Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Surprise In the Second Round


Dante Cunningham, who was virtually unknown by Trail Blazers fans when he was selected with the 33rd pick in the 2009 Draft, is quickly making a name for himself two games into summer league play. Most of the focus leading up the Las Vegas centered on Jerryd Bayless but Cunningham has shown that the summer league is anything but a one-man show as far as Portland fans are concerned.

The book on Cunningham, who spent the last four years playing at UConn Villanova, is that of a gritty, hustle player who gets boards and garbage buckets, but he's shown a much more polished offensive game through two games in Las Vegas, hitting jumpers with unexpected consistency from the power forward position while still crashing the boards.

"I end up creating space with the defender on me," said Cunningham. "My ability to be able to shoot and raise up over taller defenders and also my quickness around taller defenders gives me an advantage.

"A lot of times it’s just facing them up, giving them a jab step. I’m not that much larger than other players, but a lot of times they notice I’m a lot faster than them are so they’re kind of leery of me being able to go around them, so they do tend to back up on the jab step and I’m able to raise up and shoot."

Whether it's respect for his quickness or just poor defense, Cunningham has found himself open early and often in Las Vegas. He's also caught the eye of his summer league coach.

"Dante has been very solid," said Joe Prunty. "He’s been aggressive offensively. He’s been getting shots and he’s been confident stepping up and trying to knock those down. And he's doing a decent job on the boards."

"I love to be coached," said Cunningham "I love to always have somebody telling me what I can do to get better. They definitely are always in my ear correcting and making sure I have a good understanding of what’s going on."

And though the Trail Blazers are still winless through the first two contests in Las Vegas, Cunningham is confident that first victory is coming soon.

"I think we’re definitely coming together. We’re still making corrections for a team that’s only been together for a week and a half now. I think we’re starting to click and finding each other a lot better every day."

14 comments:

David said...

one problem casey... Dante Cunningham played for Villanova.
Great story though thanks for the update

sod said...

Cunningham played at Villanova, not UConn.

Also, it seems like Cunningham spells one thing for Portland: Outlaw becoming more likely to be traded.

Nick said...

Man this guy has been a revelation to me, I still have no idea how his game translates against frontline NBA 4s and 3s, but I love his floor sense and nose for the ball. I'm thoroughly intrigued.

beanstockman said...

he played at villanova....nice one.

FLY said...

Cunningham will be an all-star in 4yrs. He should have gone in the first round.

Brad said...

He reminds me of a stable headed Ruben Patterson.

Casey Holdahl said...

Thanks for keeping me on my toes everybody. At least I know people are reading. Now lets work on leaving comments when I don't screw up!

sod: i've heard cunningham described by team officials as "outlaw-esque." take that as you will.

nick: i asked dante about that. he thinks he's probably a 3 in the NBA, but he doesn't have range out to the 3-point line, something he's working on.

fly: if dante is a allstar in four years the trail blazers have a few rings on their fingers.

brad: great comparison. probably a bit more polished on offense than the rube.

sod said...

Thanks Casey!! Sounds interesting. How awesome was it that you got to go all over Europe for your job this summer? I totally envy you man. Take it easy!

ps...sorry if this posts twice

The Natural said...

Hey Casey,
Any chance you could give me the name and address of the hotel where all of the Summer League teams and executives are staying? My friend and I are coming from Southern California tomorrow morning to watch the Blazers and it looks like we'll have some extra time in the morning before the games start so it would be cool for us to look around a little bit. Thanks!

Rex said...

Blasers trade Przybilla for Jazz Boozer. Aldridge backs up Oden at the 5. Boozer and Aldridge compete for the 4. The rest could be fine with another year under their belt until Boozers contract expires.

skaternater said...

I think Dante is big enough to get minutes at the back up 4. Plus I think that is the only place he will be able to get playing time unless we trade off Webster or Outlaw(both I would hate to see go). So if he gets stronger and stays quick, he could be a great addition to this team. I think KP should skip out on signing a player and let Cunningham and Pendagraph duke it out for minutes at the back up PF spot.

millertime said...

great post case wheres he from again?:) As fans we really need to trust kp. we all new he would find a diomond in the rough, well i thought he would anyway.

skaternater said...

Rex,
You must not watch the NBA. Aldridge back up Oden?? Aldridge would not be a back up on any team in the NBA. Oh and there is a "Z" in Blazers...

William said...

hey casey do you see any trades soon?and if so I do not want Przy leaving, but if someone needed to go I would have to say Trav, he just doesn't connect with team. Thanx for the update