NBA fans are some of the most fortunate sports fans in the world, as the dawn of social media has allowed a global fan base to tune in to the journey of athletes at unparalleled depths. Due to this online phenomenon, the NBA draft has slowly become one of the more exciting events in the NBA calendar. The anticipation for the arrival of new talent to the league is built over the years now, beginning in the various youth basketball circuits worldwide. NBA drafts have set the stage for the big reveal of some of the most coveted young talents in the game’s history.
Since 2000, we have welcomed highly touted rookies like never before in LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Zion Williamson. In 2021, we have what many believe to be one of the best draft classes to date, a list of NBA-ready candidates led by near-consensus first overall pick in Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham.
It has been reported by multiple sources that the Detroit Pistons selecting Cunningham at number one is still up in the air as they continue to evaluate two other prospects in Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. Detroit might be on the fence regarding their decision, but long-time NBA draft analyst Jay Bilas had some advice for how Detroit should handle the situation, citing that taking Cade Cunningham first overall is a no-brainer.
“I don’t really hesitate. I take Cade Cunningham from Oklahoma State. Over the years you’ve evaluated a lot of players and Cade Cunningham is the most complete basketball player that I can remember coming into the draft. He really does check every single box, he does everything well.”Jay Bilas, Twitter
Cade Cunningham is the most complete basketball player that I can remember coming into the draft. pic.twitter.com/lZpkwsbimk— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) July 28, 2021
Bilas is absolutely right; Cade can do everything on the offensive side of the ball at an elite level while possessing the size and length to become a good defender at the NBA level. Green and Mobley might seem like they have more upside given their freak athleticism, but Cunningham is a 6’8 point guard with a 7-foot wingspan, quick feet, and some spring in his legs. Mix that with superb basketball IQ and the presence of mind to play at a controlled pace, and you have yourself the makings of a generational NBA talent. So why not lock Cade in at number one?
Easy, the Pistons are clearly playing the field: Cade Cunningham is a great prospect, but Detroit has seriously failed in the draft before (see: Darko Milicic), so perhaps they are leaking that they are unsure of Cade to see if they can get offers for a more established player. This approach could very well work as the Oklahoma City Thunder have reportedly offered up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in exchange for the chance to select first overall.
Detroit is rebuilding from scratch and has a nice thing going with their selections from last year, Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart. However, they also signed Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, who are relatively young but have tasted some post-season success with the Denver Nuggets. Grant and Plumlee understand this is a rebuild, but they also want to win, so accelerating that process is something that would appeal to both these guys and the fans of Detroit Basketball.
Cade Cunningham may not be as hyped as the likes of LeBron James and Zion Williamson leading up to the draft, but he is certainly a more complete player than either one at that time they declared for the NBA. LeBron and Zion had massive potential due to their overwhelming God-given talents but were raw in terms of the nuances of the game when they first came in.
Cade is more of a Luka Dončić where the athleticism will have to catch up but the way he sees the game, along with the offensive weapons he has in place, is already at an elite level. If the Pistons still have the first overall pick by draft night, they will draft Cade Cunningham. However, trust that they will do everything in their power to see if they can get a more established star before the big night.