Cade Cunningham is NBA’s Rookie of the Year. If you disagree, you must not be watching.

Cunningham is making best case for ROTY

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MARCH 31: Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons talks with his team in a huddle before the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Little Caesars Arena on March 31, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) (Nic Antaya, 2022 Nic Antaya)

There’s a clear-cut front-runner for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, and if you don’t know who it is, you must not be watching.

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham has hit the turbo button on his quest to win the award, showcasing his star potential against contending teams in the last month. But even before then, Cade was near the top of the rookie ladder.

Cunningham caught some heat early in the season after starting off slow due to an injury that sidelined him in the preseason. But since then, Cunningham has bounced back and has become the leader of a young and hungry Pistons team.

Here’s where Cade ranks in terms of rookie stats, as of April 1:

  • 1st in points per game (17.6)
  • 2nd in assists (5.6)
  • 2nd in 3-pointers made per game (1.9)
  • 5th in rebounds per game (5.6)
  • 3rd in steals (76)

In his last 10 games, Cunningham is averaging 22.6 per game, with nearly eight assists. And in his last three games, his point average is up to 26.3.

His March numbers are on par with perhaps the greatest of all time. Cunningham is the first rookie to put up those numbers (or better) in a month (min 10 games) since Michael Jordan did it in his rookie season.

But it’s not just that Cunningham is scoring. It’s how he’s leading when he’s on the floor. And it’s how he has played in clutch time.

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 03: Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons celebrates a basket during the second half of their NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on March 3, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) (2022 Cole Burston)

In the last 10 games, Cunningham is averaging nearly 13 points in the second half, a 3-point average gap from the next rookie, Jalen Green, who is not even in the running for the award. In that stretch, Cunningham is a +3.6 on the floor for the Pistons, which is saying a lot for a team with the worst record in the NBA.

Cunningham makes the Pistons a team that can win on any given night. And with the growth of other young players like Saddiq Bey, Marvin Bagley III, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes and others, Cunningham has a crew of players who want to be led.

If you look at the other two contenders for the Rookie of the Year award -- Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Toronto’s Scottie Barnes -- both joined teams that already had established star players. Cade joined a team that won 20 games last year.

Don’t get me wrong -- Mobley, Barnes and even Franz Wagner in Orlando, have had great rookie campaigns. But none of them can match up to the full package player performance we’ve seen from Cunningham.

The only reason anyone would argue against Cunningham as Rookie of the Year is if they haven’t been watching the Pistons. And that’s a bummer.

The future is bright for the Pistons with Cunningham at the helm. If he wasn’t leading this team, the Pistons would probably still be stuck in tank mode. Can you say the same about Cleveland or Toronto? I think you know the answer.

Cade Cunningham is the NBA Rookie of the Year, and if he doesn’t win it because the Pistons don’t get as much exposure, or because it took him a month to get going after an injury, that would be a true shame.

Just ask Kevin Durant, who said this after Cunningham scored 34 points vs. the Nets: “When you’ve got a 6′7″ point guard, I mean s***, that’s a good start, somebody who can wreck a whole defensive game plan with his size, his talent, his skill. So that’s a great start.”


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.