Cade Cunningham’s breakout season on pause for now

Cade Cunningham is interviewed after being drafted by the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)
Cade Cunningham is interviewed after being drafted by the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images) /

According to the annual GM Survey, Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons was voted behind only Anthony Edwards as the player most likely to have a breakout season this year. Motor Cade received 20 percent of the vote.

Last year, the general managers of the league voted Evan Mobley as most likely to have a breakout season. Unfortunately, Mobley experienced a bit of a sophomore slump as Cleveland adjusted to the presence of Donovan Mitchell and a roster imbalance at the small forward position.

Cade Cunningham is in a much different situation, but is already facing some challenges.

Will Cade Cunningham have a breakout season in 2023-24?

I hope so. I’d love to see Cunningham put all the pieces together and lead this team as we all believe he can. In order to do so, however, he’ll need to become more efficient.

Cunningham’s true shooting percentage is only 46.8, bumped up because of his 84.4% free throw shooting. His career win share total is a lowly -0.6.

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In his first preseason game, Cunningham shot 33.3%, scored only 12 points in 22:45, and his +/- was a -24, the lowest on the team. His shot was off, and he struggled to take opponents off the dribble. He often dribbled into traffic, and he didn’t appear to be orchestrating an offense.

To be fair, some of this can be attributed to first game jitters and some of it can be attributed to the team still being out of sync. Teammates are getting back into shape, they’re coming in tired from the weight room, and a lot of new players haven’t learned the offense, which is being developed by a new coaching staff.

Is Cade Cunningham injured?

Cade is also be dealing with a minor injury, as he was held out of the second preseason game with what is being called “quad tendinitis.”

After an injury slowed the beginning of his rookie season and a second injury derailed his sophomore campaign, Motor Cade has only played 76 games in the NBA. A full year running the team will go a long way for him to realize his potential.

We’d love to see an oversized point guard playing high IQ basketball and derailing defenses who can’t keep him out of his spots. When that happens, opponents will need to double-team, and Cunningham will be able to orchestrate the offense as he sees fit.

Will it happen this year? I’m not as optimistic as 20% of the league’s general managers, but presumably they know more about basketball than I do.

If Cade Cunningham is taking the league by storm in January, makes his first All-Star team in February, and leads the Pistons to a playoff win in April, I’ll be happy to be proven wrong. In fact, I’ll be dancing in the street.

It could happen, but first he has to stay healthy, get his reps and improve his efficiency.

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