2021 NBA Draft Rumors: Pistons Eyeing Cunningham at No. 1; Rockets Prefer Jalen Green

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJuly 16, 2021

With his teammates looking on at rear, Cade Cunningham announces that he will enter the NBA draft after a dynamic freshman season that saw him named a first-team AP All-American, Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

It's "highly likely" that the Detroit Pistons will stay put at No. 1 overall and select Oklahoma State point guard Cade Cunningham with the top pick of the 2021 NBA draft, which will go down on July 29.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported that news on Friday and also noted that his league sources say the Houston Rockets, who sit at No. 2 overall, prefer to take shooting guard Jalen Green of the G League Ignite.

Houston "would love" to take Cunningham, as O'Connor wrote, but the Rockets have some good options at No. 2. Green, USC big man Evan Mobley and Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs appear to be the top choices, although Houston could take an offer to trade down too.

O'Connor explained why taking Green could work out for the rebuilding Rockets.

"Selecting him would make perfect sense: Not only is scoring a premium skill, he’s also flashed playmaking ability. Green is raw, but the Rockets have a young team that doesn’t need to worry about contending anytime soon. He’s a hard worker, and at just 19 years old, he’s only starting to tap into his full potential as an elite athlete with shot-creation skills. It would not be a shocker if he ends up as this draft’s best player."

Green bypassed college to play one year in the G League, and he averaged 17.9 points on 46.1 percent shooting in 15 games.

Houston could also justify going with Mobley or Suggs, both of whom enjoyed tremendous individual and team success during their lone years in school.

Mobley led USC to the Elite Eight, averaging 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. He was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and a consensus second-team All-American.

Suggs helped Gonzaga get off to a 31-0 start before the Bulldogs fell in the national championship game to Baylor. He averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

Any member of the Green-Mobley-Suggs trio could have been a No. 1 pick in some past iterations of the draft, but none of them appear to be a threat to unseat Cunningham.

Per a consensus NBA mock draft from Drew Packham of NBA.com, 12 of 12 analysts aggregated have pegged Cunningham as the No. 1 overall choice.

Cunningham shined at Oklahoma State, earning Big 12 Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American honors. Now he'll likely be the first name called when the draft goes down from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.