According to Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500, the Los Angeles Lakers are interested in acquiring Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Dante Cunningham. In fact, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has already been in contact with the Wolves in such a regard.
The question is, could Cunningham fill the void left by Jordan Hill's injury?
Hill has been absent since January 6, 2013 and is expected to miss the remainder of the season (via Sports Out West). In that time, the Lakers have lost five of seven.
The Lakers are wasting no time in chasing potential replacements. Again, according to Wolfson:
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is said to have called the Wolves recently about forward Dante Cunningham. But with a reasonable, $2.1 million team option for 2013-14, Cunningham won't be easy to get.
Just don't think that will stop L.A. from trying.
Not only have the Lakers lost five of their last seven games, but they're averaging just 45.3 rebounds per game. Although Earl Clark has certainly impressed, his presence is not enough to cure the Lakers' severe bench woes.
The addition of Cunningham could cure such an issue.
Unfortunately, prying Cunningham loose could come with a steep price. Not only is his contract reasonable, but the T-Wolves are greatly in need his services.
Kevin Love broke his right hand and is expected to be absent until March (via USA Today).
Even so, the Lakers have definitely shown interest. As we all know, that leads to a high probability that a deal will be done due to Mitch Kupchak's trading prowess.
The question is, would Cunningham actually be able to step in as a replacement for Hill?
Floor Spacing 4
Dante Cunningham is an athletic power forward with a relatively consistent mid-range jump shot. Although he lacks a defined position, Cunningham is strong in flex positions for limited periods of time.
Cunningham is also as low risk of a player as they come.
The former Villanova Wildcat is also a crafty finisher when around the basket. Not only can he finish with a powerful flush, but Cunningham can finesse his way to the basket, as well.
Although he lacks a reliable handler, Cunningham will score when given the opportunity. Working alongside the likes of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, there is a strong chance that we could witness such on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately, Cunningham lacks a prerequisite in head coach Mike D'Antoni's system: he can't shoot the three.
Cunningham is presently in the midst of his fourth season in the NBA. In that time, he has gone just 1-for-18 from beyond the arc.
If D'Antoni wants a floor spacer who can shoot the three, Cunningham isn't the guy.
Can't Play the 5
The acquisition of Dante Cunningham would certainly improve the Los Angeles Lakers' minimal athleticism. The question is, do the Lakers actually need an athletic upgrade along the interior?
With Earl Clark's emergence, the answer is no at power forward. Considering Cunningham can't play center, we can't help but wonder.
Why make this move?
Jordan Hill's value was found in his ability to play either interior position with efficiency. Between his nonstop motor, overwhelming power and developing mid-range game, Hill could do everything a sixth man would be asked.
Meanwhile, Cunningham is a stretch 4 by design and is truly nothing else.
He will contribute on the glass and space the floor, but he is not a capable of defending the 5. The result of his acquisition would be as follows.
The Lakers could trade Pau Gasol and create rotation at the 4 of Clark, Cunningham and Antawn Jamison. If they opted to do anything else, Clark would be forced to play the 3 with Gasol moving to the 5.
In other words, the trade would lead to more rotational clout than consistency.
There is no denying that the Lakers are in dire need of depth. What is clear, however, is that power forward is the one position in which L.A. appears to be reputable as a second unit.
Instead of targeting Cunningham, the Lakers must look along the perimeter and at the 5.