Back in late July, the Detroit Pistons had the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft for the first time since 1970 and to no surprise they took former Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham – the first Cowboys player to go first. Alas, Cunningham will not play in Wednesday's season/home opener against the Chicago Bulls with an ankle injury. It will be the Chicago debut of Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan, but returning guard Coby White is out. The Bulls have risen from -4 on the NBA odds to -5.
Usually, the player selected first overall is the betting favorite entering an NBA season as Rookie of the Year, but Cunningham is a +275 second-favorite to No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green (+240) of Houston perhaps in part because bettors haven't seen Cunningham in action yet -- Green has taken by far the most tickets on that prop at Caesars Sportsbook. Cunningham missed the entire preseason because of an ankle injury, and the Pistons obviously are going to be very cautious with their potential franchise player.
Cunningham has not participated fully in practice since the first week of training camp but he went through part of practice Monday. The Pistons want him going through multiple practices.
"We don't want to be stupid and come out and force him out there and now you're out another month or whatever it is," Coach Dwane Casey said. "We're not going to put a timetable on it. When he's ready to roll, he's going to be ready to roll."
No. 1 overall NBA picks missing their season opener is not new. The Pelicans' Zion Williamson missed nearly the first three months of his rookie 2019-20 campaign (and won't play tonight, either, for New Orleans). Blake Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 by the Clippers, missed his entire rookie season.
As for the Bulls, they got a nice surprise late in the preseason with the earlier-than-expected return of forward Patrick Williams, the No. 4 overall pick last year. Williams was supposed to miss 4-6 weeks with a badly sprained ankle but crushed that timetable. The former FSU star averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds as a rookie but was awesome in this year's Summer League.
White had left shoulder surgery in June and probably a month away. He averaged 15.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds last year and will be coming off the bench regardless after Chicago added Ball and DeRozan this offseason. Chicago has missed the playoffs four straight seasons but could be one of the league's most improved teams with Ball, DeRozan, Alex Caruso and a full season of Nikola Vucevic alongside fellow All-Star Zach LaVine.
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