The 2021 NBA Draft class has been proclaimed the best draft class since 2003. That draft class consisted of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. While rookie of the year is always a hard award to decide, this year should be more difficult than usual. Will it be consensus number one overall pick Cade Cunningham? Will it be summer league standout Jalen Green? Here are the projected three finalists for the NBA rookie of the year award.
NBA Rookie of the Year Predictions
3. Jalen Suggs (PG) – Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic were thrilled when Jalen Suggs fell to them with the fifth overall pick in the draft. In college, he averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game in 28.9 minutes. Suggs is coming into a situation where he can put up big numbers right away due to little competition for minutes. Even with the surplus of young guards on the Magic, they will likely be running three-guard sets next season. In the two full games Suggs played at summer league, he looked like a future franchise point guard. Suggs showed his potential at both ends with a stat line of 24 points, nine rebounds, three blocks, and two steals against the Warriors in his first summer league game. With a high usage role on a bad team, Suggs will most certainly find himself as a rookie of the year finalist.
2. Jalen Green (SG) – Houston Rockets
If there is anybody from this class that could run away with this award, it’s Jalen Green. The G-League Ignite shooting guard averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists playing against grown men last year. If you watched summer league, it didn’t take long to realize how special he can be. He averaged 20.3 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 90 percent shooting from the foul line during the summer league. The Rockets still have guys like Kevin Porter, John Wall, and Christian Wood that will steal touches away from Green. However, Green is so talented that the Houston Rockets will have to put the ball in his hands often. While it took a similar type of player, Anthony Edwards, over a month to get acclimated to the league, Green looks like he is ready to put up 20 points per game right away.
1. Cade Cunningham (PG) – Detroit Pistons
Cunningham has been the rookie of the year favorite since he was drafted first overall by the Pistons. Cunnigham was a 40 percent shooter from three-point range in college and actually shot 50 percent from three in the summer league. If there’s any concern with Cunningham this year it’s his fit with point guard Killian Hayes. The Pistons spent a top ten pick on Hayes last year and are determined to make this pairing work. Similar to the Luka Doncic–Dennis Smith Jr. situation with the Mavericks back in 2018-19, the Pistons will soon realize that Hayes will have to be traded. Cunningham is a player that needs the ball in his hands to maximize his potential. The Pistons are wasting his talent by making him a spot-up shooter. Nonetheless, he is the favorite to win the award as he is the most complete player in a loaded draft class.
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