Best and worst-case scenarios for Cade Cunningham's max extension

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards
Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards / Jess Rapfogel/GettyImages

With so many things going on for the Detroit Pistons, there has been little talk about their franchise player Cade Cunningham and his upcoming extension. 

Cunningham is set to make just under $14 million next season but there has been widespread speculation that the Pistons will offer him the max extension this summer and he has every reason to take it. 

Whether the Pistons (or Cunningham) see each other as long-term partners, it makes sense to sign this deal, as it will give Cade more money than any other team can offer and it won’t hurt his trade value, so there isn’t much risk for Detroit. 

This is the reason that no star rookie has ever declined to sign an extension and I don’t expect Cade Cunningham to be the first. 

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How that contract ends up playing out is a different story, as there are definitely best and worst-case scenarios for a deal that will likely include five years and over $200 million. 

Best-case scenario for Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons 

The best-case scenario is obvious, and it’s that Cunningham evolves into a superstar who helps turn the franchise around and makes multiple All-Star teams. 

The best-case scenario includes consistent winning and playoff appearances and to contend in years when the luck goes their way. 

It’s for Cade to become Luka-lite, a guy who can ensure a team is at least competitive and can be the engine behind sustained success. It would be great to see Cade spend his entire career in Detroit, become a franchise icon and be one of the reasons this awful stretch came to an end. 

That’s the dream scenario but there is also a nightmare. 

Worst-case scenario for Cade Cunningham’s contract extension 

Barring catastrophic injury, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Cunningham doesn’t make an All-Star game or two. He already put up those kinds of numbers last season and if the team ever wins, he’ll get consideration. 

To me, his worst-case scenario is what we are seeing play out with the Chicago Bulls and Zach LaVine, a talented player, but one with flaws and injury concerns. 

LaVine is very good and has made multiple All-Star teams, but the Bulls haven’t won anything since he’s been in the league. They are second only to the Pistons in fewest playoff wins (1) since 2018 (third if you count the Hornets, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2016). 

LaVine is a gifted offensive player who can’t defend and whose skills have never led to sustained success. Even worse, he now has an albatross of a contract that the Bulls are having a hard time trading, to the point that they may have to accept a garbage deal or even pay to give him away. 

This is the worst-case scenario for Cade, who has yet to win much in his three years in the league and will soon be on a big contract. Let’s hope it’s not one the Pistons view as a stone around their neck at some point. 

The second contract for high draft picks is always the trickiest to navigate, as it relies heavily on the hope that his young person becomes the player you hoped he would be when you drafted him, even though there often isn’t much evidence to go on. 

The Pistons will have to make that leap of faith and hope Cunningham turns out more like the first scenario than the second.