Is Cade Cunningham playing too much for the Detroit Pistons?

Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons have been playing shorthanded, which means they have needed more from Cade Cunningham.

The Pistons are currently without guards Frank Jackson, Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo and Rodney McGruder and played just eight guys in their most recent loss to the Clippers.

Cade Cunningham has averaged around 32 minutes per game this season, which is tied for second on the Pistons behind Saddiq Bey and is third among all rookies.

But lately he’s been playing even more, culminating with yesterday, when he played a whopping 44 minutes against the Clippers, narrowly missing a triple double.

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Cade Cunningham has averaged 38 minutes per game over his last six games, mostly out of necessity, but are the Pistons playing their young star too much?

Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham’s development and Rookie of the Year

On one hand, the Detroit Pistons are trying to get maximum development from Cade Cunningham in his first season and trying to get a more accurate understanding of how his game fits with guys like Jerami Grant and Marvin Bagley III, who the Pistons will have to make decisions about in the offseason.

Cade is also embroiled in one of the closest Rookie of the Year races in recent memory, which as many as five guys making an argument for the award.

The Pistons would love him to win it and coach Dwane Casey has already been lobbying for his guy, both in in the press and by allowing him to play 44 minutes a game.

Cade is now up to a 27 percent usage rating, which leads the team and is the highest among all rookies.

He’s getting his reps, and making his case for Rookie of the Year, but there could be diminishing returns if this continues for the rest of the season.

Cade Cunningham needs to finish the season healthy

As much as I’d love Cade to win Rookie of the Year and for the Pistons to finish strong, I would much rather have Cunningham healthy for the entire offseason.

A player’s first NBA offseason is crucial, as they often put on significant muscle, add strength and work on the nuance of their game. Cunningham started this season on the injured list and spent the rest of it playing catch up to the other rookies in his class.

The Pistons can’t risk this happening again, so while I don’t think Cade should sit or anything like that, playing him 40+ minutes a game is a risk not worth taking.

Ideally, Cunningham will play around 30-32 minutes per game down the stretch so that he can continue to grow and pad his resume for RoY but not play so much that the risk of injury becomes too high.

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