Detroit Pistons: Contemporary comparisons for Cade Cunningham
SGA and the OKC Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is another point guard who started his career in Los Angeles, across the hall from the elder Ball, and found his place in the Midwest. Last year appeared to be SGA’s breakout season. He achieved his first All-Star selection and his first All-NBA First Team selection. He also finished fifth in MVP voting.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we were talking about Cade Cunningham?
Gilgeous-Alexander’s efficiency went through the roof last season. He shot 51% from the field and over 90% from the free-throw line. He scored 31.4 points per game, up from 24.5 the previous season in less than a minute more per game.
SGA’s game differs from Cunningham’s. The OKC point guard looks for his shot and pushes the pace. Last season, it appeared he was not only allowed but encouraged to do so.
The comparison I would make is that an aggressive Cunningham will make his teammates better. If Motor Cade pushes the pace and relies on Jaden Ivey to help him maintain an increased offensive clip, the young core should find ways to capitalize on their youth and athleticism. Also, if Cunningham looks to score early in the shot clock, he can create ball movement and keep the offense moving.
Oklahoma City succeeded at this last season. Their young players moved constantly, which created open looks. With SGA pushing the pace, the young team could outrun many of its opponents. In the play-in, matched against a bigger team, the game slowed and they were forced to execute in the half-court. OKC struggled.
Cunningham excels at executing in the half-court. He should play better in the playoffs as the postseason style of play complements his preferences. In the regular season, however, he might benefit by adopting a version of OKC’s approach of pushing the pace to play, at times and judiciously, a more athletic, quicker offense.
Motor Cade’s ability to control the pace of the game will be the secret to his success, but if he can shift gears, he’ll keep opponents guessing.