Pelicans re-sign Dante Cunningham

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Dante Cunningham
(Photo: Parker Waters).

NEW ORLEANS — First reported by Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, it appears forward Dante Cunningham will be rejoining the New Orleans Pelicans.

Cunningham, entering his ninth NBA season out of Villanova, has agreed to a one-year, $2.3 million deal to return to the Pelicans.

He exercised a player option to become a free agent after last season and drew interest from a number of teams, including Milwaukee, Toronto, and Minnesota, where he spent two seasons before coming to New Orleans.

It’s easy to surmise that the injury to Solomon Hill and his familiarity with the franchise were definite factors in Cunningham’s decision.

Cunningham is coming off of one of his better seasons as a pro. His 6.6 points per game was the third highest average of his career, and he set a career-high in true shooting percentage at 58.6 percent, highest among Pelicans regulars. Cunningham showed dramatic improvement as a three-point shooter last season as well, setting career-highs in makes (71), attempts (181), and percentage (.392).

He also finished third on the team in win shares (3.0), behind only Anthony Davis (11.0) and Jrue Holiday (3.8).

Cunningham did miss 16 games during the season with a fractured leg.

His return brings some stability to the Pelicans’ beleaguered small forward position. Cunningham, at 6-8, has both the length and athleticism to defend the position and has shown the ability to knock down the three when given the opportunity. Cunningham is also great in transition as a finisher, giving Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday another target for their alley-oops.

Financially, the deal is a win for the Pelicans. Had Cunningham not exercised his option, he would have been paid $3.1 million this season. Now the team has more flexibility under the cap should more moves become necessary. With just more than $1.5 million separating the Pels from the hard cap, every dollar saved is crucial.

Dell Demps waited out the market and got the player he wanted at the price he could afford and the Pelicans should be better for it.

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