Cade Cunningham Says He Models Game After LeBron James, Luka, Paul George

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2021

Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham (2)points during an NCAA college basketball game Monday, March. 1, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, one of the top prospects in the 2021 NBA draft class, said Wednesday he tries to learn from a multitude of different players.

Cunningham, who's 6'8'', told Sam Vecenie of The Athletic he likes to study taller players who are often tasked with running an offense.

"I watch plenty of LeBron [James], but I wouldn't say there's one particular guy that I really lock in on," he said. "I try to take a bunch of different things from a bunch of different guys. Khris Middleton, Paul George, LeBron, Luka [Doncic], all the big guards. Not even big guards, but big shot creators and playmakers who can get to a shot when they need to."

Cunningham has enjoyed a terrific freshman season with the Cowboys. He's averaged 20.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.2 threes and 1.4 steals across 25 appearances. He's shooting 45.4 percent from the floor, including an impressive 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.

The 19-year-old Texas native was challenged down the stretch of the regular season and in the Big 12 conference tournament as OSU played eight straight games against ranked opponents. He played in seven of those contests, averaging 24.3 points and scoring 40 in an overtime win over rival Oklahoma.

He also shined in the Big Ten title game with 29 points in Oklahoma State's loss to Texas.

The Cowboys received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, and they'll open March Madness on Friday with a clash against 13th-seeded Liberty.

Cunningham's performance during the Big Dance likely won't have much impact on his NBA stock, though he could solidify himself as the presumptive No. 1 selection with a dominant showing in the coming weeks.

The 2020 McDonald's All-American, who arrived at OSU as a 5-star prospect and the No. 1 overall recruit, told Vecenie he doesn't place himself in a specific positional category as he prepares for the next level.

"I think I'm just a basketball player who is good with the ball in his hands," Cunningham said. "I don't know what position you want to call it, but I think I'm at my best when I'm making plays. I think that's how I'll translate to the NBA."

Cunningham is well on his way to proving himself as the total package—a player who can score on the wing or run the offense from the point while being able to defend all five positions.

If his development continues at its current trajectory, he could be a few years away from counting himself alongside the likes of James and Doncic as the league's best all-around players.