Cade Cunningham to Pistons: No. 1 Pick's Projected Contract with Detroit

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2021

Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham (2) reacts to hitting a three-point basket against Oregon State during the second half of a men's college basketball game in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Pistons have their new franchise cornerstone.

And Cade Cunningham is about to get his new contract.

Detroit selected the Oklahoma State guard with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2021 NBA draft on Thursday. The next step is officially signing him, and there is a framework in place to estimate what the contract will look like before he hits the court.

RealGM provided a scale for rookie contracts while pointing out that first-round picks can sign for as little as 80 percent of the rookie scale or for as much as 120 percent of it.

For the No. 1 pick, the first-year salary is $8.4 million, the second-year salary is $8.8 million and the third-year option salary is $9.2 million.

What's more, the fourth-year option is a 26.1 percent increase over the third-year salary, and the qualifying option is a 30.0 percent increase over the fourth-year salary.

If Cunningham plays like he did during his one season at Oklahoma State, the contract will be well worth it.

He was a consensus All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year behind 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He also hit 40.0 percent of his shots from three-point range and helped lead the Cowboys to the Big 12 tournament championship game and second round of the NCAA tournament.

Cunningham brings everything a team could want from a guard.

He shoots from the outside, creates his own looks off the dribble, attacks the basket, rebounds from the backcourt and facilitates for teammates when defenders collapse on him.

"The eye test shows a special passer (especially dating back to Montverde Academy), even if his 3.5 assists per game seem pedestrian," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote. "His vision and delivery skill, coupled with his creativity, suggest he can occupy the same high-usage initiator role that Luka Doncic does for the Dallas Mavericks."

That is quite the comparison, but Cunningham figures to be a matchup nightmare at 6'8" in the backcourt.

It will not be a surprise if he is a multitime All-Star and a franchise cornerstone for years to come.

That is exactly what a Pistons team that is coming off a 20-52 season and hasn't won a playoff series since the 2007-08 season needs.

The history of the NBA is filled with transcendent stars making the difference between mere playoff appearances and championship-caliber roster, and it has been quite some time since Detroit had one of those on the team.

While that is plenty of pressure to put on a rookie's shoulders, there is a reason Cunningham was taken with the first overall pick. Now he will look to deliver on those elevated expectations.