March Madness is here — and the Cade Cunningham trading card gold rush isn’t far behind.
Is there any feeling quite like betting on a young baller break out, amassing a boatload of their rookie cards, and watching your investment explode as the kid grows into a legit NBA superstar?
Well-preserved rookie cards for the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Luka Doncic are worth much more than their weight in gold in many cases, and the same could very well be true for a special group of rising stars ready to take the March Madness stage this week.
Looking up and down the NCAA ranks, there’s no better time than Selection Sunday to put together an early wish list of the 2021-22 NBA rookie cards we can’t wait to get our hands on.
PG/SG Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
There’s no team in the land better than the Gonzaga Bulldogs, and Jalen Suggs may be the single biggest reason why.
The durable, athletic point guard is going as high as No. 2 overall in current mock drafts, and has the kind of all-around tools to make an NBA impact from the jump. A 51% shooter from the floor with above-average rebounding for his position and the ability to conduct the slickest of fast breaks, the freshman phenom promises to be one the most sought-after NBA rookie cards in this class.
C Evan Mobley, USC
The best college big man prospect in the 2021 draft pool? It’s got to be Evan Mobley, the USC Trojans seven-footer and Pac-12 Player of the Year. Another threat to go as high as No. 2 overall, he’s a defensive destroyer with inside-outside flex on offense.
The way the game has evolved, Mobley represents the mold of the modern center you want and need on your team. And given how effortlessly he flies above the rim, he has the chance to become the kind of one-man highlight factory that card collectors can’t quit.
SG Keon Johnson, Tennessee
An explosive athlete who can do a whole lot of things you can’t teach, Tennessee freshman Keon Johnson is a sweet bet if you’re in the market for a wing player brimming with pure talent.
While he’s a streakier scorer than Vols fans would have liked, Johnson has shown legit progress as a passer and defender this season. If he evolves into a shot-maker to go along with what is almost certain to be a bevy of high-flying moments around the rim, trading card investors may look back in confusion that he wasn’t considered a lock to go in the top five of the draft.
PF/C Kai Jones, Texas
Not every valuable rookie card from the 2021 NBA Draft will come from a high lottery pick — just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Kawhi Leonard. With that in mind, those looking to back a sneakier pick should take a long look at Texas sophomore Kai Jones.
The Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year hasn’t been a big-time scorer this season, but the pure athleticism is undeniable for a kid just a hair under seven feet.
If you’re in the market for someone to deliver a disrespectful block on one end of the floor and finish with a transition alley-oop on the other, Kai’s that guy.
PG Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State
If you’re the betting type, it’s time to bet on Cade Cunningham. The Oklahoma State star is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and recently became just the fourth player ever to be named Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and a consensus First Team All-American in the same season.
One of the others to do it wears No. 7 for the Brooklyn Nets.
After that vote of confidence from one of basketball’s best, what else can be said about the great Cade Cunningham? You can’t teach size, and at 6-8 and 220 pounds, he’s huge for a point guard. He leverages all that length to play no-mercy defense. He’s got vision, anticipation, and knows how to create his own shot.
In a word, the dude is rare. There’s plenty of reason to believe that his PSA 10 rookie cards will be, too.
At just 19 years old, his star is still rising, but facing off against the guy is already a rough proposition here and now. Baylor head coach Scott Drew knows this well, having witnessed Cunningham’s greatness three different times this season. Here’s what the Bears boss told host Jordan Schultz on the latest episode of Boardroom’s “Game Plan” about watching the Oklahoma State star do his thing up close:
Nothing but facts from Coach Drew. With all those measurables plus the mental makeup to match, business is about to be booming for this Arlington, Texas native.
Prepare accordingly, card collectors.