Detroit Pistons: Will Cade Cunningham crack the top-25 next year?

Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons jumped surprisingly high in ESPN’s recent top-100 player rankings.

He went from 76th at this time last year, all the way up to 35th, largely based on expectations after what he did in the latter part of last season, when he put up elite all-around numbers.

Cade Cunningham made a bigger leap than anyone else on the list, but was the only member of the Detroit Pistons to be featured.

Yesterday, ESPN released #25-11 of their list, which is the portion of the rankings Cade is aiming for at this time next year. But what does he have to do to get there and which great players is he going to supplant?

Detroit Pistons: How Cade Cunningham cracks the top-25

Cade was the highest ranked player from the 2021 draft class, and if he can make a leap into the top-25, it is a great sign for the Pistons, who finally think they have a star to build around.

To get there, the Pistons will likely have to improve, as no one is going to notice what Cade is doing if Detroit is mired in another 20-win season. He’ll just be looked at as a stat stuffer and could even drop a few positions on the list even if he puts up better numbers.

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So the Pistons need make some incremental improvement for Cunningham to have any shot at the top-25. He’ll also have to improve his efficiency, as he found himself on a notorious list of inefficient shooters after last season, one he has to get off.

If his post All-Star numbers are any indication he will, as Cade shot 45.7 percent overall, though he still struggled from the 3-point line. But he put up 21.1 points, 6.5 assists and 5.7 rebounds in that stretch, numbers that will get him All-Star consideration if he does it for a whole season on increased efficiency, which I think is not only possible, but likely.

If the Pistons improve and Cunningham puts up those kinds of numbers, he can crack the top-25, but who is he going to replace? All of the players on this list are great, so it won’t be easy.

Here are the most likely candidates:

  • #24: Donovan Mitchell– There’s a good chance he’s even better on the Cavaliers, but he will be sharing more of the offensive load with All-Star guard Darius Garland.
  • #23: Bam Adebayo– Can Adebayo improve on offense? Adebayo dipped to 14 ppg in the playoffs and will need to stay in the 19ppg range to keep his spot.
  • #21: Chris Paul– Is this the year CP3 finally starts slowing down? He fell eight spots from last season and another drop could put him out of the top-25.
  • #20: Anthony Davis– Davis is likely a top-10 player when healthy, but will he be? Another half season from him would have to hurt his ranking. He’s only played 76 games combined in the last two seasons, so who cares how good he is if he only plays in half the games?
  • #19: Bradley Beal– At some point, Beal’s teams need to win something. He too is coming off injury and dipped eight spots from last season. Another 40-game season at 23 points per game would have him out of the top-25.
  • #11: James Harden– I’d love an explanation as to why Harden is this high. The 33-year-old just had his lowest scoring total since his 3rd season in the league and only dropped one spot. Another season like that and he will free fall out of the top-25.

As you can see, it’s not going to be easy for Cade, as all of these players are very good, but if he puts up the type of numbers we think he will, he could easily surpass several players in next year’s rankings.

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