Coming into the draft, Cunningham might be the most under-rated, athletic freak shooting guard prospect around. He's one of those players that probably sneaks into the late first round due to his explosiveness and potential while still needing considerable development.
Athletically, Cunningham is very explosive for a combo guard. He's excellent both laterally and with his front-line speed. He has an explosive first step and great vertical. Stepping on the court, he'll be in the upper tier athletically relative to the other shooting guards in the NBA.
Size-wise, Cunningham is slightly undersized at 6’3/6’4 for the shooting guard position. While he is still somewhat lean, he has the frame to add some weight. Even though he is slightly under-sized, he has a solid wing-span and his athleticism masks those concerns.
There are no real concerns with Jared.
Basketball IQ and want it factor
Cunningham is a very hard-nose player and is very aggressive. He does not back down and is a very strong defender. He does whatever it takes to win despite playing for a mediocre Oregon State team.
Even though, Cunningham is raw in terms of developed skill, he has a solid understanding of the game. He had few other scorers on his team this year, and he had to shoulder more of the ball-handling/ point guard responsibilities despite being their best scorer. Cunningham moves without the ball well and has solid form on his jumper. While not a natural creator, he does find the open player and distributes the ball well.
Skill-wise, Cunningham offers some decent all-around skills, he has room to grow in all of them. Cunningham possesses a very quick first step offensively, has solid shooting form and shoots well when spotting up. He understands the game, shows solid ball-handling, and moves the ball well for a two.
Defensively, Cunningham should be a positive at the next level. Averaging an amazing 2.5 steals at the college level last year, he is tenacious in getting into the opponent. While slightly under-sized, Cunningham possesses athletically ability and desires similar to an Avery Bradley. He understands how to position his opponent to where he wants to be. He will struggle on occasion from big guys setting strong screens or if a bigger shooting guard backs him down, but that is very rare occasion (an aging Kobe, soon-to-be-aging Dwayne Wade, or James Harden).
Cunningham will need to master a few offensive moves in order to become more than just a better ball-handling Shannon Brown on the offensive side. While he shows a solid release and shot decently from the three point line [36% as a Sophomore, 34% last year on four attempts per game], he really has no go to move on offense or go to shot. He has a quick first step, but once getting into the paint, he relies on the floater too much instead of finishing with authority.
While a solid spot-up shooter from the three or mid-range, he needs considerable improvement in shooting off the dribble. If he cannot shoot off the dribble, defenders will be up in his grill. If Cunningham can master a mid-range shot off the dribble (maybe like a Russell Westbrook development), he has a great chance to be a good contributor and not be a weakness on the offensive side.
Overall, his game reminds me a lot of Shannon Brown with tighter handles and more defense. I expect his stock to rise in the next few weeks as he shows off his athleticism. If he learns a pull-up jumper or some semblance of some offensive moves, he could be a difference-maker and a really good player. If not, he should make a roster based on defense and being a spark plug off the bench.
How does he fit with the Bulls?
The Bulls do need to get more athletic and need some real depth in the back-court and Jared Cunningham fits that mode. This is such a deep draft that each shooting guard discussed at this level has such unique assets and most guards being mentioned at pick 29 have a good chance on being on a NBA Team for a while.
Cunningham has much more upside than any shooting guard we have discussed or will discuss [Will Barton, Jeff Jenkins, Doron Lamb, Kevin Murphy, and Orlando Johnson]. Marquis Teague is the athletic counterpart to Cunningham. I like Cunningham better than both Will Barton and Marquis Teague because I feel he has a better understanding of the game. He has much stronger handles than Barton, a much more in-the-face defender, and better understanding of the game. While not as crafty as Teague, he seems to be more of a team player and shows better defense so far.
Stating all this, I feel it will take some time for Cunningham’s offensive game outside of transition and set shots to translate to the NBA. I think his defense will translate better than any of the above mentioned. It is hard for me to say if I would draft Cunningham above all because I think it really depends on what the Bulls have planned this offseason.
If the Bulls stayed as similarly constructed, I feel they could benefit by adding some better scoring options right away. However, if they make some trades, I feel that Cunnigham would be a good fit and his upside could be a long-term benefit with some high potential. Either way, I do feel that the Bulls could acquire an early second round pick and he would be an intriguing talent if still available.