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Cade Cunningham opts for season-ending surgery, according to ESPN report

Cunningham’s absence will likely mean prime lottery position for Detroit and plenty of development time for the team’s other young guards.

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

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham has decided to have season-ending surgery on his ailing left shin, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The former No. 1 overall pick has missed Detroit’s past 17 games as he tried to rest and strengthen the shin, but after consultation with several doctors in recent weeks decided the best course of action was to have surgery. The move gives Cunningham the best chance to be fully recovered ahead of training camp next season, Wojnarowksi reports.

Cunningham averaged 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6 assists in an abbreviated sophomore season. Cade was figuring out how to score and contribute, especially in the mid-range, but even by his standards the explosion wasn’t there and he struggled with his perimeter shot, front-rimming many of his attempts. It was no surprise when Cunningham sat to rest his shin injury, and the issued apparently had been a lingering one going back to last season.

It was not an altogether unexpected announcement. Perhaps I’m jaded, but to me it seemed like a matter of when and not if this season-ending surgery would be official. Per Woj’s reporting, Cade wanted to give it one month of rest to see how his body respond, and one month later decided surgery was the best option.

With this move official, Detroit is unofficially officially on Wemby watch. Detroit enters Monday with the league’s worst record at 7-22. The team has moved on to featuring Killian Hayes at starting point guard, and the third-year Frenchman has responded well.

Since Cunningham went down with his injury, Hayes is averaging 11 points, 6.6 assists, 1.9 turnovers and 1.4 steals. Considering how non-existent Hayes’ offensive game was in his first, injury-marred 2.5 seasons, this recent stretch has been by far the best ball of his career. Hayes is hitting 3-pointers at a respectable clip and finding ways to score in the mid-range. He’s also playing terrific defense and is really commanding the floor at the point.

Rookie Jaden Ivey has also had his moment, but has seemed to hit the rookie wall of late. Ivey is averaging 15.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4 assists, all marks near the top for the rookie class.

Now, the two young guards have the rest of the season to develop as scorers and passers. The wins will likely be few and far between, and the Pistons could have takers for established veterans like Bojan Bogdanovic, most recently linked to the Lakers and as many as 12 interested teams, and Alec Burks.

All of it means Detroit will likely finish the season with among the league’s worst records and a decent shot at getting Victor Wembanyama in the NBA Draft. And if not Wemby, this is a stacked class full of quality consolation prizes like Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson, Nick Smith Jr, Brandon Miller and Cam Whitmore.

So, rev those tanking engines, fans, and root for some internal development along the way.