2021 Draft Position Preview: Guards
Breaking Down the Guards with the Draft Just Two Weeks Away
Despite this year’s anomaly of big men finishing 1-2 in the MVP race (Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid), the league’s top three scorers – and six of the top 10 – were guards.
As the Cavaliers have continued to rebuild through the Draft, they’ve laid the foundation through the backcourt. In 2018, they tabbed Collin Sexton with the No. 8 overall pick out of Alabama and snagged Darius Garland with the 5th overall pick in 2019. Last year, Isaac Okoro was drafted as a forward, also at No. 5, but got 26 of his 67 rookie starts as a guard – including 10 of his first 12 games and 11 of his final 13.
Holding the No. 3 selection in what’s widely considered a deep Draft, the Wine & Gold have a plethora of options – and there’s nothing that says they won’t beef up the backcourt again if a player the brass feels is too good to pass up falls their way.
Evan Mobley has separated himself as the top big man in this year’s class and the smart money is on Cade Cunningham to go No. 1 overall. But where each wind up is still not a complete certainty. Will Jalen Green sneak up into the top 3, possibly the top 2? Will Detroit keep the top pick?
Crazy things can happen on Draft night – and where some of the following backcourt stars land and how they got there will likely be analyzed for years.
So, as we continue to curate what the scouts are saying about some of the best G-men in this year’s Draft, today’s quintet includes the player expected to go No. 1 overall, a potential superstar percolating in the G-League, a scoring machine from the SEC, a former Mr. Football from Minnesota who nearly achieved perfection and the man who stopped him in last year’s NCAA title game.
CADE CUNNINGHAM – 6-8, 220 – Born: September 25, 2001 – (Arlington, TX) – College: Oklahoma State – mature, athletic, polished player who should present a mismatch for opponents almost everywhere on the floor; unselfish, polished passer who orchestrated Cowboys’ offense as a freshman; started out playing football as a quarterback; highest recruit in Oklahoma State history; already has the physical build of a pro – 6-8, 220; excellent finisher at the rim with both hands; too big and strong for smaller guards but can also match up with most forwards; can score in almost every way possible – off the screen, off the dribble, in the post, in transition; shot 40 percent from long-range; was Big XII’s leading scorer (and iso scorer) and led Big XII and NCAA in clutch points (103); smooth athlete, though not necessarily quick or explosive; tough, instinctive, intelligent defender who can easily switch 1-through-5; can be turnover prone, trying to force passes through tight windows; patient player, plays with excellent pace; outstanding leader; gets to the line often and shots 84 percent when he gets there; simply the most well-rounded two-way prospect on the board.
JALEN GREEN – 6-6, 180 – Born: February 9, 2002 – (Fresno, CA) – Team: G-League Ignite – player with possibly the greatest upside of anyone in his class; explosive scorer already accomplished at the junior level, having won three gold medals; plays with maturity; explosive, elite athlete, plays above the rim; shot over 80 percent from the stripe and shows a silky shooting touch; very long arms and lateral quickness could make an outstanding defender at the NBA level, averaged 1.5spg last year with Ignite; defenders can speed him up at times, needs to work on pace; despite lanky frame – 6-5, 195 – is a tough, creative finisher at the rim; can drift on the defensive end and will need to add muscle to check more physically mature opponents; very tenacious, competitive player; shows a polished mid-range game; tremendous first step and very good footwork overall; thrives in transition; will need to tighten his handle, but can create his own shot from almost anywhere on the floor; isn’t a natural playmaker, but likes to get teammates involved; might not be the No. 1 overall pick, but could wind up as the best player from his class.
DAVION MITCHELL – 6-2, 205 – Born: September 5, 1998 – (Hinesville, GA) – College: Baylor – last season’s Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and one of the biggest reasons for Baylor’s incredible Championship run; junior who transferred from Auburn was also First Team All-Big 12 and the Conference’s Player of the Year; improved offensively from sophomore to junior seasons – shot 52 percent from the floor, 45 percent from long-range; tough, hard-nosed, nasty defender – the best in this year’s class; very good decision-maker, sets up teammates when he doesn’t have a shot, very unselfish; will need to work on free throw shooting, just 65 percent for his career; excellent first step and explosive speed, but not a high-flyer at the rim; is one of the older players (22) in this year’s Draft; a high-IQ, extremely competitive player who knows how to win will make his team better immediately.
MOSES MOODY – 6-6, 205 – Born: May 31, 2002 – (Little Rock, AR) – College: Arkansas – SEC’s Freshman of the Year and First Team All-SEC performer last season with Arkansas; highest recruit since Bobby Portis, he led Razorbacks to surprise run to the Elite 8; has prototypical NBA shooting guard physical skills and size (6-6, 205); was one of just three freshman to average more than 15 points and five rebounds and one of one two players in SEC to rank in the Conference’s top 20 in points per game (3rd, 16.8), field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage and rebounds per game; doesn’t draw a lot of fouls; versatile, intelligent, tough defender who welcomes contact and can smother smaller guards; not really a polished slasher or considered an above-the-rim player; scored 28 points in each of the last two games of the regular season and 28 more in Conference tourney vs. LSU; very good midrange shooter and will need to extend his range in the NBA, but should have no trouble developing into a scorer at the next level.
JALEN SUGGS – 6-4, 205 – Born: June 3, 2001 – (St. Paul, MN) – College: Gonzaga – the best pure point guard headed into the Draft, hit one of the biggest shots in NCAA history vs. UCLA last year; excellent size for a PG – sturdy 6-4, 205-lb frame; highest-rated recruit in school history, led Gonzaga to 26-0 regular season record as a freshman; former Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football (quarterback) in the state of Minnesota; outstanding athleticism – strong, explosive; excellent decision-maker, pinpoint passer, excels in transition; led Bulldogs in assists (4.5) last year; tremendous leadership skills – a true floor general; aggressive finisher who welcomes contact at the rim; has the size and smarts to check both backcourt positions at the next level; also led team in steals (1.9) as a freshman; tough on-ball defender with lightning-quick hands and excellent footwork; will need to improve his mid-range game against bigger, tougher defenders in the NBA; averaged less than three turnovers per game, despite a very high usage rate; extremely tough rebounder (5.6rpg) for his size, not afraid to mix it up on the boards; will need to improve his long-distance (34 percent) and free throw (76 percent) shooting at the pro level but should be able to step in and contribute as a pro right away.