Cade Cunningham: injury, tantalizing talent and the Under 25 rankings

Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons(Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)
Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons(Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons got their first win of the preseason against the OKC Thunder with Cade Cunningham on the bench in street clothes.

Unfortunately, it’s been a familiar sight so far in his career, as he had to miss time in his rookie season before being shut down for almost the entirety of the last one. His health status might be the most important factor in the Pistons’ effort to turn a corner, which is why I said that “if healthy” will be the two most important words for the Pistons this season.

That’s already taken a hit with an injury to Isaiah Livers that will keep him out for 6-8 weeks, and Bojan Bogdanovic, Monte Morris and Jalen Duren all  had to sit out the the last preseason game with what are being called minor injuries.

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But the biggest concern is the injury to Cade Cunningham, who sat out against OKC with quadriceps tendinitis that the Pistons are again blowing off as minor.

Count me as someone who thinks there is nothing minor about any injury to Cade Cunningham and this is the concern that has so far defined a promising career that has yet to take off.

Cade Cunningham: Injury and the top 25 players under 25

The FanSided mothership recently did their annual “Top 25 Players Under 25” list and Cade Cunningham was featured. He came in at #7 on the list, surprisingly high considering he’s only played 76 games in two seasons. Here’s some of what they had to say about Cade:

"“Cade Cunningham has impressive physical tools of his own and is still raw, having missed all but 12 games last season with a shin injury. But he’s already demonstrated a tantalizing ability to control a game through skill and will.”"

This is Cade Cunningham in a nutshell, as he does have “tantalizing ability” but the blurb also includes the words “missed games” and “injury,” which are two things you can’t leave out of his narrative.

After hearing all offseason that Cade was 100 percent healthy, stronger and ready to lead this team, there he was on the bench in just the second preseason game. Yes, I realize the Detroit Pistons were likely just being cautious, especially considering the game was in Montreal and there is a week between it and the next one, giving Cunningham plenty of time to get over his “minor” injury.

But this is a 22-year-old who just missed almost an entire season and is trying to build chemistry with his young teammates, so it’s hard for me to believe the Pistons would hold him out unless there was a reason to.

Maybe I just have Pistons’ PTSD after years of being one of the worst teams in the NBA and going through myriad injuries, including a season-ending one for the franchise player, or maybe we need to temper our accolades and superlatives about Cade until we actually see him healthy and on the court.

If you look up the word tantalizing, it means “tormenting or teasing with the sight or promise of something unobtainable.” So far that’s exactly what Cade’s career has been. Yes, it’s only preseason and yes the Pistons are probably just being careful, but if you are not at least somewhat concerned then you haven’t been paying attention.

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