Detroit Pistons draft preview: Guard Cade Cunningham

(Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)
(Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports) /

As the NBA Playoffs begin in earnest, teams on the outside are turning their attention to the lottery and ensuing Draft. With the third-worst record in the league, the Detroit Pistons are one of those teams looking ahead.

For most of the 2021 college basketball season, freshman guard Cade Cunningham from Oklahoma State was seen as one of the top choices in this year’s class.

If the Detroit Pistons manage to land the top pick in the Draft, Cade Cunningham should be their selection.

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Cunningham started all but one game for the Cowboys in 2020-21. He averaged 20.1 points a game and shot well from three (40% on 5.7 attempts).

He is also not afraid to challenge defenses by driving the lane for a contested layup, despite being frequently double-teamed in the paint.

At the same time, he can generate offense by drawing in the defense and finding the open shooter on the perimeter.

He even contributed some timely blocks. In short, he is a versatile player who should be immediately NBA-ready.

In the NCAA Tournament, a college player’s best time to showcase their talents, the Cowboys were eliminated in just the second round in a 10-point loss to the Elite Eight-bound Oregon State Beavers. While certainly a disappointing loss, it could hardly be attributed solely to Cunningham.

He lead his team with 24 points and was the only player to play all 40 minutes. His defense was particularly good, as well; he recorded five steals as the Cowboys dominated the turnover battle. Where this game was below average for him can be seen in his efficiency:  he took 20 shots and made only six of them.

The question is, how would Cunningham fit with the current Pistons roster? Specifically, there would be some overlap with him and last year’s first-round pick, Killian Hayes. One of the few knocks against Hayes is that he needs the ball in his hands to be at his most effective.

This could take away from some of the dynamism of Cunningham’s offense. Ultimately, though, this is not reason enough to pass up on someone of Cunningham’s talent. It may be an overused phrase this time of year, but Cunningham would be an immediate difference-maker for the Pistons.

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Now, Cade Cunningham is the near-consensus first overall pick, so the Detroit Pistons will need a stroke of luck in the lottery on June 22. Along with Houston and Orlando, Detroit has the best shot at #1 with a 14% chance. If they do happen to strike gold, Cunningham is the obvious choice.