The Detroit Pistons are close to getting some much-needed reinforcements. This change isn’t coming via a big trade, but a return to health for the team’s best player, and perhaps the team’s most important bench player.
Cade Cunningham is expected to return within the next week, the team announced, after missing the previous five games and being limited to just 10 minutes against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 7.
Cunningham was out with a knee strain, but per a team release, Cunningham “has been cleared to resume basketball activities and will begin a ramp up for return to action. He is expected to return in the next 5-7 days.”
The injury derailed what was the hottest stretch of Cade’s young career. In the 10 full games Cunningham played from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, Cunningham was a top-10 scorer averaging 28.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists with shooting splits of 52.5/39.4/84.8. In that span he eclipsed 40 points twice and 30 points six times.
The Pistons have not been static in Cade’s absence. Detroit did swing a major (minor) trade, sending out Marvin Bagley and Isaiah Livers for Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala. They have also been putting the ball in Jaden Ivey’s hands a lot more, and so far it is paying big dividends. They even won a game!
The trick will now be to figure out how to get the most out of both Cunningham and Ivey when they are not only sharing time in the rotation but when they are sharing the floor together.
Ivey is averaging a team-high 21.3 points in Cunningham’s absence and has a team-high 31.8 usage rate.
The Pistons back court could get further reinforcements soon with the potential debut of veteran point guard Monte Morris.
Morris was seen running sprints in the Pistons practice facility Friday, and while he has been teasing his return to health for a while on social media, a post implies his season debut could come as soon as Jan. 24 against the Charlotte Hornets.
The Pistons have been desperate for a competent floor leader who can both hit perimeter shots, facilitate the offense, and play a modicum of defense. There are players on the roster who could excel in any one of those areas in spurts, but not all of them and not consistently.
Morris would likely (hopefully) wrest the backup point guard spot away from Killian Hayes, whose offensive game has again cratered since his latest return from injury. It could also mean fewer minutes for rookie guard Marcus Sasser, who struggles most when asked to run the offense on the floor.