There is an undeniable high of excitement for the Detroit Pistons’ future thanks to the arrival of superstar-in-the-making Cade Cunningham. He rose to the pressure of being a No. 1 overall pick earning All-Rookie First Team honors.
Coming into the 2021 NBA Draft, former ESPN Draft Scout Mike Schmitz called the 6’7 point guard the most complete player he had ever evaluated. The new face of the franchise did not sell fans short as his leadership, talent and unique skillset were on high display during his rookie season.
It was extremely encouraging to see how polished Cunningham’s game was at just 20 years old. After averaging 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game last season, expectations are through the roof for Cunningham to be even better in his second year. His play even received glowing recognition around the league from NBA stars like Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Demar Derozan, and others.
While he has shown few weaknesses in his game thus far, no player in the NBA is perfect. Cunningham has shown All-Star potential already, and he could reach that level as soon as next season with a few improvements.
The 2021 NBA Draft Class featured several quality defensive prospects. Cunningham deserves plenty of recognition in that discussion shining as an on-ball and off-ball defender. Paint protection was also a strong suit for the 6’7 point guard. Averaging just under six rebounds per game plus plenty of highlight blocks served as an asset for the Pistons, who dealt with an undersized frontcourt much of the year.
— nick (@nsitto2) June 12, 2022
One issue Cunningham needs to continue working on is staying out of foul trouble. He only fouled out twice this past season but spent lots of time on the sideline due to being too aggressive on defense. A good portion of the fouls came early in the basketball game, where Cunningham was forced to exit first halves early.
He, as well as the Pistons, would lose offensive rhythm. Since establishing himself as the floor general for Detroit, they need him on the court as much as possible.
Given Cunningham’s elevated responsibility, it would not surprise me if head coach Dwane Casey used different defenders on the opponents’ best offensive players. Forward Saddiq Bey and guard Killian Hayes showed promising defensive glimpses of guarding primary scorers.
Even center Isaiah Stewart made opponents look foolish when they would hunt him for defensive switches, and he was nimble enough to help limit them from scoring. The Pistons should be in the market to add adequate defenders this offseason to take that needed pressure away from their young captain.