Multiple sources have recently reported that Detroit Pistons star point guard Cade Cunningham will miss significant time this season due to an injury.
Cunningham was initially diagnosed with left shin soreness. After being re-evaluated after Detroit’s 121-128 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pistons fear Cunningham’s injury could be more serious.
Reports indicate the Pistons fear Cunningham may have a hairline fracture in his shin. The point guard is out indefinitely while he and the team decide how to move forward.
Cunningham and the Pistons could opt for rest. The hope being the injury is able to heal on its own. Surgery is another option Cunningham and the team are considering. Surgery would provide a more distinct timeline for Cunningham’s return. However, it could lead to a longer wait for the star’s return.
As Cunningham and the team mull their options, the Pistons are battling a six-game road trip plagued with injuries. Isaiah Stewart is out for two-three weeks with a right toe sprain. Saddiq Bey missed Detroit’s Sunday evening matchup against the Sacramento Kings with an ankle injury, a 137-129 loss for the Pistons.
Sitting at 3-15, it is already apparent the Pistons are not going anywhere this season. The team holds the worst record in the league and are currently on a seven-game losing streak. Detroit has shown no signs of turning things around. Whether Cunningham and the Pistons ultimately choose rest or surgery, the team should seriously consider shutting down their star point guard for the rest of the season.
3 Reasons the Detroit Pistons should shut down Cade Cunningham for the rest of the season
There is no reason to rush Cunningham back on a lost season
The last thing the Pistons need to do is bring Cunningham back before he is ready and cause long-term problems for their franchise player. The team is going nowhere this season. Detroit should let Cunningham rest his injury.
Shutting Cunningham down for the season would allow him and the team to prepare for a return at the start of next season. It provides the 21-year-old ample time to rehab and ensures his shin is fully healed before he returns.
Cunningham could be cleared to play again before the end of this season. However, the team can only benefit from practicing caution with his rehab.
The Detroit Pistons can go all in on tanking for Victor Wembanyama
The Pistons found their franchise cornerstone in Cunningham. When the 21-year-old is on the court the team is significantly better than when he is off it. Without Cunningham in the lineup, the Pistons are on a direct course to the bottom of the NBA standings. By shutting the point guard down for the rest of the season, Detroit could ensure itself prime positioning in the draft lottery this upcoming offseason.
This course of action has worked before. The Oklahoma City Thunder have done the very same thing with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander twice. In 2020-21, Gilgeous-Alexander only appeared in 35 games for the Thunder. The team finished 22-50, landed the sixth pick in the lottery and drafted Josh Giddey. In 2021-22, Gilgeous-Alexander made 56 starts leading to a 24-58 record. The team landed Chet Holmgren with the second overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft as a result.
The Thunder likely would have won more games had Gilgeous-Alexander not missed time over the previous two seasons. Instead, the team prioritized lottery positioning. The Pistons should consider doing the same this season.
With a player of Cunningham’s talent, there is no telling how much longer the Pistons will be positioned with the best odds in the draft lottery. With a prospect like Victor Wembanyama in this year’s draft class, there is a very good reason to consider sitting Cunningham out and tanking the rest of the way.
The Detroit Pistons can prioritize Jaden Ivey’s development.
Pistons lose a tough one vs. the Kings 137-129
Jaden Ivey with another big night.
— Woodward Sports Network (@woodwardsports) November 21, 2022
Without Cunningham in the lineup, Jaden Ivey has thrived for the Pistons. The 20-year-old rookie has seen his scoring numbers jump over the past six games.
Ivey is averaging 19.3 points per game over the past six contests, a significant increase over his 15.4 points per game average pre-Cunningham injury. Ivey is averaging 3.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists over the past six games as well. He is shooting 41.1 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Ivey has seen his usage rate jump to 28 percent without Cunningham in the lineup. Before Cunningham’s injury, Ivey’s usage rate was 20.9 percent.
With Cunningham out, Ivey has the opportunity to play as the lead ball-handler more often. Of course, he is going to make some ugly mistakes with a higher usage rate. He is a rookie. The Pistons are not likely to play winning basketball with him as the lead ball-handler either. That is okay.
Shutting Cunningham down prioritizes Ivey’s development. The 20-year-old will continue making mistakes, and he will continue honing his skills. Let him go out there and gain experience while being in a high-usage role. Is it trial by fire? Yes. Can Ivey handle it? He better be able to because Cunningham is missing significant time whether he is shut down for the rest of the season or not.
Should the Pistons shut down Cade Cunningham for the rest of the season?
There is every reason to believe that even if Cunningham returns to the lineup this season the team will finish at the bottom of the league. The Pistons are not a basketball team right now. If the injury is fully healed and the Pistons have good lottery positioning, bringing Cunningham back makes enough sense. If there are questions as to whether Cunningham will be able to return at 100 percent, he should not step foot on the court for the rest of the season.
(Featured Image Credit: Allison Farrand-USA TODAY Sports)