Much like the slow start to his rookie season caused some concern in the Detroit Pistons fanbase, Cade Cunningha’s poor showing in preseason has raised some eyebrows.
Last season’s slow start could mostly be attributed to an ankle injury suffered by Cunningham to go along with the typical rookie struggles of adjusting to the speed and the grind of the NBA. Fully healthy and entering his second year, do the concerns around the 31% shooting and 22% from three in four pre-season games hold a little more weight after the shooting splits put up by the former No. 1 overall pick in his rookie season?
There should not be any more concern from the fanbase than there should have been with the slow start last season. Does the First-Team All-Rookie need to improve his efficiency from last season? Absolutely. The jury will be out on whether that improvement happened this offseason until we have a much larger sample size from meaningful, regular-season games.
With that said, we still have a little bit of time before those games happen, so it feels like a great time to look at all 49 shot attempts from Cunningham during preseason action.
Forty-seven percent of Cunningham’s attempts in the pre-season were from behind the three-point line. Compare that to his rookie season percentage of 35%, and it speaks to the mentality he may have taken into these games.
While any concern over these four games should be extremely low, if there is one area to really keep an eye on this season, it is in catch and shoot from the three-point line. Cunningham was often the recipient of an open look last season and was unable to convert. Many of the misses in the preseason were in a similar vein.
It is hard to believe that a player with the 3-point shooting numbers from college, the free-throw percentages from college and the NBA, and a shot that mechanically looks sound will not start knocking these shots down at a higher percentage.
There is absolutely nothing to worry about here with Cunningham. He flashed all the same mid-range shot-making we saw last year, with a few tough misses, and particularly got it going in the final preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The biggest thing to watch for is the possible addition of the mid-post game. We saw the Detroit Pistons go to this in pre-season game No. 1 against the New York Knicks but did not really come back to it after that.
Around the Rim
Contrary to the belief of some national pundits, Cunningham does possess the ability to finish around the rim with both hands. According to inSTAT, he scored the ball at just two percentage points less in his rookie season with his left hand than his right. With that said, if you wanted to make the argument that he struggles with his left, this would be the four-game sample size for you.
Simply put, those are shots that Cunningham is going to make in the long run. Similar to the mid-range, Cunningham flashed the ability to get to the rim. He just did it at a lower rate based on the total number of shot attempts and the percentage of them that came from behind the 3-point line.
Another area that will be particularly interesting to watch is how he uses that added muscle from this off-season to get to the rim and finish. The additional muscle and weight should only enhance Cunningham’s style of play and make him even better.
It is also important to note, as mentioned earlier, that Cunningham truly looked to be coasting a little in the pre-season, and it sounds like there are some reports that he was purposely trying to get his teammates more chances to get themselves going. Do not be surprised to see a much more aggressive and efficient Cade Cunningham on Wednesday night vs. the Orlando Magic.