Dante Cunningham

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:

Maxi Kleber, 27, Mavericks, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2.19MM deal in 2017
Kleber has received increased playing time since the blockbuster Kristaps Porzingis deal with the Knicks. He’s averaging 10.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG in 25.7 MPG as a starter this month while making 36% of his 3-point attempts. Kleber would be a restricted free agent if Dallas extends a $1.82MM qualifying offer. With loads of cap space to spare, the Mavs have plenty of incentive to make that modest offer for a rotation player, even though he’d probably move back to the bench next season when Porzingis is ready to play again.

Kenneth Faried, Rockets, 29, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $917K deal in 2019
Clint Capela‘s return from a thumb injury this week will reduce the Manimal’s minutes. He’ll still play a valuable role for Houston, where he has revived his career after getting bought out by Brooklyn. After appearing in just 12 games with the Nets, Faried has averaged 15.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG and 1.0 BPG in 13 outings with the Rockets. It seems Faried has been in the league a long time, but he’s still just 29. In an era of stretch fours and fives, it’s questionable whether anyone views Faried as a starter going forward. He should still get a multi-year deal somewhere as a second-unit difference maker.

Justin Holiday, Grizzlies, 29, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $9MM deal in 2017
Holiday was acquired from the Bulls when the Grizzlies still harbored hopes of making the playoffs. He didn’t move the needle at all before Memphis went into sell mode prior to the trade deadline. He’s averaged 8.2 PPG on 34.8% shooting (29.8% on 3-point tries) in 28.5 MPG with the Grizzlies. Holiday has posted below average PERs throughout his career, which doesn’t help his cause in the analytics era. Holiday has enough of a resume to land on someone’s bench next season but his days as a starter are likely over after this season.

Elfrid Payton, Pelicans, 25, PG (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $3MM deal in 2018
Payton inked a short-term, ‘show me’ contract after the former lottery pick flopped in Orlando and Phoenix. He was given the opportunity to replace free agent Rajon Rondo in the lineup but has spent a majority of the season in the trainer’s room. He’s appeared in just 19 games, with a right ankle sprain sidelining him for the last nine games heading into Friday’s action. The Pelicans lost six of the last eight games that he played. Payton will probably have to settle for another one-year deal this summer, this time in a backup role.

Dante Cunningham, Spurs, 31, SF (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $2.49MM deal in 2018
Cunningham has seen spot duty with the Spurs, averaging 15.9 MPG in 53 appearances. He’s managed to stay in the league for a decade, though he’s usually the No. 5 option at the offensive end. He accepts his limited role and provides some defense, so it’s possible he’ll squeeze out another veteran’s minimum deal with San Antonio or another playoff contender. But being on the wrong side of 30 means he’ll probably have to wait until late in the free agency period for an offer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Spurs’ Lonnie Walker IV To Undergo Knee Surgery

Spurs first-round pick Lonnie Walker IV will undergo surgery on Monday to repair a right medial meniscus tear, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The injury was suffered during the fourth quarter of San Antonio’s preseason victory over the Pistons on Friday.

The early timeframe for Walker’s recovery is 6-to-8 weeks, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Walker was expected to play a key bench role at small forward behind Rudy Gay. His injury, at least in the short run, opens up playing time for veterans  Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter.

Walker was the 18th overall pick in the draft.

Spurs Notes: Walker, Duncan, Cunningham, Metu

A Spurs legend is helping Lonnie Walker navigate his first NBA training camp, writes Jabari Young of The Athletic. Tim Duncan has served as a mentor to the rookie guard, helping him refine his game to get ready for the start of the season.

“It’s a little surreal,” Walker said. “But that’s probably one of the best things about being a rookie, especially being drafted by the Spurs. You have players who are [the] previous greatest of all-time, such as him and Manu [Ginobili], and they treat you like family.”

Walker admits to being awe-struck the first time he met Duncan, but their relationship has become much more comfortable. Duncan is seen as a teacher who happy to pass along advice to any Spurs player, and he has become a surrogate to coach Gregg Popovich.

“It’s nothing unusual for us to see,” long-time Spur Patty Mills said. “[It’s] that same characteristic that Manu has of being able to help younger guys for the better of the team. Just because he’s retired doesn’t mean that that trait can’t keep going.”

