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Dante Cunningham, Restricted Free Agent

It’s been an interesting case of roster building and offers.  Restricted free agents are the most confusing group.  Aron Phillips from Dime Magazine posted about Dante Cunningham and the general trend of restricted free agents being the last guys to sign.  When it seems like the simplest transaction in this convoluted free agency period, restricted free agency is used as a hedge bet.  Dante Cunningham was given his qualifying offer before the lockout began.  He was arrested for having a bit of weed and a pellet gun in his massive truck just before that.  He didn’t sign it.

It was probably wise to not sign before the new CBA was decided on.  Who knew, at that point, if there was going to be restricted free agency after the lockout?  Who knew what the value placed on players such as Dante Cunningham before the lockout and the new CBA was agreed upon?  So I can understand Dante not taking that leap.  As Aron mentioned, Nick Young, Aaron Afflalo, and Rodney Stuckey were all in the same boat and none of them were dying to sign a qualifying offer, either.

Aron confirmed the rumors, that Dante was just not going to sign with the Bobcats and he had some offers elsewhere.  Well, today, it’s fully confirmed.  Dante Cunningham has been signed to an offer sheet with the Memphis Grizzlies, first reported by the Commercial Appeal’s Grizzlies Beat Writer.  The deal is for 3 years and somewhere between $7 million and $8 million over the life of the contract.  Rick Bonnell is reporting that the deal would pay Dante $2 million this season, double what his qualifying offer was set to be.  Cunningham would then get the usual raises in year two and three, but the third year is a team option.

The question isn’t whether Cunningham, a third year player who was the third player selected in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft, will be worth $2 million and a bit more per year.  The question is if the Bobcats need another small forward bordering on power forward.  His skill set is a good mid-range game, solid shooting, good enough slashing, solid rebounder.  He’s a good small forward to come off the bench.  He started 9 games for the Bobcats last season and really impressed me.  He’s sort of an inside/outside player.  He was a power forward with the Blazers but Paul Silas moved him to small forward and he flourished when he came to the Bobcats in the deadline trade that sent Gerald Wallace to Portland.  I had very little expectations for Dante Cunningham, which is easy to exceed, but he was really, really good.

Now, the Bobcats have Corey Maggette, Derrick Brown and now, Reggie Williams who is a tweener.  Those are the guys you would likely label small forwards but Boris Diaw and D.J. White both have games versatile enough to spend time as the smaller of the front line players on the court at any given time.  So, it’s somewhat crowded at the forwards right now for the Bobcats.  D.J. Augustin, Kemba Walker, Matt Carroll, Gerald Henderson and Reggie Williams are the only guards listed on the roster.  I know Paul Silas isn’t as obsessed with having a third point guard as Larry Brown was, but it’s a concern.  D.J. isn’t so much of an injury risk but this is the NBA.  Kemba, I’m a little concerned about hitting a rookie wall, especially with all the back to backs and abbreviated season.  So, if you have another roster spot available, would you use it on a third point guard?  Or, would you match the offer sheet on Dante Cunningham?

I just checked the Bobcats roster, and I’m a bit confused.  They currently have 15 guys under contract.  Bismack Biyombo was officially signed yesterday and they made a trade for Byron Mullens yesterday, for a future 2nd round pick.  Now, Melvin Ely’s deal is not guaranteed, so the Bobcats could cut him and not pay him, but I’m almost positive there is a cap hold for him, then again with all this cheap, young talent, I don’t think the Bobcats are nearing luxury tax territory.

So, options abound and as Ricky B! is reporting, the Bobcats have 3 days to match and they’re going to take as much time as they think they need.  So don’t expect an answer tonight, likely not tomorrow during the day and maybe not until Friday.  I’d love to keep everybody, slide some guys to Maine for a month or two and see how Biz and Mullens work out after that.  It just can’t be done though.  I think we’ve got a full house here in Charlotte and I guess luckily for Dante, the Grizzlies have an opening behind their very solid starting front line.

Bottom line is, the roster is two-thirds forwards.  Sounds like, to me, Dante Cunningham will be a Memphis Grizzlie by Thursday night.

Andrew Barraclough is Senior Editor for RobertoGato.com, a Charlotte Bobcats Blog on the Fansided Network.  Follow him on Twitter @therobertogato and Like the site on Facebook.

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