Houston Rockets: 3 Keys to Jalen Green v Cade Cunningham Round 1

N.B. Lindberg
2021 NBA Draft
2021 NBA Draft / Arturo Holmes/GettyImages
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Jalen Green, Cade Cunningham, Houston Rockets
Detroit Pistons v Houston Rockets / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Houston Rockets: Jalen Green v Cade Cunningham key #2 Playmaking 

As a prospect, Jalen Green was compared to a bevy of score-first guards, but Cade Cunningham got more than his fair share of Luka Doncic comparisons. Early on, Green and Cunningham have been near equals at distributing the ball. 

On a per 100 possession basis, Green is averaging 4.4 assists and 4.2 turnovers compared to Cunningham’s 4.9 assists and 5.8 turnovers. With how much the pair have struggled to convert shots into points, their ability to set up teammates will go a long way in propping up their effectiveness. 

Green has already flashed upside as a pick and roll distributor. As his ability to create his own shot often draws two defenders to him. In this highlight, he makes the simple read and then elevates and executes a tough pass to find Theis in a dangerous area. The Nuggets defend the action well, but Theis already has position in the post and the Rockets get the bucket. 

Now, to give Cunningham the credit he deserves as a passer. Plays like this are why Cunningham got Doncic comparisons in college. He takes his time, waits for the double to come, and calmly swings a behind-the-back pass to a wide-open shooter at the 3-point line. 

The difference between the two as playmakers is that Green is more dependent on the pick and roll to create passing opportunities. Cunningham is the more natural passer and can make plays with his passing outside of the structure of the offense. 

If the Rockets give Green a heavy dosage of pick and roll opportunities he’ll have a great chance to nab more dimes than Cunningham. However, Cunningham will likely have the dime that captures audiences’ imagination.