Cleveland Cavalier training camp invitee Jared Cunningham has made the most of his opportunities so far.
Cunningham, who is one of six players battling for the last spot on the Cavs opening night roster, pumped in 31 points in Cleveland’s 115-114 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday night. The former first round pick was 8-of-10 from the floor and 13-of-16 from the free throw line. He also doled out three assists and hauled in four rebounds in 31 minutes of action.
Cunningham came out real aggressive against the Sixers, per Chris Haynes of Northeast Ohio Media Group. The 24-year-old got off to a quick start, tallying 21 points off the bench, by consistently getting into and finishing in the lane.
Cunningham is averaging 20.5 points, while shooting 76.9 percent from the field (10-of-13) and 60.6 percent (3-of-5) from beyond the arc, through Cleveland’s first two preseason games. Perhaps more importantly, he has gotten head coach David Blatt’s attention.
“I thought without question Jared sort of separated himself tonight. He was exceptional. That’s what the opportunities are for, you know. You get a chance, you grab it and he made good use of it.
“He’s a two-way player and he’s an excellent open court player. He battles and he’s athletic and that can get you far in this league. But we still got the rest of camp to go through to see what’s happening. But without question, Jared really showed up today.”
It will be interesting to see if Cunningham can finally latch onto a team. The 24-year-old has bounced around the NBA and D-League since being selected with the No. 24 overall pick by the Cavs in the 2012 draft. Cunningham spent a portion of last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he averaged 1.8 points a game in 19 appearances. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard has appeared in 40 career NBA games.
Cunningham is currently competing with Quinn Cook, Austin Daye, Nick Minnerath, Chris Johnson, and Dionte Christmas for the last roster spot, though Blatt told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that the Cavs could have two open spots depending on whether restricted free agent Tristan Thompson ends his hold out prior to the start of the season.
With Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert, who is expected to be out until January, injured, the Cavs likely need more help at the guard positions. This would seemingly favor Cunningham, Cook, and Christmas.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported that Cook, a rookie out of Duke, has looked good during training camp and Cleveland’s first two preseason games. The 6-foot-2 point guard tallied 14 points and had three assists in the Cavaliers intra-squad scrimmage. In two preseason games, the 22-year-old has tallied six points, dished out seven assists to go along with just one turnover in his preseason appearances.
Christmas hasn’t officially joined the Cavs but is expected to, if he passes his physical on Saturday, according to Haynes. Christmas, who will replace Michael Dunigan on the roster, has appeared in 30 career NBA games. Last year, He played in Paris-Levallois (France).
Daye — who, like Cunningham, is a former first round pick who has struggled to find a NBA home — made a good impression in the Cavs’ first preseason game against Atlanta. Versus the Hawks, the 27-year-old scored 12 points as he knocked down 4-of-6 shots from beyond the arc. Daye is averaging 9.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, as well as 2.0 assists this preseason. He has made 6-of-15 shots (40 percent) and 5-of-9 from the three-point line (55.5 percent).
Minnerath, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Detroit, contributed eight points and two rebounds in 22 minutes against the Sixers. The 27-year-old played for Cholet Basket in France last season.
Stephens has appeared in one preseason game so far, dumping in 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting against the Sixers. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard played for Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia) last year, and appeared in three games for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013-14.
Johnson has yet to appear in a preseason game.
Stephens, Christmas, Cook, and Cunningham will likely be assigned to Canton, the Cavs D-League franchise, if they don’t make the 15-man roster.
[Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images]