Houston Rockets: 3 trades to land Cade Cunningham in the NBA Draft

N.B. Lindberg
Big 12 Basketball Tournament - Semifinals
Big 12 Basketball Tournament - Semifinals / Jamie Squire/Getty Images
4 of 4
Cade Cunningham, Houston Rockets, NBA Draft
2016 NBA Draft / Mike Stobe/Getty Images

NBA Draft: Houston Rockets Cade Cunningham trade #1

Bringing in third parties always complicates things and the best course of action for the Rockets may be to negotiate directly with the Pistons for the 1st pick. In this deal, the Rockets send the 2nd, 23rd, and 24th picks in the 2021 NBA draft, along with Detroit’s protected 2022 1st rounder, and the Milwaukee Bucks 2023 1st rounder to Detroit. 

This deal is made possible by Christian Wood, but instead of moving him, the Rockets move the pick they got from Detroit as part of the sign and trade. The Pistons aren’t expected to be a strong team next year, which means the top-16 protected pick is unlikely to convey, but there is an added benefit to having that pick back for the Pistons. 

Related. Why Cade Cunningham isn’t a lock at no. 1 in NBA Draft. dark

The pick goes from top-16 protected in 2022, to top-19 protected in 2023 and 2024, to top-13 protected in 2025, to top-11 in 2026, and then finally top-9 in 2027. Until that pick conveys, the Pistons can’t trade away their first-round picks. So even if the Pistons think there is little chance that the pick conveys anytime soon, it not conveying puts their flexibility in a bind. 

At first glance, Milwaukee’s 2023 first-round pick doesn’t project to be all that valuable. After all, they just won the championship, but that’s a little short-sighted. Jrue Holiday is already 31, Khris Middleton turns 30 in August, Brook Lopez is 33, and while Giannis will still be in his prime, that's an increasingly old roster. 

If Giannis were to miss time in the 2022-23 season there’s a real chance the pick creeps up towards the lottery, and if he were to miss most of the season it’d probably cause the Bucks to be in it. The Pistons might not care about their ability to trade first-round picks, but if Cunningham is as good as advertised, then they might become buyers sooner rather than later. 

Next. JaVale McGee over Christian Wood for Team USA? Popovich please. dark

Having the ability to add veteran help could be crucial in a season or two for the Pistons. If they get that pick back it’s smooth sailing, but if they wait, then it’ll be the Rockets with all the leverage. The Pistons might want to strike when they’re in the driver's seat.