On Thursday, July 29th, the 2021 NBA Draft sent 60 young prospects to their new NBA teams for the 2021-22 season. There were some surprises, some no-brainers, and a lot of young men whose lives will be forever changed. But should you invest in 2021 NBA draft pick cards?
Sports card investors worldwide are also stakeholders in the Draft, as every young player could be, potentially, the next breakout star (or a dreaded bust). So which cards should you buy and who should you avoid? We have already looked at the MLB draft, now we will do the same for the NBA.
When does the action start?
For basketball, the “draft pick” cards don’t roll out quite as quickly as they do in the NFL, but that’s because Leaf isn’t making a half-dozen products with the same cards and different finishes.
The first 2021-22 release is slated to be the 2021-22 Panini Contenders basketball release, which is on September 1st. Once that gets the ball rolling with new basketball cards, we can expect Prizm Draft Picks and Chronicles Draft picks to follow closely.
The first cards featuring prospects in NBA jerseys will, if like last season, be the 2021-22 Hoops Basketball release. And, if anything like last season, these cards will be red hot on release before quickly dropping off when more NBA-jersey cards release. For example, the first LaMelo Hoops cards last season were selling for north of $150. They’ve since settled at about $14.
This year’s Draft is loaded with talent–an all-around more exciting draft than last year from a prospect perspective. There are three top-level guys, and while there are no likely top 5 overall NBA players among them, they all have tremendously high ceilings with very slim chances of being busts.
Let’s take a look at the top 10.
Detroit will love Cade Cunningham, and there’s a reason why: he’s one of the most NBA-ready Draft picks in the last twenty years. With a complete all-around game, there’s no debating whether Cunningham will be a great NBA talent. The question is how great he can be.
He was also the safest pick, meaning he’s ready to step onto an NBA floor today, and the Oklahoma State star has very few holes in his game, just areas to improve upon throughout his career. Plus, being a 6’8″ guard with tremendous vision and feel for the game that can guard any position helps, too.
While Cade will almost certainly have a long, successful career, his #1 pick prestige means his cards will be high-dollar from the very release, and that high price is the only reason I give him an A-.
Jalen Green is the #1 overall pick in many other drafts. He’s flashy, confident, and had a burning desire always to get better, which is why so many teams–including some voices in Detroit’s office–wanted Green.
Now, Green will be playing alongside Christian Wood to form a dynamic pick-n-roll threat, and playing with John Wall (presumably) will help reduce the pressure to immediately act as a floor general. That said, Green could lead the NBA in scoring this year, and collectors will go nuts over it. I’m saying that a bit tongue-in-cheek, but look at the Rockets roster, and you’ll see why: if Kevin Porter can score 50 points in a game for Houston, Jalen Green can, too. We’ve seen what taking a ton of shots on a terrible team will do for rookies’ stock (hint: see Anthony Edwards).
Green might pick up some bad habits that accompany a dangerously high usage rate, but collectors care more about highlight plays than PER. The only knock against Green is that it could take Houston a while to get back into the playoffs, and that’s when the card values spike.
Mobley is a 7-footer who can score and pass from outside. That combination is becoming more and more prized in modern basketball. The USC prospect is very thin, weighing only 215 pounds, but as he fills out and matures, he could be a special kind of player that allows the Cavs to play a very versatile offense. Don’t look now, but Cleveland has a very talented young core to build around, with or without Collin Sexton.
Mobley is a great big man, but to demand a premium price as a big, you basically need to win an MVP like Jokic or Giannis. So we’ll see if Mobley is that good.
Ah, the first pick that made me say, “Wait, what?” There were whispers that the Raptors liked Barnes, but it still was a big surprise to hear his name called. While some outlets really like the fit, collectors should also remember that he didn’t always start at Florida State, he can’t shoot, and his stock has risen a lot in a groupthink sort of fashion over the last few weeks. He has infectious enthusiasm and energy, but I’m not sure I like his long-term odds as an investment.
Toronto seems to view Barnes as the next Kyle Lowry. Despite being 15 years old, Chrome Lowry rookies sell for less than $40. You can do the math.
