Houston Rockets: 3 historical comparisons for Cade Cunningham

By James Piercey
Oregon State v Oklahoma State
Oregon State v Oklahoma State / Andy Lyons/Getty Images
3 of 4
Grant Hill, Chris Mullin
Detroit Pistons player Grant Hill (L) drives aroun / JEFF KOWALSKY/Getty Images

Houston Rockets: Cade Cunningham historical comp #2

Median: Grant Hill

This has been one of the most popular Cade comparisons, and it’s likely one that has Pistons fans excited enough to incite widespread rebellion if their front office does decide to swap Cade’s draft rights to Houston. Grant Hill was that special as Detroit’s franchise player throughout most of the 90s.

It isn’t hard to find an impressive Grant Hill season before his career-altering 2000 ankle sprain, but 1996-97, in particular, stands out. During that season, Hill managed A PER of 25.5, good for 14.6 win shares. Hill amassed those impressive numbers with a rare combination of size, speed, and court vision that portended the league’s current obsession with jumbo-sized playmakers.

While listed as a small forward, in today’s increasingly positionless league, it’s likely that Hill would have lined up at the point guard position in 2021. Inversely, it wouldn’t be a shock to see a team that is well-stocked at the point, experiment with Cade at different positions.

Ultimately, positional designations are moot. Teams design offenses around players who can see the floor, and if they happen to be both tall and fast, that’s a bonus. While both are at listed 6’8, Cunningham may not be quite the natural athlete that Hill was.

However, he should comfortably make up that margin with his three-point shooting. Which was arguably the only hole in Hill’s game, with a career mark of 31.4-percent behind the arc. Cunningham projects as a much better floor spacer as his 40-percent 3-point shooting in college can attest to.

The comparisons may end there, but the similarities outweigh the differences. Grant Hill was positioned to be the face of the league before his aforementioned injury. He could have bridged the gap between Michael Jordan and Lebron James (with all due respect to Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and a number of other talented superstars who thrived in the late 90s into the early 00s). If Houston does land Cade Cunningham in the upcoming NBA draft, Rockets fans should only hope he’s equipped with stronger ankles than his point forward predecessor.