Every year, America shows the world how the next-generation of athletes can be wedged into the top-flight of a sport with varying degrees of success. This might sound like a criticism, but the draft is a weird and wonderful part of the American sports dream.
Moving away from home to college, perfecting your skills and playing with the best in your age group before joining the big leagues through a big showpiece event. Thousands of legends have come before and every year is compared to each other. The 2003 draft with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony pitted against the 1996 edition, where Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen led the line. It’s something that not many sports can do well, but basketball does it best.
This year’s action technically began back in 2015, with first-round picks being part of swap deals, and Philadelphia initially having four picks in the 2021 draft before moving to just the two. New Orleans Pelicans, home to former number one draft pick Zion Williamson have the most picks in the draft this year, with three first-rounders and three second-rounders, taking up picks from Miami, Boston, Denver and Minnesota. The first pick of the draft goes to Detroit, followed by Houston and Cleveland.
There’s a few players that could become available this week also, with the draft picks providing opportunities for teams with a high stock of picks or a low-numbered first-round pick being offered, with the likes of Ben Simmons and Kyle Lowry being tipped for a trade this summer.
The stars in the draft might not be making headlines like other years, however there’s plenty of talent on offer for teams to sweep up, with no real frontrunner in the draft as of yet. Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State so far seems to be a favourite for the first spot.
With great playmaking ability and shooting, Cunningham would be an easy choice for Detroit, who lack a real talismanic guard to be able to shoot the three as well as create chances around the paint for the forwards. Inside the arc, his shooting accuracy only stood at 42% after his first season of college basketball but scouts are more excited about his potential to be a winner rather than his current ability level.
Another contender for top spot is Alperen Sengun, the Turkish Basketball Super League’s MVP. Playing for Besiktas, he shone this year to earn the MVP award for the regular season, averaging 18.6 points per game with a 62.6 field goal percentage. More impressively is his play around the paint, leaning away from the mould of a modern ‘big’ but he still boasts the best stats of anyone in this year’s pool of players. After turning 19 on Sunday, he still has age on his side as well, and not only brings his incredible ability for his age but also a Turkish audience to support their MVP.
Rounding off the top three is Jalen Green, a guard who instead of going to college, decided to chance his luck in the NBA’s G League for the new Ignite side. His gamble paid off, as he got experience playing against players who find themselves moving between the bottom of NBA rosters and the G League itself. With 36.5% shooting from the three-point line and an average of 17.9 points a game, the translation of his skills should work well upon his arrival in the NBA and it looks like he might end up at Houston if Detroit take up the predicted top-pick, Cunningham.
The 2021 NBA Draft will be live on Sky Sports Main Event from 12:30am on Friday 29th July.