Thanks to where the ping pong balls landed, former Oklahoma State basketball star Cade Cunningham now has a much clearer NBA path.
The Detroit Pistons won the first overall pick in the NBA’s annual draft lottery selection for the first time as a franchise since 1970, when the team drafted Bob Lanier from St. Bonaventure. Cunningham, who has widely been expected to be the first overall 2021 NBA Draft selection since he was in high school, would become only the team’s third top-five selection in the past 40 years, an interesting list that includes Grant Hill at No. 3 overall in 1994 and Darko Milicic (instead of Carmelo, remember?) at No. 2 overall in 2003.
The Detroit Pistons, winners of the draft lottery, will provide a good landing spot for former Oklahoma State basketball star Cade Cunningham.
Even OSU basketball head coach Mike Boynton weighed in on Cunningham’s likely NBA destination Tuesday night:
Detroit represents a good professional career path for Cunningham.
You might stop and question that previous statement based on what the Pistons have done on the court recently. True, Detroit hasn’t enjoyed a winning regular-season finish since 2016, and they’ve only made the playoffs twice in the past 12 seasons. (Remember that more than half of all NBA teams qualify for the postseason each year.)
But the Pistons will provide Cunningham a chance to have his own team. He won’t have to chase ghosts of James Harden or Russell Westbrook in Houston (who captured the No. 2 overall pick) and he doesn’t face a dead-end destination in Cleveland (No. 3). The Raptors (No. 4) might have been fun to see, and of course many OSU fans were crossing fingers to see the Thunder (No. 6) miraculously ascend to the top spot.
The Pistons have a young roster and a play in a market that’s starved for success. The team hasn’t won a playoff series since 2008, when a squad laden with famous names like Chauncey Billups, Tashaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Rip Hamilton made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Several of the team’s leaders are familiar to Thunder fans — forward Jerami Grant averaged 22.3 points per game and guard Hamidou Diallo totaled 11.3 points and 5.2 assists per game last year. As a franchise, the Pistons are in the transition process of moving past the failed experiment of pairing (another) Thunder player Reggie Jackson and former OU standout (and Edmond product) Blake Griffin, players who landed with the Clippers and the Nets, respectively, this year.
The Pistons have also importantly committed to the rebuild by extending fourth-year head coach Dwane Casey to an extension through the 2024 season. Casey helped develop several of Toronto’s young players en route to winning the 2018 NBA coach of the year award.
These factors will lead many Pistons fans to embrace the arrival of Cunningham. The team struggled to a 20-52 finish this past season and will be eager to find a way to build around Cade’s shot-creating ability and his willingness to take and make tough shots in crunch time.