There’s more tonight from San Antonio:

  • Popovich used numerous combinations in the preseason opener, but he seems fond of a second unit that provides a lot of floor spacing, Young adds in a separate story. The group had Mills on the floor along with Jakob Poeltl, Davis Bertans, Marco Belinelli and Bryn Forbes“It’s a unit that can score,” Popovich said. “With Jakob in the post and shooters all around, it can be pretty interesting. We’re blessed with some people who can put it in the basket, and we want to put them in situations where they can use those skills.”
  • The Spurs like the toughness that veteran forward Dante Cunningham brings to the court, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio gave Cunningham a one-year, $2.5MM contract after deciding not to match the Grizzlies’ offer sheet for Kyle Anderson. Cunningham has been with six other teams during his nine-year NBA career, including the Pelicans and Nets last season. “I like to think I am more of a ball player than a position kind of guy — kind of short to be a center, kind of tall to be in a guardish-type situation,” he said. “But I kind of battle around and do a little bit of everything, I guess.”
  • Second-rounder Chimezie Metu has made a quick impression on his teammates with his shot-blocking skills, with LaMarcus Aldridge calling him “a pogo stick,” Orsborn notes in another piece.

Spurs Sign Dante Cunningham

JULY 20: The Spurs have officially signed Cunningham, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 16: Free agent forward Dante Cunningham has agreed to terms on a deal with the Spurs, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Cunningham will sign a one-year contract with San Antonio.

Cunningham, 31, is coming off a season in which he appeared in 73 total games for the Pelicans and Nets, having been sent to Brooklyn in a deadline-day trade. On the year, he averaged 5.7 PPG and 4.1 RPG with a .451/.345/.596 shooting line.

After making just two 3-point shots in his first six NBA seasons, Cunningham has shown an increased willingness to fire away from beyond the arc in recent years. Over the last three seasons, he has knocked down 184 threes at a 35.2% rate, solid numbers for a player who sees most of his action at power forward. He’ll likely be expected to continue stretching the floor in San Antonio.

Cunningham won’t be in line for a big payday with the Spurs. His one-year deal is expected to be worth $2.5MM, says Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link).

That would exceed Cunningham’s minimum salary, so the Spurs may be using a portion of their mid-level exception to complete the signing. San Antonio used approximately $6MM of the $8.641MM MLE to sign Marco Belinelli.

Having added Cunningham, Belinelli, and Lonnie Walker while re-signing Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes, the Spurs now have 14 players on NBA contracts for the 2018/19 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Express Interest In Crawford, Mbah A Moute, Others

The Wizards lost one key member of their bench when Mike Scott reached an agreement with the Clippers on Monday, but the team has remained active in search of potential free agent additions.

According to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter links), the Wizards have expressed interest in a number of veteran free agents, including Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute, Dante Cunningham, and Willie Reed. Ty Lawson, who finished last season in D.C., also remains a possibility to return, Buckner adds.

The Wizards’ backcourt is getting pretty crowded, with Tomas Satoransky and newly-acquired Austin Rivers slotting in behind John Wall and Bradley Beal. Jodie Meeks and rookie Troy Brown could also see some time at the two, so it’s not clear whether Crawford, who will want a featured role off the bench, would be a good fit in Washington.

However, Mbah a Moute, Cunningham, and Reed make more sense as potential targets for the Wizards. Mbah a Moute and Cunningham are versatile forwards capable of knocking down three-pointers, while Reed is a big man who could add depth to a Wizards frontcourt that no longer features Marcin Gortat.

The Wizards have also been linked to Dwight Howard, Jeff Green, Treveon Graham, and Thomas Robinson, among other free agents.

Timberwolves Eyeing Nick Young, Other Free Agents

4:06pm: Wolfson adds Jeff Green, Malcolm Delaney, and Treveon Graham to the list of free agents that the Timberwolves have inquired on so far (Twitter link).

12:15pm: The Timberwolves have interest in Nick Young among several other free agents, according to ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (Twitter link).

Young is coming off a down year in Golden State where he sported just a 10.0 player efficiency rating and scored just 7.3 points per game. It’s hard to envision the shooting guard surpassing the $5.19MM salary he received with the Warriors last season after floundering alongside the best supporting cast he’s ever played with.

Minnesota has the non-tax mid-level ($8.6MM) and the bi-annual ($3.4MM) at its disposal. However, with approximately $115MM already on the books, the team must be careful when handing out deals if it intends to stay below the luxury tax line. If a team uses its bi-annual exception or more than the taxpayer portion of its MLE, it becomes hard-capped for the season.

