After sitting out the first four games of the season with an ankle injury, No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Cade Cunningham hit the floor for the Detroit Pistons.
His first game in uniform helped propel the Pistons to their first win of the season, defeating the Orlando Magic 110-103 at Little Caesars Arena.
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How did Cunningham look? Here are a few takeaways from his performance…
1. Welcome to Detroit
It didn't take Cunningham long to endear himself to the Detroit home crowd.
Less than four minutes into his NBA debut, Cunningham showed plenty of fight, scrapping for a loose ball against fellow rookie Franz Wagner and Mo Bamba.
The 20-year-old wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, doing the type of things Detroit basketball has become synonymous with.
That's a DEEETROIT basketball. pic.twitter.com/tRqHCNrmPw- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 30, 2021
2. First points
Cunningham played just 19 minutes, mostly in the first half and had his struggles offensively, scoring just two points on 1-for-8 shooting and 0-for-5 from three, adding seven rebounds and two assists.
He missed all five of his shot attempts in the first quarter with his lone bucket of the game coming in the second quarter. Receiving the ball on the left wing at the end of the shot clock, he took off down the lane with only eyes for the basket, knifing through the Magic defence for the lefty lay-in.
🚨 Bring out the MotorCade, Detroit. Cade is in the building. 🚨@BallySportsDET | @CadeCunningham_ pic.twitter.com/9QM1B2Wa2Y- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 31, 2021
He only played around five minutes of the third quarter and was on the bench when the Pistons rallied, going on a 19-1 run to take a 10-point heading into the final frame.
3. Big guard
At 6-foot-6, Cunningham's size against opposing guards gives him an advantage and in his first game, he put his size to good use from the jump, grabbing six of his seven rebounds in the first quarter alone.
Per Pistons PR, his six first-quarter rebounds are tied the most in a quarter by a Pistons player in their NBA debut, since 1997-98 and his seven first-half rebounds are the most in a half by a Pistons player in their NBA debut.
Cade Cunningham recorded 7 rebounds in the first half tonight against the Magic, setting the record for most rebounds in a half by a Pistons player in their NBA debut since at least 1997-98 (when NBA first tracked play-by-play data). #Pistons- Pistons PR (@Pistons_PR) October 31, 2021
4. A natural playmaker
While most of his passes didn't end up in assists, Cunningham made plenty of sharp passes to keep the offence ticking and showed flashes of his playmaking potential at the NBA level.
His first NBA assist was to Saddiq Bet for a 3-pointer, making an impressive cross-court pass.
Flanked by two defenders in the corner, he sees over the top and spots Bey open on the 3-point line, firing a two-handed dime his way.
🔥 @CadeCunningham_'s first assist goes to @SaddiqBey! 🔥@BallySportsDET | #Pistons pic.twitter.com/rMm0f9r7LD- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 30, 2021
On this play he pushes the ball up the floor, before slithering his way to the rim and attracting the attention of multiple Magic defenders, cooly dropping it off to Isaiah Stweart for the wide-open jam.
Special delivery for Beef Stew 📬@BallySportsDET | @Dreamville_33 pic.twitter.com/xPuHg5e3d2- Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) October 30, 2021
5. A long way to go
Playing his first game, coming off an ankle injury was always going to be tough for the No. 1 pick and ahead of the game Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said Cunningham would be on a 20-25 minutes restriction as he manages his way back from the injury.
Despite his offensive struggles, Casey was happy with what he was from Cunningham, competing in his first outing
"I knew there would be rust, timing. You can't go a month [without playing] and come out and expect to play the way you want," Casey said postgame.
"I like the effort, the intensity he played with, the way he pushed the ball, moved the ball, tried to make the right decisions."
6. What's next?
It's a short turnaround for the Pistons, who travel to New York to take on the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Sunday.
Tip-off begins at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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