'Praise God': Detroit Pistons win NBA draft lottery for 1st time, own No. 1 pick in draft

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The Detroit Pistons had Hall of Fame representation at Tuesday's 2021 NBA draft lottery. Ben Wallace, who will be inducted into the 2021 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class, didn't bring a good luck charm with him. He didn't need to. After the career he had — going from undrafted to becoming one of the greatest players in NBA history — there was no reason to think his streak would end.

"I figured that after all the work I put in, nothing but good things can happen," Wallace said before the lottery.

They were bound to get lucky eventually, right?

The Pistons won the 2021 NBA draft lottery and will own the first overall pick in this year's draft July 29. They are positioned to draft the consensus best prospect, Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham, or go in a different direction with USC center Evan Mobley.

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Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham celebrates after a basket against Oklahoma during an overtime win Feb. 27, 2021 in Norman, Okla.
Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham celebrates after a basket against Oklahoma during an overtime win Feb. 27, 2021 in Norman, Okla.

As a freshman last season, the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists, shooting 43.8% overall, 40% on 3-pointers and 84.6% on free throws over 27 games. He led the Cowboys to a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, where they were upset in the second round by No. 12 seed Oregon State. He turns 20 in September.

"We get to add another young player to the restoration process," Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said after the lottery, noting the Pistons will look at five guys and consider everything. "We're excited to be in this position. It means that we got a lot of work to do and it always helps to be able to add a No. 1 pick to such a talented group of players."

Asked what his first thought was after seeing the Pistons' envelope pop up at No. 1 on ESPN's live telecast? "Praise God," he said.

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It's the first time in franchise history the Pistons' draft pick moved up via the lottery, rather than moving down or staying put. It'll also be the first time they own the first pick in a draft since 1970, when they selected Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier.

The Pistons appeared in the lottery 14 times prior to Tuesday. It was the second appearance for Weaver, who saw the team slide two spots from the fifth-best odds to the seventh pick in last year's lottery.

Here's the draft order for the top-14 picks:

1. Detroit

2. Houston

3. Cleveland

4. Toronto

5. Orlando

6. Oklahoma City

7. Golden State (from Minnesota)

8. Orlando (from Chicago)

9. Sacramento

10. New Orleans

11. Charlotte

12. San Antonio

13. Indiana

14. Golden State

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Beyond Cunningham, Mobley, G League Ignite guard Jalen Green and Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs are widely considered to be among the draft's top prospects.

Mobley, a skilled and mobile 7-foot, 210-pounder who turned 20 on Friday, averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists as a freshman in 33 games for the Trojans last season.

"I was ready for six, I was ready for five, I was ready for four, I was ready for three, I was ready for two," Weaver said. "I was ready. My faith doesn't waver. My faith in restoring the Pistons doesn't waver."

Beyond the first pick, the Pistons also own three picks in the second round — Nos. 37 (from Toronto), 42 (from Charlotte) and 52 (from Los Angeles Lakers). New York owns the Pistons' second-rounder at No. 32.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons win 2021 NBA draft lottery, will own top pick in July