In a move that was largely expected following their victory in the NBA’s draft lottery, the Detroit Pistons selected Oklahoma State standout Cade Cunningham with the first overall pick of the 2021 draft. While Pistons GM Troy Weaver had been rumored to be shopping the pick or contemplating using it on another top prospect such as the G-League Ignite’s Jalen Green or USC big man Evan Mobley in weeks leading up to the draft, he ultimately was unable to find a trade worthy of passing up on the 6’8 Cunningham’s potential.
Detroit had been linked to teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, but neither team was willing to meet the Pistons hefty trade demands. The reported trade offers included significant compensation for Detroit, with OKC rumored to have put third-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the 6th pick on the table. Detroit’s front office, however, was unmoved by those overtures and ended up taking the consensus top prospect in this year’s class in Cunningham.
The 19 year old wing/point guard has been a star since high school, when he led an absolutely loaded Monteverde Academy squad that featured other top prospects such as Florida State’s Scottie Barnes and incoming University of Michigan wing Caleb Houstan. As a freshman at Oklahoma State, he averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game and was a consensus All-American as well as being named Big 12 Player of the Year. His selection as the top pick by the Pistons comes as no surprise, in fact, Detroit was the only team he worked out for leading up to the draft.
While the 2021 Draft contains multiple prospects projected to have star potential, Detroit took the player widely accepted to be the best of the bunch in Cade Cunningham. The Pistons have been one of the league’s doormats for over a decade now, but coach Dwane Casey will be expected to outperform last season’s 20 wins after adding Cunningham to an intriguing young core that features All-Rookie selections Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, as well as last year’s 7th overall pick Killian Hayes. With the Pistons summer league schedule beginning on August 8th, and the regular season beginning on October 19, fans won’t have to wait long to see the much awaited new era of Detroit basketball back in action.