A casual look away from the gripping NBA Finals to the next phase of the league for the rest of 2021 should center on the upcoming NBA Draft. Unlike previous years especially in 2019, there is little attention being paid to the draft and there are a couple of major reasons this is so.
For starters, the COVID 19 pandemic wrecked the College season and the some of the best players opted out or were rushed to compete in a compressed season. This has resulted in a draft with very few top drawers. Another reason for the slide in attention is the comparatively fewer number of teams interested in the draft. Due to the introduction of the Play In Tournament, more teams than usual got roped into the playoffs picture and devoted more resources to gate crushing the postseason.
In 2019, Zion Williamson’s hype carried over through the end of the College Season through the NBA Finals to the point even the Summer League got sold out. The 2018 Draft generated a solid level of attention with the mystery of Luka Doncic, Trae Young’s Steph Curry like run with University of Oklahoma and DeAndre Ayton’s throwback style as a big man in the modern NBA got people following the draft. Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors occupy the top four spots in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Detroit doesn’t get to pick among the top two draft picks in the draft a lot unlike Cleveland Cavaliers who picked number one overall three times between 2011 and 2014. Detroit is under pressure to get this pick right after missing out on a sustained run of success by picking Darko Milicic ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2003 Draft. After Detroit Pistons rolled out the Bad Boys 2.0 to clinch the 2004 title, picking any of the above mentioned trio would have given the Pistons its foundation to build on once Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton aged out.
General Manager Troy Weaver’s legacy at Detroit will largely be shaped by who he picks with the number overall pick on July 29. Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs and Evan Morbley and Jonathan Kuminga are the projected top picks and expected to hear their names mentioned early in the wee hours of Friday, July 30 in Ghana. However, for the best player fits for the top four to pan out, Detroit needs to pick Jalen Green first overall.
Detroit has the foundation laid for what could be a perfect rebuild into Championship contention in the Eastern Conference. Killian Hayes flashed potential at Point Guard in his rookie season with Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart making it to the All Rookie Team. Adding Jerami Grant to the mix means Detroit, should Hayes develop into a productive NBA starter, would be a Shooting Guard away from becoming a serious future contender.
Cunningham is the most appealing with his 6 foot 8 inch size and playmaking ability but Cunningham is a ball dominant player who doesn’t have consistent shooting stroke to make life easier for players on the roster. Jalen Suggs is undersized at Shooting Guard position and as with Cunningham, thrived in a year that scouting was at its all time low. Unlike Suggs, Jalen Green is 6 foot 6 inches, uber athletic and produced 17.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 15 games in a grown man’s league-Team Ignite in the NBA’s G League.
Despite having a terrible record, Houston Rockets has talented players (Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jnr.) who need a playmaker to set them up for more success. Not that John Wall isn’t a playmaker but his injury issues and timeline with a rebuilding team makes him ill suited for the Rockets. In this Draft, Rafael Stone needs to draft Wall’s replacement and that is Cade Cunningham.
Dallas Mavericks is on the way up with an oversized Point Guard in Doncic and Rockets can follow the steps of Dallas by drafting 6 foot 8 Cunningham. While Doncic is great, his game is more pronounced when Shooting Guard Tim Hardaway Jnr. is working his magic from the perimeter; in Porter Jnr., Houston already has its Hardaway Jnr. in place.
Cleveland Cavaliers has a Collin Sexton problem; a problem that alienates other players with ball dominance, inefficient shooting and poor defense but a problem that produces 24.3 points and 4.4 assists in 60 games in the 2020-2021 season. Sexton isn’t a proficient shooter to thrive off the ball and doesn’t move the ball enough when he is on the ball to get the Cavaliers a fluid offense.
Darius Garland is best suited to play the Point position and though Suggs played the Point position at Gonzaga University, he can play as a Shooting Guard. However unlike Sexton, Suggs is a pass first guy who happened to play quarterback at the High School level who shouldn’t be a ball stopper in Cavs offense. Suggs even got recruited by University of Georgia, Iowa State University and Ohio State University as a quarterback heading to College.
Toronto Raptors has a rising Forward in Chris Boucher but the East is ruled by giants like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and to a lesser extent Domantas Sabonis. As such, Raptors need to draft seven feet tall Center Evan Mobley who averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in 33 minutes in College. Considering the uncertainty Raptors had at the Center position last season with Aaron Baynes and Alex Len, Toronto needs to surround Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby with an interior presence such as Mobley.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter