Cade Cunningham is the first player to ever shoot a three-pointer in the NBA Playoffs, and he’s one of only seven players who averages over 20 points per game for their rookie season. His story deserves a spotlight, but what does his future hold? Could this be an indication that future stars will come from outside of basketball?

Cade Cunningham is a rookie in the NBA. He has been playing for the Memphis Grizzlies since he was drafted in 2011. He is currently averaging 8 points and 5 rebounds per game. Cade’s shot at Rookie of the Year went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, who won the award.

The Detroit Pistons are one of the worst teams in the NBA right now, so it’s no surprise that they fell to Kevin Durant and a Brooklyn Nets club battling for postseason survival. The fact that Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham seemed perfectly at home battling toe-to-toe with Durant, probably the best basketball player in the world, may have startled some.

In the great picture of his career and Detroit’s reconstruction, whether Detroit’s No. 1 overall selection wins the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award is irrelevant. Still, over the last two weeks, Cunningham has been building a solid case for the award, and he may have made his greatest statement yet against the Nets.

While ailing, Cade Cunningham scored 29 points in the second half against Brooklyn.

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Cunningham scored 34 points against the Nets, 29 of which came in the second half as the Nets attempted to pull away.

Cunningham would respond every time Durant displayed his otherworldly skill and sank an easy basket, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Durant scored 41 points on 14-of-23 shooting from the field, and he was particularly brilliant and smooth from beyond the arc, connecting on four of his six tries. On the night, he had a 60.9 percent field goal percentage.

Cunningham wasn’t as efficient as he might have been (13-of-24 from the field, 5-of-11 from three), which is something he’ll have to work on in year two. He’s also had trouble getting to the free throw line, which stands out in compared to Durant’s superstar whistles. 

Those considerations almost make it more amazing that Cunningham was able to achieve what he did against Brooklyn, and that’s without taking into account the fact that Durant was defending him for the whole of the fourth quarter.

Durant, a 12-time All-Star and two-time NBA Finals MVP, went toe-to-toe with the youngster, attempting to put the Pistons away with his length and better agility.

Cunningham found a way to respond every time the Nets attempted to pull away in the fourth. In the fourth quarter, he made six of his eight shots, including two threes, one of which was essentially from the logo.

Possibly the most impressive? Cunningham accomplished all of this while in pain. In the late first quarter, he sustained a lower back injury and sat out the most of the second.  

According to the Detroit News, Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart stated after the game, “He’s a fighter.” “He persevered despite his back problem.”

For the Detroit Pistons, Cunningham has been playing like a Rookie of the Year candidate.

Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons The Detroit Pistons’ Cade Cunningham #2 defends the ball against the Washington Wizards | Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Cunningham has showed the NBA world what he’s capable of now that he’s finally settled into the league and found out how to use his talents and the guys around him throughout the month of March.

Over the last 13 games, he’s averaging 22.5 points, 7.1 assists, and 6.2 rebounds. His scoring production has risen dramatically as he’s matured into his position and recognized that when he’s on, he’s almost unstoppable owing to his ability to go to the basket while still being a viable three-point threat. Consider that Cunningham’s best month to this point was a 17.9 point per game average in December, which is still outstanding for a rookie. Just a few months later, he’s improved by around five points each game.

He’s only going to grow better as he develops confidence, and playing on par with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on Tuesday should just add to his moxie and gravitas as a player.

Both Durant and Irving took time after the game to congratulate the young superstar.

“‘Stay healthy,’ they advised. ‘Keep going.’ “At the end of the day, it’s all about love and respect,” he said.

Dwayne Casey, Cunningham’s head coach, showered the rookie guard’s praises and pressed his case for Rookie of the Year once again.

Casey said, “Pound for pound, talent for talent, Cade is that man.” “He demonstrated it against the East’s greatest squad. ‘He’s got it,’ says the narrator.

In Cunningham, the Pistons have found their man.

Cade Cunningham

Cade Cunningham Before the game against the Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons’ Cade Cunningham #2 chats with his teammates in a huddle | Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Even if Cunningham doesn’t win Rookie of the Year, you have to believe that in any hypothetical re-draft circumstance, general manager Troy Weaver would choose Cunningham.

Not only is Cunningham establishing himself as a superstar, but he has also shown to be a leader both on and off the court. He’s already the franchise’s face, but he’s barely scratched the surface of what he can do.

Finally, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley (the third overall selection) may earn the honor for his crucial contribution on a playoff squad. He has huge promise at 6-foot-11, 215 pounds, with exceptional quickness and a soft touch, averaging 14.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Scottie Barnes (the No. 4 overall choice) of Toronto should also be considered for the honor. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, and he’s on his way to become one of the league’s top all-around players, much like Cunningham.

Cunningham, on the other hand, has never had to carry his team.

Neither has had the weight of a city’s expectations put on their shoulders.

Despite being outstanding rookies, neither Mobley nor Barnes had ever stood on the floor with Kevin Durant and seemed to be on an equal footing.

Cunningham, according to Casey, has the “it” factor. Cunningham, who seems to be older than his years, said that all he cares about is helping his team win.

“Not every very gifted person does it.” I aim to prioritize my team. I’m not sure what he means by ‘it,’ but I believe my performance speaks for itself,” he said. 

Cunningham is correct; his performance speaks for itself, and it did so against Brooklyn. 

ESPN provided the statistics.

In the midst of a tumultuous first season, Cade Cunningham demonstrates an important sense of humility. 

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