Pistons Duo of Cunningham and Duren Firing On All Cylinders

Detroit Pistons youngsters Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duren are starting to look like the NBA’s next great guard-big duo. Cunningham and Duren dominate in the pick and roll, carving apart defenses with their playmaking and play-finishing. Cunningham, averaging 21 points and 7.5 assists a night, commands offense like a star. Duren’s physical play on both ends overwhelms opponents. How will the Pelicans handle them?

Cunningham Maturing As A Lead Guard

Cunningham will test New Orleans’ early top-10-ranked defense as one of the NBA’s most potent playmakers. Cunningham is an upper-echelon passer and pick-and-roll playing with elite pace, manipulating the defense to spray passes all over the floor with elite timing. 

He blends that passing with a valuable scoring threat, his 22.6 points per 75 possessions on improving but still below average efficiency (53.2% true shooting). Critically, he’s boosted his three-point percentage to a career-high 40% on strong volume. The sample is small, but Cunningham has flashed dynamic shot making ability auspicious for a breakout like this.

The scoring threat is critical for his dominance as a passer, drawing defenses in so Cade can find teammates all over the floor. His pick-and-roll partner Jalen Duren is a key cog, setting sturdy screens and catching lobs from Cunningham when he dives to the hoop. Duren has the foundations of a great play-finisher, shooting 71.1% at the rim so far. 

Duren Playing Beyond His Years

That scoring at the basket combined with his rebounding — the Pelicans rank dead last in rebounds (45.2%) — could present a problem for this Pelicans team. Can Jonas Valanciunas and Zion Williamson hang on the boards against Duren and prevent second chances?

Duren is more than just a traditional big: his ballhandling and playmaking provide modernizing versatility. He functions as an operator of modern dribble handoff/short roll offense, processing the floor quickly and making sound decisions. Blending that passing with scoring threat draws defenses as Duren’s quickness and handling are substantial for a center and create difficult matchups for more traditional, slow-footed centers.

How will Jonas Valanciunas hold up against Duren? Valanciunas could struggle with an explosive, above-the-rim threat like Duren who can force him to guard on the perimeter. The Pelicans will, as always, rely heavily on Herb Jones, Dyson Daniels and the rest of that defense to play excellent help.

The “D” in Detroit

Duren and Cunningham are both strong defenders despite their lack of NBA experience. Few centers blend mobility, strength and vertical explosion like Duren. He’s posting an elite block rate once again (4.9%, 88th %tile), deterring shots despite his below-average height. He and Cunnigham form a solid pick and roll duo defensively, Cunningham’s strength, solid quickness and smart enabling him to defend on and off of the ball. When Cade and Duren share the floor, the Pelicans’ defensive rating (106.2) would place in the top 10.

When Cade Cunningham and Jalen Duren share the floor, the Pistons look solid on both ends. Containing Cunningham’s scoring and playmaking will be game-determining factors, as will be winning on the glass. Limiting one of the game’s brightest young star duos will help propel the Pelicans past an ascending Pistons squad.

Written by contributor Ben Pfeifer.


10 thoughts on “Pistons Duo of Cunningham and Duren Firing On All Cylinders

  1. Matty Ice is going to pay dividends. Will be curious of his playing time when all the wounded return.

  2. Good 1st half. Nice ball movement, hitting shots and FT. Only negative is Detroit has 14 offensive rebounds.

  3. Was at the game..Pistons have an amazing amount of athleticism. Doren, Thompson, Hayes, Cunningham, Sasser, Ivey. But Monty has his work cut out for him molding them into a high functioning unit. Pistons had more rebounds (by 12), more assists, almost as many three pointers, and yet they were never really in the game after the first 10 minutes. What they did not have was Herb, Val, or Matt Ryan. Excellent win for a team playing without Z or BI.

  4. I am genuinely wondering: What happened to this site? For years, I’ve been reading TBW, marveling at the community that has built up around our exciting (and sometimes hapless) team. Reading game recaps and comments has been almost as entertaining as watching the games themselves. Now all of a sudden it seems to have fallen of a cliff – there haven’t been any game recaps this year at all, the articles that were written are dry and dull and all the wonderful commenters are gone along with their traditions and colorful nicknames for the players – there are only two left, bigdeac and NotonHerb. What happened?

    1. Vox Media, which owns SB Nation, and supported a full universe of blogs across the universe of the four big sports, cut a number of blogs earlier in the year because ad revenue fell off. Hockey was particularly hard hit, but other sports were also affected, including NBA teams like the Nugs, Clippers, Orlando, OKC, and New Orleans.

      It sucks. Some of the former contributors to the SB Nation The Bird Writes have valiantly tried to resurrect The Bird Writes through this platform, but they have families to support, and right now this this is a labor of love. The platform is clunky, the game threads pretty useless because of delays in posts being accepted. I am sure they are looking for financial backing/ad revenue, but it is a tough market.

      Just have to hope that if TBW get enough readers and posters, that they will be able to find their way to a successful financial future.

    2. We can resurrect JV to Scar and LNJ to Bunny if that will help. I’m sure TBW is looking for ways to make easier but once SB Nation started cutting and New Orleans became a casualty, it became difficult. The delay in posting is something I’m sure they are working on to improve. Miss seeing Shape Shifter, Where is King Cake Baby, Reasonable Observer and others. Hopefully things will get better and easier for this site.

    3. When this new site started things changed. The other site was more user friendly in that it was pretty instantaneous, had gifs, etc. I think they were planning to do something to upgrades on this one as there are options like Disqus, etc. but when I reached out months ago the reply was they were happy with the way it this site is. Deac wrote it may have to with family obligations but it seems like it will be hard to attract enough people in its current form. It can still be a place to comment maybe after games but maybe everyone could set up a Facebook page or there is also a reddit forum called home of the pelicans I think where people are commenting during games realtime like we used to on here. Maybe use your screen names from here and people will be able to tell who the old crew from here are. Any suggestions would be welcome as I definitely miss the Pel’s Community that was built up here. Miss those Fred Jones rants!!

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