Dante Cunningham is a wing from a different time. He plays hard-nosed physical defense, crashes the boards, doesn’t shoot particularly well, and is one of the toughest players on the court at all times. A journey man noted for his copious team affiliations over his career, Cunningham sought a destination where he could stick. That resulted in his audition to end the season with the Brooklyn Nets with the hopes of gaining a stable home.
Let’s dive into assessing his performance and potential future the Nets.
Cunningham isn’t making his money for his work offensively. Granted, he’s not incompetent on that end. He can hit a corner three occasionally–his three-point percentage even perked up in his Brooklyn stint–and is a decent cutter but asking him to do much more than that is a losing proposition. Thankfully, the Nets understand that.
Since arriving to Brooklyn he boasted a microscopic 15.9 percent usage rate and while he was more efficient than originally expected, defenses consistently sagged off of him from three and dared him to shoot. Sometimes he made teams pay:
But for the vast majority of the time that wasn’t the case.
His efficiency from downtown improved in Brooklyn (38.8%) but his track record as a shooter previously and his free-throw percentage suggest it’s a mere flash in the pan. Cunningham is not quite as bad as someone like Andre Roberson on offense, but his three-point shooting, free throw shooting (68.8% in Brooklyn), and overall lack of skill make him a liability on the scoring end.
And this by no means is meant to say that Cunningham isn’t a good player. Rather, like every other journeyman in the NBA, he’s a player with some glaring holes in his game which sometimes prevent him from seeing the floor, but do not negate the things he does well.
Similarly to so many other players on the Nets’ roster, Cunningham has spent time on the fringes of the NBA. He’s bounced around the NBA since he entered it and has been on the edge of falling out of the league for basically his entire career. And like so many other players around the Association, that same experience informs the effort and speed at which he plays.
He flies around the court, hounding opposing players and refusing to give up even when he gets beat. He uses every ounce of athleticism and effort he has in his body and channels it into his game which is helping him stave off the effects of age as he makes his way through his 30’s.
Moreover, his energy has the potential to serve as a galvanizing force and can inject life into a lifeless unit. The intensity with which he crashes the glass and plays defense is contagious and a big reason he has one of the best individual defensive ratings on the team when he plays (106.5).
Even though he’s been in the league for eight years, he still hasn’t lost the intensity and fire defensively which paved the road for his long tenure as a pro.
Because of his energy and lanky frame (6’8″, 230 lbs, 6’11” wingspan) Dante Cunningham can cover a range of different players adequately. He’s not always the most disciplined player, but he has the effort and athleticism to hang with most players and recover efficiently when he makes mistakes.
Despite his age, he still enjoys above average athleticism and strength which helped him become a low-end Swiss Army Knife for Brooklyn this year and gave the team another weapon to throw at opponents when the game goes awry.
He was one of the more versatile players on the team and rounded out a core of wings comprised of 6’8″ switchy players which somehow couldn’t bolster the defense from their 25th ranking.
Despite his positive contributions to this team this year, there’s not much incentive to keep him. Cunningham doesn’t fit with their timeline as a rebuilding team and energizers like him are a dime-a-dozen. Although he shouldn’t be expensive to sign no matter where he goes. That said, he didn’t quite do enough this year to warrant the Nets retaining him. Ultimately, Dante Cunningham will find residence somewhere this offseason (he always does), but that home likely won’t be in Brooklyn.
2016-17 Per-Game Stats:
- Minutes: 25.0
- Points: 6.6
- Rebounds: 4.2
- Assists: .6
- Field Goal Percentage: 48.5%
- Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 39.2%
- Free Throw Percentage: 59.3%
2016-17 Per 36 Stats:
- Points: 9.5
- Rebounds: 6.0
- Assists: .8
- Field Goal Attempts: 7.8
- Three Point Field :4.0
- Free Throw Attempts: .6
2017-18 Per-Game Stats:
- Minutes: 20.3
- Points: 7.5
- Rebounds: 4.8
- Assists: 1.0
- Field Goal Percentage: 46.8%
- Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 38.3%
- Free Throw Percentage: 68.8%
2017-18 Per 36 Stats:
- Points: 13.2
- Rebounds: 8.5
- Assists: 1.8
- Field Goal Attempts: 11.2
- Three Point Field : 4.8
- Free Throw Attempts: 1.3