Updated: Nov 3, 2021
It's been a great start for the highly hyped 2021 rookies. The 2021 NBA Draft class was renowned for its potential superstar talent in players like Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Scottie Barnes, just to name a few.
Starting with Barnes, who has been an infectious energy boost for the Raptors with All-Star forward Pascal Siakam out with a shoulder injury. He has shown the ability to be a versatile and terrifying defender, making it tough on star players such as Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Demar Derozan, and so forth. He has scored in double figures every game thus far, including a 21 point, 12 rebound double-double in a victory over the Indiana Pacers. He is averaging 18.1 ppg on 55% shooting from the field, as well as averaging nine rebounds and two assists. Seems like the Raptors made the right choice at No.4 in the Draft.
Next up we have Evan Mobley. The seven footer who's transformed the Cavaliers pretty much instantly in his first few games as a pro. He's been otherworldly for a rookie on the defensive end, and not too shabby on the offensive end as well. Mobley moves as if he’s 6-foot with how quick his lateral movement is, his lengthy 7-foot-5 wingspan helps him make up ground and be a menace in protecting the rim, while also getting in passing lanes. LeBron James even stated, ``He's going to be a damn good basketball player in this league,” Mobley is averaging 13.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.1 spg, along with 1.4 bpg. He’s drawn comparisons to greats such as Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Anthony Davis. That’s great company and something the Cavaliers should be excited about.
Cunningham, the No.1 pick in the 2021 Draft to the Detroit Pistons, made his debut against No. 5 overall pick Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic Saturday in a 110-103 win after missing most of training camp, preseason, and the first few games due to a sprained ankle he suffered during training camp. He went through drills on Friday before being cleared for the game, but was under a 20-25 minutes restriction.
He finished with just 2 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in 18 minutes. His 2 points were the fewest scored in a No. 1 pick's NBA debut since Anthony Bennett in 2013, who also ended with 2 points. After his debut Cunningham stated, "I think it was good. I feel like coming in, just being able to make some plays off the ball, get some rebounds. I felt like I was solid defensively, And, I mean those are the points that I really wanted to come out and just prove to myself that my ankle was straight and that I could move, guard and do everything else. So, I got all the jitters out now and now I can just go play free."
Expect Cade to work the rust off after missing a month due to an ankle injury and make his way into the running for Rookie of the Year.
Another rookie that has struggled is the Houston Rockets No.2 overall pick, Jalen Green. Green got out to a slow start to his NBA career, only scoring nine points in each of his first two games. He shot 32.0 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from 3, failing to get many easy looks. But, in his third game as a pro we saw a glimpse of the electrifying scorer Green was hyped to be prior to the Draft. The G-League Ignite product exploded against the Boston Celtics , exploding for his first NBA 30-point game by knocking down eight 3-pointers on 10 attempts.
He went shot-for-shot with Celtics star forward Jayson Tatum, including burying six threes in the first half. Green’s efficiency isn’t quite there, averaging 14.5 ppg on a dreadful 34.7% from the field , but is also averaging 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and one steal a game, showing his elite shot-creating potential.
Other rookies who have stood out so far include Indiana Pacers guard Chris Duarte, who is averaging 17.7 points per game and showing why he was labeled the best shooter in the draft thus far, shooting 39% from deep thus far this season. Oklahoma City Thunder's guard, Josh Giddey, is a 6-foot-8 playmaking point guard who has been a terrific playmaker as advertised coming into the Draft and his shot seems to be getting better with time. Suggs has been erratic so far in his play on a discombobulated Magic team, but expect him to get going soon once he really finds his role and niche in the league.
We haven’t even seen much of Golden State Warriors rookie Jonathan Kuminga or Charlotte Hornets James Bouknight, who are sure to become good pros down the line. All in all this is a special rookie class I saw years ago as it was unfolding, and and you should expect these guys to be names you hear for a longtime coming.