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.
This should be the most obvious point of emphasis after averaging 31.4% from 3 in 2021-22. Cunningham’s perimeter jump-shooting, unfortunately, propelled the phantom narrative of an overall “slow start” to his NBA career.
The numbers indicate he played better than the criticism suggested averaging roughly 15 points-per-game, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in his first month of action. The narrative took a life of its own with little specific mention of the struggles, which ultimately impacted the Rookie of the Year candidacy of the Piston’s guard.
Cunningham’s debut began with nursing an ankle injury but also some coached adjustments to his 3-point jump shot. Senior Advisor of Player Development John Beilein spent a brief part of the offseason working on elevating Cunningham’s jumper to create separation from defenders. His mechanics weren’t poor, but the suggested improvements showed to be necessary for his early development.
Cade Cunningham’s jumper.. watched clips and came away with two takeaways of what the Pistons could possibly be focused on pic.twitter.com/FjBlmi5vjd
— ᗩᑎT ᗯᖇIGᕼT (@itsAntWright) October 5, 2021
Cunningham was a standout 3-point shooter at Oklahoma State, averaging 40% from behind the arc. He also put on stretches where his distance shooting showed the potential of becoming a strength. As Detroit’s roster improves, that should equal more open looks for Cunningham. His versatility to create his own jumper and being a spot-up shooter should keep defenders modest when defending him in the future.