(Reuters) -The Pistons selected Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham with the top pick of the 2021 NBA draft on Thursday, giving Detroit an NBA-ready, dynamic 6-foot-8 point guard.
Cunningham, 19, was named the Big 12 Player of the Year after his season with the Cowboys and joins a young Pistons squad that picked three players in the first round of last year’s draft.
The Texas native said he could not have achieved his dreams without the support of his parents and two-year-old daughter Riley, whom he kissed on the cheek after his name was called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at Barclays Center in New York.
“I know my name was the first name called but I didn’t do this by myself. I have a No. 1 pick family,” said an emotional Cunningham.
“She’s my biggest motivation,” he said of Riley. “She’s taught me way more than I could ever teach her.”
Cunningham will have his work cut out for him when he joins a Pistons squad that finished last season 20-52 and in last place in the Eastern Conference.
“Detroit, I’m all the way in!” he said. “Let’s do it!”
Cunningham has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer and seven-time All-Star Grant Hill, who was selected third overall by the Pistons in 1994 and helped turn the struggling franchise around.
Houston Rockets chose Jalen Green second overall, adding the flashy, athletic shooting guard who spent last season in the NBA G-League.
Green said his goal was to take home Rookie of the Year honors in his first season.
“I have a lot of work to do,” Green said. “I need to lock in and focus on my craft and get that Rookie of the Year. That’s what I’m aiming for.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers took USC’s shot-blocking big man Evan Mobley with the No. 3 pick.
The seven-foot Mobley’s agility and ball-handling skills are rare for a player of his size and he likely would have gone No. 1 overall if this year’s draft was not so flush with talent.
The Toronto Raptors selected Florida State forward Scottie Barnes and the Orlando Magic took Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs to round out the top five picks.
The NBA’s 2021-2022 regular season kicks off on Oct. 19.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Karishma Singh)