Why Cade Cunningham Should Win Most Improved Player in 2023-24

FanDuel has Cunningham with the second-best odds to be named Most Improved Player in 2023-24.

The Detroit Pistons will enter next season with the return of their franchise player Cade Cunningham. There is plenty of anticipation throughout the league as the 2021 number one overall pick is a FanDuel betting favorite to be crowned Most Improved Player next season.

Last season came to a screeching halt for Cunningham when a shin injury sat him on the sideline for the year after twelve games. Detroit struggled mightily through his absence finishing 17-65, the worst record in the NBA.

Entering his third season, there is plenty of reason to be excited about Cunningham's return. The direction of Detroit's franchise relies heavily on the development of their point guard. A bounce-back year for him could put the Pistons back on a winning path and could earn the prestigious honor of Most Improved Player.

FanDuel has Cunningham with the second-best odds to be named Most Improved Player in 2023-24.

Five Reasons Cade Cunningham Should Win Most Improved Player Next Season:

Monty Williams

While the Pistons have been quiet in terms of free agency, their biggest acquisition this offseason has been the signing of new head coach Monty Williams. After interviewing unproven options as the next coach, Detroit's front office took a huge leap by making Williams the highest-paid coach in the NBA on a six-year $78.5 million deal.

The former Phoenix Suns head coach spoke very highly of Cunningham's game after he was hired. Williams is an expert in developing young talent as well as designing creative offensive schemes to capitalize on the team's skillset. With Cunningham as the focal point of Detroit's restoration, Williams should be able to help take his play to a different level next season.

Monty Williams Detroit Pistons

Added Shooting

A huge concern the Pistons needed to address this offseason was their lack of perimeter shooting. Detroit ranked 21st in three-point-shooting last season. Cunningham has the upside of an elite playmaker and the smartest way to maximize that is by having shooters around him as often as possible.

Detroit traded with the Brooklyn Nets for small forward Joe Harris at the start of free agency. They also acquired veteran guard Monte Morris from the Washington Wizards. Harris is a career 44% three-point-shooter over a nine-year stretch. Morris is a credible distance shooter as well averaging 39% throughout his six-year career. Adding these two next to Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks should space the floor for more open looks to create assists for Cunningham.

These additions however do not let Cunningham off the hook. Three-point shooting has been Cunningham's biggest struggle throughout his short career averaging 31%. He doesn't have to be the Pistons' best shooter, but he is capable of much better than the shooting he has displayed so far. After cleaning up his shin injury issues and better floor spacing, there should be a clear increase in his shooting statistics this coming season.

Breakthrough Defensive Season

One of the most underrated aspects of Cunningham's game is his production as a defender. His strong 6'7 frame, long arms, and active hands debatably have him as Detroit's best perimeter defender.

The Pistons drafted forward Ausar Thompson number five overall and guard Marcus Sasser 25th overall from the allure of their upside as defenders. However, leaning on their defensive prowess as rookies isn't likely to start the season. Young players normally need time to develop as on-ball and help defenders. This should create plenty of opportunity for Cunningham to shine on the defensive end.

Detroit doesn't have much veteran help in terms of perimeter defense. When lacking in this area, the Pistons will likely lean on their franchise star as a two-way player. Cunningham has shown the pride he takes on defense and will have to take it up a notch to stand out as a Most Improved Player candidate. Improved defensive play from Detroit should increase their fast-break production and add some highlight plays in the process.

Extended Minutes With Ivey and Duren

Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren look to be the foundation pieces for the restoration of the Pistons. Unfortunately, all three players spent minimal time on the floor together at the same time last season. Ivey and Cunningham only started twelve games together. Cunningham started zero games with Duren and played roughly 78 minutes together.

Another great asset for Cunningham's game is having a lob threat to help Detroit pressure the rim. Duren didn't start for the Pistons until Cunningham was ruled out for the season, meaning there was barely a lob threat on the floor with Cade Cunningham. Duren is easily the most imposing big on the roster and should do wonders for Detroit's starting point guard in a Monty Williams-led offense.

Last season did have flashes of the Pistons' backcourt fitting well together. Ivey had an underrated rookie season averaging 16.3 points per game and 5.2 assists. Both starting guards have shown the ability to be willing passers and play off the ball. A full season together should show plenty of growth to help lead the turnaround of the Pistons.

The Return Of A Forgotten Star

NBA awards are supposed to be decided based on statistics, but it's no secret that narratives play a strong part for the award voters. Cunningham should have a leg up in that department as the seldom-discussed number-one pick returns from a significant injury.

The 2021 draft class has been a heavily debated group. NBA media continues their fawning over players in Cunningham's class like Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, and Jalen Green. While they are talented and bring significant value to their franchise, none of them have the responsibility or upside of Cunningham.

A healthy season with an improved roster should give Cunningham the opportunity to turn that debate around, especially by winning an award like Most Improved Player. All-Star production is not out of the question for the Pistons' franchise player, and it should give him a strong case to win the award next season.