Cade Cunningham and 5 NCAA basketball freshmen who are slam-dunk lottery picks

Oklahoma State Cowboys. Mandatory Credit: Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma State Cowboys. Mandatory Credit: Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports /
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Army National Guard
Army National Guard /

Cade Cunningham headlines a group of five NCAA basketball freshmen who are already slam-dunk future NBA Draft lottery picks.

We’ve been here for quite a while but the one-and-done era of NCAA basketball continues on and it’s not stopping this year with the arrival top recruit Cade Cunningham at Oklahoma State. While not every National Championship-winning team is comprised of superstar freshmen that are bound for the NBA Draft the next season, that is clearly the formula that virtually every high-profile program would like to execute. After all, having lottery-pick type of talent is only going to help a team, even if for just one year.

The 2020-2021 college basketball season figures to be no different. But what could be different is just how good some of the superstar freshmen in this year are. While there were certainly some good freshmen that ended up being lottery picks, this year’s crop of young newcomers is loaded with players who are already locks for the 2021 NBA Draft lottery.

While this isn’t all of them — shoutout to USC center Evan Mobley, among others — these five college basketball freshmen are merely taking a step before being selected in the lottery of the 2021 NBA Draft.

5. Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State

We’re not going to feign any drama about whether or not Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall recruit in this year’s freshman class and the new leader for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, makes this list. By all accounts, the guard is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and, barring something unforeseen, that appears pretty set in stone as well.

Looking at what Cunningham brings to the table, it’s not hard to ascertain why that’s the case. Boasting terrific size at 6-foot-6, Cunningham has the chops to be a lead guard for almost any team at the next level. He’s an effective scorer, especially when attacking off the dribble, but his basketball IQ is evident on every play and it shows up in his phenomenal ability to create plays and looks for his teammates.

Cunningham’s size and baseline athleticism, though he’s not a guy who’s going to drop any jaws in that department, give him the potential to be a stalwart perimeter defender. If there’s any weakness in his game right now, it’s the consistency of his outside shot. However, he improved in that area throughout his high school career and the requisite tools on his stroke are there.

As he heads to Oklahoma State, Cunningham is going to be the unquestioned star on the Cowboys roster. He’s going to be asked to do it all and, most importantly, he appears more than capable. Given his role and his talent, the 2020-2021 season will likely only affirm that Cunningham is the top prospect in next year’s draft class.