June 9, 2021

Is There a Scenario Where Cade Cunningham Isn't No. 1 Pick in 2021 NBA Draft?

The 2021 NBA playoffs have consumed us as we're all waiting to see who emerges from a field of injury-plagued teams

While some teams fight for an NBA title, others are looking toward the future.

The 2021 NBA Draft awaits us shortly after the NBA champion is crowned. Soon we'll know the exact order after the draft lottery takes place on June 22. The draft is just more than a month later on July 29.

The clear top prospect this year is Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound point forward is a great shooter and projects as a top-tier playmaker. Our friends at PointsBet have him as the -650 favorite to be the No. 1 pick.

But is there a world where Cunningham isn't selected with the top overall pick? 

We have three scenarios where we can land value by betting on someone else. Cunningham isn't a full lock to go No. 1, and we're going to break it all down so we can potentially hit big on a small bet.

The Draft is Stacked With Potential No. 1 Picks

The easiest way to hit on betting against Cunningham going No. 1 is for either Evan Mobley (+900), Jalen Suggs (+900), or Jalen Green (+1000) to rise in workouts. Cunningham isn't the most athletic player, and while Luka Doncic has proven it's not critical to be, he was passed up twice for that reason. It wouldn't be shocking for teams to fall in love with someone else.

Mobley is similar to Deandre Ayton, hulking in stature but also nimble in movement. He's a franchise center who fits in the modern NBA. His touch and feel for the game projects extremely well.

Both Suggs and Green are extremely talented players who check all the boxes except for elite size. This is the type of depth that even the team picking fifth is happy with landing any of the studs at the top of the board.

Can Suggs get hot in workouts and show off an improved deep stroke? Can Green win interviews and show he has the dog in him to be great? If either do, they're excellent value plays with their payoff lines.

It All Comes Down to the Lottery

The obvious wrench in the Cunningham odds is what can happen on lottery night. A team like Oklahoma City or Golden State may not care for a ball-handler like Cunningham and may prefer a more athletic wing. It's not as if Cunningham is the only big ball-handler in the class and the athleticism issue could cause concerns for certain squads.

It wouldn't be a complete shock to see the Houston Rockets selecting Mobley, for example. That's already three teams in the top-six odds that could justify someone else. Even the Kings or Hornets may prefer Mobley over another guard or forward. 

The best odds we'll get on someone else is right now while the lottery is an unknown commodity. We rarely see the worst team get the top pick so we must expect the unexpected. Maybe that's a small jump up but even if it's a huge surprise, we have better odds than what we're being given at the possibility of Cunningham dropping from No. 1.

What About a Trade Out?

What if the team with the top pick pulls a Boston Celtics and trades out of taking the top prospect? It's possible whoever lands No. 1 just doesn't like what Cunningham is, and they could swap with another top-five selecting team to get whoever they prefer. The Markelle Fultz situation is certainly an option.

This could be personality-based or basketball-related. The Celtics nailed it when they traded back to draft Jayson Tatum. Danny Ainge had a bad feeling about Fultz and was proven correct.

Does another general manager have the gusto to pull off such a move? At 9-to-1 or better odds, I think it's possible. I think Mobley is the best value play since he's a unique big man and the league has historically chosen a center over anyone else. 

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