MINNEAPOLIS — In their second roster move in four days, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded Wayne Ellington to the Memphis Grizzlies for forward Dante Cunningham on Tuesday.
Ellington was the 28th pick in the 2009 draft, and he played the first three seasons of his career with the Timberwolves. His numbers were constant throughout — he averaged 6.6 points per game in his first two seasons and 6.1 in his third — but his playing time fell off in 2011-12.
Cunningham, a power forward, was picked five picks after Ellington in 2009 by the Portland Trail Blazers. Since then, he’s played for three teams: Portland, Charlotte and Memphis. He spent the entire 2011-12 season in Memphis, where he averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game. Cunningham came off the bench in all but five of the 64 games in which he played last season, and he’ll likely be used in a similar role in Minnesota.
“In Dante Cunningham we are getting a versatile forward who brings a defensive presence and an efficient offensive game to our team,” Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations David Kahn said in a statement. “Also, the addition of Dante helps balance our roster.”
That balance is the key to the Cunningham acquisition. This offseason, the Timberwolves lost forwards Anthony Randolph, Michael Beasley and likely Anthony Tolliver. In turn, the already guard-heavy team has signed Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved, so trading Ellington for a 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward like Cunningham does make sense.
The two players are set to make almost equal salaries next season: Ellington is owed $2.1 million, Cunningham $2.2 million. Cunningham is the sixth player the Timberwolves have added to their roster this offseason, after Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel (the second-round draft pick), Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved and Greg Stiemsma. Only Budinger and Hummel have been officially introduced.