Cade Cunningham will become the No. 1 pick in the draft. He’s ridden the wave of hype rail to rail, dominating with his mentality as much as his skills, more an outlier in the figurative, conceptual sense than the physical one, and certainly not in the statistical realm. It’s rare a prospect like Cunningham comes along, and even rarer to see one so comfortably ordained as the next big thing. Slap whichever adjectives and buzzwords onto him you choose; NBA teams have tried them on for size, according to Sports Illustrated.
Cunningham has been pegged as the top player in his class for long enough now that it sometimes gets taken for granted. When that happens, you get nitpicked. Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs are in this draft, too. Even the Pistons are dragging out their decision process behind the scenes.
While the quality of a draft requires time to properly ascertain, there’s near-unanimous agreement around the NBA that the prospects at the very top of this year’s class would hold water as elite talents in most years. There are debates worth having.
Yet, it’s Cunningham who will don his new cap first tonight. It will probably be a Pistons one. In the minds of many, he’s the clear-cut top dog. So it might be a different hat, but nobody’s expecting that. He might be Rookie of the Year this time next year, he might not.
That scenario is still a pretty easy sell. He’s won basketball games everywhere he’s played his entire life, at every stop. That part of the deal might have to wait a year or two, but it’s probably coming. And frankly, there’s not much reason to expect anything else.