#Twolf Rank: #7 Dante Cunningham

Athletic and extremely hard-working, Cunningham quickly won Minnesota’s fans over.

Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the seventh part in this roster-long series and we are officially halfway through. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf), Tom (@Tom_NBA) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.

Dante Cunningham finds himself in a unique situation going into the 2013-14 season.

On the one hand, after setting himself apart from his peers with hustle plays, high-flying rebounds and inarguably the greatest mouthguard of all time, Cunningham can clearly play a solid role in Minnesota this season. He’s not a significant scorer (12.4 points per 36, 0.9 points per possession), but he has enough range to play a pick-and-pop game (Cunningham hit 41% of his shots from 16-23 feet in 2012-13, and 96% of those shots were assisted). He doesn’t have a post game (only 1.2% of his attempts last season were in post-up situations), but he’s solid as an offensive rebounder (he was 5th on the team in offensive rebound percentage and averaged 1.32 points per possession on the putbacks).

Cunningham is, in short, a solid player but not a starter on a playoff team. That’s not unique. What’s unique is how he will be measured against #8 on our T-Wolf Rank, Derrick Williams, because as of right now, Cunningham will — and should — be taking minutes away from Williams.

Not all of Williams’ minutes, mind you. Cunningham is an inferior scorer, which gives both players a role on the second unit. But since both are fairly limited to the power forward position, there isn’t a ton of extra playing time available. Figuring out who should be relieving Love off the bench, assuming Williams hasn’t made an unforeseen leap as a small forward, will be one of the biggest decisions Adelman faces in regards to his second unit.

But this post isn’t about Williams. It’s about Cunningham, and there’s obviously a lot to like.

For instance, this:

Also this:

And two-thirds of this:

The last video summarizes Cunningham just about as well as I could hope to manage. He is, at times, flawed (for instance: Dribbling escapes him, and he needs to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible). But those flaws are rarely prominent and often minimized (as evidenced by his chase-down swat), since Cunningham generally plays within his own skillset.

What’s more, his athleticism lends itself well to Minnesota’s guards. 16.7% of Cunningham’s offense came on cuts, according to MySynergySports.com which makes a lot of sense. Cuts are often an indicator that a player is athletic and hard-working. They are also a great way to create an efficient shot, especially when the player watching you cut is an elite passer like Ricky Rubio. It’s that kind of play that gives Dante Cunningham a lot of value.

He is, in short, absolutely the kind of player teams love to have.

For what it’s worth, that’s the second time in two posts I’ve said a player is “the type of player teams love to have.” That might be a good sign for Minnesota’s roster.

Here are your thoughts:

@the_real_gabby@Tom_NBA he’s a fan favorite who will hopefully lose out some time to D-will and small ball lineups.

a lineup with him, turiaf, brewer, budinger and rubio would make a fun, energetic, and hustle lineup. wont score, but would be fun

‏@ZacharyBD@Tom_NBA Really became a fan-favorite with some of his performances last season. Love the consistency he brings in the 2nd unit.

Want to take part? Look for one of us to tweet out who the next player will be and tweet us your thoughts on him using the #TwolfRank hashtag and we’ll throw your tweet in the post.