How Cade Cunningham and one-and-done players affect schools that aren’t blue bloods

  • ESPN Insider college basketball contributor
  • First began covering college hoops in 2004
  • Has written for Basketball Prospectus and the Wall Street Journal

Oklahoma State freshman Cade Cunningham is currently projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft. If that does indeed happen, Cunningham will join Georgia’s Anthony Edwards as the second consecutive top pick to have played somewhere other than where one-and-done stars are supposed to play, i.e., Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and their ilk.

In recent years several standout freshmen have set Duke- and Kentucky-free examples for Cunningham and Edwards to follow. Texas and Washington, for instance, have both seen multiple one-and-done performers pass through their doors on their way to the NBA. Roster sizes are limited, and even the top recruiting powers can’t corner the market on one-and-done talent.

For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll refer to such outside-the-top-recruiting programs as “normal” teams. What performance impacts do we see when one-and-done lottery picks play for “normal” programs? What might the future hold for Oklahoma State, this season and beyond, now that Mike Boynton has Cunningham in uniform?

Most “normal” teams with a one-and-done lottery pick do improve

Perhaps it should go without saying that landing one of the best players in the nation tends to improve your team, but, in real time, the opposite can sometimes appear to be the case. Indeed, the exceptions to this rule are destined to be infamous.

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