Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons are on the come up, hoping to surprise some people next season by being competitive with one of the youngest rosters in the NBA.
They aren’t going completely under the radar, as some analysts around the league have already stated that they think the Pistons are not far away from ruling the Eastern Conference.
If so, it will be largely because of Cade Cunningham, who came on down the stretch last season and put up All-Star level numbers after the All-Star break. The Pistons think they have finally drafted a star and the guy they want to build around.
Stephen A. Smith isn’t so sure.
I should start by staying that I am not a fan of Smith’s work, so there is some bias at play here. I have nothing against him personally (as I don’t know the man) but his persona on television is one I can’t really stand.
He’s a loud, know-it-all talking head who symbolizes everything I hate about current sports journalism that is more concerned with hot takes than any real nuanced breakdown of the game. Most of the top guys barely watch the bad teams, and their opinions always show it.
Stephen A. Smith has never been a big fan of Cade Cunningham, and took shots at him coming out of the draft before he had ever played a game in the NBA, questioning his motor and heart among other things:
The funniest part about this clip is that he prefaced it by saying “I didn’t see a lot of these guys” and admitted he’s not that knowledgeable about any of them. Don’t let that stop you from having a hot take though, Steve! He went on to talk about how much he loved Jalen Suggs and Knicks’ pick Quentin Grimes, who played a whopping 46 games last season and averaged six points a game. Kids, listen to him when he says he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Players try to pretend like they don’t hear this stuff (as if not hearing Stephen A. Smith were even an option), but Cade obviously did, which is why he said that SAS was the celeb he’d most like to dunk on:
But even after a rookie season in which Cunningham put up numbers that put him in an elite group of active players, Stephen A. Smith is still doing his thing.
Detroit Pistons: Questioning the motor of Cade Cunningham
Stephen A. Smith was in Detroit recently, and after getting a few shots in about how terrible the Detroit Pistons are, he went on to say this about Cade Cunningham:
Ok, so this isn’t exactly harsh criticism by any means, as he admits that Cade has skill (big of him) and I do agree that Cunningham needs to improve his shot.
But Smith was really just telling on himself when he once again said Cade needs to improve his motor, falling back on the same tired critique he made before Cunningham was even in the NBA.
Cunningham has never been lightning fast, and casual fans might see this as a “lack of motor” as he is not flailing and falling all over the place, isn’t a flopper, doesn’t slap the floor like a guard from Duke or beat his chest like some guys.
He’s a cerebral player who plays at his own pace, often using stop and start and hesitation to get where he’s going. But all of this does not equal “no motor” as Cunningham carried a huge burden in his rookie season, generating nearly all of the team’s offense while often guarding the other team’s best player.
We saw Cade make plays like this all season, chasing down a guy for the block, fighting for the rebound and turning a fast break into a turnover. But I highly doubt SAS was watching a Jazz vs. Pistons game last year.
I’d rather these guys just say “you know, I didn’t really watch the Pistons last season, so I can’t say much about them,” but that kind of honesty and lukewarm take doesn’t sell.
In the end, I don’t really care, as I try to avoid Stephen A. Smith at all costs, but I do think it shows the big blind spot in the national media, who mostly pay attention to the coasts and can’t be bothered to care about teams like the Detroit Pistons until they are winning.