History shows that making an NBA All-Rookie team doesn't mean much. Most players are not drafted with year one production in mind; instead, a greater focus is placed on how they project throughout their entire careers. Inconsistently flashing potential is not going to secure a spot on one of the two All-Rookie teams.
The aforementioned flashes sprinkled into primarily negative or neutral impact is common for top picks in the NBA draft, particularly bigs or players who heavily relied on their athleticism up to this point. In 2018-19, the first five picks in the prior draft were all selected to First Team All-Rookie, but that is the clear outlier. Nine non-lottery first-rounders, four second-rounders and four undrafted players have made the teams in the last five years.
To give you an idea, none of Pascal Siakam, De'Aaron Fox, or Bam Adebayo made the All-Rookie team. Dennis Smith Jr., Eric Paschall, Willy Hernangomez and Marquese Chriss do all have that on their resumes.
Making or missing the All-Rookie team as a result of year one production does not mean much of anything for the future of any player. But it's a yearly NBA award that is enjoyable and nearly impossible to predict. Here are five players that I think will make the 2021-22 NBA All-Rookie first team.
Cade Cunningham is a no-brainer. Barring injury, the first overall selection has been selected to the All-Rookie every year since Anthony Bennett in 2013-14. Cunningham is a generational talent whose passing and shot creation should translate fairly quickly to the NBA and he's expected to be given a long leash in Detroit.
The same can be said for the number two overall selection, Jalen Green. Don't be shocked if Green has a few 30+ point performances for the Houston Rockets in his rookie campaign. Even if he is lacking in efficiency, his total scoring output is going to make it impossible to look past him for this award.
After those two, it starts to get tricky. Evan Mobley has an extremely bright future, but he will undoubtedly need time to adjust to the physicality and speed of the NBA before being game changing. Scottie Barnes is about as raw at they come on the offensive end of the floor and will no longer be able to just bully opponents out of the way.
Jalen Suggs is barely missing the cut due to him playing behind a few other young guards in Cole Anthony, RJ Hampton and Markelle Fultz. Davion Mitchell is in a somewhat similar situation in Sacramento with De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. The difference is that Mitchell was one of the oldest players drafted to show off his readiness in Summer League.
Mitchell was recently awarded the Las Vegas Summer League MVP and led the Sacramento roster to a championship in Vegas. Reports of his borderline psychotic work-ethic have already begun to surface and his clear desire to be great on both ends works in his favor here. I doubt Davion will be a top five player in this draft longterm, but I could see it being the case year one.
I'm locking in Davion Mitchell as my third selection for the All-Rookie first team, joining Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green. For the fourth spot, I strongly considered Davion's Baylor teammate, Jared Butler. Butler shockingly fell to pick 40 after some health concerns around the time of the draft but possesses lottery caliber talent.
Ultimately, I opted to go in another direction because of the questions surrounding his playing time on an already deep Utah Jazz roster. Turkish MVP Alperen Sengun is on the other side of that coin, having been drafted to the rebuilding Houston Rockets.
Sengun was the Turkish League MVP last season at just 19-years-old, where he averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists on an absurd 64.6 percent from the field. Not to mention his 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per showing all while playing against grown men on a nightly basis. For that reason, the adjustment to the NBA should be easier for Sengun than most rookies.
For the final spot, I went with Moses Moody who was selected fourteenth by the Golden State Warriors. Moody is a better shooter than his college numbers indicate, and he will be primarily asked to catch-and-shoot off of passes from Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Talk about making the game easier for you, and it helps that the Arkansas wing is a superbly smart defender who lets the game come to him on offense.
That makes five players, and therefore the All-Rookie first team predictions are complete. The predicted five are as follows:
- Cade Cunningham
- Jalen Green
- Davion Mitchell
- Alperen Sengun
- Moses Moody
Honorable Mentions: Trey Murphy III, Franz Wagner, Chris Duarte, and Bones Hyland.