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Cade Cunningham, a Generational Player in the Making

Riley Kennedy

April 18, 2021

Oregon State v Oklahoma State
Andy Lyons, Getty Images

Cade Cunningham’s life will change this summer.

The 2021 NBA Draft is set for July 29, 2021, and Cunningham’s name may be announced first.

Cunningham not only had one of the most impressive freshman seasons at Oklahoma State, but arguably one of the best seasons in all of college basketball.

He was named the Big 12 player of the year and Big 12 freshman of the year this season.

The 6’8 guard averaged 20.1 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 3.5 assists per game.

Cunningham attended Montverde Academy in Florida for high school. There he averaged 13.9 points per game, 6.4 assists per game, and 4.2 rebounds per game. He led one of the best high school basketball team’s in the country to a 25-0 record in his senior season.

He won the 2020 Naismith High School Player of the Year Trophy, and was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2020 according to ESPN.

Cunningham will be a future generational player, once drafted into the NBA.

In a year there was uncertainty surrounding college basketball due to COVID-19, Cunningham performed at the top level every night.

On the year Oklahoma State played in six one-possession games.

Cunningham was leaned on in the those final moments to help his team prevail. He wanted the ball in his hands, and came up clutch in late game situations.

NBA teams are looking for players who can change a franchise, and can build around a player. Cunningham is that player.

According to The Hoops Geek, in the 2019-2020 season the average height for an NBA point guard was, 6’2.5″. The average height for an NBA player was 6’6.3″. These numbers haven’t fluctuated from 1952 to 2020.

Cunningham comes in at 6’8 and 220 pounds.

This is a mismatch for many point guards that will be matched up against him in the league. He has shown what he is capable of doing in these situations.

Cade Cunningham
Devin Lawrence Wilber, Tulsa World

Cunningham makes everyone around him better and is a leader on the court.

What makes him special is the way he controls the game and can slow down the game for himself. He makes defenses play at his pace which only benefits him. He has a tremendous IQ for the game.

He attacks the rim with his quick first step and creates space for himself with his ball-handling skills. If the defense switches and Cunningham matches up against a big man, he will drive to the rim and beat the defender.

He is a strong player and battles for the 50-50 loose balls. Around the rim, he is aggressive and controls the rebounds. He will immediately put the ball back up after securing the rebound.

Cunningham is a highlight sensation and has amazing bounce. He will finish through contact every time and get to the foul line. In college he shot 84.6% from the charity stripe.

What makes him dangerous is his three-level scoring. He finishes around the rim, in the mid-range, and from three. On the year he shot 43.8% from the field, and 40% from three.

When breaking down a defender he has a lot of dribble moves in his package. He has a quick change in direction which helps him beat his defender. If Cunningham doesn’t beat the defender in his first move, he comes right back at the defender and will beat him with a second move.

Cunningham is not a selfish player. He moves the ball well, reads defenses, and has spectacular court vision when passing. He is not a player that will hold the ball in his hands and cause a turnover. He moves without the ball which makes him a dangerous threat on offense.

According to ESPN NBA Draft Analyst Jonathan Givony, he has Cunningham going number one to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Cunningham will turn an NBA franchise around and be an immediate impact on the court.

He has drawn many NBA comparisons: Grant Hill, Luka Doncic, Ben Simmons, and Penny Hardaway

NBA Comparison for Cunninghman: Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum and Cade Cunningham both stand at 6’8. Tatum has versatility and can attack any defender. He has ball-handling skills and can stretch a defense out. He finishes at the rim and beyond the three point arc. In late game situations Tatum likes the ball in his hands and is confident.

NBA Projection: Top-3 draft pick.

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