The $226 million-dollar man? The Pistons face a huge dilemma with their best player

Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey
Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey / John Fisher/GettyImages

The Detroit Pistons, who have had the worst record in the NBA in each of the last two seasons, are about to get very expensive. The Pistons are expected to offer 2021 number one overall pick Cade Cunningham a rookie max extension, which would be for as much as 5 years and $226 million.

Cunningham lived up to expectations this past season, averaging 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 7.5 assists, though his potential price tag starting in the 2025–26 season would be $45.2 million a year on average. Actually, depending on whether he makes one of the three All-NBA teams next season, that figure could skyrocket further with him being eligible for 30% of the salary cap.

That would push his extension up to near $250,000,000 and his average salary up to near $50 million a season. Those numbers are sure to give Pistons fans sticker shock, especially since the Pistons don't appear anywhere close to competing for even the play-in tournament, let alone being a contender. Then again, with the NBA salary cap steadily rising, so are the contracts for young stars.

Should the Detroit Pistons think twice about maxing out Cade Cunningham?

Despite his projected salary, if he were to be extended, it may actually end up being a value deal in a few seasons. With the NBA's new television contract expected to kick in after next season, the salary cap could rise by as much as 10% each year for the foreseeable future.

That means that Cunningham getting 25% of the expected $141 million salary cap will be a lot cheaper than him getting 25% of the salary cap when it's, say, $165 million in three seasons. Then, of course, there is a strong chance that he could improve his level of play, further improving his value while decreasing the risk involved with the extension.

The Pistons will need to improve the talent level surrounding Cunningham to be able to make full use of his talent. The extension would ensure that he sticks around for another five seasons beyond next year, which would give them time to do so.