|D.J. Cunningham's intimidating defense, seen here intimidating the rarely intimidated Julius "I don't get intimidated" Randle.|D.J. Cunningham
, UNC Asheville, Senior, 6'10 240lbs2013/14 stats:
25.7 mpg, 11.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 3.6 bpg, 1.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 3.0 fpg, 2.1 TOpg, 56.3% FG, 70.3% FT
Cunningham was fourth in the nation in blocks per game, behind only Jordan Bachysnki and Rhamel Brown above, and Khem Birch of the upcoming power forwards list. He was seventh in blocks per 40 minutes, ninth in blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted, twelfth in rebounds per 40 pace adjusted, fifth in rebounds per 40, and seventeenth in rebounds per game. Productive, then.
Perhaps evidently from those numbers, Cunningham is very active in his time on the court. He tips everything, tracks everyone, is a deflections machine, chases down the ball and never quits until his team has gotten the ball back. This of course is a style of play that results in a large number of bump fouls, hence the foul rates and the reason he only played the amount of minutes that he did, yet it also wins his team possessions and makes him one of the best shotblockers in the nation. Not just a shotblocker, Cunningham is also a good man to man post defender with a good motor, who could stand to use a little more discipline on knowing when to leave his feet but who also contests everything and will take a foul to stop a basket. Had he been on a team more capable of stopping dribble penetration, perhaps he would not have fouled so much.
He is not just a hive of activity, though - Cunningham is also skilled and efficient on the offensive end. Selling head fakes and ball fakes with regularity, Cunningham has developed his post footwork and has a very good understanding of what shots to take. He does not so much avoid contact as he does shoot only when open, a finisher and a putback artist if not a creator. Not taking many jumpshots, and shooting with a slow flat-footed release when he does, Cunningham's good free throw stroke attests to the potential for development in this area, certainly an improvement worth making down the road.
All this is possible due to his decent physical tools. Without having ideal size or high level NBA athleticism, Cunningham is nonetheless a decent athlete with good timing, decent hands, timing and anticipation, a good frame that can be further developed and good body control and agility. There are some bigger and some faster - if he was bigger and more athletic, Cunningham would be Willie Cauley-Stein - but none of this obscures his effectiveness.
At the level he has been playing at, Cunningham is a defensive wall. It is true that his gaudy numbers are accentuated by the level of competition, the faster pace at which his team have played, and their huge reliance upon him in the interior. It is also true that he looked more normal against better opposition. But he was still good. And he still will be going forward.