Dante Cunningham never looked like a player who was going to draw significant attention in free agency this summer, but his arrest for domestic abuse last April seems to have all but eliminated interest from teams around the league. However, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN passed along Monday, the charges filed against the 27-year-old power forward have been dropped, and a report from Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press indicates that Cunningham plans to sue his accuser in an attempt to clear his name. It remains unclear how much the recent development in his legal narrative will influence teams’ perceptions of him, but Cunningham spoke with several clubs this offseason, each of which wanted to wait for the legal process to play out before discussing a contract, as Krawczynski details.
The Joel Bell client just completed a respectable year in which he came off the bench for the Timberwolves, but he still finds himself without a contract heading into the latter part of August. While Cunningham has reportedly been maintaining interest in a return to Minnesota, it doesn’t seem as though the team shares his desire. It could have been the legal issues keeping the Wolves from calling his name, but the more probable road block keeping Cunningham from returning to Minnesota is the club’s likely acquisition of Anthony Bennett and/or Thaddeus Young in the looming Kevin Love trade.
Retaining Cunningham would give the Wolves depth at the power forward position, which would certainly help the team, given that they don’t feature a true four outside of Love as it stands. However, Minnesota is already carrying 15 fully guaranteed contracts, and the team still hasn’t worked out a deal with second-round selection Glenn Robinson III. Unless the pending Love/Andrew Wiggins swap shakes up the Wolves roster more than current reports indicate, Cunningham seems like a long shot to return to the squad with which he’s spent the last two seasons.
As far as we know, the Rockets have been the only team outside of the Wolves who have been in discussions with Cunningham about a possible deal this offseason, as our rumor page for the big man shows. But, like Minnesota, Houston has limited flexibility to bring aboard Cunningham, currently rostering 13 players on fully guaranteed deals and four guys on non-guaranteed pacts. They could waive someone to make room for Cunningham, but they’re already set to open camp with Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Josh Powell, Jeff Adrien, Robert Covington, Joey Dorsey and Clint Capela all under contract, each of whom, like Cunningham, mans the four.
Despite a lack chatter surrounding him, there’s more than likely a team out there willing to offer Cunningham a deal with at least a partial guarantee. He was part of the Wolves’ rotation for the past two years, averaging 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists across 20.2 minutes per night this past season, when he appeared in 81 games. His career 12.9 PER is below the league average of 15.0, but he was never expected to put up superstar-caliber numbers when he was drafted 33rd overall out of Villanova.
Now that Cunningham’s legal issues seem to be resolved, it would be especially surprising to see him without a deal when training camps open up in late September. While Cunningham might be hard-pressed to land anything but a deal worth the minimum, his modest production on the hardwood over the past two seasons should at least help him find a home with an NBA club next season, even if it isn’t with the Wolves.