Jared Cunningham talks PG and defense

The Dallas Mavericks surprised many observers and fans Thursday night when they dropped out of the No. 17 spot, acquired the No. 24 pick and selected Oregon State combo guard Jared Cunningham.

The Mavs were looking for an ultra-quick backcourt player who doesn't shy away from defense and can create on the offensive end. They believe they got those qualities in the three-year player who hails from Oakland, Calif., the same backyard as one Jason Kidd, who may or may not be Cunningham's teammate in a matter of days.

The interesting thing is that Cunningham certainly seems aware of that fact when he answered a question during his Friday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's "Galloway & Co."

Cunningham was asked if he believes he can play the point on a consistent basis in the pros.

"Yes, I feel I can," Cunningham said. "There’s definitely going to be a learning curve. I have some people to learn from, some of the great players in the NBA that might be on my team."

Notice how he used the word might?

If Deron Williams re-signs with Brooklyn as free agency gets underway tonight at 11:01 p.m. CT, the Mavs stand a good chance of losing Kidd in free agency to the Nets as well. At that point, the pursuit of Steve Nash, a two-time MVP, will begin in force.

With all that up in the air, the 6-foot-5 Cunningham knows he can only control his own development. He'll be in instant competition with Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones, two somewhat similar combo guards who have yet to work their way into rotation spots. Of course, it is to be seen if both former first-rounders are on the roster when training camp opens.

Cunningham said he puts a lot of passion into playing defense and he knows the quickest way to carving out rookie playing time is through grinding it out on the less-glamorous end.

"I feel that my quickness will help me a lot playing defense, just staying in front of 1-guards or 2-guards," Cunningham said. "It's just my passion to play defense since an early age, so it’s just fun to play and defense ignites the offense and that’s something I like to do."

Precisely, because Cunningham is a blur running the floor. His overall game needs work and he wasn't shy about that aspect, but he said he's excited to play for the Mavs and the city of Dallas. He'll arrive in town soon after the July 4 holiday and begin training for Summer League in Las Vegas, which starts July 13.

"I feel there’s a lot of room for me to develop and Dallas is the right place for me," Cunningham said. "It’s an excellent opportunity for me and I have to come in and work my butt off and play my hardest."