‘A Swiss Army knife’: Pistons’ Cade Cunningham rises to No. 35 in ESPN’s rankings

Detroit News

Cade Cunningham’s sophomore season is expected to be a sensational one — maybe even good enough to land him in the same stratosphere as some of the best players in the NBA.

The versatile Pistons guard landed at No. 35 on ESPN’s 12th annual NBArank, a list of the top 100 players in the league.

The list is always a popular topic of conversation, as fans and media typically debate which players should’ve earned higher or lower ratings.

It’s quite a jump for Cunningham after he cracked the list at No. 76 right before his rookie year in 2021-22. Cunningham showed the ability to do a little bit of everything on the floor after averaging 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists during his first season in the league.

ESPN NBA Draft analyst Anthony Givony assessed Cunningham’s game, offensively and defensively, and predicts another season of experience could be enough for the young star to make the leap into NBA stardom.

“Cunningham is a Swiss Army knife, capable of sliding between any of the backcourt positions at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan,” Givony wrote. “He’s highly switchable and versatile defensively and able to play on or off the ball with his ability to handle, pass and shoot. The soon-to-be 21-year-old should make a jump in his sophomore season, especially from beyond the arc after shooting 31.4% as a rookie.”

Despite finishing third in last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year race, Cunningham’s recent rating puts him slightly ahead of a couple of other notable players from his rookie class.

Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, who was named Rookie of the Year, is at No. 39. Cunningham is also one spot ahead of Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley (No. 36), who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. Both players were unranked before last season.

Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant, who spent the last two seasons with the Pistons, also made the list, at No. 64 — 11 spots lower than last year. Houston Rockets guard and 2021 No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green retained his place from last season’s list at No. 62.

Cunningham’s growth is vital to the Pistons’ improvement this season, along with Saddiq Bey, who did not make the cut, despite averaging 16.1 points and 5.4 rebounds as a sophomore last season. That duo is expected to be Detroit’s main source of offense, but the team also added explosive guard Jaden Ivey with the No. 5 overall pick. Ivey could find himself on the 2023-24 version of this list.

NBArank will continue through the remainder of this week. Nos. 100-26 were released Tuesday. Nos. 25-11 will be announced on Wednesday, followed by Nos. 10-6 on Thursday. ESPN’s top five players will be revealed on Friday.

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