During an appearance on JJ Redick's "The Old Man and the Three" podcast, prospective No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham set lofty goals for his rookie season in the NBA .
"I wanna make the playoffs, I wanna be in that race for sure," Cunningham began. "Rookie of the Year is a definite. I wanna be (an) All-Star by - I'll say second year, I wanna be (an) All-Star, honestly. Just because, I know first year … you gotta go in there and go crazy if you want (All-Star) first year."
The 19-year-old exudes a calm confidence, one of a player that will immediately make an impact on whichever team selects him in the upcoming draft.
But don't mistake Cunningham's confidence for arrogance, he's just that good.
In his lone season at Oklahoma State University, the 6-foot-8 guard set the college basketball world ablaze, posting averages of 20.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game to become just the fourth player to win Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year honours in the same season, joining a list that also features Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and Marcus Smart.
Now, he looks to join an even more exclusive list.
Over the past 30 years, only four No.1 overall picks - Ben Simmons, Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan and Chris Webber - have won Rookie of the Year and advanced to the NBA Playoffs in the same season. Factor in that Simmons sat out the first year of his career with an injury, and it's been 12 years since a No. 1 overall pick has led their team to a postseason appearance within a year of being drafted.
In the case of Rose, the Chicago Bulls pulled off a historic lottery "upset," moving up eight spots to select first after finishing with a 33-49 record the year prior. At just 20, he was the missing piece for a franchise that had a foundation in place, becoming a legitimate title contender in just three years' time.
Is this the year that we see history repeat itself? As NBA.com Draft Expert Kyle Irving noted in his scouting report : Cunningham was the presumptive No. 1 pick for a reason.
It's becoming clearer and clearer that Cunningham will likely be the guy. As a player that thrives in situations to create for himself and for others, Cunningham is the type of player that will work in any system, especially in today's NBA.
The case could even be made that he was that missing piece for each of the 14 lottery teams, though some are much closer to contending than others.
At 6-foot-8, Cunningham has the size of a forward, the ballhandling and passing skills of a true lead guard, and, per NBA.com Draft Expert Eric Fawcett, a scoring ability that will immediately translate to the next level.
Look no further than the 2021 NBA Playoffs to quantify the value of such a player, with Luka Doncic and Devin Booker each making the most of their ability to make things happen on the offensive end. And you can't overlook smaller creators like Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young.
Cunningham can set himself apart is on the defensive end, where he has the capability to be a disruptor and difference-maker, partly evidenced by his 1.6 steals per contest at Oklahoma State. Cunningham's potential on that side of the floor is what called Irving to acknowledge both Doncic and Jimmy Butler as NBA comparisons.
Will the Detroit Pistons be an immediate beneficiary of Cunningham's talents?
After finishing 20-52 in the 2020-21 NBA season, the Pistons won the 2021 Draft Lottery and will select first in the upcoming NBA Draft. Early reports indicate that Cunningham plans to meet with just the Pistons ahead of the draft.
Cunningham accelerates an ongoing rebuild in Detroit that is centred around a fresh crop of talent.
Headlining the Pistons' young core is a trio of players that made quite the impression as rookies last season: Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart. Hayes, who was selected seventh overall in 2020 was limited due to injury but Bey and Stewart each earned All-Rookie honours, with Bey's First Team selection coupled with a fourth-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.
Cunningham makes it an impressive young quartet to go along with an established performer in Jerami Grant, who joined Detroit last offseason as a free agent. Detroit might not have been on the radar much last season, but the potential addition of Cunningham could make the Pistons a fun team under the tutelage of head coach Dwane Casey.
Major expectations are to be levied upon Cunningham right away. Based on what we've seen - and heard - from the 19-year-old up to this point, he's ready to live up to it all.
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