This comes after months of speculation and draft analysis that he was the top prospect available.
But it was not set in stone until the day of the draft.
Detroit had allegedly been fielding offers from teams for the top overall pick.
Including what was a rumored blockbuster deal from the Oklahoma City Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the No. 6 pick.
The Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly offered Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and #6 to the Detroit Pistons for #1. Detroit declined.
— ProCity Hoops (@ProCityHoops) July 26, 2021
However, there was no concrete proof that was a legit offer from the Thunder.
If it was, a case could be made for the Pistons to accept that offer.
SGA is a budding superstar who is only 22 years old and the No. 6 pick would have netted Detroit another top prospect.
But Gilgeous-Alexander was also due a contract extension which he just signed for 5-years, $172 million ($34.4 million AAV).
Between roster construction and financial commitments, Detroit made the right move keeping the No. 1 pick.
Pistons In Beginning Of Rebuild
The Pistons are in the beginning stages of a rebuild.
Teams trade away their good players to get draft picks in return.
They hope those picks can eventually land them a franchise cornerstone or two.
Having the first overall pick is the best way to land a future superstar.
With Cade Cunningham a solid No. 1 to Detroit now, Houston and Cleveland continue to trend toward Jalen Green and Evan Mobley with the second and third picks, respectively, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 29, 2021
6-foot-8 playmakers with isolation scoring ability and positional versatility do not grow on trees.
When given the opportunity to draft a player of that mold, teams should jump at the chance.
If he reaches the level of those players or even comes close, the Pistons have found their franchise cornerstone.
While trading down to acquire additional draft capital is enticing, Detroit made the right call.
The first overall pick is a guaranteed top prospect.
Trading down into the top-three, top-five, or top-10 gives them a potentially lesser prospect in the now.
And there is no guarantee those future picks amount to anything good.
The beginning of a rebuild is all about acquiring young talent, and the Pistons did that in taking Cunningham.
Maintain Cap Flexibility
While there are numerous ways to work around the salary cap in the NBA, it is always beneficial to keep space open as a rebuilding team.
This allows you to take on bad contracts for additional picks in trades or be a potential suitor for the next superstar free agent.
After that, there isn’t much.
Cory Joseph, set to make $12.6 million, was waived and re-signed to a two-year, $10 million deal.
Mason Plumlee and the $16 million remaining on his contract was shipped off on draft night for a second-round pick in return.
Kelly Olynyk signed for three-years, $37 million, but will be the only other player besides Grant and Cunningham making more than $10 million AAV.
REPORT: Kelly Olynk signs 3-Year, $37 Million contract with Pistons, via @wojespn
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) August 2, 2021
All of them are great young players but are either due to sign or have already signed their rookie extensions.
Detroit would have then been looking at having two players signed for more than $20 million per season and a potentially lesser prospect.
Drafting Cade at one locks him up for the next four years at a reasonable yearly salary between $10 million – $14 million.
This positions the Pistons to be potential players in a star-studded 2022 free-agent class.
Detroit made the right decision holding on to the first overall pick.
They got a potentially generational talent and will have him locked up for the foreseeable future on a non-restrictive salary.