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Pistons Lottery Pick Candid About Possible Contract Extension

Detroit Pistons lottery pick Cade Cunningham

This week, Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham addressed the media for the last time after being one of the lone bright spots in a particularly tough season.

The No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Cunningham played in 62 games after being limited to 12 last season. While posting career-high shooting splits, he averaged career-highs of 22.7 points and 7.5 assists per game. The season was far from perfect and Cunningham has improvements to make at both ends. Nonetheless, he played well enough to keep discussions about a supermax contract extension alive.

In order to be eligible for a supermax contract extension, a player must have seven to nine years of experience and meet certain performance criteria: make an All-NBA team, win Defensive Player of the Year, or win the NBA MVP Award.

A player has to have been named an All-NBA selection or win DPOY within two of the last three seasons or the most recent season heading into their season of eligibility. They have to win MVP in any of the three previous seasons. A player becomes ineligible if traded after his first four seasons.

Pistons Lottery Pick Candid About Possible Contract Extension

During his final media round for the 2023-24 season, Cunningham was asked if he’s thought about a contract extension to remain in Detroit.

“You asked if I thought about my extension?” Cunningham asks, laughing.

“I think thats obvious,” he continues. “I’ve definitely had that on my mind. But at the same time, I’ve been making sure that I don’t get ahead of myself.”

“If I got in a car crash and I wasn’t able to play anymore, you know what I mean? Those types of things don’t happen,” Cunningham says, knocking on the wood. “So I’m just taking it one day at a time and staying in the moment. When that gets here, it’ll get here. Lord willing, it does.”

Cunningham’s refusal to get too high or too low is a mental trick that many NBA greats have utilized throughout their career. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, who have six NBA championships and Finals MVPs between them, are notorious for their even-keeled demeanor.

Frankly, after posting the worst record in franchise history, it makes sense for a Pistons player to adopt that attitude. Yet, Cunningham’s maturity has been on display for years. His answer to whether he’s thought about his contract extension is just more of the same.

However, it also shows his determination to get the Pistons back to their winning ways. With 42 playoff appearances and three NBA championships, Detroit has one of the better franchises. NBA fans wouldn’t know it based on the last 15 years. Since the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the Pistons have only reached the postseason twice. They’ve won 30 or fewer games in 10 of those seasons.

To that point, the burden of returning the Pistons to their former glory largely lies with the front office. Most players can’t single-handedly turn a franchise around after 15 years of mediocrity. For that reason, Detroit hiring a new president of basketball operations makes plenty of sense.

Nonetheless, as the present face of the franchise, Cunningham shares the front office’s responsibility. Speaking about his mindset as he heads into the offseason, Cunningham says:

“For me, just focusing on next season and how I could help improve the team, how I could improve my game, how I could bring more to the table, is everything for me.”

To that end, Cunningham needs to become a better 3-point shooter, craftier finisher, and more assertive on-ball defender.

Despite shooting a career-high 35.5 percent from 3 in 2023-24, it was still below average. He made just 55.6 percent of his shots in the restricted area and 41.9 percent of his shots in the paint outside of the restricted area. For a 6-foot-6 primary option, these numbers are also substandard.

Building Around Cade Cunningham

Cunningham has the potential to be one of the best Pistons players ever. If he can bring about a basketball renaissance in Detroit, he could truly go down in history. The Pistons just need to build the proper team around him, surrounding him with 3-and-D players. A big playmaker like James or Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Cunningham needs to be able to get downhill with as few obstacles in his way as possible.

The sooner the Pistons realize that, the better.


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