With preseason underway and NBA news creeping back into the trending headlines, one thing’s apparent: the NBA season is BACK! Let’s get the ball rolling with our NBA 2021-2022 sports card preview.
After a pretty short off-season, we’re once again able to watch professional basketball every night. So, as the card market swells in anticipation, here’s our NBA 2021-21 season preview.
There will be some surprises along the way. There always are. But there are some clear trends worth following in the upcoming season.
The NBA is still a league dominated by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul, and many other “olds heads.” But that doesn’t mean the youngsters aren’t making an impact. On the contrary, a new generation is knocking on the door led by Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Zion Williamson, and a potentially strong class of incoming rookies. And in the middle—splitting the young and old—are stars like reigning champ Giannis and reigning MVP Jokic.
Speaking of MVP, it seems unlikely that Jokic will repeat (not to take anything away from his season last year), and there’s a good chance Giannis and Durant fight for MVP consideration. But this year, an even younger first-time recipient is highly likely: Luka Doncic.
The Nets, Lakers, Heat, and 76ers all saw their season end in less-than-desirable ways. This year, expect one of these four teams to rebound and march back to the finals. A Nets vs. Lakers finals feels like a good bet.
While the Fanatics takeover looms on the distant horizon, Panini will continue to release their tried and true classics. Here are the top three recommendations:
THE basketball product. It’s printed widely enough that everybody can chase the cards and expensive enough that the rookies feel like a great long-term hold.
A slightly less expensive Prizm product. The Rated Rookie cards feel classic and timeless, while new color offerings spice it up every year.
This brand is the high-end choice for big spenders. There are more and more one-pack, four-figure boxes every year (like Noir and Flawless, for example), but this is the signature high-end brand. The RPAs of National Treasure are the biggest cards you can pull.
Honorable Mentions: Select, Mosaic, Donruss
Some of the best players in the league are veterans. While there is always money to be made in sure things like Lebron rookies, the best veteran investments are the guys who haven’t broken into the elite category yet but are likely to. Here are a few examples.
I’ve written about SGA enough—too much, probably—including a recent story about the most overvalued and undervalued rookies over the last four seasons. Spoiler alert: SGA was the best value of any of them when comparing price to performance.
The general managers voted Jaren Jackson Jr. from around the league as their pick for “most likely to have a breakout season.” It’s easy to see why. JJJ has put up eye-catching stats when he’s on the floor, and if he stays healthy this year, the Grizzlies might look like a different team. The one collecting concern is Ja Morant being the “best” (or flashiest) player on the team.
Herro looked like a savvy vet during his rookie season and then suffered a significant dropoff during his sophomore campaign. But, according to beat reports, Herro’s head’s back in the game and is likely to bounce back. As a result, his cards are cheap, at least for now.
Others to consider: Jordan Poole, Keldon Johnson
So much for veterans. But what about the incoming rookie class?
The NBA GM’s voted Suggs as the draft pick that fell the most. That may sound crazy since he was picked FIFTH. Still, that shows the high esteem Jalen Suggs is held at, and he’s the kind of player who competes and often wins, wherever he goes.
I called Jalen Green the best rookie card investment in my NBA draft recap article. I stand by that choice. Considering how terrible his team is, he’ll be putting up some insane box scores. Kevin Porter Jr. scored 50 last year for the Rockets—why can’t Jalen?
Here’s a non-lottery pick for you. Jalen Johnson had an up-and-down college experience at Duke, but he’s already turning doubters into believers around the league. If he can live up to his potential, he might be a steal as a draft pick and card investment.
There is plenty of mediocrity in the NBA. However, the busts are usually not the limited players. Rather, they are the super talented ones who underperform for various reasons.
I’m swinging for the fences here since Kyrie is super talented. However, he’s a lousy investment for two reasons: 1) His cards already cost too much to offer much return. 2) He has more drama in his life than a mid-day soap opera. Currently, he’s refusing a vaccine and might not play for home games. What’s next? Stay clear of Kyrie.
Klay Thomspon will (hopefully) still be a great shooter and good defender. But don’t expect him to look like the 2015-16 version of himself. Still, if you bought Klay Thompson cards during his injury, you’ll be making some profit during the season. But I wouldn’t buy them now.
Siakam has gone from “all-star on the rise” to “he only has this one spin move.” While he still has tons of potential, don’t expect him to make another giant leap anytime soon.
Finally, let’s take a look at some investment strategies for the upcoming season.
If you’re strictly worried about making a profit, there are many things to avoid. Panini’s printing as many cards as they can because people are gobbling them up, but that will adversely affect their value.
So, stay clear of college uniform cards (“draft picks”) of any sort, and don’t buy retail blasters to set on as a retirement plan. If you want to rip them or flip them immediately, go for it, but don’t expect to see them retain sky-high value forever. If you’re trying to make money, I’d even caution against buying most base rookie cards or sealed hobby boxes.
If you’re ripping for the fun of it, then that’s another story. That’s what this hobby started as, anyway.
So, I ruled out most of the card market. What’s left to buy?
My recommendation is to pick up numbered rookies and autographs of the players you like. These cards will hold up to the test of time because of their scarcity. Also, being limited in production will mean they’re always collector’s items.
The league is in transition. One of the greatest generations of players ever is on the way out. There is money to be made in predicting who will replace legends like Lebron and KD, and investing in the right cards. Cardlines will be here every step of the way through this generational transition.