Pistons had been widely expected to take Cunningham first since winning the lottery last month; Teenage G-League guard Jalen Green selected by the Houston Rockets at number two; Promising big man Evan Mobley went to the Cleveland Cavaliers after being picked third
Friday 30 July 2021 10:30, UK
The Detroit Pistons selected Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Cade Cunningham with the number one overall choice during Thursday night's NBA Draft in New York.
The Pistons had been almost universally projected to pick Cunningham since winning the lottery last month and in the end there was little doubt as to who would be ending up in Motor City. In fact, with 'MotorCade', a new iconic nickname was born.
With the NBA Draft upon us, what would you do if you were the hottest prospect in town?
Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists and was Big 12 Player of the Year during his lone college season with the Cowboys. He led the team in scoring, assists, steals (43) and three-point baskets (62).
"Words can't even explain the emotions," Cunningham said on ABC of being the number one overall pick. "I'm just so happy to be here and see what I can do on the next level."
It marked the first time Detroit has selected first since choosing Bob Lanier in 1970. Lanier was a seven-time All-Star during nine-and-a-half seasons with the Pistons and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
The Texas native said he could not have achieved his dreams without the support of his parents and two-year-old daughter Riley, whom he kissed on the cheek after his name was called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the Barclays Center in New York.
"I know my name was the first name called but I didn't do this by myself. I have a number one pick family," said an emotional Cunningham.
"She's my biggest motivation," he said of Riley. "She's taught me way more than I could ever teach her, but I think this is a good step for me."
Cunningham will have his work cut out for him when he joins a Pistons squad that finished last season 20-52, second bottom in the league and in last place in the Eastern Conference. The franchise missed the postseason for the 10th time in the past 12 campaigns and hasn't finished above .500 for five straight years.
"It's still pretty surreal to me," Cunningham said. "I know how much responsibility comes with being the number one pick. I know how much responsibility a city will put on the guy that they take number one. I'm more than excited to take on those tasks and try to deliver to the city of Detroit."
Houston followed at number two by grabbing preps-to-pros teenager Jalen Green, who bypassed college basketball to play in the G League. The 6-foot-6 Green averaged 17.9 points on 46 per cent shooting in 15 games, showing off high-flying dunks, a willingness to attack the rim and a promising shooting touch.
Green is now part of Houston's rebuilding project after the James Harden trade to Brooklyn. The Rockets entered the night with three first-round picks after having a league-low 17 wins last season.
In the end, they traded for a fourth from the Oklahoma City Thunder, selecting Turkey's Alperen Sengun with pick 16 (acquired from the Thunder for two future first-round picks), Spanish international Usman Garuba with 23 and Josh Christopher at 24.
"They're going to say it's a great choice because the goals I have for myself," Green said. "I plan on reaching them."
Next up was Southern California freshman Evan Mobley, who went to Cleveland at number three.
The 7-footer has potential as a mobile big man with length and the versatility to switch across positions on the defensive end. He swept Pac-12 individual honours while ranking as one of the nation's top shot blockers, eventually helping the Trojans reach an NCAA regional final for the first time in 20 years.
After that came the first shock of the night with Florida State forward Scottie Barnes going to Toronto with the number four pick.
Barnes is a mobile and versatile 6'8" forward with the potential to be a strong playmaker and elite defender. Toronto's choice of Barnes was a bit of a surprise as many draft prognosticators projected Suggs to be the choice of the Raptors.
But Toronto opted for a versatile player who fits the franchise's culture, even he started just seven games during his single season at Florida State.
"I'm happy with it, I'm ready to work," said Barnes, who averaged 10.3 points last season.
That bumped Gonzaga freshman point guard Jalen Suggs down to number five with the Orlando Magic, followed by another unexpected selection in Oklahoma City grabbing 6'8" playmaking teenager Josh Giddey, considered a potential lottery prospect from Melbourne, Australia.
The 6'4" Suggs became only the second Gonzaga player to be picked in the top five, joining Adam Morrison (third in 2006 to Charlotte).
"The sky is the limit," Suggs said after being chosen by the Magic. "I'm going to join a great group of guys, great people and excellent guards."
The 6'8" Giddey was climbing up the draft boards in recent weeks. Scouts admired his performances in Australia, where he was National Basketball League Rookie of the Year after averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds in 28 games for the Adelaide 36ers.
"This is what I've been working for my entire life," Giddey said. "To live my dream of playing in the NBA and having the support of my family and friends from back home, it means the world to me. I'm looking forward to showing what I can do on the world stage."
The Golden State Warriors had the seventh choice and selected 6'6" forward Jonathan Kuminga from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kuminga, who left his country for the United States at age 13, played in the G League last season and averaged 15.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 13 games.
Kuminga said the draft represented the first time he saw his parents in six years.
The Magic chose again at number eight and selected German-born swingman Franz Wagner of Michigan, who joins his older brother Moe on Orlando's roster.
The Sacramento Kings used the ninth pick on 6'1" guard Davion Mitchell, who was named the national Defensive Player of the Year while helping Baylor win the NCAA title.
The New Orleans Pelicans chose tenth with a pick that now belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a trade that was announced earlier in the week. Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas was dealt to New Orleans, with Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe joining Memphis exchange. The eventual choice for the Grizzlies was forward Ziaire Williams of Stanford.
The other lottery choices were Connecticut guard James Bouknight (11th to Charlotte Hornets), Alabama guard Joshua Primo (12th to San Antonio Spurs), Oregon guard Chris Duarte (13th to Indiana Pacers) and Arkansas guard Moses Moody (14th to Golden State Warriors).
Gonzaga, who finished as runners-up in the NCAA Championship last season, also had a second player drafted in the first round when forward Corey Kispert went 15th to the Washington Wizards.
After the lottery selections were completed, NBA commissioner Adam Silver momentarily paused the draft to announce that Terrence Clarke was an honorary draft pick. The 19-year-old died in a car crash in April after declaring for the draft following one season at Kentucky.