The Minnesota Timberwolves continue to be among the movers and shakers this NBA offseason, but it looks like one trade may move beyond rumors and actually be consummated. After some speculation last week, the Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies have verbally agreed to a trade that would send guard Wayne Ellington to Memphis in exchange for forward Dante Cunningham.
Ellington was a first-round pick (28th overall) by Minnesota in the 2009 NBA Draft after a solid collegiate career at North Carolina, but he has averaged just 6.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game through three NBA seasons (189 games) as his playing time has been inconsistent to say the least and injuries have limited him at times. But he has made a solid 37.6 percent of his three-pointers in his career, so it’s fair to wonder if Ellington would blossom into a difference maker as an outside shooter with more playing time. The Grizzlies may be able offer that opportunity, particularly since they lost shooting guard O.J. Mayo to the Dallas Mavericks in free agency on Monday.
Cunningham was also drafted in 2009, in the second round (33rd overall) by the Portland Trailblazers. He was traded by the Trailblazers to the Charlotte Bobcats in 2011 as part of the trade that sent forward Gerald Wallace to Portland, then signed with Memphis as a free agent prior to the 2011-2012 season. Cunningham averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game over 64 games (five starts) for the Grizzlies this past season, but his size (6’8″, 230 lbs.) and overall versatility allows him to play both forward spots and he is considered a capable defender.
The salaries of the two players match up nearly perfectly, as Ellington is slated to make $2.083 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract, while Cunningham is due to make $2.09 million next season with a $2.18 million option for the 2013-14 season. So this should be a plain and simple one-for-one trade, and should become official sometime soon.