Cade Cunningham leading the NBA in shady category

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons lost to the OKC Thunder last night in the first game of the season when their defense wasn’t up to the task.

The Pistons allowed the Thunder to shoot 53 percent, lost the battle in the paint for the first time all season, and for the second game in a row, allowed a guard to go off for a huge night.

There were some positives, as the Pistons shot the ball well from 3-point range and really only had one poor quarter, the first, when they got down by 12 early on the road.

We thought OKC would provide some early tests for Detroit and they did, as the Thunder won two of the three categories I suggested would decide this game. Detroit couldn’t contain Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (though Ausar Thompson did make it tough on him at times), and the Pistons weren’t able to out-muscle OKC, though they did win the battle of the benches.

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There have also been some early concerns about Cade Cunningham, namely that he is not getting to the line as much as his counterparts, which happened again last night, as SGA was 9-of-9 from the free throw line while Cade only got there five times.

Cunningham did cut out the unnecessary fouls last night, which was a nice development, but there is one area where he really needs to clean things up.

Cade Cunningham leads the NBA in turnovers

After committing seven last night, Cade Cunningham currently leads the entire NBA in turnovers this season, averaging a staggering 5.3 per game. To put that in perspective, last year’s leader (Trae Young) averaged just over four per game.

So this is obviously a small sample size, as Cade isn’t going to turn the ball over five times a game, and is unlikely to lead the league when it is all said and done. Turnovers are also a product of usage, as all of the top turnover guys are also players who have the ball in their hands a lot.

Here’s last season’s top-5 in turnovers per game:

  • Trae Young
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Luka Doncic
  • Nikola Jokic
  • Russell Westbrook

You might notice a theme here, namely that three of these players are perennial MVP candidates.

Turnovers come with high usage and right now Cade Cunningham is at a 30 percent usage rate. He’s also playing with a young cast that he is still getting familiar with, so we knew there would be a learning curve.

But Cunningham has a bad habit of committing unforced turnovers, throwing looping passes, trying to go across court and jumping before he knows what he is going to do with the ball, things that all go back to his rookie season.

The Pistons are missing three key players, one of whom was their leading scorer last season, so they can’t afford to lose possessions to turnovers, especially against a good rebounding team like OKC that isn’t going to give you a lot of second chances to make up for it.

The Pistons are currently 29th in the NBA in turnovers per game, which is something they have to clean up and it starts with Cade Cunningham, who simply has to take better care of the ball and stop giving away possessions.

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