Early this week, the Dallas Mavericks sent rookie combo guard Jared Cunningham to their D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Cunningham, at this point, has only played in seven of Dallas’ first 21 games while logging a grand total of 24 minutes on the season.
Coming out of high school, Cunningham was rated as high as the No. 74 prospect in the nation but was regarded as too skinny and weak to ever become “the man” for a major college.
During his three-year career at Oregon State, however, Cunningham proved the recruiting experts wrong and blossomed into an All Pac-10 Defensive Player and a first-team All-Conference performer, averaging 18 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists during his final season in college.
Cunningham is primarily a slasher but possesses great potential to grow into a full-time starter for the Mavs. Already an adept defender, Cunningham will spend most of his time in the D-League developing a reliable jump shot and point guard passing skills.
Dallas Mavericks President of Basketball Operations, Donnie Nelson, who also co-owns the Texas Legends, made the reason clear why Cunningham was being assigned to the D-League. “Jared’s a Legend. Welcome to playing time.”
Once the Mavericks missed out on signing Deron Williams in the offseason, they rushed to make a move by trading for Darren Collison. While Collison has shown for a brief glimpse or two, his career with the Mavs has gotten off to a mostly rocky and inconsistent start. This is where Cunningham’s career will really begin.
If Cunningham can develop his offensive skill set and hone in on becoming a better distributor, he could push for playing time by the start of next season. The key for him will be how seriously he takes this opportunity of increased playing time. He cannot settle for high scoring averages like most NBA players who are sent to the D-League do. He needs to focus on passing in transition and finding the open man as they roll off screens.
With visions of Cunningham and OJ Mayo sharing the backcourt together, Donnie Nelson concluded his interview saying, “It’s going to be a good opportunity for him. Practice only goes so far. At some point you have to get in games.”