The Detroit Pistons took Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday night, as just about expected.
Cunningham made his way to the stage after his name was called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, signifying the latest young talent the Pistons have brought to the franchise.
Under new general manager Troy Weaver the Pistons have re-made their roster, with 10 players under the age of 25, plus last year’s leading scorer, Jerami Grant, who is just 27. Two of last year’s rookies were on the NBA’s All-Rookie Team for 2020-21 — Saddiq Bey (first team) and Isaiah Stewart (second team). Most of their top, young players are under contract.
Before the draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Pistons had ‘landed’ on selecting Cunningham.
In Cunningham, the Pistons are getting an instant starter who changed the culture at Oklahoma State in just one season, even as just about everyone knew he would be heading to the NBA after one year.
The Pistons are getting a player that, among other things, showed up in the second half in a clutch fashion. Last season, Cunningham averaged 12.7 points on 49.3 percent shooting, including a 44.0 percent clip from 3-point in the final 20 minutes. He also had four games in which he scored 20 points in the second half. All four of those games came against ranked Big 12 teams, and two were in the Big 12 Tournament.
Cunningham also re-established the Cowboys in the Big 12, leading them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017 and to their first NCAA Tournament win since 2009. The Cowboys reached No. 11 in the AP Top 25 at one point last season.
The Pistons are hoping that Cunningham can lead them to that sort of turnaround. Detroit hasn’t been to the playoffs in 13 seasons and hasn’t won an NBA title since 2004.
Cunningham played just one season at Oklahoma State but left the program with his name firmly ensconced in its record books. Cunningham was the first player in program history to be named to the Associated Press All-America First Team and just the second to be named a consensus First Team All-American (Bob Kurland, 1944-46).
He did so after leading the Big 12 Conference in scoring with 20.2 points per game, which was second nationally among freshmen and 20th overall. His 544 points was the highest of any OSU freshman. In doing so, he was named the Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year. He also won practically every national freshman of the year award, and he was a finalist for both the Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, given to the country’s best player.
He also became the third player in the last 20 seasons to have at least 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.25 steals and .75 blocks in a season.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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