Suggs is talented, fiery, and has said he wants every team that passed on him to realize they missed out. He also seems to be the type of talent to back up such a statement. Now, after surprisingly falling to #5, there’s a new chip on his shoulder.
The Gonzaga star was a star football recruit in high school, and he’s probably the second-most well-rounded prospect in the Draft. In other words, he can impact a team from Day 1. Plus, Suggs will get a lot of time on the floor in Orlando, which has gone all-in on developing prospects.
Suggs is right up with Cunningham in terms of being the safest among 2021 NBA draft pick cards investments.
Giddey up? This pick was the most Sam Presti thing possible, and I don’t mean that in a good way. He didn’t use the team’s hoarded assets to trade up and get a player that could immediately make an impact. Instead, OKC picked a raw, 18-year old Australian prospect that will take a couple of years to develop, allowing the Thunder to continue tanking and developing shot-in-the-dark prospects, like Poku, while building up more assets.
For Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, this means another season of being throttled. But what should Presti call this pick? Job security. The “promise” of future success is the most valuable asset Presti can personally hold.
Giddey won’t ever be a game-changing talent, but he will make his teammates better.
Another surprising pick. Kuminga is the rawest player in the Draft, and while he probably has the highest ceiling of any prospect, his future looks pretty misaligned with the career arc of Steph, Draymond, and Klay.
Finding Kuminga’s place on the Warriors remains to be a mystery, but perhaps there’s a future where Wiseman and Kuminga are the faces of the Bay Area?
Take this with a grain of salt. I probably would have said the same thing about Giannis in 2013.
Wagner is intelligent, savvy, and has an unteachable floor presence that makes him an immediate contributor for a team that also snagged Jalen Suggs and is the biggest success story of the Draft. I love Wagner’s game, basketball-IQ, and playmaking skills, and he’ll immediately get floor time to start developing his game in Orlando.
That said, he’s not an all-NBA sort of player and probably never will be. Instead, he’s a great contributor that will log a lot of minutes. Magic fans should be ecstatic about this pick, but collectors shouldn’t go overboard. After all, Wagner’s the second-best rookie on the team.
Davion Mitchell is a bulldog. Tough, gritty, and looked like a man amongst boys as Baylor beat down Gonzaga in the National Championship. Indeed, at age 22, he’s the only prospect from the top 10 over the age of 19. Although his career shooting average took a meteoric rise during his NCAA championship season, he needs to prove that it’s sustainable. On top of that, Mitchell is only 6’0 with a 6’2 wingspan.
The biggest head-scratcher of this pick is that the Kings already have Fox and Tyrese Halliburton, the best surprise of last year’s Draft. So can they play three-point guards, or is a big trade looming?
Mitchell will be a great role player but struggle to find the floor in his rookie season unless Fox moves. Best-case scenario, Mitchell becomes a Jrue Holiday, which is better for teams than collectors.
Ziaire Williams was another big surprise. The Grizzlies traded up to number 10, only to snatch a player they probably could have landed at 17. While Williams was a top high-school talent, his freshman season at Stanford was one to forget. For the Grizzlies to have reached on him here, Ziare must have convinced management that the season at Stanford was not indicative of the player he can be.
A risky one, but much like the pick, if this pans out, it could be a good return on what should be a lower rookie card price. At least by lottery pick standards.
I planned to do the top 10, but as the Draft unfolded, I loved this pick too much not to include. Bouknight took a tumble. However, he should be stoked to land upon a playoff-contending team. Bouknight is a scorer with handles, and playing alongside LeMelo Ball, who’s already shown he can be one of the best passers in the league, James is in a position to flourish on a good team.
Bouknight rookies won’t demand nearly the price of the higher-drafted peers, but when playoffs roll around, and he’s hitting big shots and playing big minutes, his collectors will be celebrating.
The NBA Draft results should shake up the league and provide more excitement for players for the upcoming season.
For collectors, investing in draft prospects is primarily about considering the potential of players. Of course, the NBA has a lot of good players, but the cards that demand the most value are the top thirty or so players in the league.
As you invest in NBA draft pick cards, favor those with a high ceiling over those who will be perennial role players. That’s where you’ll find the best returns.