Jalen Green Outduels Cade Cunningham, Rockets Beat Pistons in NBA Summer League

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 11, 2021

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 10:  Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets drives against Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons during the 2021 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 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 Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The top two picks in this year's NBA draft, Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green, faced off  Tuesday night when the Detroit Pistons played the Houston Rockets in Summer League action. 

And they didn't disappoint. 

The Rockets earned the 111-91 win behind Green's 25 points, five rebounds and three assists in what was a fun matchup. Cunningham equally showed out in the loss, posting 20 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists. 

While Cunningham and Green received top billing, Houston's Alperen Sengun made his mark as well, putting up 21 points and eight rebounds. He's shaping up to be a real steal for the Rockets. 


SENGUN SOARIN' ✈️<br><br>Alperen Sengun is putting on a clinic against the Pistons! <a href="https://t.co/CEwhC4ujC7">pic.twitter.com/CEwhC4ujC7</a>

But we're here for the Cunningham and Green highlights. They're the top two picks, after all. And there were plenty. 

Cunningham showed off some sizzle from deep, and some leadership throughout the game too:


Cade Cunningham connects from beyond the arc early! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBASummer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBASummer</a> <br><br>Watch the TOP 2 PICKS now on ESPN <a href="https://t.co/fdUEP2kw44">pic.twitter.com/fdUEP2kw44</a>


Cade Cunningham attacks to score.<br>Cade Cunningham attacks to dish.<br><br>The No. 1 pick is doing it all for the <a href="https://twitter.com/DetroitPistons?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DetroitPistons</a> on ESPN! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBASummer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBASummer</a> <a href="https://t.co/6yqclpNaCr">pic.twitter.com/6yqclpNaCr</a>

ESPN @espn

Cade with the cross and finish vs. Jalen Green 🤭<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBASummerLeague?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBASummerLeague</a>) <a href="https://t.co/FZ6Jy5RQ6D">pic.twitter.com/FZ6Jy5RQ6D</a>

ESPN @espn

Cade Cunningham puts his defender in the spin cycle 🌀 <a href="https://t.co/Wa013VeoBv">pic.twitter.com/Wa013VeoBv</a>


Leading the way... listen in to No. 1 pick <a href="https://twitter.com/CadeCunningham_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CadeCunningham_</a> mic'd up for the <a href="https://twitter.com/DetroitPistons?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DetroitPistons</a>! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBASummer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBASummer</a><br><br>2nd half is underway on ESPN <a href="https://t.co/znpUwii1Ik">pic.twitter.com/znpUwii1Ik</a>

Of course, Green was not to be outdone:


No. 2 pick Jalen Green is getting going in the 2nd quarter on ESPN! <a href="https://twitter.com/HoustonRockets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HoustonRockets</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBASummer?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBASummer</a> <a href="https://t.co/NSJalPURrQ">pic.twitter.com/NSJalPURrQ</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jalen Green for three. CASH. <a href="https://twitter.com/brhoops?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@brhoops</a><br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/rS6ljgifsL">pic.twitter.com/rS6ljgifsL</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Jalen Green was chirping at Cade after draining this three 🍿<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NBATV?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBATV</a>)<a href="https://t.co/vuWUTIiOY9">pic.twitter.com/vuWUTIiOY9</a>

The two offer a stark contrast in many ways. Cunningham is smooth and silky, plays at his own pace and keeps his teammates involved. He's as natural a facilitator as he is a scorer and is rarely rushed. It's not hard to see why he was the top overall pick. 

Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz

If I’m the Pistons, Cade Cunningham is bringing the ball up the floor every single possession. I understand that he can space the floor as a spot up shooter and add some off ball value but planting him in the corner doesn’t seem like the recipe for success.

But Green is explosive. He was born to score the rock. He attacks downhill well. He had some struggles (four turnovers in all) when the Pistons threw traps and double teams at him—yes, they were throwing traps and double teams at him in a Summer League game—while Killian Hayes took his defensive assignment against Green personally. 

But through it all, Green still put up points and got the win.

Hardwood Paroxysm @HPbasketball

man, this is going to be such a fascinating ROY race. Cunningham does all the things that make teams better and Jalen Green’s just going to put up so many numbers.

Kendrick Perkins @KendrickPerkins

I’ll say in again this Draft Class of 2021 is SPECIAL!!! We are just seeing a sample size right now...just wait until the season comes around! Carry the hell on...

There are going to be other rookies who flash this season. But if Summer League is any indication, the Rookie of the Year award this year will be decided between Cunningham and Green. Both are more than ready for this stage.