Let's just get this out of the way up front. If he stays healthy, Detroit Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham is going to have a long and productive NBA career. There's a reason he was the No. 1 overall pick in what we're finding out was an extremely loaded draft this past July, and his skill set is tailor-made for modern basketball.
That being said, he's off to one of the roughest shooting starts in NBA history.
After going 4-for-17 from the field in the Pistons' 109-98 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, Cunningham is now 7-for-39 from the field in his first three NBA games. The 17.9 percent clip is the worst for a rookie with at least 30 field goal attempts in his first three games since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976, according to stat guru Justin Kubatko. Cunningham is over two percentage points worse than the previous mark of 20 percent from former Dallas Mavericks center Shawn Bradley.
Cade Cunningham is shooting 7-39 (17.9%) from the field this season.— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) November 5, 2021
Worst FG% in the first three games of a player's NBA career since the merger (min. 30 FGA):
17.9 - Cunningham, 2021-22
20.0 - Shawn Bradley, 1993-94
21.9 - Jordan Poole, 2019-20
25.0 - Jalen Suggs, 2021-22
Cunningham has been especially cold from 3-point range, where he's gone just 1-for-21 to start his career after shooting 40 percent on 5.7 attempts per game in his only season at Oklahoma State.
"His shot is going to fall. It's a matter of time before he gets his rhythm with the 3-point shot," Pistons coach Dwane Casey said after Cunningham's 1-for-7 3-point shooting in Thursday's loss to the 76ers.
It's a testament to Cunningham's talent and basketball IQ that he's been able to impact the game positively despite his poor shooting. He put up 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes, while going 9-for-10 from the free throw line in Thursday's loss to the 76ers, and was a plus-seven in a game his team lost by 11 points. Cunningham became the first Detroit rookie since Grant Hill to record a double-double in three games or fewer, and the only other Piston to accomplish the feat since 1981 is another Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas.
Casey said he has made an effort to put the ball in his prized rookie's hands more, and he's been pleased with the results.
"I feel like I'm pretty good with the ball in my hands. I haven't been efficient with my first three games, but I'm getting more comfortable," Cunningham said. "I didn't have a training camp. The team is encouraging me to be me. I'm going to continue doing that until they fall."