Cade Cunningham has been making the case for himself as an NBA Rookie of the Year candidate since he was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets with their first round pick in 2018. His versatility on both ends of the floor, along with his work ethic and willingness to learn have made him a fan favorite early on.
The nba mock draft 2021 is a series of articles that look into the NBA Rookie of the Year race. In this first part, we take a look at Cade Cunningham’s all-around versatility.
Note: This is the first in a five-part series on how five different rookies might win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
Cade Cunningham was a consensus five-star prospect coming out of high school in 2019, with every major recruiting agency ranking him among the top — if not the top — prospects.
The Arlington, Texas native was the greatest player on the nation’s top-ranked high school team and entered college as a versatile, high-character leader who was as skilled and polished off the court as he was on it.
Cunningham went on to play college basketball at Oklahoma State University, where he lived up to his high school reputation before entering the NBA Draft in 2021.
Cade Cunningham was selected first overall by the Detroit Pistons.
During the 2021 NBA Summer League, rookie Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons is defended by Aamir Simms of the New York Knicks. | Getty Images/Ethan Miller
Coming into college, it was difficult to find flaws in the 6-foot-8 guard’s game, and it was much more difficult coming out of Stillwater. In mock drafts, Cunningham was widely projected to go first overall to the Detroit Pistons.
In his lone season with the Cowboys, Cunningham was a consensus All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year. In 26 games, he averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
The 20-year-old was pushed to do more with less and was the primary focus for opposing defenses every night since he did not choose to attend Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, or any other college basketball powerhouse. Despite this, he produced.
Cunningham was described as a “franchise-changing offensive orchestrator with silky scoring talents, flexible defense, and a winning mindset” in The Ringer’s 2021 Draft Guide.
The argument for Cunningham as Rookie of the Year is based on his overall flexibility.
He went on to say that there are some parallels to Grant Hill.
June 23, 2021 — Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard)
It will be because of his all-around ability that the Pistons rookie wins the honor. Cunningham is a playmaking point guard who stands 6-8 and weighs 220-pounds. He has an instant size advantage over almost every other guard in the league.
He is, however, a talented passer with a high IQ and great court vision. On and off the court, he’s wise beyond his years.
Cunningham is at ease at the point and setting the pace for his team; he understands when to go out and run in transition and when to calm things down and run a half-court offense.
The Rookie of the Year in the Big 12 for 2020-21 also possesses a diverse scoring arsenal. His size enables him to outmuscle opponents at the hoop, and he hit 41.2 percent from three at OSU. Defenses must respect his passing skill and unselfishness, thus driving lanes often open up for him.
Cunningham’s most major question mark is whether he’s athletic enough to keep up with faster guards defensively. However, because of his height and length — as well as his flexibility — Detroit will be able to flip ball screens on defense or keep him on a player his size rather than a shifty guard.
What might Cunningham’s Rookie of the Year campaign look like?
Cade is one of the favorites to win Rookie of the Year as the No. 1 overall selection. But a few things have to fall into place for it to happen. He must deliver statistically since numbers are usually crucial in prize voting.
Something along the lines of the first-team all-Big 12 performer’s collegiate stat line would put him ahead of the pack in the award race. Cunningham will most likely be the front runner if he can average more over 20 points per game while also demonstrating his offensive flexibility with good rebounding and assist statistics.
The most important element of the No. 1 pick’s case, though, may be whether or not he can lead a failing Detroit team to victory.
With a 20-52 record last season, the Pistons finished dead last in the Eastern Conference. Cunningham isn’t expected to lead the club to the playoffs in his first season, but the team will need to demonstrate some progress. The magic number may need to be closer to 30 victories.
The preseason favorite to win the award is Detroit’s new franchise cornerstone. Cunningham will enter his second year in the league with some hardware if he performs like he did at Oklahoma State and demonstrates he can start to create a winning culture in Detroit.
Sports Reference provided all statistics.
With his latest endorsement deal, Cade Cunningham is following in the footsteps of LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and a slew of other NBA stars.
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Cade Cunningham is a 6’7 point guard, who has been described as a tremendous athlete, and an unbelievable finisher. He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Reference: cade cunningham height.
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