The Detroit Pistons were the lucky winners of the Cade Cunningham sweepstakes. The Pistons won the first overall pick and selected Cunningham, the talented 6-foot-8 guard from Oklahoma State. In one season with the Cowboys, the Texas native averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, winning Big 12 Player of the Year and leading OSU to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Cunningham, who will be 20 years old on opening night, is Detroit’s highest draft pick since Bob Lanier in 1970. Time will tell if the youngster becomes the next star of the Pistons, but one former player-turned-analyst is already comparing him to another Motown legend.
Jalen Rose compares Cade Cunningham to a former Detroit Pistons icon
One of the many people looking forward to seeing Cunningham take the court is Jalen Rose. The ESPN analyst played 13 years in the NBA with six different teams, but was born and raised in Detroit and rose to prominence as a member of Michigan’s Fab Five.
Speaking to the media during his annual Jalen Rose Golf Classic in Detroit, Rose discussed the excitement of seeing a potential star like Cunningham in his hometown.
“We [the Pistons] finally got the number one pick, and the reason I was happy was because of him [Cunningham],” Rose said. “See, it’s one thing to have the number one pick. It’s another thing to have a consistent number one player. And we have that.”
Rose, who like Cunningham stands at 6-foot-8, proceeded to break down what he likes about Cade before comparing him to another high Detroit draft pick. (h/t: Brad Galli, WXYZ Detroit)
“On the floor, [he can] dribble, pass, and shoot. Competitive defensively. Smooth. I don’t want to get anybody mad at me, but I haven’t been this excited for a Pistons draft pick since Grant Hill … I’m not saying that he is Grant Hill, but he reminds me of Grant Hill.”Jalen Rose
Hill, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, would be a great ceiling for Cunningham. Interestingly, the two players share more than a few things in common.
Cunningham’s game bears striking resemblance to Grant Hill
Cunningham is tasked with resuscitating a Pistons franchise that has won 20 games in back-to-back seasons. The struggles have gone back even further, as Detroit has just one winning season since 2008. It’s reminiscent of when the down-on-their-luck Pistons drafted a young Grant Hill out of Duke.
Following the end of the Bad Boys era, the Pistons missed the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time since 1983. The 1993-94 season was particularly bad, as Detroit won only 20 games, just like the modern-day Pistons before selecting Cunningham. Although they didn’t win the lottery in ’94, the Pistons took Hill third overall, and two years later they were back in the postseason.
Both Cunningham and Hill stand at 6-8, weighing around 220 lbs. Hill’s 14.9 points through four years at Duke were less than Cade’s 20.1, but the Hall of Famer’s 6.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in Durham is almost identical to this year’s top pick. Furthermore, Cunningham has been lauded for his passing abilities, as well as his shooting and defensive potential. It’s reminiscent of Hill, who led all non-guards in assists for four straight years, averaged over 21 points in six seasons with the Pistons, and ranked inside the top-eight in defensive win shares three times.
Their biggest similarity, however, might be their maturity, as explained by Rose.
“When I stood next to Grant Hill, we both were 21, but I was talking like I was 17 and he was talking like he was 25,” said Rose. “That’s what Cade reminds me of.”
The Detroit Pistons have a bright future
The last decade or so has been bleak in Detroit. But with Cade Cunningham, the future looks brighter than it has in quite some time.
Detroit has undergone a major roster upheaval within the last year, building their core through the draft. They found some success with a pair of All-Rookie selections, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, and are still holding out hope for second-year guard Killian Hayes.
In addition to Cunningham, the Pistons added three more rookies this offseason, headlined by Michigan’s Isaiah Livers and Iowa’s Luka Garza, the reigning National Player of the Year. Leading scorer Jerami Grant is also returning, as the eight-year vet is coming off of a career year with 22.3 points per game.
It may take a while for the Pistons to contend in the Eastern Conference. But if Cunningham can have an impact like Hill did, the wait will be over in no time.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.