Cade Cunningham had a special rookie season for the Detroit Pistons that probably didn’t get enough recognition.
He didn’t win Rookie of the Year, and didn’t even get second, finishing third with only nine first-place votes, as voters seemed to reward the team success had by the Raptors and Cavaliers. Both Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley had fantastic seasons and deserve the accolades they got, but Cade Cunningham did something that few players in league history have accomplished.
Not only did Cunningham carry a heavy burden on both ends, but he delivered, often defending the other team’s best perimeter player while being the Sun that the Pistons’ offense revolved around.
He led all rookies in usage percentage and put up big all-around numbers even though he didn’t have a whole lot of talent around him.
In fact, his all-around game put him in an elite group of active players that only has two other members.
Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham joins LeBron James and Luka Doncic
According to StatMuse, Cade Cunningham is one of only three active players to average at least 17 points, five rebounds and five assists as a rookie. The other two? Just some guys named LeBron James and Luka Doncic, two perennial MVP candidates:
For those that would argue that Cade did this very inefficiently on a bad team, I would point you to his true shooting percentage, which was higher than LeBron’s was in his rookie season according to StatMuse.
As LeBron would attest to, it’s hard to be efficient as a rookie when your team stinks and you get double and triple teamed every time you get the ball.
Also like LeBron, Cade Cunningham is putting on some extra bulk this offseason to better handle the physicality of the NBA and to hopefully cut down on the turnovers and be able to finish more shots through contact in the lane, something he was already very good at doing.
Cunningham thought he was the best rookie and went into this offseason with a big chip on his shoulder that I think is going to lead to a huge breakout in year two.
All signs are pointing to Cunningham becoming a superstar in the league, but he has already placed himself in elite company and hopes to continue to follow in the footsteps of two of the best players in the league.