At just 19 years old, Cade Cunningham could very well become one of the best young players in the NBA next season.
Every single year, the NBA hosts the infamous entry draft which sees a plethora of talented young players make their way into the league. The entry draft is of particular importance to teams that have failed throughout previous seasons. If you are selecting within the top five picks, then you are what is considered to be a "lottery team." Lottery teams typically have the worst records in the NBA, and they are always desperate for superstar-caliber talent. The draft poses the perfect opportunity to change a team's fortunes, especially if said team is choosing first overall.
Last night, the Detroit Pistons were the lucky team that held the first overall pick. For months, they had the opportunity to scout and talk with the best college players throughout the country in order to make an informed decision on which young man would lead the franchise to the promised land. In the end, the Pistons selected Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State. The 19-year-old burgeoning star was at the top of everyone's power rankings, and it was practically a foregone conclusion that the Pistons would wind up taking him. Considering his accolades on his way to college superstardom, it should come as no surprise that Cunningham was so highly touted heading into this draft.
As a 6'8", 220-pound point guard, you can already see why teams were fawning over him. It's not every day you can get a point guard with this kind of size, and once he steps on the floor with his Pistons teammates, it's extremely likely that he will appear NBA-ready. Unless you already have a superstar point guard on your roster, it's safe to assume any team in the NBA would want Cunningham commanding their floor.
When it comes to his ascension towards NBA superstardom, it becomes crystal clear that Cunningham has been gunning for the NBA ever since he was a freshman in high school. Cunningham was born and raised in Arlington, Texas, by his mother Carrie, and his father Keith. The basketball star's dad was actually a football player for Texas Tech, which ultimately led to Cunningham getting invested in sports at a young age. Throughout his childhood, Cunningham played both football and basketball, although he eventually chose basketball as his dominant sport, thanks to his older brother's college career. In just his freshman year at Bowie High School in his hometown of Arlington, Cunningham made it to the varsity basketball team, and he was so good that he even became a starter. His rookie season was nothing short of impressive thanks to a campaign that saw him put up big numbers for a freshman, including 15.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. The young star led his high school to the regional final, and it was only up from there.
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After an MVP-winning sophomore season in which Cunningham averaged just shy of 19 points per game, the young star decided to transfer to Montverde Academy for his Junior year in 2018. The Florida high school was highly regarded as one of the best in the entire country, and with college offers just a couple of years away, Cunningham knew he was going to have to change schools in order to get better looks from scouts across the country. Not to mention, Cunningham had just had his first child, and with this new responsibility in his life, he knew he needed to do whatever he could to provide for his family. Cunningham made the most of his time at Montverde as he won numerous awards such as Nike Elite Youth Basketball League MVP, Naismith Prep Player Of The Year, Mr. Basketball USA, and MaxPreps National Player Of The Year. Cunningham was in the midst of building quite the resume, and schools throughout the country took notice. After receiving numerous offers from big programs, Cunningham chose to go to Oklahoma State despite the fact they had been banned from postseason competitions. Cunningham even shined at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup, where he snagged a gold medal with Team USA.
At the time of his decision to join Oklahoma State, Cunningham was a five-star recruit who had been approached by teams like Duke and North Carolina. Regardless, he stuck to his convictions and stayed down south, where he got to be the lone superstar on an emerging Oklahoma State squad. As you can imagine, his freshman year of college was extremely successful as he averaged 20.1 points per game as well as 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists. These stats were good enough to make him an NCAA Freshman Player of the Year, as well as an All-American First Team member. It wasn't long before Cunningham declared for the NBA draft and immediately became a sports media darling who had every analyst championing him as the next first overall pick.
During his interviews with the media, Cunningham has shown off a superstar personality that will certainly play well to the Detroit market. The Pistons have been looking for a charismatic player for a while now, and Cunningham will certainly be that guy. After being drafted by the Pistons, Cunningham beamed with pride while talking about his veganism and how his lifestyle choices have helped shape him. He is a young man who stands by his convictions, and he will be a massive part of the Pistons' future, which is beginning to look brighter and brighter by the day.
Of course, no first overall pick is a sure thing. Although with Cunningham's cache in mind, it seems as though the Pistons have positioned themselves for a solid decade of basketball.