Young Pistons learning to win as Cunningham builds Rookie of the Year resume

Pistons have won three straight games

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) (COLE BURSTON, 2022 Cole Burston)

If Cade Cunningham isn’t in the running for Rookie of the Year, then no one should be. The Pistons are winning games! 📈

Hey, Pistons fans! I hope you’re enjoying the final stretch of the NBA regular season. The Pistons are suddenly winning more games than losing, as of late, and I’m enjoying it.

Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham is changing the personality of this team, night-by-night, and it’s paying off, especially in close games.

📈 Pistons learning to win as Cade builds resume

Look, the Pistons aren’t going to make some playoff run. It’s way too late. They are 15 games behind the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference. But that doesn’t mean winning right now is a waste.

The Pistons are 18-47 on the season, but they’ve won three straight games, and six of their last nine games. That’s by far the best stretch the Pistons have had in the last two seasons.

And they’re not just beating some bottom-feeder teams. They’ve beaten Cleveland twice, the Hornets, Raptors, Celtics and Hawks -- all in playoff position. They held Hawks star Trae Young to 13 points on Monday night -- he averages nearly 30 points.

🤔 So what’s the difference?

➡️ The Pistons are scoring more: In the last 10 games, Detroit is averaging 110 points per game, 10th in the NBA. Overall this season, Detroit is scoring 103 points per game, ranked 29th.

➡️ Three-point shooting has improved: In the last two games, the Pistons are shooting 36% from the three-point line, up from their season average 34%. Field goal shooting is also up 2%.

➡️ Defense has stepped up: The Pistons defensive rating has improved from 25th to 19th in the last 10 games.

And then there’s the intangible pieces to this -- player growth. Yes, you can see it show up in the stat sheet, but it’s bigger than that.

The way Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Jerami Grant are building chemistry every night is starting to pay dividends. Every one of the Pistons six wins in the last nine games have been close games. Marvin Bagley III has played really well for the Pistons since being traded from the Kings.

Earlier in the season, the Pistons were losing every close game. They didn’t know how to close games, steal games, hold off a rally, or keep the pressure on. Now, game-by-game, the Pistons are learning to win. And that’s thanks mostly to Rookie of the Year candidate Cade Cunningham.

📝 Cade builds ROTY resume

I have a hard time believing any rookie is more valuable to a team this year than Cade Cunningham. Without Cade, the Pistons are a team with almost no hope to contend. With him, they’re a rising and growing power.

Let’s just look at the last 15 games. Cunningham is averaging 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game. But it’s his clutch play that has really been a highlight. Cade’s poise in the fourth quarter, scoring when they need it most, or making a defensive stop on a final possessions -- he’s everywhere he needs to be.

In last night’s win vs. Atlanta, Cunningham hit two clutch free-throws with 1.6 seconds left, helping to send the game to overtime. He then closed the game, scoring half of the Pistons overtime point to seal with win, ending with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons defends as Raul Neto #19 of the Washington Wizards handles the ball during the second half at Capital One Arena on March 1, 2022 in Washington, DC. 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 Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) (2022 Getty Images)

Cunningham leads all rookie in scoring, is fourth in rebounding, second in assists, second in steals, fifth in blocks, and due to injury, he’s played nearly a dozen fewer games than some of his counterparts.

Some will argue that Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes or Cleveland rookie Evan Mobley are ahead of Cade for ROTY honors, but if you watch the game, you know the truth -- Cade Cunningham is the Rookie of the Year.

📅 Pistons upcoming games

Pistons have a tough stretch of games and a road-trip ahead -- it’ll be a nice test for the young guys.

  • Wednesday vs. Chicago
  • Friday vs. Boston
  • Sunday @ LA Clippers
  • March 25 @ Miami
  • March 17 @ Orlando
  • March 19 @ Cleveland

About the Author:

Ken Haddad has proudly been with WDIV/ClickOnDetroit since 2013. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters, and helps lead the WDIV Insider team. He's a big sports fan and is constantly sipping Lions Kool-Aid.