Future Watch: 2021 NBA – 5 Rookies Most Likely to Start Immediately – The five rookies most likely to start right away from the 2021 NBA Draft are, due to the circumstances of this year’s selections, the first five picks off the board. This might not ordinarily be the case, but with a few teams in the lottery expected to be in at least moderate contention next year – such as Indiana, New Orleans and Golden State (with two picks) – they will be less enthusiastic to start rookies right off the bat. Additionally, some of the players who just missed the cut for this article are on teams where we project another rookie to start – such as Houston C/PF Alperen Sengun and Orlando SF Franz Wagner. No team, no matter how early they remain in their rebuilding process, is likely to start more than one rookie to start the season. These freshmen are all at a very special level simply in terms of having such an opportunity.
1. Cade Cunningham, Detroit PG. Just a year ago, the Pistons set themselves for the future at point guard with Killian Hayes, but they could not pass on the immense upside of the Luka Doncic-esque Cunningham. Fortunately, both Cunningham and Hayes are jumbo point guards, allowing either to easily guard opposing shooting guards. Additionally, this alignment puts Detroit on the cutting edge of the league’s evolution to emphasizing multiple playmakers on the floor at any point in time, allowing them to be confident of having two of the three best passers on the court much of the time that they are together. This arrangement allows Cunningham to come along slowly, if need be, or to accelerate into becoming the focal point of the team very quickly, which seems likely.
2. Jalen Green, Houston SG. Even with Kevin Porter Jr. and Eric Gordon providing excellent options at shooting guard, Green’sSummer League games demonstrated that he is capable of quickly coming in and contributing at a high level. Additionally, Green’s chance to learn next to John Wall in the backcourt will be valuable. Along with Porter’s potential to slide into a James Harden-type point guard role down the road, Rockets fans could envision the threat of Green becoming half of a completely unguardable backcourt duo.
3. Evan Mobley, Cleveland PF/C. Notwithstanding the Cavs re-signing center Jarrett Allen, Mobley is the biggest immediate-starting slam dunk in the draft, sliding over to the four. Mobley provides an immediate boost to a defense in bad need of it and will be given every chance to develop the floor-spacing traits that will render him one of the game’s premier unicorns at his peak. And actually, with the acquisition of Lauri Markkanen from the Bulls, Mobley will have the opportunity to demonstrate his defensive dominance in a unique manner as the member of a trio of seven-footers designated to defend small forwards.
4. Scottie Barnes, Toronto PF/SF. Barnes was somewhat of a surprise in this spot and not as natural a fit to start immediately as Jalen Suggs would have been. However, with Pascal Siakam not expected to return from injury until November, Barnes is the early frontrunner for the power forward slot. Even after Siakam’s return, Barnes appears slated for significant minutes at the four and the three behind OG Anunoby. Barnes will force his way into even bigger minutes as his outside shot improves to the level of his defense.
5. Jalen Suggs, Orlando PG. With Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz on the roster, Orlando does not have an immediate need for Suggs to man the point right off the bat, but the starting spot at shooting guard is wide open. Just like Cade Cunningham, Suggs is tall enough to guard that position at the other end. And like Cunningham, Suggs will have the chance to progress quickly into the immediate centerpiece of the team if his skills warrant it that soon. More importantly, Suggs is a winner coming to a franchise badly in need of that attribute and he is embracing the challenge of turning the Magic around.
Future Watch: 2021 NBA – 5 Rookies Most Likely to Start Immediately
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