Cade Cunningham player comparison in NBA includes Luka Doncic, Khris Middleton

·2 min read

After five weeks of talk, Cade Cunningham is a Detroit Piston.

The Pistons selected him No. 1 overall in Thursday's 2021 NBA draft (follow live updates).

As a 19-year-old freshman last season at Oklahoma State, he was college basketball's best clutch scorer, and averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals over 27 games, shooting 40% from 3 (62-for-155). He collected 103 points in the clutch, according to Synergy, and converted 47-for-50 attempts from the free-throw line.

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The No. 1 recruit in the class of 2020, Cunningham has drawn high praise from draft experts, his all-around game, positional versatility and leadership making him a "high-floor" prospect with no glaring weakness at 6 feet 8, 220 pounds.

Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham makes a jump shot against Liberty during the NCAA tournament March 19, 2021 in Indianapolis.
Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham makes a jump shot against Liberty during the NCAA tournament March 19, 2021 in Indianapolis.

"Other than Luka Doncic, Cade Cunningham is the most polished prospect that I've ever evaluated," ESPN draft guru Mike Schmitz said this week, adding Cunningham might be rated among his top 3 of the 10 most recent No. 1 picks.

Cunningham has been asked who he watched the most and named Doncic. (Oklahoma State released a clip last season of Cunningham watching film on Doncic.)

"Our body types resemble each other the most in the NBA," he explained this summer on JJ Redick's podcast, "The Old Man and the Three." "His role: He's a primary ball-handler, he's the one making the plays. ... There's a lot of things we do that are pretty similar and the way we just approach the game."

Another name Cunningham studies? Former Pistons draft pick and newly crowned NBA champion Khris Middleton.

"The main thing is his patience with the game," Cunningham said in an ESPN story on the Bucks' closer. "You can see how he's navigating the court and really just taking in every scenario throughout the game. He plays at his own pace. He doesn't get sped up. He can get to pretty much any shot he wants. That's the thing I'm most impressed about."

His "perimeter skill set, from a big wing who can handle and pass, makes Khris Middleton-type outcomes seem reasonably likely," wrote John Hollinger, the former Memphis Grizzlies executive who now writes for The Athletic.

"Franchise-changing offensive orchestrator with smooth scoring skills, versatile defense, and a winning mentality," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor summarized in his draft guide, with shades of "supersized Shai Gilgeous-Alexander" and "shorter Ben Simmons with a jumper."

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Cade Cunningham's NBA player comparisons include Luka Doncic

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