Dante Cunningham

Pelicans Re-Sign Dante Cunningham

SEPTEMBER 25: The Pelicans have officially re-signed Cunningham, the team announced today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 19: Free agent forward Dante Cunningham has made a decision on where he’ll play in 2017/18, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports that Cunningham has agreed to re-sign with the Pelicans.Dante Cunningham vertical

According to Charania, Cunningham will get a one-year, $2.3MM deal from New Orleans. The minimum salary for a player with Cunningham’s NBA experience is $2,106,470, so if his salary exceeds that, the Pelicans would have to use a different exception — they also wouldn’t get any help from the NBA to cover the full amount, like they would for a one-year, minimum salary deal.

Either way, Cunningham is set to return to the franchise with which he spent the last three seasons. In 2016/17, the 30-year-old forward averaged 6.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG in a rotation role for New Orleans, and also added a reliable three-point shot to his arsenal — Cunningham’s 1.1 3PG and .392 3PT% were both career highs by a wide margin.

While it looked initially like Cunningham’s improved outside shot might make him a more coveted target on the free agent market, he didn’t draw as much interest as expected. A handful of teams – including the Timberwolves, Bucks, and Raptors, per Charania – were said to be in the running for him, but his new 2017/18 salary will be worth less than the $3.1MM player option he turned down in June.

Still, the Pelicans are likely happy to get Cunningham back at a reduced rate, particularly with Solomon Hill expected to miss a significant portion of the 2017/18 season with a torn hamstring. While New Orleans has an All-NBA caliber duo up front in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the club doesn’t have a ton of depth at forward and could use more shooting help. Cunningham’s ability to play at both forward spots and his improved three-point shot should be valuable.

Once they finalize their reported agreements with Cunningham and Martell Webster, the Pelicans will have 19 players under contract. Cunningham’s deal would represent the club’s 14th fully guaranteed salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Moore, Long, Cunningham

The Rockets enter the 2017/18 campaign with last season’s Most Valuable Player runner-up in James Harden and offseason acquisition Chris Paul, widely viewed as one of the greatest point guards ever. A deal for Carmelo Anthony has not materialized but Houston is still an improved team, David Aldridge of NBA.com writes.

Aside from the acquisition of Paul, the Rockets have been in headlines all offseason. Tilman Fertitta purchased the Rockets for $2.2 billion, Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston hard, and even to this point, Anthony to Houston rumors persist. Nonetheless, head coach Mike D’Antoni believes his team is in prime position for success.

“The biggest advantage is for 48 minutes we have a Hall of Fame point guard (either Harden or Paul) on the floor. That’s huge,” D’Antoni said. “And both of them can play off the ball real well, they’re both great shooters, and both can exploit the defense when the ball is kicked … whoever initiates it would normally finish it, but if they have to kick the ball over to the other guy, they’ll finish it.”

Aldridge also breaks down the team chemistry heading into the season and expectations for a team that won 55 games last season.

Below you can read additional notes around the Southwest Division:

Northwest Notes: Durant, Wolves, Thunder

More than a year after leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State, Kevin Durant can’t seem to escape the drama that came with that decision. As Weston Shepherd of Daily Thunder outlines, a pair of tweets sent from Durant’s Twitter account earlier this week suggested that the star forward “didn’t like the [Thunder] organization or playing for Billy Donovan” and that OKC’s roster wasn’t talented enough to win a championship.

While those tweets were sent from Durant’s account, they referred to him in the third person, so it’s possible that someone with access to his Twitter published them without realizing which handle he was using. The tweets were quickly deleted, but there has been no explanation from KD, which may be a sign that his(?) comments on the Thunder weren’t far off the mark.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along a couple updates from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, tweeting that Taylor has spoken personally to Dante Cunningham and is waiting on the forward’s free agent decision. Wolfson adds that Nemanja Bjelica believes he’s ready to go after suffering a broken foot last season, but the club will take things slow with him in camp.
  • The Thunder don’t yet have recovery timelines for Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson, who are dealing with knee injuries, but both players are making progress, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details.
  • While Shabazz Napier is one of 21 fourth-year players eligible for a rookie scale extension, he’s not a great candidate for a new deal. As Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes, Napier is “little more than an insurance policy” for the Trail Blazers this season, and will have a hard time earning extended minutes.

