Cade Cunningham thinks he’s the best rookie and he’s right

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Evan Mobley #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots over Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

NBA Rookie of the Year: How to measure rookie success

Most of the top rookies end up on terrible teams that are not ready to compete, so it can be difficult to measure the value of individual statistics for guys on losing teams.

However, I do think it is fair to use team success as part of the measure, and when we do so, Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes have stronger arguments.

Mobley’s Cavaliers are currently 6th in the Eastern Conference and look to be headed to the playoffs. He’s been a big part of their defensive revival along with veteran Ricky Rubio and center Jarrett Allen.

Mobley is already defending well beyond his years and is one of the best all-around defenders in the NBA even though he is a rookie.

Scottie Barnes and the Raptors are currently 10th with a .500 record, though that is not completely unexpected considering they got some guys back who missed most of last season with injuries.

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The Pistons are second to last in the East and have won just 11 games, though they have been trending the right way in 2022, going 6-5 and beating some good teams, including the Raptors.

Mobley clearly gets the edge in team success and that might be enough to get him the RoY award, but that does not mean he’s the best rookie.

Mobley has a much-better cast around him (as does Barnes) with guys like Darius Garland, a resurgent Kevin Love, Jarrett Allen, Lauri Markkanen and Ricky Rubio (before he got hurt). Garland has been amazing and is the frontrunner for Most Improved Player, possibly followed closely by Allen.

Mobley isn’t being asked to do nearly as much, and though he has been very good, he’s not carrying his team’s offense, being defended by the other team’s best player or marked as the focal point of their game plan like Cunningham is.

It’s a tough comparison, as I do recognize Mobley is awesome and the Cavs are one of the NBA’s best stories this season, but he and Cade do not have the same roles or responsibilities and I think certain parts of Cunningham’s game would benefit immensely from having better teammates.

For example, Cade averages over 10 potential assists per game (top among rookies), so if his teammates could make some of the shots he creates, he’d be closer to 10 assists per game and this would look a lot different.

I can see the argument either way, but in the end, this is an individual award, not a team one, so the nod has to go to the guy who is better individually and that is Cade Cunningham.