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Cade Cunningham Officially Declares for 2021 NBA Draft; Possible No. 1 Pick

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2021

Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham (2) brings the ball up the court during the second half of the NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State in Stillwater, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Mitch Alcala)
Mitch Alcala/Associated Press

Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham declared for the 2021 NBA draft at a press conference Thursday.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Cade Cunningham has declared for the 2021 NBA Draft ✔️ @brhoops https://t.co/bYv9hSGH1M

The move was widely expected since the 19-year-old has been pegged as one of the top talents eligible for this year's draft, and the hype began well before he suited up for the Cowboys.

The Arlington, Texas, native was the No. 1 player in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. He also spent his final two years of high school at Montverde Academy, which has become a prep powerhouse.

Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 27 games for Oklahoma State. He shot 43.8 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.

His standout performance came in a 94-90 overtime upset of No. 7 Oklahoma. He shot 12-of-21 for 40 points and added 11 rebounds for a double-double.

The 6'8" guard did nothing in his one year at Oklahoma State to dispel the notion he should be the first player off the board.

ESPN's Mike Schmitz compared Cunningham to Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. While the players don't have similar resumes entering the NBA, Schmitz argued the concerns about Cunningham's athleticism and playmaking ability mirrored some of the discourse around the Slovenian.

Doncic has silenced his skeptics, making two All-Star Games and playing at an MVP level.

Cunningham said he has watched the Mavs guard to learn.

"Speed, athleticism is definitely a great quality to have, but Luka just knows how to play the game," he told Schmitz. "He knows how to get you leaning one way, give you a move and get to his spots. Somebody that's tougher to guard than someone that's super athletic."

Cunningham has scoring potential, and he has been an efficient shooter. His assist numbers would look better with a stronger supporting cast too.

His frame suits the modern game. He can present matchup problems at the point or operate off the ball on the wing to positive effect.

Going into the 2020 draft, much of the conversation revolved around the lack of elite talent at the top of the board. Winning the draft lottery didn't carry the same excitement as other years, and Georgia guard Anthony Edwards went first overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

This time around, fans of whichever team gets the No. 1 pick will be doing cartwheels with the expectation Cunningham is on his way.

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