New Orleans Pelicans: 2021 NBA Draft class could be an all-timer

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) drives around New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) drives around New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans undoubtedly got the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft when they took Herbert Jones in the second round.

The 35th pick was a starter for most of the season, made the All-Rookie team and has already established himself as one of the best wing defenders in the league, a guy who will definitely make some appearances on the All-Defensive team before his career is over.

But Herbert Jones certainly wasn’t the only good player from that draft, in fact, the 2021 NBA Draft class is loaded with stars and could end up being one of the best drafts of all time before it is over.

New Orleans Pelicans: The 2021 NBA Draft could be one of the best

The expected superstars

  • Cade Cunningham
  • Evan Mobley
  • Jalen Green

The three guys at the top of the draft were supposed to be stars and they didn’t disappoint, as all three of these players had outstanding rookie seasons for their respective teams. Cunningham did everything for Detroit, who now has one of the most intriguing young cores in the NBA.

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Mobley’s two-way play helped propel the Cavaliers from the cellar to the play-in last season and Jalen Green showed he is going to compete for scoring titles some day, putting up huge numbers down the stretch for Houston.

The unexpected stars

  • Scottie Barnes
  • Franz Wagner
  • Josh Giddey

What really separates this draft class is that there are additional stars who are even better than expected and arguably as good as the guys at the top. Scottie Barnes won Rookie of the Year, helping his Raptors to the playoffs and playing efficiently on both ends.

Wagner is an analytics nerd’s dream, as he too is efficient on both ends and probably a tier higher than you might have expected coming out of college.

Giddey is another Jason Kidd in the making, a big facilitator who can pass, rebound and defend all over the floor.

Already very good and getting better

  • Jalen Suggs
  • Davion Mitchell
  • Josh Primo
  • Chris Duarte
  • Bones Hyland
  • Trey Murphy III

You can add in another six players who are already playing big minutes for their respective teams and making an impact, including Trey Murphy III of the New Orleans Pelicans, who stepped up big time down the stretch and looks like he is on the cusp of a breakout season.

All-Rookie second rounders

As if this draft wasn’t good enough already, two of the best players in the class weren’t even selected in the first round, as Herb Jones and Ayo Dosunmu were taken with the 35th and 38th picks, respectively.

Both players came to the NBA with a bit more experience (part of the reason they were overlooked) and immediately made an impact on the defensive end, doing whatever their teams asked and assuming huge roles right away.

You could argue that both of these players would now be drafted in the top-10, which shows you just how good this draft was from top to bottom. It will take some time to play out, but a decade from now we may be looking back on this draft class the same way we look back on 2003, the draft that gave us LeBron James, Dywane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.

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