NBA Draft Props: Could the Pistons Pass on Cade Cunningham?

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The NBA Finals came to an end last week, which means the offseason is officially underway. Because of the condensed schedule with which the league is working this year, though, many teams have already started to position themselves ahead of the 2021-22 campaign. On Monday, for example, the Pelicans and Grizzlies agreed on a blockbuster trade that sent Jonas Valanciunas to New Orleans.

The NBA draft is slated to take place on Thursday, so it’s safe to say the Grizzlies-Pelicans swap won’t be the last major move we see before the end of the week. A number of NBA insiders have noted that there is far more trade chatter ahead of this year’s draft than there has been in previous years. The Detroit Pistons, for example, have reportedly tangled the No. 1 pick in the draft in trade discussions.

As of now, there is no reason to believe the Pistons will do anything other than keeping the pick. That could change if a team approaches Detroit with a Godfather offer they can’t refuse, but the smart money is on the Pistons to stay where they are.

NBA betting sites are keeping tabs on all of the developments leading up to draft night, as well. DraftKings is among the sites offering a variety of props heading into Thursday’s main event. A lot can change between now and then, but you can find some value in the betting odds if you know where to look. Here’s how to bet the top end of the lottery going into the 2021 draft.

Pistons Make No Mistakes At No. 1

  • Cade Cunningham (-8000)
  • Jalen Green (+1500)
  • Evan Mobley (+2500)
  • Jalen Suggs (+2500)

Is it possible for the Pistons to raise eyebrows and break from conventional thinking with the top pick? Of course. Nobody thought the Cavaliers were gonna draft Anthony Bennett at No. 1 in 2013 until they did. That said, the 2021 draft isn’t the 2013 draft. This is believed to be one of the more talented and deeper classes in recent memory, so the stakes are awfully high for Detroit with the top overall choice.

Fortunately for them, that choice should be a no-brainer. Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham has been the consensus top prospect in this group for well over a year, and he showed nothing during his lone campaign in Stillwater to make us think he shouldn’t be the first player taken. Cunningham – who is effectively a 6’8″ point guard – has drawn comparisons to Luka Doncic as a result of his size, shooting ability, and knack for controlling a game.

At this point, it’s looking as though the Pistons will do the right thing and nab their next franchise cornerstone with this pick. If Detroit winds up with anybody other than Cunningham, it’ll be because they traded down a spot or two. GM Troy Weaver is reportedly fond of Jalen Green, but it would make more sense to trade down to No. 2 and recoup a few assets from Houston if they want to take Green instead.

Even if a team other than the Pistons make this selection, Cunningham will be the first player drafted. You’re not getting any value here given the -8000 odds, but that’s the reality.

Cade Cunningham (-8000)

Houston Eyeing Green at No. 2

  • Jalen Green (-380)
  • Evan Mobley (+300)
  • Jalen Suggs (+800)
  • Cade Cunningham (+2000)
  • Scottie Barnes (+2200)

The Rockets finished with the worst record in the NBA last season after the midseason trade of James Harden. Houston hoped to parlay that awful campaign into the top overall pick, but they had to settle for No. 2 instead. In this draft, that isn’t a bad place to be. While the Rockets have reportedly engaged the Pistons in talks over what it would take to get up to No. 1 for Cunningham, the Pistons’ asking price is understandably extremely high.

Houston isn’t in a position to rush things. The Rockets stole Kevin Porter Jr. from the Cavaliers last year, and he wasted no time in turning into Houston’s most prized young player. The roster is largely barren once you get past Porter, Christian Wood, Jae’Sean Tate, and KJ Martin, as well. Rather than forfeiting future assets just to get the rights to Cunningham, the Rockets should be perfectly content with “settling” for Jalen Green instead.

Green would be the top overall pick in most years, so the fact that Houston can almost surely get him at No. 2 means the Rockets are getting steal. Green is the most athletic player in the draft with the potential to become a scoring champion at the next level. His 6’6″ frame means he’s capable of defending multiple positions, as well. Green and Porter will team up and instantly give the Rockets a backcourt around which to build for the next decade.

Evan Mobley is not an easy talent on which to pass, but all the momentum seems to be in Green’s favor heading into draft night.

Jalen Green (-380)

Cleveland Focused on Mobley at No. 3?

