Brooklyn Nets: Dante Cunningham a solid frontcourt option at right price

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 11: Dante Cunningham
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 11: Dante Cunningham /

The Brooklyn Nets added combo forward Dante Cunningham in a trade-deadline deal and he was solid. An unrestricted free agent, Cunningham fits for 2018-19 … at the right price.

Veteran combo forward Dante Cunningham didn’t cost a lot for the Brooklyn Nets in 2017-18 and provided solid value for the final two months of the season.

The Nets acquired Cunningham and a traded player exception at the Feb. 8 trade deadline, sending guard Rashad Vaughn to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange.

Cunningham had opted to remain in New Orleans last offseason, signing a one-year, $2.3 million contract in September.

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The former second-round pick from Villanova appeared in 22 games for Brooklyn, starting one, and averaged 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game on a slash line of .468/.383/.688.

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Those were better numbers (5.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and a .440/.324/.556 slash line) than Cunningham posted in New Orleans, despite the fact he got slightly more burn (21.9 minutes a night) with the Pelicans and started 24 of his 51 games played.

At this point, Cunningham — who turned 31 on April 22 — is what he is. A solid, unspectacular role player who can stretch the floor a bit, play some defense and generally not do anything to drastically harm the club while he’s out there.

For a young team that is in the midst of a complete overhaul, Cunningham is one of those older players who can have a significant role to play as a guy who shows the kids how to be a pro. It doesn’t hurt that he can still provide some production as well.

Cunningham provided Brooklyn with a legitimate option behind Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the 4 and helped solidify the rotation in the frontcourt.

As coach Kenny Atkinson told after Cunningham’s Brooklyn debut — coincidentally against the Pelicans:

"I thought he had a real positive impact. His energy and rebounding, his physicality. He’s an NBA player and with experience. That’s a big help for our group."

It’s a role Cunningham could fill again in 2018-19 for the right price, something along the lines of where he was in 2017-18 — maybe a one- or a two-year deal at $2.5 million or so per season.

Anything larger than that is probably too steep a price for a team with limited (roughly $17 million according to current estimates) salary cap space.

Cunningham has played nine seasons since being selected 33rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2009, never playing more than 25.1 minutes per game and with career averages of 6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes on a slash of .469/.332/.645.

He’s also spent time with the Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves before spending three-plus seasons in the Big Easy, joining the club in December 2014, staying on a two-year deal in July 2015 and re-upping again last fall on a one-year pact.

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Dante Cunningham isn’t a long-term solution for the Brooklyn Nets, but he’s a solid role player who can continue in a backup role at the 3 or the 4 and provide energy and experience to a young team.