Dante Cunningham Decision Expected Soon

The Timberwolves should know in the next day or two whether their pursuit of free agent Dante Cunningham has been successful, tweets Jerry Zgoda of 5 Eyewitness News. A source tells him the team expects Cunningham’s decision in the “next 24-48 hours.”

An eight-year veteran, the 30-year-old forward has spent the past three seasons with the Pelicans. He appeared in 66 games last year, starting 35, and averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 25 minutes per night.

Cunningham has received interest from several other organizations, with the Bucks reportedly becoming the latest team to join the chase. He became a free agent in April when he opted out of a $3.1MM salary for next season.

A second-round pick by the Trail Blazers in 2009, Cunningham spent a year and a half in Portland before being traded to Charlotte. He also played for the Grizzlies and Wolves before signing with New Orleans in 2014.

With just 15 players under contract and 12 with guaranteed money, Minnesota has more flexibility than any other team heading into camp. The Wolves re-signed Shabazz Muhammad over the weekend, but are still looking for veteran help at the wing to improve their bench.

Bucks Join Pursuit Of Brandon Rush

The Bucks are the latest team in the mix for former Timberwolves swingman Brandon Rush, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

Rush is one of the top free agents left on the market with training camp just a week away. The 32-year-old spent just one season with Minnesota after signing there last summer. He appeared in 47 games, starting 33, and averaged 4.2 points per night. He has also played for the Pacers, Warriors and Jazz in a nine-year NBA career.

Milwaukee has also expressed interest in free agent forward Dante Cunningham, who spent the last three seasons with the Pelicans, Wolfson adds, but he is expected to sign somewhere else.

The Bucks will have 18 players under contract with the expected re-signing of Jason Terry. Only 14 have guaranteed money, so an opening exists for Rush or Cunningham.

Southwest Notes: Miller, Gay, Morey

With a vacancy in their starting lineup, the Pelicans could look to trot out Darius Miller in their first five, Will Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes. Miller was acquired after seasoning his game abroad over the last two seasons.

Miller may be a better bet to replace Solomon Hill than Tony Allen because of the spacing issues that will present themselves with Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt together.

Of course free agent Dante Cunningham could potentially take that spot if he is eventually signed but Guillory notes that there’s no indication that will happen before training camp begins next week.

There’s more from the Southwest:

  • After tearing his Achilles last season, Rudy Gay is betting on himself to salvage his career with the Spurs. The forward signed for $17M over two seasons but could opt out of his 2018/19 commitment to pursue a more lucrative offer if he earns one after this year, Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News writes.
  • The NBA is more about money and winning than it is about loyalty, Dirk Nowitzki says. Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports recently parsed through comments that the 19-year Mavs veteran made this week.
  • Rockets general manager Daryl Morey may be the NBA’s most outspoken executive, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Morey is fined far more often than is reported, not necessarily surprising considering how quick he is to issue provocative statements through the press.

Timberwolves Continue To Eye Dante Cunningham

SEPTEMBER 13, 10:39am: The Timberwolves are putting the “full-court press” on Cunningham in the hopes of bringing him back to Minnesota, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.

SEPTEMBER 12, 7:56pm: After agreeing to terms with Shabazz Muhammad earlier today, the Timberwolves continue to scour the free agent market for veteran additions, and they’d “very much welcome” forward Dante Cunningham, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Wolfson, who tweeted on Monday about the “buzz” on Muhammad and the Wolves, suggests there’s a comparable buzz now on Minnesota’s chances for Cunningham.

As we’ve written several times over the last few weeks, the Timberwolves have been on the lookout for two wings and a point guard to fill out their roster. With Muhammad set to finalize a new contract, that leaves a wing and a point guard on Minnesota’s shopping list. Cunningham is more of a power forward, but has added a three-point shot to his arsenal and has seen plenty of minutes at small forward in past seasons.

We heard nearly two weeks ago that the Pelicans and Bucks are in play for Cunningham as well, in addition to the Wolves. New Orleans and Milwaukee are hovering around luxury tax territory and Minnesota has used its cap space and room exception, so a minimum salary deal appears likely for Cunningham when he eventually strikes a deal.

The Wolves have brought in a number of veteran free agents for workouts this month, with Anthony Morrow, Alan Anderson, Isaiah Canaan, and Thomas Robinson among the players to get a look last week. Jason Terry and Marcus Thornton are reportedly visiting Minnesota this week, though Wolfson suggests (via Twitter) that Terry is more likely to end up with the Bucks than the Wolves. Wolfson also adds another name to the list of veterans drawing interest from Minnesota, tweeting that free agent swingman Gerald Green is in town this week.

