Get To Know: Dante Cunningham
Editor’s Note: Throughout August, Timberwolves.com will profile each of the new members of the Wolves’ roster. Part 3 takes a look at Dante Cunningham, acquired via trade this offseason.
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Weight: 230 pounds
Drafted: 2009: Second Round, third pick by Portland
Experience: 3 years
How Acquired: The Timberwolves acquired Cunningham in a trade that sent guard Wayne Ellington to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Past Experience: Cunningham has a pedigree for winning dating back to his high school days. He led his Potomac squad to a perfect 27-0 season as a senior in high school, then spent four years at Villanova culminating in the Wildcats’ first trip to the Final Four since 1985—his Villanova club went 30-8 before losing in the NCAA National Semifinal to Ellington’s North Carolina squad. During his three NBA seasons, Cunningham has been to the playoffs twice. He was on Portland’s 50-32 squad in 2009-10 that lost to the Phoenix Suns in the first round, and last season his Grizzlies went 41-25 before losing to the Clippers in the first round’s decisive seventh game. Cunningham also had a stint with Charlotte during the 2010-11 season.
What He’ll Bring To Minnesota: Cunningham is a role player who has never played more than 21.0 minutes per game during a season. A year ago he played in 64 of Memphis’ 66 games, starting five of those contests and averaging 5.2 points in 17.6 minutes. He’s a career 48.5 percent field goal shooter and shot 51.6 percent a year ago, and he’s averaged 3.3 rebounds per game during his NBA career. With Minnesota’s primary focus being bolstered wing play this offseason, the Wolves made the deal for Cunningham in order to try and balance its front court. The Wolves have more players who can play the shooting guard/small forward positions than they do players who can fill their power forward spot, and Cunningham should be able to give them an option at the 4.
Where He’ll Fit In: The Wolves’ front court is shaping up to look much different than it did a year ago. Gone are bigs Darko Milicic and Brad Miller as well as Anthony Randolph. Anthony Tolliver is still an unrestricted free agent, and Derrick Williams tailored his offseason training to transform his game—and his body—into a small forward. That means to date the Wolves’ options at the 4 and 5 right now are Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Greg Stiemsma and Cunningham. Cunningham can provide an added defensive presence as well as energy off the bench. He served that role last year with Memphis, particularly aiding the team while power forward Zach Randolph missed more than two months with a torn right MCL.
Wolves Connections: Cunningham played with newly acquired shooting guard Brandon Roy during the 2009-10 season in Portland as well as half of the 2010-11 season. That 2009-10 squad also included former Wolves guard Martell Webster and current unrestricted free agent Anthony Tolliver. Cunningham also played college ball at Villanova with Corey Fisher, who was on the Timberwolves’ Summer League roster in July.
Quotable: “This was a difficult trade to make from a personal standpoint because Dante served us so well last year. We wouldn’t have made the playoffs without what Dante brought to the table. You have to make adjustments when the roster gets overloaded at certain spots.” — Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace talking to the Memphis Commercial Appeal in July.