Analyzing Cade Cunningham, Shahada Wells, and Isaac Likekele

November 25th, 2020

By Alan Lu

Today marks the start of the 2020-21 college basketball season, and I decided to take the time to watch Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State play against Texas-Arlington in a non-conference basketball game.  It was a much closely played, competitive match than anticipated, and Texas-Arlington was able to score, play tough defense, and keep Oklahoma State confined into a slow-paced, half-court game for a good portion of the game. 

However, it turned out that Oklahoma State was at their best when they quickly moved the ball and got out to score in transition, and due to the solid play of Cunningham down the stretch, Oklahoma State was able to pull out a narrow victory over their opponent.  Here are my thoughts on how Cunningham fared, as well as how he and the others’ games may stack up as prospects for the NBA.

Oklahoma State’s freshman playmaker, Cade Cunningham played fairly well in his college basketball debut, as he notched a double-double, and led his team to a win over Texas-Arlington.
Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics, via Pistols Firing Blog)

Oklahoma State’s freshman point forward, Cade Cunningham had a solid showing as he scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds and 3 assists in his team’s win over Texas-Arlington.  He didn’t put forth the most spectacular performance, but he was a steady contributor that showed off his versatile scoring skills, really excelled as a rebounder, and he also played unselfishly.  He shot the ball much better than anticipated from beyond the arc.  Though he struggled to make shots at first, he played better as the game wore on.  He didn’t always give a great effort defensively, but he played well in all of the other areas to help his team get the victory.

Cunningham showed a solid ability to score on strong drives to the basket.  He is a crafty scorer that changes directions well, and he can accelerate and step it up into a second gear when he takes the ball to the rim in transition.  He can finish plays using either hand at the rim, and he also did a fairly good job of drawing fouls, especially late in the game.  He didn’t miss often, but sometimes he would force up tough shots in traffic that would lead to misses.  He sometimes struggled to get separation when looking to score in the half court, and he used more change of direction moves later on. 

He also had trouble scoring in the post in this game.  On one play late in this match, he lowered his shoulder to get his shot off, but he missed the shot too hard off the glass.  Early on, he bobbled a ball when getting the ball down low, but he missed on a turnaround layup around the basket.

Also, Cunningham showed a solid ability to knock down jumpers, and he especially excelled at making threes from downtown to help provide floor spacing for his team.  He made a corner three off the catch, and he also patiently pulled up to make a three off the dribble later on.  While he’s not really known for his outside shot, he showed that he can capably knock down threes both off the catch and dribble.  He also made a smooth pull-up, mid-range jumper, but he struggled to make mid-range jumpers consistently in this game.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Cunningham is an unselfish player that can run the point or play off the ball, and he showed that he can consistently throw solid passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he also was turnover prone, and he would sometimes look to do too much as the lead ball handler in transition. 

On one play, he tried a behind-the-back dribble move in traffic when leading the break, but he hastily lost the ball to an opponent.  He also was called for a charging foul off of a drive, and sometimes he has trouble creating separation when looking to create plays in the half court, due to not possessing elite foot speed.  He also was called for traveling late in this match as he slid his feet after catching a high ball in the post, but he was thrown a very inaccurate pass that made it difficult for him to catch the ball cleanly and to plant his foot and operate without traveling on that play.

Plus, Cunningham did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball.  He would often chase down balls to get defensive boards, and he would tend to push the ball up the court afterwards.  Sometimes though, he can be a little loose when handling the ball, as he sometimes will display a high dribble, which can allow opponents to knock balls away from his hands when he handles the basketball.

On the other hand, he will need to improve his focus on the defensive end.  For the positives, he has solid strength that allows him to hold his ground when defending in the post, which enabled him to successfully get a stop for his team.  He also will sometimes make an effort to contest mid-range shots and shots off the dribble to force some misses. 

However, Cunningham tended to sag too far off of his man as he would be late to contest jump shots, and sometimes he wouldn’t make any effort to contest jumpers, which would lead his team to allow scores.  Sometimes, he wouldn’t even make any effort to close out on shooters, as he tended to allow them to score on long twos and three-point shots.  He also didn’t cut off penetration when defending a drive once, as he kept backpedaling and ended up fouling his man inside the paint once.  Another time, he was slow to get back on defense, as his team allowed a score on the break.

In general, Cade Cunningham played fairly well overall to help his team get a win over UT-Arlington, but it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing throughout this contest.  He struggled early on, and he committed some careless turnovers and casually made some defensive mistakes, but he played better down the stretch, and he operated well as a shooter, scorer, and rebounder on the floor.  While statistically he may have committed too many turnovers, he did show a real feel for running the point when the ball was in his hands.  So far, while he may not be a lock to be the top pick of the 2021 draft, he is a solid contender for the number one spot, and Cunningham could very well project to be a solid starter similar to former Atlanta Hawks’ All-Star guard, Steve Smith in the NBA.

Texas-Arlington’s 6-0 junior point guard, Shahada Wells put forth a thoroughly impressive performance, as he looked to be the standout performer for most or all of this game.  He made solid plays from the get go, as the speedy playmaker was a stellar scorer in transition, showed a solid ability to knock down jump shots, and he also defended well when he was on the court.

