Jared Cunningham possibly out for the year as another Mavericks draft pick fails to make an impact

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Injured or in Frisco for most of the year, the Mavericks first round draft pick now has a knee injury that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season. Cunningham failed to make any impact with the Mavericks this season, a trend among their recent first round selections.

Jared Cunningham has a knee injury that will likely keep him out of action for the rest of the year. This news apparently happened a week ago, which goes to show two things: I suck at keeping up with news and Cunningham's been about as invisible as a first round pick can possibly be.

Eddie Sefko from the Dallas Morning News has the report and it looks like Cunningham will stick with the Mavs to get healthy for next summer.

The No. 24 overall pick said Tuesday that he's suffering from tendinitis in his right knee and is going to be out "for a while." He said his sights already have been set toward the 2013-14 season.

"My goal is to be completely ready for summer league," Cunningham said. "I want to get my body back to the way it was in college so I have my athleticism."

Cunningham, 21, has spent two long stints with the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League. He played in 15 games for the Frisco-based Legends, starting 13. The 6-4 guard averaged 15.3 points, three assists and 2.9 rebounds in 34.5 minutes per game, although he shot just 33.5 percent from the field.

He played eight games with the Mavericks early this season, but totaled only 26 minutes.

Coach Rick Carlisle said it was critical that Cunningham get healthy.

"I wouldn't call it a lost season," Carlisle said. "He's gotten a lot of work in, and he's gotten a fair amount of experience and he now understands what an NBA season is about. But we're going to do the right thing. We're going to make sure he gets healthy. And we'll go from there."

Cunningham appeared in eight total games, played 29 minutes and scored 16 points. He hasn't played in an NBA game since a January 7. Things didn't get much better in the D-League, where Cunningham shot horribly from the field.

There's no doubt Cunningham has been a disappointment, especially when you consider the Mavericks are 26-33 facing a lost season. Had the Mavericks been rolling along to another playoff spot, then it'd be understandable. But Dallas needed all the help it could get this season and features more than a handful of inconsistent guards. And Cunningham couldn't help.

That's no fault of Cunningham's. He was projected to be a second-round pick and all indications were that he was a raw player that wasn't totally ready for the NBA game. The Mavericks reached and reached badly, especially when you consider the Mavs had two second round picks waiting in the wings.

You could argue that Dallas had the right idea in mind, grabbing Bernard James and Jae Crowder with those back to back second rounders. But There's a good chance that Cunningham and Crowder would have been there at those two picks and let's not forget: Dallas traded a late second rounder to the Lakers, where James probably would have still been there.

Regardless, Cunningham has been by far one of the least impactful first round picks of the 2012 draft. It isn't even close. Cunning has played 26 minutes, the lowest amount of any first round pick besides Fab Melo.

In fact, a majority of the second round picks have gotten more burn than Cunningham. Only three second round picks have played fewer minutes than Cunningham this season. Robert Sacre, the last overall pick of the draft, has played 191 minutes. Kevin Murphy, the 47th overall pick from Tennessee Technological University, has played 41 minutes.

The worst part is that Cunningham's injury will rob him of any potential playing time that was coming up. With the playoffs about to become mathematically impossibly, it figured Cunningham would have gotten a shot to see what he can do before the season ends.

So Cunningham sits, having given the Mavericks almost nothing. He sits next to Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, the Mavericks previous two first round picks, who are also giving the team next to nothing on the court.

It's become a broken record and a pain to repeat but the Mavericks aren't going anywhere until their drafting shores up. Dallas can't overpay to keep veterans around anymore. The new NBA is all about finding young, cheap assets to either keep and build a young core, or trade to a team looking to dump an All-Star for cap relief.

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