It took a few months, but Dante Cunningham ended up right back where he started.
The veteran forward re-signed with the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday afternoon, multiple league sources confirmed to The Advocate. Yahoo Sports first reported the signing.
The one-year deal helps solidify the Pelicans’ rotation, making up for the absence left behind by injured small forward Solomon Hill, whose torn hamstring could keep him out for six-to-eight months. By adding Cunningham, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound combo forward, the need on the wing is no longer glaring.
Cunningham, who spent the previous three seasons in New Orleans and started 108 of his 212 games, has already proved his worth as a versatile asset on a team in need of long, wing contributors. He’s displayed an ability to defend nearly every type of forward and can help space the floor offensively with respectable shooting range, converting a career-high 39.2 percent of his 3-pointers last season.
He’s a likely candidate to be the Pelicans’ starting small forward, potentially anchoring the frontcourt alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, while providing length to a backcourt featuring Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday. Darius Miller, who returned to the NBA after two seasons in Germany, will likely be his stiffest competition for the spot.
It will be one of the few depth chart battles to watch when training camp opens next Tuesday.
Cunningham is the 14th guaranteed contract on the Pelicans roster, leaving just one open spot for the six players on non-guaranteed deals who will be at training camp.
However, it appeared Cunningham’s time with the franchise had run its course in May, when he opted out of the final year of his deal (worth $3 million) to test the open market in free agency. Yet, despite a source confirming he held offers from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, Cunningham opted to re-sign with the Pelicans.
Sources familiar with the situation credited Cunningham’s allegiance to the Pelicans and comfort with his teammates for helping make the decision.