Houston Rockets: Ranking the top-five 2021 NBA draft prospects

Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Evan Mobley #4 of the USC Trojans (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
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Cade Cunningham #2 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Cade Cunningham #2 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets Draft Prospect #1: Cade Cunningham

Cade Cunningham is the consensus number one overall prospect and for good reason. In his lone season at Oklahoma State, he led the Big-12 in scoring and flashed impressive playmaking chops all in a 6’9 package.

The NBA is gravitating towards jumbo-sized playmakers, and Cunningham has the potential to be one of the best in the league. His perimeter shooting is lethal and his length will allow him to shoot over smaller defenders with ease.

Cunningham is not a perfect prospect, no one is at 19-years-old, and he needs to improve his dribble to maximize his offensive potential. Until he does it might take him a while to be an efficient offense hub, but from day one he should be fine off-ball.

To fully utilize his impressive shooting ability he’ll need to improve his stepback and sidestep game as length alone won’t be an advantage enough to be unguardable in the pros. At worst he’ll be a lethal third option on one of the league’s best offenses, with real upside to be the focal point of an NBA offense.

It’ll help his development if he’s able to play next to an established guard early on to allow him to ease into the NBA because if he’s asked to carry an offense from day one he might struggle. Cunningham has every chance to be an impact defensive player but he may end up a tweener, although a good one.

His combination of length and athleticism should allow him to cover perimeter players but his lateral quickness will need to improve to be a plus. If he fills out more then he might also be a quality low-post defender.

There is some risk that he fills out but not quite enough so he’s simply an average defender in the post and on the perimeter, but that’s fine for a player with elite offensive upside. Cunningham is likely as good as a 16-year-old Luka Doncic, so he could be one of the best players in the league by year two or three.

The playmaking that he flashed at Oklahoma State was undeniable but there is some concern that his passing isn’t plus yet. He averaged more turnovers than assists and while his teammates weren’t NBA quality, elite passers usually make it work no matter who they’re playing with.

Cunningham is the best prospect because his offensive floor and ceiling are both incredibly high. Even if he doesn’t pan out as a playmaker he’ll be able to get and hit just about any shot in his prime, while being at least an average passer.

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The ceiling for Cunningham is Luka Doncic and his floor looks to be Tobias Harris. All in all, it’s almost a guarantee that he ends up as a multi-time All-Star with a good chance at multiple All-NBA selections.

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