No, this isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke. Summer league is a brilliant thing in that it allows NBA teams to get a look at prospects and see if they fit in, without committing them to a long-term deal. It’s a great place for players to audition for NBA teams, and for fans to see how they’ll fit in.
Back in July at the Las Vegas Summer League, two players that may be on the cusp of making an impact in the NBA, Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham, faced off in a summer league game. Green, who excelled in the tournament, had a hip flexor injury that limited him to just six minutes of action. Cunningham, on the other hand, was seemingly ready to make a breakout summer league performance. Thus, when the two squared off, the stakes were high. It’s no surprise that the game proved to be a high scoring, exciting affair. In the end, however, it was Cunningham who walked away with the W.
The Cade Cunningham vs. Jalen Green Summer League Duel Gave NBA Fans a Peek Into the Future
Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State was the anticipated frontrunner to be selected first overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 2021 NBA Draft. He had all of the qualities that clubs want in a franchise player. He’s large and powerful, and he can score and assist. Jalen Green, who entered the NBA through the G League Ignite route rather of the collegiate route, was expected to be the Houston Rockets’ No. 2 pick. As NBA players continue to gravitate in that path, his athleticism and ability to generate his own shot from wherever on the court drew the attention of organizations.
In the Las Vegas NBA Summer League, the two players met for the first time, and the clash between the No. 1 and No. 2 overall selections did not disappoint.
Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green were both deserving of the first overall selection in the NBA draft.
During the 2021 NBA Summer League, Cade Cunningham of the Detroit Pistons and Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets wait for their game to begin. | Getty Images/Ethan Miller
Cunningham entered college with an NBA-ready frame, standing 6-foot-8 and weighing 220 pounds. In the 2020 high school class, he was the top recruit. During his one-and-done season with the Cowboys, he did nothing to refute the idea that he was college basketball’s greatest player.
Cunningham, despite his height, was essentially a point guard in Stillwater, averaging 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He shot 46.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Despite being surrounded by a supporting cast that is at most mediocre.
Green chose to begin his professional career in the G League, and he did not disappoint. Green averaged 17.9 points per game when playing against pros rather than collegiate players. On a team-high 5.7 attempts, he shot 46.1 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. On the Ignite, he was the top player.
The match between Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green did not disappoint.
The much-anticipated showdown lived up to its billing. Green’s Rockets won 111-91 over Cunningham’s Pistons, but that wasn’t the story. Throughout the night, Green and Cunningham went one-on-one with each other, and each had his moments.
Green was 6-for-11 from the field for 25 points, five rebounds, three assists, and a steal. His 11 free throw attempts, a game high, demonstrated his agility and ability to get to the basket.
Cunningham had a strong performance, scoring 20 points while adding four rebounds, three steals, and two assists. He made 4 of 9 three-point attempts.
The duel between Cunningham and Green offered NBA fans a glimpse into the future.
Cunningham tormented the smaller G League alum by driving to the hoop with his back to the basket. Green blew by the former Cowboy and scored inside thanks to his speed and athleticism. He drilled a three in Cunningham’s face and glared him down at one point.
It was the first time the two players met and just their second NBA game. Both rookies, on the other hand, have the skills to become stars in the league. That was apparent in Vegas when the No. 1 and No. 2 overall selections faced off.
Sports-Reference provided all collegiate statistics, while NBA.com provided professional statistics.
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