On Tuesday Dante Cunningham was relieved of his marijuana, paraphernalia and pellet gun charges that he was given in a small town (Randor, PA) outside of Philidelphia back in May. Cunningham was pulled over for reckless driving by police, when they claimed that they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle. After the police were done searching the car, Cunningham was arrested on drug and gun charges. Tuesday breathed new life into the young career of Dante, who quite frankly, is not the type of player who can have things such as this on his record and expect to keep a job in this league.
For a guy who played PF all his life until he got to the association, he is now trying to make the full transition to the SF position. Cunningham has a decent mid-range jumper, but no range outside of that. He is an energetic guy, but will lack the true quickness and athleticism on both sides of the court to ever be a standout at the SF position in this league. In short, Cunningham will always be a guy fighting for his job, so he should perceive the decision reached by the small courthouse judge in Randor, PA on Tuesday as a blessing.
Enough of me sounding like I am trying to lecture Dante on how important getting second chances are in life. Let’s dive into his stats a little bit and see how he did, when given significant playing time, after coming over from Portland in the Gerald Wallace trade last season.
When the trade was announced, just after the all-star break, it was a foregone conclusion that Cunningham would see more playing time in Charlotte, but it’s not as significant of a difference as you might think. In Portland, Cunningham was averaging 19.9 min/game and in Charlotte, only about 3 min more at 22.7 min/game.
Although his min/game weren’t overwhelmingly increased in Charlotte, he was a much bigger piece to the offense. Moving from a team with a scoring forward such as LaMarcus Aldridge to a team with Boris Diaw, that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Cunningham averaged a very pedestrian 5.1 pts/game in 59 games with Portland, yet put up 8.5 pts/game in 23 games with Charlotte. That is quite a significant increase considering that Cunningham really didn’t see that many more minutes a night in Charlotte. Dante did attempt 2.8 more FGA/game in his 23 games with Charlotte last season, but was much more efficient from the field at 50.5 FG%, opposed to 43.4% in Portland. Cunningham will never be a guy that you count on too much in the scoring category because of his limited range outside of 17-18 ft, but he’s a guy who showed that he isn’t afraid to pull defenders away from the basket, to some extent, and score in Charlotte. This is a very important aspect in his offensive maturation as he continues the transition into becoming more of a SF. Charlotte will be a great place for Cunningham to develop at this position, as he should be first off the bench for Maggette.
Defensively, Cunningham is a very fiesty player who can give his opponents fits with his energy. He is a good shot blocker and also an underrated one. Last season, in a game at Boston, Cunningham had a monster block on Garnett that sealed the upset win for Charlotte and that was the exact moment that I realized how sneaky of a defender Cunningham could be. He will always have trouble guarding the SF’s because of his lack of lateral quickness and athleticism for this position, but, nonetheless, I like him overall as a defender because of the energy he brings to the court. Energy is simply a coaches deepest love, despite how over matched a player might be.
Cunningham is a valuable asset for the Bobcats moving forward. The former second round pick is soft on the payroll and plays as hard as anyone on the court. He’s a classic role player in this league and will most likely see 20-25 min/game as long as he is in Charlotte. Cunningham is only 24 years old and so there is a little optimism that he could still develop into something better than fore casted. I’m predicting a breakout year for Dante Cunningham, he can be a 10 pts, 6.5 reb/game guy in Charlotte and that’s exactly what I’m calling here.