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NBA Draft: Is it possible for the Detroit Pistons to find equal value in a trade for the No. 1 pick?

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Betteridge’s law applies here

2021 NBA Draft Lottery Photo by Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

I think the Detroit Pistons trading down from the No. 1 is dumb. I also trust Troy Weaver implicitly. So when the Pistons GM says he’s turning over stones and gonna do his own research on the class of guys at the top of the 2021 NBA Draft, I both believe him and gotta game out the implications. When Sam Vecenie (who is plugged in to Detroit AND other NBA front offices) and Omari Sankofa and James Edwards (who are plugged in to Detroit’s front office) say the same, I REALLY have to game out the implications:

As much as I would prefer to not do that.

So, let’s see what teams can offer for Cade Cunningham.

Houston Rockets

Houston has their own first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, Brooklyn and Milwaukee’s first-round picks in 2023, and, intriguingly for speculation purposes, a heavily protected future first-round pick from Detroit. The protections on the Detroit pick are a little funky; essentially, if the Pistons make the playoffs before 2027, Houston gets that pick (and if Detroit doesn’t make the playoffs before 2027, we have bigger fish to fry).

I don’t think Houston, even with Cade Cunningham, would be a playoff team. But a lineup of John Wall, Kevin Porter Jr., Cade Cunningham, Christian Wood, and Kelly Olynyk doesn’t scream 22 wins and top lottery odds either. That makes even unprotected future first-round picks from Houston a gamble.

That’s a common thread throughout all these trade scenarios, by the way. Whoever you trade Cade Cunningham to ... now has Cade Cunningham! That probably makes them a much better team than they were. Makes getting surplus value more difficult, in my opinion.

With that said, I could see Houston offering something like this:

That’s No. 1 for No. 2, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick, and your own (again, non-lottery) future pick back.

This feels like adequate payment for moving up one slot guaranteed. Again, with the thought that Cade immediately elevates Houston out of the league’s basement, giving Detroit back their non-lottery pick offers some protection against Houston’s unprotected 2022 being the eighth pick in the draft instead of the third. I probably wouldn’t execute this trade, but it’s probably “fair” from an asset perspective.

If Detroit’s own pick back is too much, maybe you could try to grab those 2023 Milwaukee or Brooklyn picks; both those team should still be top of the conference in 2023, making their picks bottom-of-the barrel.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland has their 2022 first-round pick, their own 2023 first-round pick, and their own 2024 first-round pick.

Any offer Cleveland makes is likely going to involve Collin Sexton, a very good player headed to a showdown with his front office over the dollar amount of his post-rookie extension:

(Poor Collin Sexton, btw; all he’s done since he got in the league is get better and better, and he keeps gettin’ slandered. He averaged 24 points and four assists last year; that’s not easy!)

With that in mind, I could see the Cavs offering something like this:

That’s No. 1 and Rodney McGruder’s veteran leadership for No. 3, an unprotected 2022 first-round pick, and the right to pay Collin Sexton.

This is decent value, but perhaps not an amazing fit for the Pistons, especially if (as is presumed) they have their sights set on Jalen Green at No. 3. Sexton and Green are both score-first shooting guards; putting them together wouldn’t work any better in Detroit than it would in Cleveland. Adding two more shooting guards to the roster also adds some question marks around the future for Troy Weaver’s Guy Hamidou Diallo in Detroit. “What do we do about Hami?” doesn’t scuttle the trade, but it’s a complicating factor that you’d have to consider.

I like what Cleveland is putting together, I like Collin Sexton and hope he finds a good NBA home, I would 1,000% not do this trade. But it’s probably “fair.”

Golden State Warriors

Hey Laz what about Wiseman, 7, and 14? I was listening to the Lowe Post podcast and...

NO. STOP IT. NO. BAD MEDIA. STOP TRYING TO GIN UP STUFF AROUND THE WARRIORS. STOP IT. NO.

Yes, I also heard that Wiseman was No. 1 on the Pistons’ 2020 Board (after the draft, but before James Edwards threw it out there publicly, FWIW), and I took a BIG, LONG sigh at that, but we are past that. The 2020 class is NOT the 2021 class. I gather that the team is higher on both Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green than they were on Wiseman.

Also, the Pistons said they were interested in interviewing five players, and last I checked, five is less than seven. The seventh pick won’t do Detroit any good if all five guys they like in the draft are off the board at that point. Ignore ESPN’s Pro-Big-Market schtick on this one.

#JustTakeCade

A franchise guy, is worth more than the asset game. You play the asset game TO GET the franchise guy. If you have a shot at the guy without having to play any games... just take him.

By most accounts, Cade Cunningham is a franchise guy. The question of whether the Pistons trade down is less about Cade and more about if Troy Weaver thinks there’s another franchise guy available. I don’t know if that’s the case, but I do trust Troy.

We’re just going to have to see what’s what on July 29.