The 2021 NBA draft came and went without much surprise. Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham went No. 1 to Detroit as expected and the top 5 to 10 picks went pretty much as most of the experts thought.
The biggest surprise happened before the draft even happened when the Los Angeles Lakers negotiated a trade for Russell Westbrook from Washington. The draft would then become one of several trades as picks moved around at a remarkable pace.
Here’s a recap of the draft and a look at the early race for the 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year.
2021 NBA Draft Recap
As stated, there were no surprises among the top three picks, but Toronto, which was expected to take Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, opted for 6-10 Scottie Barnes, instead. The thought was that the Raptors would make plans to replace Kyle Lowry, a free agent who is now in Miami.
Orlando would take Suggs at No. 5 and then Oklahoma City threw the next curveball selecting 6-8 point guard Josh Giddey from Australia. Giddey was believed to be a target of Memphis at No. 10.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the entire draft was San Antonio’s selection of Josh Primo at No. 14. Primo played one season at Alabama averaging 8.1 points per game and 3.4 rebounds. Primo’s performance at the NBA Combine improved his draft stock but going at No. 14 was considered a stretch.
Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu and Baylor guard Jared Butler were expected to go in the first round of this year’s draft. Surprisingly, both dropped to Round 2.
2022 NBA ROTY Race
Interestingly, the last three NBA Rookies of the Year were not the No. 1 pick in their draft class. Luka Doncic went No. 3 in 2018, Ja Morant No. 2 in 2019, and LaMelo Ball was the third pick in last year’s draft.
Despite the recent ROTY not being the top overall draft pick, Cunningham is still the favorite at +275. He has an NBA-ready game and will step right into Detroit’s point guard role. Cunningham will also get plenty of minutes as four the Pistons top six leaders in minutes played from last year are gone.
Remember, ROTY is typically a numbers game meaning add up a rookie’s points, rebounds, and assists per game and the best is usually your ROTY. Cunningham has a shot at right around 17 points, five boards, and five assists a game. That’s better than Morant and Ball, the ROTY winners from the last two seasons.
At +500, No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green is the best NBA scorer in this year’s rookie class. We already know he score against NBA talent because he did it in the G-League where he averaged 18 points per game. The problem Green will have is simply usage. Houston has John Wall and Christian Wood plus Kevin Porter Jr. and three other first-round picks.
There really isn’t another true contender after Green. No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley (+550) would be the best bet, but big men in the league typically take time to develop. Mobley has a great game and he may have the numbers by the time it’s all said and done next season.
Cam Thomas was the 27th pick in the first round going to Brooklyn, which is the favorite to win the 2022 NBA Championship. Thomas did something that not many SEC freshmen have ever done. He averaged 23 points a game for LSU last season.
It’s a stretch, but Thomas could find himself the beneficiary of the Big 3 – Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden – and load management. You know Brooklyn will score and if Thomas gets his minutes, he just might have the numbers to pull off a huge ROTY upset. He’s listed at +5000.
There is no question this ROTY race is Cunningham’s to lose. He will be an immediate starter and will post numbers worthy of a ROTY award. There may be a few that challenge Cunningham, but he has the best opportunity to win it.
BEST BET: CADE CUNNINGHAM +275
2021/22 NBA Rookie of the Years Odds
Cade Cunningham +275
Jalen Green +500
Evan Mobley +550
Jalen Suggs +750
Scottie Barnes +800
James Bouknight +1200
Alperen Sengun +1600
Josh Giddey +1600
Davion Mitchell +2000
Corey Kispert +2500
Jonathan Kuminga +2500
Jalen Johnson +3000
Chris Duarte +3300
Franz Wagner +3300
Kai Jones +3300
Quentin Grimes +3300
Ayo Dosunmu +3500
Tre Mann +3500
Jaden Springer +4000
Jaden Butler +4000
Cam Thomas +5000
Read how to bet on NBA triple-double props and NBA next field goal props.