career-high 26 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks. In 33 games played in the 2020-21 season for the Trojans, Mobley averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and a field goal percentage of 57.8 percent. The Trojans made it to the Elite Eight after concluding their season schedule with the second-most wins (25) in program history. According to the RSCI Top 100, the 20-year-old player was ranked third on the list.
Since Anthony Davis from the Southeastern Conference in 2012, he is the only other player to win the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Freshman Player of the Year all in the same year. Mobley told the media on Friday, “I feel like as a modern-day NBA big, you have to be able to shoot, guard multiple positions, stretch the floor, and put the ball on the floor a little bit.” He later said in the interview, “I think I’ll be a generational player that no one has really seen before. That’s what I’m aspiring to be, and I’m just going to keep working and staying in the gym until I get there.” The Cleveland Cavaliers are in position to draft Mobley, but teams like the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic could trade up to pursue the player on draft night.
Player Draft Position
The top 10 most common picks of this draft are Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes, Jonathan Kuminga, James Bouknight, Davion Mitchell, Keon Johnson, and Franz Wagner. However, Josh Giddey could be the dark horse for the New Orleans Pelicans, considering they have the tenth pick of the draft. To add to that observation, The Ringer mock draft is showing Corey Kispert at the No. 10 spot. Kispert’s draft value lies within his perimeter shooting. In the 2020-21 season, the six-foot-seven Gonzaga forward shot 44 percent from beyond the arc. He also led the West Coast Conference in three-point field goal attempts (207) and shots made (91) last season.
Furthermore, Charles Bassey has options showing Over 38.5 (-105) and Under 38.5 (-125). Daishan Nix has a draft position presenting Over 50.5 (-125) and Under 50.5 (-105). Plus, David Johnson’s position betting odds show Over 45.5 (-120) and Under 45.5 (-110). A few bettors are predicting Jalen Johnson will go Under 12.5 (+150) in the draft. He has +10000 odds of being selected fifth overall in the draft. Yahoo Sports mock draft writers are predicting Ziaire Williams will get drafted at No. 14 by the Golden State Warriors. Though, the consensus favorite for the No. 14 spot is Oregon’s Chris Duarte. Moreover, Bleacher Report has the Warriors drafting Moses Moody at No. 7. The first-team All-SEC (2021) and SEC Freshman of the Year (2021) has +175 odds of being selected in the top 10 of the draft.
- All table odds were retrieved from Bovada
Exact Order – Top 4 Pick Odds
In the first round of the draft, the favored exact order is Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Suggs. The current odds are listed at -120. Another realistic possibility is Evan Mobley getting selected before Jalen Green. The exact order odds for this scenario are +600. While the Rockets seem to show the most interest in Green, the organization could pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Bettors should not assume anything. The Rockets may go after Cunningham, if the opportunity presents itself and trades occur the night of the draft. Moreover, there is also a chance that Suggs could get picked before Mobley.
The odds for that outcome are also +600. The Cavaliers could use another aggressive defender and solid play-maker. Suggs specializes in pick-and-roll situations, so this is something for the Cavs to consider in the long run. In 30 games played, he averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and shot 50.3 percent from the field. As a Gonzaga Bulldog, the 20-year-old guard also won a state championship in his freshman season. Having said all of this, fans need to lower their expectations before the draft. There are times these mock drafts and player interviews are not what they seem.
Regarding NBA Draft betting sites, e.g. FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetUS, bettors can bet on the top three or four picks in order, the first player to be drafted by position, a specific player being drafted by a certain team, and the Over/Under player number in the draft. As for placing bets before or during the season, the choices to bet on assists, rebounds, and points per game are other notable opportunities to keep in mind. Not to mention, NBA Finals prop bets, the Finals MVP winner, and regular season MVP winner are other options as well. The 2022 NBA Finals is scheduled to begin in June of next year.
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