Dante Cunningham and James Ennis are among other free agents the Wolves are keeping an eye on, Wolfson adds. Lance Stephenson remains a possibility for one of the team’s five open roster spots. Minnesota is among the teams expected to have interest in the mercurial shooting guard once the first wave of free agents sign.

Other candidates for the team’s openings include Trevor Booker, Amir Johnson, Jabari Bird and Anthony Tolliver. Coach/executive Tom Thibodeau reportedly has spoken with Tolliver and team values the power forward’s lockerroom presence.

Free Agency Notes: George, MCW, Booker, Parker

The Thunder and  Paul George agreed to a four-year deal worth $137MM at the start of free agency and according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com (Twitter link), the team will have the option to offer George an even bigger raise in two years.

Under the new CBA, the team can offer George an extension after the second anniversary of the deal, meaning PG13 can sign a four-year max deal in 2020 that locks him in for seven seasons. The total value of the potential seven-year pact would come in at an estimated $290MM based off of future salary cap projections.

The team’s ability to re-sign George was shocking to some, as many expected the 5-time All-Star to leave OKC for Los Angeles, a city he’s been linked to for quite some time. It’s possible that the team’s ability to offer the max extension at the halfway point of the four-year contract was part of George’s motivation to stick around, though that’s merely my speculation.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Rockets will meet with Michael Carter-Williams, league sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link). While Houston appears to be looking into ancillary parts for its team, the franchise hasn’t given up hope on pursuing LeBron James.
  • The Jazz and Pelicans have both expressed interest in Trevor Booker, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype reports (Twitter link). The Wolves, Rockets, Knicks, and Spurs also have an eye on the big man.
  • The Bulls have interest in Jabari Parker, Kennedy tweets. Chicago is one of several teams expected to pursue the former No. 2 overall pick.
  • The Wolves are looking to sign Dante Cunningham, sources tell Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Minnesota has eyes for a bevy of veteran free agents to fill it’s five open roster spots.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Brooklyn Nets

With little other options available, Nets general manager Sean Marks has made the most out of his biggest asset: cap space. For that reason, the Nets will likely be diligent as to how they handle free agency in 2018.

While Brooklyn will have its first-round pick in 2019 and doesn’t necessarily have to use its payroll as a landfill for unwanted player contracts just to add assets, the club may continue to leverage its cap space during what continues to be the early stages of a rebuild.

With no set core in place, the Nets won’t feel much pressure to make deals this summer, which is actually kind of a luxury. Don’t expect the franchise to stretch itself thin to bring back any of its free agents if doing so will put them in a bad position.

Jahlil Okafor, C, 22 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $14MM deal in 2015Jahlil Okafor of the Brooklyn Nets vertical
Is there another player in NBA history who, despite a solid first-year campaign and reasonable health throughout, saw his value plummet more over the course of a rookie contract? It’s hard to imagine that Okafor’s decline is solely a product of his old-school game — he’s also had the misfortune of being employed by two franchises that couldn’t seem to care less about legitimately developing him as an asset. There will be at least one team willing to give Okafor another shot. It could even be the Nets, considering they’d get for an entire offseason and training camp this time. In any case, Okafor will probably have to sign a short-term, prove-it deal before he gets another significant NBA contract.

Quincy Acy, PF, 27 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $4MM deal in 2017
Acy is an affordable role player who has served well in two stints with the Nets. Since he comes with a cheap price tag, appears to be content with a minor role, and is a serviceable veteran who contributes when called upon, it’s hard to imagine Brooklyn wouldn’t welcome him back. Acy may get a longer-term commitment from the Nets this time around, but he isn’t likely to draw much more than a modest raise above the league minimum from Brooklyn or anybody else.

Dante Cunningham, SF, 31 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
The Nets absorbed Cunningham’s contract in a midseason deal, so there’s no guarantee that either party would be interested in a commitment beyond 2017/18. Cunningham is a utility forward seemingly intent on contributing to a reasonably competitive team so maybe their timelines just don’t match. In any event, the eight-year veteran isn’t likely to top the $2MM-$3MM threshold he’s flirted with for the majority of his career.

Joe Harris, SG, 26 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3MM deal in 2016
The return on investment for Harris has been great, but the Nets may want to pump the brakes when it comes to re-signing him in the offseason. While Harris has been an excellent example of how the Nets franchise has developed youngsters, overpaying for a niche player without a set core in place isn’t the wisest course of action. If it looks like Harris might get poached by a more competitive team looking to add a solid depth piece, the Nets shouldn’t reach to retain him — not with so many other holes to fill first.

