Cunningham, Mobley, Green all exude confidence to believe they should be Pistons pick at No. 1
Gregory Shamus (NBAE/Getty)
Part of being the No. 1 pick is developing the confidence to make it beyond your belief that anyone else deserves to be the No. 1 pick.
“I wanted to meet with the team that had the number one pick because I feel like I’m the number one pick,” Cade Cunningham said after coming to Detroit to meet with Pistons coaches and executives last week. “If the (Houston) Rockets get the number one pick, then maybe I’ll meet with them if there’s enough time.”
Cunningham is almost universally expected to go No. 1 and that pick belongs to the Pistons after they won the NBA draft lottery five weeks ago, the first time in 14 tries since the lottery’s 1985 inception that the franchise moved up – and the first time the Pistons will draft No. 1 since they took Bob Lanier in 1970. But there are at least two other players, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley, who many consider in the same tier as Cunningham.
“I think I’ll be a generational player no one has really seen before,” Mobley said. “That’s what I’m aspiring to be. I’m just going to keep working and stay in the gym until I get there.”
There were reports the Pistons hosted Green for a weekend workout and others that they still have designs on working out and meeting with Mobley as the countdown to Thursday night’s draft continues. ESPN.com reported on Monday that the Pistons are having internal discussions about Cunningham, Green and Mobley and remain undecided about who they’ll take at No. 1. Other reports say several teams have made trade proposals to land the top pick.
The No. 1 pick has been traded only three times in the lottery era and only once since Chris Webber, the Michigan All-American, was traded by Orlando to Golden State in the 1993 draft held at The Palace of Auburn Hills for Penny Hardaway, the third pick, plus three future No. 1 picks.
There are several teams holding multiple future first-round picks that could attempt to pry the No. 1 pick away from the Pistons, including Houston at No. 2, Oklahoma City at No. 6 and New Orleans, though the Pelicans traded down from 10 to 17 with Memphis on Monday and now seems an even more unlikely trade partner.
Cunningham emerged as the favorite to become the top pick before his freshman season at Oklahoma State and solidified that status by becoming a 40 percent 3-point shooter to go along with the spectrum of his other abilities, including as a 6-foot-8 playmaker who finishes at the rim and projects as an above-average defender with a 7-foot-1 wingspan.
In another year, the gap between Cunningham and the field would eliminate all doubt about what the Pistons will do when NBA commissioner Adam Silver puts them on the clock shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday. But Green, Mobley and even Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs are talented enough to cast some doubt on the outcome.
“I’ve been saying for a long time, we have one of the best classes in a long time,” Cunningham said. “I really appreciate the fact we’ve all been pushing each other throughout. I remember every camp we’ve been to. Any time I’ve seen those guys in AAU tournaments, anything, we always pushed each other. It was an unwritten rule, but we always make sure we guard each other to try to get the best out of each other.”
Mobley, a 7-footer with rare agility and skills for a player of that size, would seem immune from being played off the floor against smaller lineups as many big men in today’s NBA routinely are.
“I feel like in the modern-day NBA, as a big you have to be able to shoot, guard multiple positions as well as be able to stretch the floor, put the ball on the floor a little bit,” he said. “All those skill sets, I feel I’ve been refining them a little bit in this pre-draft process and a lot of the skills I feel I was pretty good at, as well.”
Green, too, has made it known he believes he merits going No. 1 overall.
“I just felt like I should be No. 1 because I work harder than a lot of the dudes in my class,” Green told Bleacher Report. “That’s the only reason. It’s not something that could have been or should have been. It’s just because I work harder.”
The ESPN report about the Pistons remaining undecided should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s standard procedure for NBA front offices to gather in the final 24 to 48 hours before the draft to set their final draft board. So the fact they hadn’t determined who was No. 1 on their board as of Monday could well be merely a reflection of the fact that Pistons general manager Troy Weaver and his cabinet have yet to have that meeting.
We’ll all find out what that meeting yielded Thursday evening.