“A lot of people were trying to say I was a bust, I thought that was pretty funny in my eyes” - Cade Cunningham dismisses early-season criticism as he finds his feet in the NBA

Detroit Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham
Detroit Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham
Jose Rohdin

The Detroit Pistons selected Cade Cunningham first overall in July's NBA draft, and most believed he was the obvious choice. However, 11 games into his career, Cunningham has already heard criticism that he is a bust after a slow start.

In his only season at Oklahoma State, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, while shooting 44% from the field and 40% from 3-point range. He was the best player on an 18-14 team that lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but the season gave him a chance to show what he could do night in and night out.

In his first 11 games with the Pistons (who hosted the Miami Heat on Tuesday night), Cunningham averaged 14.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Fueling the criticism has been his shooting struggles, making 35.0% on 14.8 attempts from the field and 25.3% on 7.5 attempts per game from 3-point range.

Even with his shooting struggles, it is clear Cunningham is not a bust. It is an overreaction as he gets used to the massive leap in competition between college and the NBA. He addressed such remarks in his rookie diary presented by The Undefeated, saying,

“A lot of people were trying to say I was a bust. I thought that was pretty funny in my eyes. That's something I took note of. Like: 'All right. Well, we'll have to see about it.' That caught my eye. I wasn't doing no tripping. I'm not going to say I respected that, but I definitely heard it.”
Pistons No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham on early-season criticism, 'bust' talk: 'That's something I took note of'…

Cunningham, just 20 years old, has not lost confidence in his game. Rookie seasons can be a challenge, and he needs to believe in his own game to get through the adjustment.

Has Cade Cunningham even had that bad of a season?

Detroit Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham with the ball
Detroit Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham with the ball

The crazy thing about calling Cade Cunningham a bust in just 11 games is in drawing that conclusion from such a small sample size. And even so, his performance hasn’t been that bad. Certainly, there are pressures and expectations with being the first overall pick, but Cunningham has shown he has potential to blossom into one of the league's best.

Cade Cunningham's last 7 games:16.4 PTS, 6.1 REB, 4.3 AST, 2.4 3PT, 1.4 STL

Cunningham is on a 4-12 Pistons team that is a rebuilding project and, as such, has thrown him straight into the fire. As a rookie, he has been asked to do a lot, which makes sense because Cunningham is an outstanding player already and the team can feed him plenty of minutes (31.6 per game). He ranks in the top five in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game and is top five in defensive rating.

Furthermore, Cunningham has also had some impressive games, including a triple-double and a 25-8-8 game. His shot, including getting used to the NBA's farther 3-point line, may come with time.

Cade Cunningham is averaging 46.2 FPPG over his last 4 games 📈13 PTS - 10 REB - 10 AST - 2 STL19 PTS - 6 REB - 6 AST - 3 STL16 PTS - 8 REB - 6 AST - 2 STL25 PTS - 8 REB - 8 AST - 2 STLSee him in action on League Pass tonight as the @DetroitPistons host Miami at 7pm/et.

In fact, Cade Cunningham is already starting to find his way. He averaged 18.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game in the past four games, despite his shooting percentages not improving much.

As inspiration, Cunningham can look to Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, who drew criticism after not starting well after being the No. 5 pick out of Oklahoma in 2018 but has blossomed into a superstar who took his team to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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