Cade was injured to begin his rookie year and was slow out of the gates when he returned. Since then, though, he’s turned on his proverbial jets and has been one of the best debutants in the league.
So as the Pistons approach the 2022 trade deadline, what’s the franchise’s best plan of attack?
It’s simple, really. Do whatever it can to help its prized rookie both now and in the future.
Cade Cunningham has been one of the NBA’s best rookies in 2021-22
Cade leads all rookies in scoring at 16.2 points per game. That’s after missing his first NBA preseason and the first five games of the regular season with an ankle injury.
Playing on the second-worst team in the league by record, Cunningham is also first in field-goal attempts a night (14.1) but hasn’t been the most efficient — although he does show flashes as a go-to scorer.
Known as more of a facilitator and oversized playmaker entering the league, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound point guard poured in 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting and 6-of-9 from three to go along with eight assists, eight rebounds, and four blocks in a Jan. 25 loss to Denver.
Cunningham has been a steadying presence on an inconsistent team, which was Detroit’s hope in drafting a player mature beyond his age (19 at the time of the draft) with a high basketball IQ.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward Evan Mobley is the favorite to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award this season. But Cade has been exactly what the Pistons need moving into the future.
So what does the franchise need to do next to surround its star with the best possible pieces?
Rumors surround the Detroit Pistons and Jerami Grant
There may not be anyone involved in trade rumors more than the Detroit Pistons’ Jerami Grant. (Unless your name is listed as Simmons, Ben).
The team brought in Grant two seasons ago to become its franchise player. But that was before Detroit had the chance to pick the Big 12 Player of the Year No. 1 overall last summer.
The decision to trade Grant is the right one. The Syracuse product leads the Pistons in scoring, while Cade is second.
He’s also the only Pistons player ahead of Cunningham in field-goal attempts and usage rate. Put simply: Grant is blocking the 20-year-old from being the team’s franchise player in every way.
According to Bleacher Report‘s Jake Fischer, Detroit wants two first-round picks or a first-round pick and a young player back for Grant.
Realistically, though, everyone other than the organization’s cornerstone should be available. Detroit has received flashes from Saddiq Bey, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, and Isaiah Stewart, but no one should be off the table if the return benefits Cade.
The Pistons should be going after any player or pick that could help Cunningham
Any future pick and/or player that would help Detroit build an ideal roster around Cunningham should be the move at the 2022 deadline.
With a record of 11-36 and Grant on the way out the door, winning games isn’t the goal in the Motor City. And it won’t be for the next few seasons, nor should it be.
Cunningham’s rep going from high school to Stillwater and now to the NBA has been that of an unselfish playmaker and floor leader who’s able to fill the stat sheet across the board.
His game against Denver is the epitome of that.
It’s time for Grant to go and the Pistons to build for the future. And their future is Cade Cunningham.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.