Detroit Pistons, Dwane Casey know 'there will be growing pains' with rookie Cade Cunningham

DETROIT -- The starting lineup for the Detroit Pistons is unclear.

Neither is their win-loss record for the 2021-22 season, but coach Dwane Casey is willing to bet the bank on one thing: "Cade won't be a bust."

There's still some question marks surrounding Detroit's No. 1 pick, Cade Cunningham, but Casey is confident in the former Oklahoma State star's ability to thrive at the next level.

"One thing I know, Cade won't be a bust. He's not. That's one thing, you can guarantee that," Casey said during Monday's media day. "But, there will be growing pains. We have to be supportive. He's going to have a target on his back each and every night, and it's something that us, his teammates, the coaching staff, the whole organization is to make sure we support him. There's gonna be some nights he scores seven and it's gonna be some nights he scores 25."

Two days removed from celebrating his 20th birthday, the former Big 12 Player of the Year reported to his first Pistons media day at Little Caesars Arena sporting the No. 2, which was previously retired by the franchise in honor of legendary Chuck Daly's two titles in 1989 and 1990.

He received blessings from Daly's daughter, Cydney, to wear the number and continue the legacy.

Cunningham says he's studied the history of top selections across the league and wants to prove why he falls in line with those level of players. He became the third player in franchise history to be picked first overall, joining Detroit native and former NBA player Jalen Rose's father Jimmy Walker (1967) and Bob Lanier (1970), which happened 51 years ago.

"I definitely have looked into it, because it's fun to see the history of it," Cunningham said. "It's fun to see where those people have went, but at the same time, I try to just stay me. I try to lock in on the fact that I'm trying to live this everyday so I'm really just writing my own story. I'm not any of those guys. So, it's fun. I think it's exciting to see where I can take it. I just see it as an opportunity really to show everybody that I am the No. 1 pick and I was taken there for a reason."

Throughout his process of adjusting to the NBA, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is committed to investing in Cunningham's development to prevent another letdown like Darko Milicic, who didn't pan out after being selected second overall in 2003. Cunningham has also been introduced to past stars of the franchise, including Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Grant Hill. He attended Wallace's Hall of Fame enshrinement earlier this month.

"I'm excited to be playing for a city that's excited for me really," Cunningham said. Cunningham's all-around game has drawn comparisons to Hill, who was a superstar for the team in the 1990s and the last Pistons player to win co-Rookie of the Year in 1994-95. Both are 6-foot-8 players with great feel for the game, and their relationship dates back to Cunningham's high school tenure at Montverde Academy in Florida, where Hill resides. They've shot back and forth text messages since Cunningham was drafted in Detroit. Hill recently visited the practice facility, where Cunningham was present. It's a relationship Cunningham will continue to lean on.

"I don't know if he needs my advice, but compete and play hard," Hill said to ESPN about Cunningham. "It's a city that I think appreciates effort and I think that's who he is. That's in his DNA. Come out, lunch pail, work hard and compete every time you're on the floor. "I mean, embracing the city. He's done that already ... for his own personal edification, if he can take the time to really get to know Detroit. I think Detroiters will appreciate that, but he'll appreciate that as well."