The Detroit Pistons opened the 2021 NBA draft Thursday night by picking Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham.
Cunningham, a shooting guard originally from Dallas, will now be asked to try to lead the Pistons back to the Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Detroit has made the postseason three times in the past 12 seasons, but has not won a single playoff game since reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in a row in 2008.
The Pistons hope that may finally change after a bit of luck in last month’s NBA draft lottery landed them the first overall pick for the first time since 1970. That year, Detroit selected a future member of the Hall. of Fame, St. Bonaventure center Bob Lanier.
The Pistons will be delighted to achieve the same result this time, as Cunningham enters a roster with a couple of impressive players from last year’s draft in forward Saddiq Bey and center Isaiah Stewart, in addition to last year’s free agent signing. Jerami Grant, who currently plays for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Houston Rockets followed Detroit by choosing the player they had been strongly attached to for weeks: Jalen Green, the explosive shooting guard who made history last year by being part of the G League’s inaugural Ignite team.
Green averaged 17.9 points and shot 36.5% from 3-point range for Ignite during the G League bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, showing the kind of skill that made him a five-star recruit.
Green will now be the centerpiece of Houston’s rebuilding efforts following the trade of franchise icon James Harden last season, as he will play alongside big man Christian Wood for the Rockets under coach Stephen Silas.
While Cunningham’s pick officially kicked off the draft, the action began much earlier Thursday, with several trades consummated or nearly complete.
One of them was by the Pistons themselves, as sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Detroit was ready to send center Mason Plumlee to the Charlotte Hornets, along with the No. 37 overall pick, for the No. 57 pick. The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, paid cash to acquire the No. 53 pick from the New Orleans Pelicans, while the Brooklyn Nets sent point guard Landry Shamet to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for the No. 29 pick and point guard. Jevon Carter.
All of those deals, however, were overshadowed by the one Wojnarowski reported that he would send former Washington Wizards MVP Russell Westbrook to his hometown of Los Angeles Lakers for a package with forward Kyle Kuzma, point guard Kentavious Caldwell. Pope and the pivot. Montrezl Harrell and draft selection considerations.