  • Evan Mobley (-225)
  • Jalen Green (+250)
  • Jalen Suggs (+350)
  • Scottie Barnes (+900)
  • Jonathan Kuminga (+1300)
  • James Bouknight (+8000)

The Cavaliers have not been a predictable team on draft night in quite some time. While the overwhelming likelihood is that they do the right thing and grab Evan Mobley here, you can never say with certainty what Cleveland may do.

The Cavs Are Well-Stocked in the Frontcourt Right Now

Jarrett Allen is expected to be a priority for this team in free agency, while Larry Nance Jr. and Kevin Love are still on the roster. Of course, smart teams draft for the best player available at this point in the draft, not for team need. It’s not as though the Cavaliers are just one piece away from contending, anyway.

Plus, it’s not like drafting Jalen Suggs does much to alleviate your positional gluts with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland already in the mix, anyway. If the Cavs draft Mobley and keep Allen, it’s not like having multiple good players at one position is necessarily a bad thing. Cleveland can very easily trade a high-upside young center in Allen whenever Mobley is ready to seize the starting position on a full-time basis.

Mobley is another player viewed as a generational center that would be the top pick in some years. He has soft hands and good touch for a player of his size with the mobility and athletic ability to defend both frontcourt spots, too. Big men tend to be more volatile than guards or wings in terms of reaching their NBA ceilings, but nabbing Mobley at No. 3 is clearly the best course of action for Cleveland.

Nothing is certain with this team, but bet on Mobley to wind up in The Land.

Evan Mobley (-225)

Raptors Have Options at No. 4

  • Jalen Suggs (-160)
  • Evan Mobley (+200)
  • Scottie Barnes (+300)
  • Jonathan Kuminga (+550)
  • Jalen Green (+5000)
  • James Bouknight (+4000)
  • Franz Wagner (+5000)

The Raptors are likely to lose Kyle Lowry via free agency this summer, which makes Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs look like the natural heir apparent at the point guard spot. Toronto already has Fred VanVleet in the fold, but Suggs is likely the best player left on the board at No. 4. Taking him to replace Lowry just makes too much sense to ignore.

Suggs is 6’5″ with enough size to play both guard spots, which gives Nick Nurse some versatility next to VanVleet in the backcourt. Suggs’ shooting skills are a question mark, but he does just about everything else well enough for a 20-year-old.

Of course, there’s always a chance Toronto takes more of a risk here. Suggs is the “safe” pick, but not a sure thing. Toronto has a decorated history when it comes to developing raw young players into legitimately good rotation pieces. As a result, both Scottie Barnes (+300) and Jonathan Kuminga (+550) are likely tempting prospects for Masai Ujiri.

The issue is that Suggs would fill a position of need right away for a team that should compete for a playoff spot next season. The playing time for Barnes or Kuminga would be more difficult to come by with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam already in the fold. Both 6’8″ wings have can’t-miss type of upside, but neither would likely be a major presence in Nurse’s rotations early on.

I think Barnes at +300 is worth a flier if you’re not sold on the Raptors grabbing Suggs here. At this point, though, Suggs (-160) looks like the smart play.

Jalen Suggs (-160)

Magic a Wild Card at No. 5

  • Scottie Barnes (-195)
  • Jonathan Kuminga (+200)
  • Jalen Suggs (+400)
  • James Bouknight (+1000)
  • Evan Mobley (+1200)
  • Jalen Green (+1500)
  • Keon Johnson (+4000)

The Magic have seemingly been rebuilding for well over a decade, but the team has just launched yet another rebuild in the middle of their old rebuild. Last season’s trades of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier signaled that the Magic are prepared to usher in yet another youth movement.

Orlando whiffed on the chance to nab one of the very top prospects by falling to the fifth overall pick, but it’s still not a bad place to be. At this point, the Magic are likely to take a shot on one of the aforementioned toolsy wings, Scottie Barnes or Jonathan Kuminga.

Barnes looks like the slightly safer bet than Kuminga after his standout freshman season at Florida State. Barnes’ 7’2″ wingspan is likely enough to make the Magic’s front office drool, and pairing him with Jonathan Isaac in the frontcourt could give this team a menacing defensive duo at the forward spots for years to come. Kuminga is less polished than Barnes, and his stock has seemingly taken a bit of a hit since the lottery.

I don’t think it’s impossible that Orlando reaches a little for Kuminga here, but Barnes (-195) will be the choice assuming Suggs is already off the board.

Scottie Barnes (-195)
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

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