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Cade Cunningham and Pistons considering surgery that could see former No. 1 pick miss extended time

Cunningham feared to have stress fracture in injured shin, is out indefinitely as both sides mull options

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Cade Cunningham is considering surgery on his injured shin that could see him miss an extended period of time in a season that seems to going from bad to worse for the Detroit Pistons.

Cunningham has missed Detroit’s previous five games with shin soreness, and according to The Athletic, the shin issue dates back to last season and has been an issue in the offseason and early this season.

The news that Cunningham and the Pistons were considering surgery as on option for what seemed from the outside like a minor shin issue was first reported by Marc Stein on Saturday morning.

No final determination has been made, according to The Athletic’s James Edwards and Sham Sharania, and the hope is that further rest will eliminate the inflammation causing the shine issues.

The team fears the issue is worse, however, including a potential stress fracture in his injured shin. If he opts for surgery, Cunningham would miss an extended portion of the remaining season.

The Pistons are just 3-14 on the season, sitting with the league’s worst record and the league’s worst net rating. The team has lost all five games Cade has missed and have four games remaining on its current West coast trip.

If Cunningham were to miss extended time to injury or even the rest of the season with surgery, the Pistons would likely remain as one of the league’s worst, and could eventually start considering trading veterans for additional draft assets and players.

That includes Bojan Bogdanovic, who recently signed a multi-year extension with Detroit but is still eligible to be traded, and Alec Burks, who has played well in the four games since completing his rehab from offseason surgery.

On the floor, it likely means more time for Killian Hayes as the team’s starting point guard, though you could envision the team also wanting to get an extended look at rookie Jaden Ivey running the offense.

The much-maligned Hayes is currently in the best stretch of his young career. In 29 minutes per game over his last six contests, Hayes is shooting 42% from the floor and 39% from 3 on nearly four attempts per game. He’s also handing out 4.5 assists to just 1.5 turnovers with nearly two steals per contest.

Those aren’t world-beating numbers, certainly, but Hayes has never needed to be an amazing offensive player to show his value on the court. He only needs to be enough of an offensive threat to open up his superior passing game and allow the team to have him on the floor and let him play plus-defense.

Ivey, meanwhile, has shown plenty of promise in his rookie campaign while also the obvious signs of poor decision-making and struggles you’d expect from someone less than 20 games into their professional career.

The former Purdue standout is averaging 16.3 points and shooting 42% from the floor and nearly 30% from 3. He’s been a better passer than anticipated, and had good stints as the team’s lead ball-handler. But he’s also struggled with forcing shots and playing at one speed (very fast), which leads him into the teeth of the defense and either poor shots or turnovers.

Cunningham’s absence could allow for key development time for some of Detroit’s young guards, but it would also certainly make a bad team even worse. And that is when we get to the Wembanyama of it all.

The Pistons spent the preseason talking about finally being at “ground zero” from a talent and development perspective. They had the right young players, who had enough time getting their feet under them that the results would finally show on the floor.

That has not happened yet. As some cantankerous writers at Detroit Bad Boys predicted, this team is even worse than last season. And it’s not the worst year to be a terrible team. Not with players like potential generational superstar Victor Wembanyama sitting at the top of every franchise’s draft board. And not with consolation prizes as intriguing as Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Dariq Whitehead, Nick Smith Jr., Jarace Walker and Ausur Thompson filling out the top 8.

Still, no fans wanted to see the Pistons sitting with three wins in late November. Nobody wanted them to get blown out on a consistent basis. Nobody wanted to see a defensive regression quite this horrifying with few avenues for actual improvement. Nobody wanted to stare down a season where 20 wins now seems like it would be a pleasant surprise. Most importantly, nobody wanted to sacrifice valuable Cade Cunningham development time for a minuscule bump in the chance to win the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. But here we are.

Cade is hurt. He could miss extended time. He could miss the season. The tank talk is now unavoidable. NBA Draft Lottery night remains the most consequential night of this franchise’s year for the fourth consecutive year, and the 10th time in 12 seasons.