Houston Rockets: Why Cade Cunningham isn’t a lock at no. 1 in the NBA Draft
If Cunningham’s freshman season at Oklahoma State, where he shot 40-percent from 3-point range and 84.6-percent from the free-throw line, proved that he is a knockdown shooter, then it also proved that his playmaking isn’t quite as good as advertised. Over the course of the season, Cunningham had more turnovers than assists and his 3.5 assists per game ranked 13th in the Big-12.
This doesn’t mean that he’s lost cause as a passer, just that his passing likely will take time to be a plus at the NBA level. Another area of concern is that while Cunningham proved to be a knock-down 3-point shooter, his ability to finish within the arc was less impressive.
Cunningham only hit 46-percent of his two-pointers which is a troubling number for his NBA future. It either means that he struggled to convert shots close to the basket or that he struggled to get those shots in the first place. Hitting 46-percent of your midrange jumpers is great, but never getting to the rim is not.
Some draft analysts have compared him to Luka Doncic, which is a massive stretch. Doncic, at 19-years-old, was already the best player in the second-best league in the world, was a far better facilitator, and could get to the rim whenever he wanted. Cunningham is a good prospect but comparing him to Doncic is both reckless and lazy.
It should be mentioned, that a mitigating factor for Cunningham is that he was not surrounded by much if any future NBA talent in college. However, even with that caveat, he’d be more of a slam dunk prospect if his passing and 2-point field goal numbers were a bit better. The other factor to consider is completely outside of Cunningham’s control and is how good both Evan Mobley and Jalen Green were last season.
Next: Why Evan Mobley and Jalen Green could go no. 1