Nik Stauskas, SG, 24 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $12MM deal in 2014
The Nets have given Stauskas something of a tryout to prove that he could possibly live up to his eighth overall selection back in 2014, but he hasn’t done enough to warrant a raise from his rookie deal. While Stauskas may get another chance to prove himself next season, it’ll have to come cheap and potentially non-guaranteed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Russell, Atkinson, Cunningham, Thomas

The Nets started D’Angelo Russell for the first time since mid-November in their second-half opener against the Hornets. Russell played 32 minutes, his most since November, and his recent play indicates he’s slowly shaking off the rust.

Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily relays that starting Russell alongside Spencer Dinwiddie — an all-point-guard backcourt — was not so much planned as it was based on his instinct.

“I think it was a feel, kind of my feel,” Atkinson said. “Talking with the medical team and performance (team). I think it was mostly basketball, just him getting his rhythm, and I felt like that Indiana game he really showed me – I felt like he was getting there.”

Atkinson is unsure of when Russell will be back at full health, but feels the former second overall pick is trending in the right direction.

Check out more news and notes from New York’s basketball teams:

  • Under Atkinson’s watch, the Nets have been in rebuild mode and have stressed the future. While the team is improved from last year’s league-worst 20-62 record, Brooklyn has lost 12 of its last 13 and is trending downward, Fonseca writes in a separate piece. “I’ve said that, we’re better, that’s what’s frustrating,” Atkinson said. “We’re on pace for a 30-something win season and then we hit this skid and it’s like, man – I’m optimistic, I’m hungry to get back on track. Now, that being said, we’ve got a tough schedule coming up, we’re going to be on the road awhile, but it’s great.”
  • The longevity of Dante Cunningham‘s stint in Brooklyn is uncertain, but he’s enjoying his time with the Nets, Fonseca writes. The veteran was acquired by Brooklyn before the trade deadline and has played well thus far. “I’m old in here,” Cunningham said with a smile. “I look around the locker room and see a lot of young guys, but hungry guys and I love it. I love that I’m the older guy that they kind of look up to and kind of ask, ‘So what’s this like or what’s that like?’ So that’s kind of fun, it’s a different side.”
  • Lance Thomas‘ numbers in the box score will not merit much attention, but his visible defensive impact is a game-changer for the Knicks, Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes. “He’s kind of that guy, it doesn’t matter if he’s on the 1, 2, 3 or 4. When he’s at the 4 spot, then we also have the ability to switch some too because you’re not afraid of Lance switching off on a point guard,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You saw him pick up guys full court. He knocked one away and ended up ending the game with a steal. Lance is the guy that, if you read a stat line, you’re not going see his value. … He does his role.”

New York Notes: Prigioni, Knicks, Ntilikina, Nets

The Knicks are considering a reunion with old friend Pablo Prigioni, but as a developmental coach rather than as a player, two industry sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Prigioni, who played for the Knicks from 2012 to 2015, has retired as a player and was named the coach of Spanish team Baskonia last summer, but had to step down after just eight games due to family issues, a source tells Berman.

Now, Prigioni is back in New York, with a source telling Berman that the former NBA point guard is spending the week with the Nets to learn about Brooklyn’s basketball operation. While it’s unclear whether the Nets are also interested in hiring Prigioni, the 40-year-old is “exploring” whether he wants to become a personnel man, says Berman.

As we wait to see whether Prigioni returns stateside to take a job with one of the NBA’s New York teams, let’s round up a few more notes on those two clubs…

  • New Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is excited to develop alongside rookie Frank Ntilikina, as Berman details for The New York Post. “We’re going to grow together,” Mudiay said. “At least that’s what I know is the plan right now. He’s 19, I’m 21, so we’re both kind of close in age. He speaks French. I speak French. It’s going to be fun, just trying to see how we feel each other out on the court.”
  • Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report outlines why the two trades the Knicks made last week are representative of GM Scott Perry‘s plan for the franchise. Weitzman also cites league sources who say that the Knicks turned away numerous trade proposals for Ntilikina prior to last Thursday’s deadline.
  • The Nets‘ acquisition of Dante Cunningham last week was a move that flew under the radar, but GM Sean Marks says he expects Cunningham to fill a key positional need in Brooklyn. Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com has the story.