Pistons' Cade Cunningham: 'I Think I Should Be' 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 13, 2022

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham plays during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 31, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

You may not be surprised to hear whom Detroit Pistons star Cade Cunningham thinks should be honored as this season's best rookie in the NBA.

"I think I should be Rookie of the Year because of all the things I’ve been able to do for my team this year." he said to Andscape's Marc J. Spears. "I feel like I helped my team in a lot of different ways that may not have always turned out to be wins. If you watch my game, and watch the way that I play, you could appreciate all the things that I do on the floor."

Unlike most of the individual awards, Rookie of the Year typically doesn't take a team's record into account. There's only so much one player can do in his first season to improve what was generally a tough situation.

Cunningham is a prime example.

The 20-year-old averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 64 games. He shot 41.6 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Despite his contributions, the Pistons' winning percentage only went from .278 in 2020-21 to .280. They finished 14th in the Eastern Conference at 23-59.

In another season, Cunningham's production alone might have been enough to vault him to the top of the ROY field. However, there are two candidates who have performed as well—if not better—on teams that finished in the top half in the East.

Scottie Barnes averaged 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds and was an integral piece for the Toronto Raptors as they earned the fifth seed. Evan Mobley, meanwhile, put up 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as the Cleveland Cavaliers won 44 games and qualified for the play-in tournament. 

Heading into the 2021 draft, Cunningham was widely viewed as the most obvious choice for the Pistons as they embarked on their rebuild. With the regular season in the books, Detroit has every reason to remain confident about his status as the franchise cornerstone.

But Cunningham's assertion that he's the Rookie of the Year may not be a view that's widely shared outside of the Motor City.