Our 2021-22 Donruss Basketball review comes at a tough time for basketball fans. We passed the 40-game mark of the NBA season. That means we’re officially in the dog days of professional basketball. Opening day buzz has worn off, and the all-star game is still a month away. Meanwhile, Covid protocols are rendering rosters unrecognizable.
Luckily our first look at NBA cards for the 2021-22 season is right around the corner, with Panini Hoops and Donruss Basketball releasing in January. In this article, we’ll run you through everything you need to know about the upcoming Donruss Basketball release (and in case you missed it, check out our overview for Panini Hoops).
Every season Donruss Basketball makes a splash as one of the first NBA products to hit the markets.
As everyone familiar with the product knows, the “Rated Rookie” is this set’s signature card. Donruss has released the Rated Rookie across several significant sports dating back to the ’80s.
The relatively early release of the Donruss Basketball set gives us a unique first look at this season’s rookies. However, the downside is that most of the rookies are still in a speculative position. Their position will solidify in time for later releases.
Sure, we know that the Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham Rated Rookies will be worth a lot. But there will be others whose value skyrockets as they work their way into starting lineups, and possibly even ROY conversations, in the back half of the season.
Stylistically, Donruss Basketball is a lot of fun. The cards are colorful, employing more adventurous designs than some of the other Panini releases.
If you’re planning on investing in Donruss Basketball this season, the hobby packs are the way to go. Over the past few years, they’ve gained a reputation for hobby-exclusive solid inserts. In 21-22, these will include favorites such as:
These cards are proving to be more than a gimmick; the inserts from the 2019 class are holding their value quite well.
If you pick up a hobby box, the numbers are in your favor. Each contains an auto, one memorabilia card (patch, shoe, etc.), and 60 inserts. The Rated Rookies have historically accounted for 20% of the base set, so if you’re looking for a specific rookie or to hit big on one of the low pop parallels, the hobby box is likely to deliver.
For years Donruss was considered an “entry-level” set. The brand carved out a niche as cards for those who want to participate in the hobby but don’t want to justify spending thousands.
But the price of a Donruss hobby box has nearly tripled in the last five years. The presale cost for a 2021-22 box is $545.
Of course, it’s not just Donruss. Price inflation is running rampant across the industry. And there’s still plenty of potential value in the boxes. An investor can turn a decent profit selling in the singles market.
Our problem isn’t that Donruss Basketball isn’t worth it. Instead, it’s that the rising price is obscuring its identity. They aren’t cheap enough to make sense for an everyday collector, but they’re not expensive enough to rival a top-end line like Panini Prizm.
We are still waiting on parallel numbers and the official player checklist, but here’s everything we do know about the release
Cards per pack: 30
Packs per box: 10
Set size: Unknown
Tentative Release: February 9, 2022
Inserts or Parallels: 60
While the numbers on the insert and parallel cards haven’t been announced, here’s the list of numbered parallels. We can expect something similar this year:
Of course, there will be additional numbered parallels on inserts, autos alongside memorabilia cards.
Panini hasn’t announced the player checklist for the 21-22 set.
However, the 20-21 base set consisted of 200 veterans and 50 rated rookies, so plan on something similar for this year.
This years most coveted rookies are likely to be:
A few non-lottery guys to keep an eye out for include:
There are pros and cons to being one of the first basketball sets to hit the market.
The good? You get to be king for a day.
The bad? You will be forgotten quickly.
These Donruss Rated Rookies will sit on the throne for a few weeks. After that, collectors are looking to be the first to get their hands on the Cunninghams, Mobley’s, and Barnes’ will drastically overpay.
Once the higher-end releases come out throughout the season, the value of those cards will plummet.
Last year, this phenomenon played out with Lamelo Ball and Anthony Edwards. Their Donruss rookies were selling hot out of the gate. However, their Rated Rookies value tanked as more valuable cards were released. They eventually stabilized at about 30 cents on the dollar of what they were going for upon release.
There is one interesting exception to this rule – slow start rookies.
Look at guys like Sadiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart of the Detroit Pistons. Both players were non-lottery picks who got hot post-all-star break in 2020-21. In addition, the early release date of the Donruss cards created a unique investment opportunity, as neither was selling exceptionally high in early January.
Both players started getting more time and were ultimately voted on to all-rookie teams as the season progressed. Correspondingly, their Rated Rookie values increased throughout the season due to excellent play in March and April.
In this case, its early release allowed Donruss Basketball to return the most value for investors.
Gambling on rookies is always tricky. But if there happens to be one that you feel like rolling the dice on to have an explosive second half of the season, investing in their Rated Rookie could be the best way to get bang for your buck.
Donruss Basketball occupies the awkward middle between two more easily understood Panini releases. Its prices prohibit it from being a great entry-level option like Panini Hoops, but it’s not valuable enough to rival Prizm and Optic.
However, Donruss basketball has an excellent offering for those who want fun cards early. Donruss offers collectors an early chance to secure a Rated Rookie of a player they think has potential for a late-season breakthrough. Furthermore, the designs on its base cards and some of its more eccentric inserts are enough to separate it from other standard releases.
Nonetheless, collectors should be cautious buying in the singles market, especially in the first few weeks post-release.