The Detroit Pistons managed to find a stroke of luck on Tuesday night, successfully landing the top overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft. It is the first time the franchise got that high of a selection since 1970 when they drafted big man Bob Lanier from St. Bonaventure, per ESPN.
As usual, the incoming rookie class is going to be headlined by promising young prospects, but the top standout for this draft would be Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham. His level of talent along with his high ceiling can mold him to serve as another piece that will help Detroit advance its rebuilding efforts moving forward.
Here are two reasons why the Pistons must make Cunningham their top overall pick.
1. Cade Cunningham’s two-way brilliance
Ever since his high school days, the 19-year-old has always been known for his scoring prowess and knack for getting buckets at ease. Effectively using his 6-foot-8 frame, Cunningham starred for the Cowboys and produced 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists through 27 games played.
Not only did he manage to put up numbers across the board, but he was also able to maintain his consistency in hitting shots on the floor as he tallied 43.8% from the field and 40.0% from 3 in 2020. Cunningham’s production in his one-and-done season in Stillwater eventually landed him many prestigious honors, including Big 12 Player of the Year and with a First-Team All-American selection.
At the same time, Cunningham also displayed his versatility as a point forward with his capability to make plays and also defend multiple positions on the floor, depending on the situation. He remained a steady defensive presence all throughout their campaign with averages of 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per game for the Cowboys.
Certainly enough, his athleticism and ability to play several spots on the floor will help him as he transitions to the pros, where he will be tasked to guard bigger and stronger players. There is no doubt that Cunningham’s two-way play will greatly benefit the Pistons given they are in dire need of a talent who can impact the game on both ends of the floor.
2. Pistons upgrade at starting shooting guard position
The Pistons rolled with veteran Wayne Ellington at the starting shooting guard position for the most part of the 2020-21 season. The 33-year-old recorded 9.6 points, 1.8 points, and 1.5 rebounds in 46 games played for Detroit.
Ellington’s averages may not speak for his efficient style of play, but he was able to finish their campaign with a career-best 44.1% from the field along with 42.2% from beyond the arc. Though he’s a savvy veteran, the upgrade to Cunningham will be massive.
The 19-year-old will slot in the starting lineup alongside point guard Killian Hayes and small forward Saddiq Bey, who already showed flashes of their potential in their rookie season. The Oklahoma State star will bring a greater level of athleticism and playmaking compared to Ellington. Cunningham’s versatility will allow head coach Dwane Casey to play him at either guard position and roll with a multitude of combinations on the floor.
Hayes’ role will be something to watch given he’s better with the ball in his hands, but Cunningham is the more important prospect here.
Basing on his lone season in college, it is evident that Cunningham holds a ton of promise as he gets set to make the jump to the big leagues come late July. Certainly enough, his talent on the floor will allow him to emerge as one of the pieces that will eventually take the Pistons to greater heights moving forward.
There are other quality options at the top of this draft in Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs, among others, but Cade Cunningham is a cut above the rest. Again, the Pistons must take him first overall and not overthink it.