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Detroit Pistons draft picks 2021 preview: 3 options with the No. 1 pick

The Detroit Pistons had a 14% chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. That’s exactly what came to fruition when the lottery was held, setting up a franchise-altering moment for general manager Troy Weaver. Below, we look at three options for the Pistons with said selection while previewing their draft.

Detroit Pistons 2021 NBA Draft picks

  • First round, 1st pick
  • Second round, 37th pick (from Toronto)
  • Second round, 42nd pick (from Charlotte)
  • Second round, 52nd pick (from Los Angeles Lakers)

Detroit Pistons Mock Draft

1. Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, guard, Oklahoma State
2. Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, guard, NBA G-League
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Evan Mobley, center, USC

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Detroit Pistons draft Cade Cunningham

detroit pistons draft preview: cade cunningham
Mar 21, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Oregon State Beavers guard Julien Franklin (22) drives the ball while Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Cade Cunningham (2) defends during the first half in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

This seems to be the likeliest scenario. It could also pretty much be a foregone conclusion that Cunningham will end up being the eventual face of the Pistons’ rebuild. He’s reportedly not going to meet with any other team ahead of the July 29 draft. This seems to be a clear indication Cunningham expects to be the top pick. For good reason.

The 6-foot-8 Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 40% from distance for the Cowboys a season ago. He’s a large ball-handler who can play all three perimeter positions. For a Detroit team that boasts the likes of youngsters Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, this makes too much sense. Primarily, the 6-foot-8 Cunningham teaming up with another big guard in Hayes (6-foot-5). That would create major mismatches on both ends of the court.

Detroit Pistons draft Evan Mobley

detroit pistons draft preview: evan mobley
Mar 30, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; USC Trojans forward Evan Mobley (4) handles the ball against Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Corey Kispert (24) during the first half in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps, Weaver looks to team the aforementioned Stewart up with another defensive-minded big in Mobley. The USC product is already seen as a top-notch defender and has untapped potential on the offensive end. The former top-three recruit averaged 16.4 points and 8.7 rebounds as a freshman for the Trojans last season, leading them to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in the process.

The idea here would be to form a tremendous core four in Mobley, Stewart, Bey and Hayes. While Mobley might struggle out of the gate (see: James Wiseman last season), he does have more experience than his counterpart and offers just as much upside.

Detroit Pistons draft Jalen Green

This former top recruit and star in the NBA G-League bubble might offer the most upside of any player in the entire 2021 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-5 Green was absolutely brilliant for the Ignite, averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.5 steals on 37% shooting from distance. He’s explosive with a great ability to finish inside. Improved perimeter shooting has Green looking like a legit NBA prospect heading into draft season.

The only question here is whether Detroit wants to go the non-traditional route after selecting Killian Hayes with the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. It might be too much of a risk for general manager Troy Weaver with the first selection. However, Green might be a better on-court fit in Detroit than Cunningham. He’s also expecting to go with one of the top-two picks and has decided not to take visits with any other teams outside of the Pistons and Rockets.

Detroit Pistons trade first pick

detroit pistons draft preview
May 13, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Orlando Magic guard R.J. Hampton (13) shoots against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

This is obviously something Weaver will consider given how top heavy the 2021 NBA Draft is. Moving down a few spots could still net the Detroit Pistons someone like Jalen Suggs or Jonathan Kuminga — two budding stars.

A move of this ilk would also enable Detroit to acquire future draft assets and potentially a young player to add to its core. There’s several teams picking later in the top 10 who have shown interest in a trade down with the Detroit Pistons. Let’s break them down, and look at how a trade might work.

  • Houston Rockers (#2): Houston has been one of the teams bandied about the most in a potential trade up for Cunningham. A move of this ilk would still enable the Detroit Pistons to add Mobley, Green or Suggs to the mix. It would also net Detroit one of the Rockets other first-round selections in 2021 (23rd or 24th), a young player like guard Kevin Porter Jr. and at least one future unconditional first rounder.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (#3): Would the Detroit Pistons have interest in high-scoring guard Collin Sexton as the centerpiece in a blockbuster trade down from one? That’s an open question. What we do know is that Sexton and his 24.1 point-per-game average a season ago would help expedite the rebuild in Detroit. The Pistons would also receive at least one unconditional first-round pick in this scenario.
  • Orlando Magic (#5): Of all the other teams selecting in the top-five, Orlando has the most assets to offer up Detroit in a move up to one. At issue here is that this would prevent the Pistons from adding one of the consensus top-four players in the draft. Purhaps Jonathan Kuminga or Scottie Barnes become options. Either way, a blockbuster of this ilk would send the Pistons both the fifth and eighth selections, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick and at least one youngster.
  • Golden State Warriors (#7): With Golden State potentially looking to move out of the 2021 NBA Draft altogether, this seems to be the unlikeliest scenario. However, it does have the assets to offer up Detroit in a hypothetical blockbuster. That includes the 7th and 14th picks in this year’s draft as well as former No. 1 selection James Wiseman — the latter of whom Weaver and Co. were high on leading up to last year’s event.

Detroit Pistons draft preview: Building more talent

The obvious choice for Detroit at No. 1 is the aforementioned Cunningham. It just makes too much sense to team him up with Killian Hayes.

Even then, Detroit has a lot of options as it looks to rebuild an organization that has earned two organization over the past dozen years. Detroit also boasts three second-round picks it could use to move up back into the first round after making three first-round selections a season ago. Again, there’s a ton of options for Troy Weaver and Co.