Should the Pistons Expect Cade Cunningham’s Recent Play to Be Sustainable? – GIVEMESPORT

Should the Pistons Expect Cade Cunningham’s Recent Play to Be Sustainable? – GIVEMESPORT

Highlights

  • Cunningham is displaying increased efficiency by taking more wide-open 3s and shooting quicker.
  • There are questions about the sustainability of Cunningham’s recent above-the-break and long-range 3-point shooting.
  • Cunningham’s trajectory as a player resembles established superstars, positioning him as Detroit’s future All-Star.

With the Detroit Pistons now 3-2 in their last five games, the team’s young core appears to be turning a corner not just in their ability to win games, but to put their own game together.

No player on the team exemplifies that more than Cade Cunningham. Averaging 25.8 points and 8.6 assists per game over his last five games while shooting 39.5 percent from deep, Cunningham has been the Pistons’ best player and then some. However, is his recent play sustainable?

Shifting His Shot Profile

Cade Cunningham is approaching the game just a bit differently

Pistons star Cade Cunningham speaks to head coach Monty Williams

On the surface of Cunningham’s recent play, there’s nothing that he’s doing during this stretch that’s much different than what he’s done throughout his NBA career. The three-level scoring, tough shot-making, transition playmaking, and rip-throughs on his way to the rim are staples of his game. However, Cunningham has been more efficient than usual, particularly on his threes. This could be due to Cunningham being a bit more prone to taking what the defense gives him instead of forcing the issue.

As a player who idolized LeBron James, this makes sense. One of the more unreasonable criticisms against James is that he would rather make the right play than force the issue. Of course, as the best player and top perimeter scoring talent, the right play may sometimes be to force the issue. Nonetheless, this heady style of play has led to tremendous success for James, and it appears that Cunningham is taking a page out of the 20-time All-Star’s book.

To that point, far more of Cunningham’s 3-point attempts during the last five games have been of the wide open variety (no defender within six feet). On the season, 17.8 percent of his 3-point attempts have been wide open, of which he’s made 42.4 percent. Over the last five games, 22.0 percent of his shot attempts have been wide open 3s, of which he’s made 50.0 percent.

Cunningham is also getting his 3s out of his hands quicker. On the season, 20.0 percent of his 3s come out of his hands within two seconds, and he converts 36.7 percent of those. Over his last five games, 30.5 percent of his 3s have come out of his hands within two seconds, and he’s converted 36.0 percent of those. On the season, his 3-point efficiency falls to 26.0 percent when he holds the ball for 2–6 seconds (25.0 percent over the last five games).

Cade Cunningham Shifting His Shot Profile

3PA% (Wide Open)

3PA% (Touch Time < 2 Seconds)

3P% (Above Break 3s)

3P% (24+ Feet Away)

Last 5 Games

22.0

30.5

43.8

40.5

2023-24 Season (55 Games)

17.8

20.0

36.6

36.6

There are two areas in which there’s going to be a question of sustainability, though not general efficiency. At least for now.

First, Cunningham is shooting 43.8 percent on above the break 3s over the last five games. Yet, he shoots 36.6 percent from that area of the floor over the 55 games that he’s played this season. Second, Cunningham has made 40.5 percent of his attempts from 24-feet and out over the last five games. He’s been efficient with those long bombs all season, but less so, also shooting 36.6 percent on those attempts over 55 games.

Par for the Course

Cade Cunningham has had a very steady star trajectory

Pistons number one pick Cade Cunningham

Production has never been a question for Cunningham, as he’s long been one of the most instinctual scorers and yet well-rounded basketball players in the country. A player that received his college offer from Oklahoma State as a freshman on the varsity team at Bowie High School, Cunningham is somewhere between a prodigy and a gym rat. In that way, he also resembles James, a player whose natural talent has always been apparent but still worked hard to become even greater.

At just 15, his freshman season at Bowie, Cunningham was already becoming a highly touted prospect as the team’s second-leading scorer. He went on to earn District 4-6A honors as the Newcomer of the Year. The next year, he earned District 4-6A co-MVP honors after averaging 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. The year after that, he earned Nike EYBL All-Atlanta MVP honors while playing for the Texas Titans in 2019, averaging 25.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game.

By the time he left Montverde Academy, where he transferred prior to his junior season, he was named 2020 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, 2020 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year, and 2020 Mr. Basketball USA. He was the top-ranked point guard and ranked second nationally behind eventual Houston Rockets shooting guard Jalen Green.

On the international stage, Cunningham was being compared to EuroLeague sensation Luka Doncic around the same time that he was a major reason why Team USA managed a gold medal finish in the 2019 U19 FIBA World Cup. Playing alongside a number of future pros just as he did at powerhouse prep Montverde, Cunningham averaged 11.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.4 steals in 23.5 minutes per game.

Cade Cunningham Stats – 2019 U19 FIBA World Cup

Team Rank

PPG

11.7

3rd

RPG

4.9

t-5th

APG

5.7

2nd

SPG

1.4

t-6th

His one-and-done season with the Cowboys would be his magnum opus. After averaging 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 40.0 percent from 3, he earned several honors, including: NABC Freshman of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, and Consensus All-American (First Team).

Cunningham was then selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, one spot ahead of the only player that was ranked ahead of him in the Class of 2020.

All the Bells and Whistles

Can Cade Cunningham Lead the Pistons Back to Prominence?

Pistons cornerstone Cade Cunningham practicing

At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Cunningham is an instinctive scorer with solid athleticism, pronounced court vision, and the ideal intangibles. Showing all the hallmarks of a future All-Star, Cunningham has completely taken over for the Pistons. This makes his selection as the top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft one of the franchise’s best decisions in years.

More than that, it was their most important draft decision since selecting Andre Drummond with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Drummond would spend eight seasons with the Pistons and put up impressive numbers. However, the former franchise cornerstone only reached the NBA Playoffs twice while in Detroit. In at least one of those instances, the Pistons were led there by another player.

Whether Cunningham will have a similar fate with Detroit is unknown as his story is yet to be written. All that can be said for now is that he has the keys to take the Pistons across the finish line as they attempt to build their first championship team since 2004.