San Antonio Spurs: Does Dante Cunningham deserve a starting spot?
By Andrew Ites
Dante Cunningham has emerged as a starter in his first season with the San Antonio Spurs. Should he continue to start moving forward?
The San Antonio Spurs came into the season in a tough spot as their starting lineup has changed a ton from what we expected at the beginning of October.
The Spurs have adapted well at point guard as Bryn Forbes has filled in admirably for Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, but the early disappointment of Jakob Poeltl has opened up a starting job in the frontcourt.
Poeltl began the year as the starting center, but he has been benched after starting three of the first four games and it has become clear that he’s lost the trust of Gregg Popovich.
While Poeltl learns the Spurs’ system, Pop has turned to grizzled veteran Dante Cunningham to take his starting job.
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Cunningham has started four the the last five games and San Antonio is 4-0 when he starts compared to 1-2 when he comes off the bench.
Cunningham‘s stats don’t jump off the page. He’s scored 2.9 points and grabbed 4 rebounds per game in just over 20 minutes per night.
However, he is a much more versatile defender than Poeltl which allows San Antonio to switch more on the defensive end. And while he isn’t a great outside shooter, opposing defenses still have to respect him from behind the arc which creates more space for DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge to operate.
Cunningham doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but he is the type of role player that Popovich loves. Pop is obviously frustrated with Poeltl’s development early on, and it will take some time for the young center to earn the trust of the league’s best coach.
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In the meantime, Cunningham will continue to do all the dirty work and the Spurs will hopefully keep up their winning ways with him in the starting lineup.