Former Oklahoma State standout Cade Cunningham has long been anticipated as the No. 1 choice in this draft class, dating back to his high school days. While it is possible the Pistons go in a different direction, Cunningham is the perceived choice at this time.
The Pistons don’t have any true stars on the roster and will be able to mold it to fit Cunningham’s skills should it select him. Jerami Grant is the highest paid player on the roster at an even $ 20 million for the 2021-22 season.
Killian Hayes started at point guard for the Pistons last season as a rookie; Detroit selected him seventh overall in last years’ draft. Hayes averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 assists in 25.8 minutes per game. Other guards on the roster include Cory Joseph — who’s salary is not fully guaranteed for next season — and Josh Jackson. The other notable guard in Detroit is Wayne Ellington, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
John Hollinger of The Athletic ranked each lottery team by fit for Cunningham, with the Pistons coming in ninth of 14 teams. Hollinger praised GM Weaver — a former scout for Oklahoma City — for acquiring a solid base in his short tenure as GM, but noted the Pistons aren’t particularly well suited for Cunningham’s game because the team is devoid of reliable outside shooters.
Detroit does not have much of an established roster like other lottery teams near the top of the draft such as Cleveland, Toronto and Oklahoma City. Next years Pistons squad will likely look much different than the squad in Cunningham’s third or fourth season. General Manager Troy Weaver will have the task of building an ideal roster around Cunningham should it choose to select him. This can be seen as a positive or a negative depending on the outcome of the players Weaver decides to put around him.
The lottery was particularly rough for the local Oklahoma City Thunder, who had the fourth-best odds and slipped to sixth while also missing out on the Houston Rockets pick, which the Thunder would have received if it had slipped below No. 4. The Thunder have the draft capital to potentially trade up, but that seems unlikely at this point.
In all likelihood, Cunningham will join the Detroit Pistons to begin his career. The 2021 NBA Draft will take place at 7:30 central time on ESPN on July 29. The 2021-22 NBA regular season will start on October 19.