Wells did a terrific job of scoring on fast breaks.  He is a speedy, very athletic scorer that excelled at driving the ball hard to the hoop to get scores and free throws for his team, and he also was able to finish through contact to do so.  Early on, he ran the floor hard and caught a long pass to score on a breakaway dunk.

He also did a very good job of knocking down jumpers in this game.  Wells is an agile shot creator that especially excelled at making pull-up jumpers, and he showed a knack for making mid-range jumpers off the dribble.  Wells was also able to make a pair of threes, as he can make them off the catch and dribble to help provide floor spacing for his team.  Wells also attempted to score on a turnaround jumper in the post, but he missed that time.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Wells would move the ball to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he also threw solid passes off the dribble to help his team on offense.  He showed off solid court vision, and he made some good passes in transition when he was on the court.

Also, he was able to collect plenty of boards, as he would leap up to get numerous defensive rebounds to help his team on the glass.  Wells also played very good defense in this game.  He would jump passes and get his hands on balls to help his team get steals and deflections, and he did a good job of jumping on balls to force turnovers and to create fast break scoring opportunities for his team.

In summary, Shahada Wells played very well in his team’s loss to Oklahoma State.  He was the fastest player on the court, and he excelled at making plays throughout this game.  He may be an underrated prospect that may be worth following this season, and he could rapidly ascend up draft boards if he can continue to play well this season.  If so, he could end up being a solid role player similar to San Antonio Spurs’ point guard, Patty Mills in the NBA.

Oklahoma State’s 6-4 junior guard, Isaac Likekele didn’t look to shoot the ball very much, but he quietly had a decent showing, as he operated as a facilitator and rebounder, and he also made shots efficiently when he decided to hoist them up.

Likekele excelled as a scorer in the post.  He is a powerful, well-built guard that can hold deep position on the block, and he was able to get a couple of scores inside the paint.  He also showed a solid ability to knock down spot-up jumpers, and Likekele was able to make an open corner three off the catch.  He didn’t really look to score off the dribble, but he operated well as a low post scorer, and he made a three when his team needed him to do so.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Likekele is an unselfish player that will pass the ball a lot, and he would often get the ball to shooters to set up scores for them.  He would probe the defense and pass off the dribble to get the ball to them in a variety of ways.  Sometimes though, he would play too wildly, as he would be too reckless on drives, and he would tend to throw jump passes that would get intercepted.  Other times, he would have trouble making accurate passes, especially in traffic.  He also would try to fit balls into tight windows even when he wouldn’t have a good angle to get his passes to his teammates, which would lead his passes to go astray on other possessions.

Likekele did a great job of rebounding the basketball, and he would often chase down balls to get defensive boards for his team.  He also would sometimes bring the ball up afterwards. He also played adequate defense in this game.  Likekele has good strength to hold his ground in the post, as he was able to get a stop, and he also would contest jumpers to force misses.  Sometimes though, he would give up too much space to shooters, and he also committed one foul when defending an opposing ball-handler due to over-aggressiveness.

Overall, Isaac Likekele played a solid all-around game, even if it didn’t look very spectacular in his team’s win over Texas-Arlington.  He is an athletic, gritty combo guard that has solid playmaking and defensive skills, and while he will need to trust his jump shot more, he could project well into a defensive specialist role in the NBA.

Texas-Arlington’s 6-4 redshirt junior guard, David Azore played fairly well for his team in their loss to Oklahoma State.  He struggled with foul trouble in the first half, but he shot the ball very well in the second half, especially from mid-range.  Azore did a very good job of knocking down mid-range jumpers, and he also managed to make a corner three to show some range from beyond the arc.  Plus, he also ran the floor to score in transition while getting an extra free throw once. As a playmaker though, he wasn’t too noticeable in that category, but he did carelessly lose the ball off of a drive, which ended up being a fairly costly turnover down the stretch.

Defensively, he looked to be about average.  Azore was able to catch a pass thrown right to him to get a steal.  However, he tended to commit fouls as he struggled to defend opponents off the dribble or in the post, and early foul trouble limited his effectiveness in the first half.

Overall, Azore is an athletic, skilled combo guard that did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball.  He will need to improve his playmaking and defensive skills, but his ability to make shots could enable him to be a potential second round pick whenever he declares to enter the NBA draft.

Oklahoma State’s 6-7 freshman forward, Matthew-Alexander Moncreiffe did a good job of scoring in the post, and he also showed that he can finish plays above the rim.  He also used a spin move to score on an aggressive baseline drive while getting an extra free throw another time. 

He is an athletic, energetic player that excelled as a scorer and rebounder in the paint off the bench, and Moncrieffe played well for his team in this game.  While he will need to extend his shooting range as a prospect moving forward, his ability to score and rebound could help him get more looks from NBA teams if he continues to play well this season.

Oklahoma State’s 6-3 senior guard, Ferron Flavors Jr. is an athletic combo guard that put forth an uneven performance in his team’s win over Texas-Arlington.  He was streaky with his jump shot, but he was able to make a pair of spot-up threes off the catch to show his range from beyond the arc.  He also ran the floor and drove the ball up court to score on a layup on the break.   Overall, he didn’t make shots very efficiently, but he showed that he can make spot-up jumpers and score in transition, and he could be a player to watch in the future.

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