Team USA is ramping up its preparations for this month’s FIBA World Cup, yet it was a player from the USA Select Team that caught everyone’s attention at their Las Vegas training camp.

Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons led the Select Team to an eight-point win over the Men’s Team in a 20 minute scrimmage as he masterfully controlled the tempo of the contest. The performance of the 21-year-old guard was quite an encouraging development given that he is barely eight months removed from shin surgery that prematurely ended his ‘22-’23 NBA campaign.

Reports have emerged that Cunningham was actually invited to join the main team, but was said to have refused in order to ensure that he is fully recovered by the beginning of the upcoming NBA season.

The 6’6 point guard managed to make just 12 appearances last year for Detroit, though he posted improved numbers across the board as he averaged 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and six assists. Taking into consideration his recent form versus Team USA, it is widely expected that Cunningham will exceed these numbers in ‘23-’24 as he retakes the reins of this long-suffering Pistons franchise.

In Cunningham’s absence, last year’s fifth overall pick Jaden Ivey was immediately thrust into a bigger role at the forefront of Detroit’s attack. The 21-year-old Ivey understandably struggled with efficiency as the Pistons stumbled to the NBA Draft Lottery for the fourth consecutive season with a 17-65 regular season record. It became clear too that Ivey is better suited playing alongside a more ball dominant player such as Cunningham instead of running the show himself.

With Cunningham all set to return, the 6’4 Ivey can slide back to his natural shooting guard position and finally give Detroit’s front office a chance to evaluate this dynamic backcourt pairing.

The Pistons’ difficult campaign sans Cunningham also put them in the position to draft small forward Ausar Thompson fifth overall in this year’s NBA Draft.

A few months before Cunningham turned heads in Nevada, the 6’7 Thompson did so as well at the Las Vegas Summer League where he averaged 13.5 points, 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.6 steals, and 1.8 blocks. Thompson’s defensive upside coupled with his potential to become a decent shooter at the NBA level should allow him to fit right in next to these two offensive-minded guards.

With Thompson onboard, Detroit now has a starting line-up for the future as big men Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart have also proven to be viable options for the future. Duren, who is still only 19 years old, played alongside Cunningham on the Select Team and was impressive as well.

One potential roadblock to the development of Duren and Stewart though are Marvin Bagley and Wiseman. These two former number two overall picks were acquired by the Pistons for cheap as reclamation projects yet have not been able to maximize their second chance. It would be wise for the Pistons to veer away from giving these two players too much exposure and instead prioritize the development of their own draft picks.

Heading into next season, it would not come as a surprise if this Detroit team once again finds itself bound for the NBA Draft Lottery given how young their core pieces are. One year of seasoning and chemistry building may be needed before they can break into the postseason picture.

However, if Cunningham can build off his impressive form at Las Vegas, the Pistons may find themselves suddenly ahead of schedule and battling for one of the lower postseason seeds. Cunningham is that good and has the potential to be Detroit’s center of gravity for at least the next decade, similar to the role that Luka Doncic plays for the Dallas Mavericks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander occupies with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The future is definitely bright in Detroit with all of the prospects that they have on their roster, but in the end, their ceiling will ultimately be determined by Cunningham and how far along he goes on his path to become an NBA superstar.