With the offseason looming, players have already started positioning themselves to seamlessly adjust to possible scenery changes. The decisions of two former Trail Blazers have made rippling waves in the past week, as Dante Cunningham and Will Barton appear to be headed to free agency sooner than expected.
ESPN’s Chris Haynes reports that Cunningham plans to decline his player option for next year, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. After three seasons in New Orleans, the former second-round pick will be leaving $3.1 million dollars on the table by forgoing the final year of his current deal.
New Orleans forward Dante Cunningham plans to decline player option to become unrestricted free agent this summer, league sources tell ESPN.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) April 29, 2017
Cunningham could be a fit for contenders looking for a versatile role player. Since Portland packaged him in a trade for Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace in 2011, Cunningham has blossomed into a serviceable player on both ends of the court. After attempting only six 3-point shots as a member of the Blazers, the veteran swingman connected on nearly 40 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this year, coming up just shy at 39.2 percent.
A return to Rip City for Cunningham appears unlikely, as Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey will have his hands tied when pursuing role players this summer. With the restrictions caused by Portland’s cumbersome payroll situation, Olshey will only have the money allotted by the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to work with ($5.2 million dollars), making the outlook for a reunion with Cunningham murky at best.
Barton on the other hand, is facing a slightly different set of circumstances when it comes to his future. It appears that a contract extension will not be agreed upon between the Nuggets and the former Memphis standout this offseason, which puts Barton’s tenure with the team in question after the conclusion of the 2017-18 season.
The former Blazers reserve will have to wait until the 2018 offseason to finally cash in on his stellar play with the Nuggets. Barton will agree to his new contract under new representation this time around, as he parted with ways with is former agent in the aftermath of signing a conservative three-year contract with Denver in the summer of 2015.