Pelicans Notes: Cunningham, Crawford, Allen, Luxury Tax

The Pelicans aren’t finished with roster moves after the reported additions of Tony Allen and Perry Jones, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Dante Cunningham, who declined his player option in April, remains a possibility, along with other players who can defend both forward positions.

The 30-year-old Cunningham spent the past three seasons in New Orleans, serving as a part-time starter. He averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 66 games last year, 35 in the starting lineup. Cunningham opted out of a $3.1MM salary for 2017/18, but may have to settle for less now that training camps are just two weeks away.

There’s more today out of New Orleans:

  • With significant roster turnover during the past two seasons, the Pelicans are focused on building team chemistry before the start of camp, writes Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com. One of the organizers of a voluntary team gathering last month at the University of Kentucky was newly signed point guard Rajon Rondo, who got the idea from Kevin Garnett in Boston. “One of the things [Rondo] brings to a team is he makes players understand that we are in this together,” said Jordan Crawford, who joined the Pelicans in March. “You might think of it as a defiant attitude or something like that, but it’s really [having the perspective] that the coaches are part of this team, but they’re not going to be on the court with us.”
  • Allen personified the “Grit and Grind” era in Memphis and should bring the same toughness to New Orleans, writes Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Herrington recounts some of the defensive specialist’s highlights with the Grizzlies and says games this year won’t be the same without him.
  • The expected signing of Allen leaves the Pelicans $3.27MM under the luxury tax and $3.85MM away from a hard cap, according to Bobby Marks on ESPN Now. The team is up to 13 fully guaranteed contracts, with Crawford, who has a $250K guarantee, expected to fill another roster spot. The additions of Allen and Jones give New Orleans 17 players for camp, with three slots still open.

Western Notes: Caldwell-Pope, Wolves, Bertans

The Lakers were motivated to sign shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope because he shares the same agent as LeBron James, sources indicated to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Caldwell-Pope was inked to a one-year, $18MM contract after the Pistons cut ties with the restricted free agent this summer. Rich Paul represents both Caldwell-Pope and James. Signing Caldwell-Pope allows the Lakers to keep the lines of communication open with Paul and show how they run their organization, among other benefits, McMenamin continues. James is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract next summer and become an unrestricted free agent.

In other nuggets regarding the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves will host some free agents this week, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Wolfson didn’t name the free agents who are visiting but added that the club has grown antsy waiting on decisions from free agents Shabazz Muhammad and Dante Cunningham. Muhammad is reportedly mulling a contract offer from the Lakers, while the Pelicans and Bucks are also pursuing Cunningham.
  • Spurs forward Davis Bertans suffered a finger injury in Latvia’s loss to Serbia during the Eurobasket tournament, Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com tweets. Bertans’ finger isn’t broken, according to X-rays, so it shouldn’t affect his status for the NBA’s regular season.
  • Kings assistant Elston Turner and his family were displaced from their suburban Houston home by Hurricane Harvey, Ailene Voison of the Sacramento Bee reports. Turner gives his account of evacuating his home and describes the havoc and damage caused by the hurricane. He’s been uplifted by the support of the Kings’ brass and coaches, Voison adds.

Pelicans, Wolves, Bucks In On Dante Cunningham

SEPTEMBER 1, 10:45am: The Bucks are now in the mix for Cunningham as well, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Milwaukee is in the market for an inexpensive big man with some range after waiving Spencer Hawes.

AUGUST 29, 5:16pm: The Pelicans are intent on re-signing forward Dante Cunningham, but the Timberwolves have been aggressively pursuing his services as well, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (via Twitter).

Over the course of the past three seasons, Cunningham has started 108 games for the Pels, establishing himself as a valued rotation player capable of hustling hard on defense and knocking down threes.

Prior to his stint in New Orleans, however, the forward played in Minnesota. Although Tom Thibodeau was still in Chicago the last time Cunningham called himself a Timberwolf, there’s no denying that he’s the type of gritty forward that would thrive in a Thibodeau system.

In 212 total games for New Orleans, Cunningham has averaged 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He earned just under $3MM in 2016/17, the second season of a two-year deal, but figures to be in line for just the minimum should he sign with either the Wolves or the Pelicans.

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