When the Houston Rockets square off against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night it will be the first official match-up between Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham, the first and second picks in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The top two picks are leading rebuilding teams and are in environments where they're asked to push their limits. Both the Rockets and Pistons have one win on the season and their offenses have been among the worst in the league.
The Rockets enter the game with the 28th ranked offense at 101.1 points per 100 possessions and the Pistons come in dead last at 96.4 points. While Green and Cunningham were both lauded for their offensive abilities as prospects, it’s clear they won’t be able to singlehanded carry an NBA offense as rookies.
Jalen Green v Cade Cunningham: How's it going
To start their careers, Green has been far better than Cunningham. It should be noted that Cunningham missed the Pistons’ first five games with an ankle injury, but an ankle injury doesn’t fully explain his dismal shooting.
Cunningham has shot 23.2-percent from the field and 14.3-percent from 3-point range to the tune of 10.8 points per game. Those numbers will almost certainly trend up, but through four games, Cunningham has not exactly looked like the number one overall pick.
While Green has been better than Cunningham, 35.3-percent from the field and 28.6-percent from three for 13.6 points per game, he has not exactly lit the world on fire. To put it simply, the pair have struggled to translate their obvious talents to the NBA.
Their struggles won’t continue, to this degree, and their first-ever NBA regular season match-up offers the perfect platform for them to make a statement. Here are three keys for their Wednesday night showdown.