Cade Cunningham had a career night against the Atlanta Hawks, dropping 43 points, but it didn't matter, as the Detroit Pistons lost anyway.
It's hard to get excited about individual performances amidst a historic losing streak, but Cunningham has taken some of the steps we've been looking for of late. He's cut down the turnovers, averaging just 3.1 per game over his last 15 and just 2.4 per game over the last five even though he's been handling the ball a ton with a usage rate over 30 percent.
He's still been an inconsistent 3-level scorer who rarely has all three cooking in the same game. His 3-point shooting is below average, which is an area he has to improve.
But as we saw last night, Cade is getting more comfortable finishing at the rim and has the strength to bully smaller guards and wings.
It's been even more apparent over the last five games.
The Detroit Pistons playing without two bigs
Cade Cunningham has averaged 23.2 points, 5.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds over his last five games even though he had one stinkbomb in the mix when he only scored four points. He's shooting 50 percent overall in that time, including 16-of-24 last night.
He's doing this even though his 3-point shooting has been poor. Cade has not been settling for mid-range and 3-pointers as much and is instead trying to get to the rim. He's been drawing more fouls the last five games (more than a free throw more than his season average) and the pick and roll has been more effective as you can see in his highlight reel from last night:
You can also see that Cade is still surrounded on a lot of his shots.
But there has been more space to operate around the rim over the last five games, primarily because the Pistons haven't been playing two of their bigs at the same time.
With injuries to Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III and Isaiah Stewart, the Pistons have been forced to change their starting lineup and use only one center at a time.
Cade Cunningham clearly plays better when there aren't two bigs clogging up the lane.
That being said, a lot of his shots last night were contested and the Hawks were still throwing three defenders at him, so it's not like the spacing has been great even with the lineup change.
But it's made a difference, even with only one competent 3-point shooter (Bojan Bogdanovic) on the floor. Imagine what Cade could do with actual space created by shooters other teams feared.
It's only five games and the Pistons still lost all of them, so this is a reach for something positive, but last night's performance gives me hope that Cade Cunningham can be a star with the right team around him.