Pistons stars Cunningham, Bogdanovic named to CBS Sports’ top-100 rankings

Detroit News

Cade Cunningham missed 70 games last season due to a stress fracture in his left leg, but his absence hasn’t dissuaded some projections of his potential as one of the NBA’s rising stars.

The third-year Pistons guard landed at No. 45 on CBS Sports’ top-100 player rankings, released on Tuesday.

Lists are usually designed for discourse and discussions among NBA fans, and some may be surprised to see Cunningham received such a high designation, considering he played in just 12 games before his second season came to an abrupt end.

However, in that small sample size, Cunningham increased his production from his rookie year and averaged 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists, while appearing more comfortable in the mid-range, where he was most lethal. He scored a career-high 35 points with nine rebounds, eight assists and one steal against the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 28 — twelve days before he played his final game of the season.

“Cunningham became a forgotten man after a leg fracture brought an early end to his sophomore season,” Ameer Tyree of CBS Sports wrote. “The 2021 No. 1 overall pick logged just 12 games with the Pistons before the injury, but was no slouch in that limited sample, with averages of 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. All three of those stats were improvements from his rookie season. Cunningham impressed as a member of the Select team ahead of the 2023 FIBA World Cup and will look to assert himself as one of the NBA’s best young guards going into his third season.”

After two seasons hindered by various injuries, Cunningham appears to be fully healthy and he’ll try to lead the Pistons from the depths of the league’s standings, after finishing with the worst record in the NBA last season. Detroit’s 17-65 mark also set a record for the second-worst record in franchise history.

ESPN ranked Cunningham as the 35th-best player in the league before last season began, but it is uncertain if he’ll receive a similar consideration given his long layoff since his last game.

Cunningham wasn’t the only Pistons player on CBS Sports’ lengthy list. Bojan Bogdanovic also received consideration as the 95th-best player in the league. The five players slotted behind the veteran forward are Grant Williams (100), former Pistons guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (99) and Bruce Brown (98), along with Scoot Henderson (97) and Markelle Fultz (96).

Bogdanovic became Detroit’s go-to scorer in Cunningham’s absence. He signed a two-year extension with the club to tie him through the franchise through the 2024-25 season. He remains on the roster despite several reports suggesting he was available at last season’s trade deadline.

“The 34-year-old Bogdanovic averaged a career-high 21.6 points last season in Detroit, and, despite taking on a heavier offensive load, was more efficient than ever before,” James Herbert of CBS Sports wrote. “He’s deadly spotting up (45.5% on catch-and-shoot 3s in 2022-23), but he’s still getting his points in a variety of ways: isolation, pick-and-roll, post-ups, off movement. The Pistons must hope that they won’t be so dependent on him next season, though.”

Adding a healthy Cunningham to a young Pistons team is vital to the franchise’s improvement this season. Detroit will also welcome rookies Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser — along with a couple of veteran scorers in Monte Morris and Joe Harris — to complement Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, who earned All-Rookie honors last season.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter/X: @MikeACurtis2

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