Boynton on Why Cunningham is the Clear No. 1 Pick in the 2021 NBA Draft

STILLWATER — Ping pong balls will decide which NBA team gets the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft on Tuesday night, and there is no question to Mike Boynton as to whom the lucky team that gets that pick should select — Cade Cunningham.

The NBA Draft Lottery will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. Cunningham spent last season on Boynton’s Oklahoma State squad. Cunningham joined the Cowboys as the No. 1 player in the 2020 recruiting class, so this 2021 NBA Draft has long been thought of as the “Cade Cunningham Draft.”

Other suitors for the pick are Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga), Jalen Green (G League), Evan Mobley (USC) and Jonathan Kuminga (G League). But, Boynton said there shouldn’t be a debate. Cunningham should go first because of how versatile he is.

Boynton said that if a potential No. 1 pick was a center and a team already had Shaquille O’Neal, maybe that team should move to the next guy, but even the San Antonio Spurs took Tim Duncan with David Robinson already in San Antonio. That hypothetical isn’t in play with a 6-foot-8 point guard who can pass, shoot and post up.

“He’s clearly the best guy, and he can play on the ball, off the ball, he can post up and shoot the 3,” Boynton said. “The team at No. 2 has a problem. They gotta figure this thing out.”

Boynton said he has received calls from every NBA team about Cunningham, even teams that aren’t in the lottery but want to store information for if Cunningham becomes a free agent down the road.

The Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic all have an equal shot at the No. 1 pick, with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers not far behind. But there are 14 teams with a chance above 0% at getting to No. 1. The New Orleans Pelicans got the No. 1 pick (and Zion Williamson) in 2019 after having just a 6% shot at the pick.

Team Chance at No. 1 Pick
Houston Rockets 14%
Detroit Pistons 14%
Orlando Magic 14%
Oklahoma City Thunder 11.5%
Cleveland Cavaliers 11.5%
Minnesota Timberwolves 9%
Toronto Raptors 7.5%
Chicago Bulls 4.5%
Sacramento Kings 4.5%
New Orleans Pelicans 4.5%
Charlotte Hornets 1.8%
San Antonio Spurs 1.7%
Indiana Pacers 1%
Golden State Warriors 0.5%

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Oklahoma State Cowboys have a good amount of overlap in fan bases, and Boynton said he wouldn’t mind getting to watch his star pupil play in person from time to time.

“I’d love for Cade to play [in Oklahoma City],” Boynton said. “I’m a Knicks fan from my childhood, but I root for the Thunder. They’re the home team. I like to get down there and watch games. I’m a basketball junkie, myself. I would imagine that management team would love it because there’s a business-aspect to this, too. I’d love for him to be there. I don’t know what he’d like to do, but I would imagine he’d be really comfortable in Oklahoma City.”

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