Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Dante Cunningham

When a 54-win team selects a player in the second round, many fans and media members simply shrug it off as a bench warmer or Summer League roster filler, but right from the start, Dante Cunningham let it be known he would be no afterthought. Even after one quarter of Summer League play, it was evident Dante would find his way onto the court one way or another. Over the course of the summer and into his rookie campaign, Cunningham used his silky smooth mid-range jump shot, versatility to play either forward position and high basketball intelligence to absorb the absence of Travis Outlaw once he went down with a broken foot. Highlighted by a vicious, retaliation slam on Amare Stoudemire and a noteworthy .495 field goal percentage, the future looks bright for Dante in the Rose City, but how can he crack the rotation?
  1. Jump Shot
  2. Usually when something isn't broke, there isn't a need to fix it. Dante's jump shot is far from broke but like all role players, a niche must be carved out in order for them to thrive in this league. Last season his role was to only play sporadic minutes when needed, such as the case when injuries or foul trouble transpired, but if Cunningham wants to continue his growth and progression as an NBA player, he must master his craft. When people look in the dictionary under "mid-range jump shot", Dante Cunningham's picture should be shown. There's absolutely no doubt Dante will be hard at work this summer, trying to transform himself into the marksmen from the outside he's capable of becoming as shown from his pre-draft scouting report:
    His work ethic and desire to improve cannot be questioned ... He transformed himself from a scrappy, hustle, workingman's player into a polished offensive player and top scoring option on a final four team ...
  3. Perimeter Defense
  4. Given his 6'8", 230 lb. frame, Dante is big enough to battle in the paint with the power forwards, yet agile enough to stick with the small forwards on the perimeter. His adaptability gives him the opportunity to play in Coach McMillan's system where he [Coach] demands a lot out of his forwards on both ends of the court but mainly on defense, as his philosophies are heavily based on his players being able to defend an array of positions in many difficult and unfamiliar situations. The most frequent of these challenging situations is the switching of the pick and roll. For Dante to become one of the primary reserves Coach calls upon, he should learn from one of the best at playing outside their comfort zone, his own teammate, LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as finding a way to get a little more quicker to disrupt the wiry, nimble guards of the NBA.
With Juwan Howard entering his 17th NBA season and the departure of former backup forward, Travis Outlaw, the time for Dante Cunningham to grab a spot in Coach McMillan's rotation is now.

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