DALLAS - When a great player emerges at the NBA level, there is usually a focus on who can be the 'next' great one. Often times, there aren't players that will come through the NBA Draft that truly stack up with the elite talents in the league since they are unique for good reason.
Many are looking for the next Luka Doncic, given how he has burst onto the scene, already earning consecutive All-NBA First-Team nods in just three seasons.
Some feel as though Cade Cunningham, the consensus choice to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is as close as it gets in terms of stacking up to Doncic.
According to ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, the size and strength coupled with basketball acumen compare with Doncic and were key reasons in the Mavericks superstar making a simple transition to the NBA level (aside from the obvious reason that Doncic had been a professional basketball player overseas since he was 15 years old, of course).
“The same doubts about Luka’s athleticism and his translation to the NBA are some of the same doubts that people have about Cade,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said. “He’s not going to jump over tall buildings. He’s not super explosive, but his size and strength and basketball acumen — [that’s] where he’s very similar to Luka. “Why Luka made such an easy transition into the league is Luka may not be what we would think of as a great athlete, like a run-and-jump athlete, but … very few players in the NBA have the quickness of mind to see things before they happen the way Luka has.”
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There are a fair amount of similarities that Cunningham shares with Doncic. Both players are quite tall for point guards with Doncic standing at 6-foot-7 compared to Cunningham, who measures in at 6-foot-8.
They each are below-the-rim drivers who use a methodical pace to break down the defender at the point of attack in addition to having a layered attack for off-the-dribble jumpers from deep. Of course, there are key differences, too, but the relative foundation is there.
If Cade Cunningham can stack up to having a similar impact as Luka Doncic, the Detroit Pistons will be ecstatic with their No. 1 overall selection. It won't be long until they are rising up the Eastern Conference standings, either.
During his lone season at Oklahoma State University, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in 27 games. He was named Big 12 Player of the Year and was a consensus first-team All-American.