Cade Cunningham’s long climb to the top of the Rookie Ladder

Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors defends as Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors defends as Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

Cade Cunningham hasn’t had many breaks this season, but has still managed to climb to the top of the NBA Rookie Ladder for the Detroit Pistons.

The Rookie Ladder is the NBA’s weekly ranking of rookies, and for the first time this season, Cade Cunningham is not looking up at anyone else.

The Rookie of the Year debate has heated up lately, as Cunningham is finally hitting his stride, while guys like Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Josh Giddey and Franz Wagner continue to play well.

This rookie class has been amazing, and in other seasons just about any of those guys could take home Rookie of the Year.

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In typical Detroit Pistons’ luck, Cunningham went out with a hip pointer the day before he made it to the top of the Rookie Ladder, but hopefully it’s a minor injury that won’t require him to miss any time.

Cade Cunningham’s rise to the top of the NBA Rookie Ladder

Cunningham started behind the rest of these rookies, as he suffered an ankle injury in the offseason that took him out of the preseason.

He had to catch up on the fly and it was a rough start that saw him put up some historically bad shooting numbers.

The impatient social media hordes were ready to call Cade a bust, which was so ridiculous at the time and seems even more so now.

The last week was highlighted by Cade Cunningham joining Michael Jordan on an elite list, and overall he averaged 20.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 7.3 apg, which are not just All-Rookie numbers, they are All-Star level numbers. No one is talking about “busts” anymore.

Cunningham is doing this while being the Pistons’ primary scoring and ball handling option and also taking on tough defensive assignments on the perimeter.

With no offense meant to any of the other rookies, who have all been great, no one does more for their team than Cade. None of the other rookies mentioned are the top scoring option on their own team, so while Cunningham has been inefficient at times, he’s also been very productive on both ends while being the focal point of everything.

Rookie of the Year will be a tough choice this year, as voters will have to balance team success vs. context and role.

For now, Cade Cunningham is the top dog on the Rookie Ladder and hopefully he’ll stay there for the rest of the season.

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