Dante Cunningham | 2013-14 Profile
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Editor’s Note: Throughout the next month, Timberwolves.com will take a look back at the Wolves’ 2013-14 roster individually and look ahead to the upcoming offseason and 2014-15 campaign. Part VI looks back on Dante Cunningham’s second year with the team.
PF | 6-foot-8, 221 pounds
2013-14 season: 81 GP, 20.2 MPG, .465 FG%, 6.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 0.8 SPG
Dante Cunningham joined the Wolves prior to the 2012-13 season and had a pretty prominent role during his first season with the club—a role player that had never played more than 64 games in any of his stops in Portland, Charlotte and Memphis, Cunningham was acquired during a trade with the Grizzlies involving Wayne Ellington and immediately got prominent minutes thanks to Kevin Love’s pair of hand injuries that season.
In 2013-14, he was expected to move back into a smaller rotation role while helping give Love a breather from time to time, and that’s primarily what he did. While he appeared in a career-high 81 games this season, his minutes fell from a career-high 25.1 in 2012-13 to 20.2 in 2013-14. His points per game fell from 8.7 to 6.3, and his rebounds dipped from 5.1 to 4.1.
Two things Cunningham tried to bring nightly for the Wolves when he was on the court were defensive grit and the threat to pick-and-pop from about 17 feet. He did both at a higher effectiveness two years ago, but he was still a guy who could come in on certain nights and hit that shot just inside the 3-point line with relative efficiency.
Cunningham was also a capable offensive rebounder this year. He posed a threat to sneak into the play and alter how long the Wolves’ possession would be. He was athletic enough to rise above the crowd and impact games at the rim, although he didn’t attack the basket or receive alley-oops with regularity.
Overall, Cunningham gave some serviceable minutes off the bench to the Timberwolves, especially during points in time when the team was short-handed up front due to injuries to Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf.
Dante Cunningham’s Top Games
Nov. 16 vs. Boston: Cunningham had a pair of strong performances in the middle of November in back-to-back games. He put up 12 points in a loss to Denver on Nov. 15, then helped the Wolves bounce back with a 106-88 home win over the Celtics the next night. Cunningham shot 6-of-10 from the field that night, scoring 12 points while adding four boards, three assists and five steals. He also produced a blocked shot in the game.
Feb. 25 at Phoenix: On this particular night, Shabazz Muhammad stole the show with his strong fourth-quarter play during. But Cunningham was another player who stepped up and helped Minnesota earn a 110-101 road win against the Suns which, at the time, was a crucial victory in keeping the team’s playoff chances alive. Nikola Pekovic was hurt during that road trip, and the Wolves had slid Kevin Love to the 5. Cunningham started at power forward and logged 34 minutes in this particular game. He scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting while adding five rebounds, three blocks and three steals. The Wolves won their fourth game in five tries and were on their way toward winning six of seven leading up to a four-game homestand.
April 11 vs. Houston: Again overshadowed by a teammate—this time, Corey Brewer’s 51-point explosion—Cunningham had his season-high in scoring during a 112-110 win over the playoff-bound Rockets in mid-April. With Love and Pekovic both out, the Wolves needed players to step up with big minutes in the front court. Cunningham played a season-high 42 minutes, shot 7-of-15 from the field with 20 points (including 6-of-10 from the line) and added 13 boards and three blocks. It was his second and final double-double of the 2013-14 season.
Top Offseason Objectives
Cunningham’s big draw when he joined the Wolves was bringing a little athleticism and defensive intensity to the club when he was on the floor. He’ll want to continue building on that niche during his offseason routines and try to continue finding ways to bring energy on both ends when he’s in the game. Offensively, he’s taken and made a lot of mid-range shots from about 17 feet during his two years in Minnesota. While that’s a niche spot for him, getting comfortable with other elements of a team’s offensive set will help him become a more versatile player. He’s 1-for-28 lifetime from 3-point range in the NBA, but if he could add a couple additional feet to his jump shot comfort zone he’d definitely make himself more dangerous. Cunningham also took it upon himself to get to the rim a bit more in the second half of the season—he’s got the athleticism to succeed in doing so, but he didn’t attempt to much in his first year and a half in Minnesota. Working on finishing and getting comfortable attacking contact would help him become more versatile at the rim.
They Said It…
“We’re coming along every day. We’re getting better. We’re learning from our losses, and we’re even learning from our wins. That’s what makes it even better.” — Wolves forward Dante Cunningham after Minnesota’s 106-88 win over Boston on Nov. 16, which put the Wolves at 7-4 on the year.