The Spurs have gotten off to a slower start than they probably anticipated at 9-14. It is not impossible to turn things around and become a playoff team but the real question is; what is their plan?
Let’s say they do make the playoffs but what happens then? They certainly aren’t winning a championship. DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are both nice players, but it is time to move on.
This roster was confusingly built in the offseason where it feels like the Spurs had no plan. They decided to sign veterans Marco Bellinelli, Demare Caroll, and Rudy Gay. While these are all solid veteran players, the Spurs have a lot of young talent that needs minutes.
Of the top 6 players who have played the most minutes per game for the Spurs this year, only two are under 30 years old. Those players are Bryn Forbes and Derrick White. Forbes is a nice shooter and Derrick White is a good rotational player but neither is the nucleus of this young core for the future.
The Spurs have several young and talented players, but the future should be built around Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, and possibly Luka Samanic.
Murray is currently 7th in minutes per game on his team and he is someone the Spurs have been very high on for years. In his second season, he started in 48 games for a team that went to the playoffs.
They expected Dejounte to break out last year, but he tore his ACL before the season started. Now he is back and this organization still sees him as the point guard of the future and rightfully so.
He is 6’5 with a 6’11 wingspan who is mature beyond his years. He has all-defensive team potential and you can tell Pop trusts him.
While Lonnie was injured for a good amount of his rookie season, he was one of the best players in Summer League and showed he is ready to compete. The problem is, the Spurs have too many veterans that are stealing minutes from him. He has only appeared in 16 of the team’s 23 games and is only averaging 8 minutes in those games.
Walker has a good first step that allows him to beat his man off the catch and has a knack to score the ball. He showed that against the Rockets on December 3rd where he put up 28 points and was the spark the Spurs needed as they came back from being down 22 at one point in the second half to go on and win the game.
This past draft’s 19th pick. Luka Samanic is the one player of the three that could especially benefit from sitting on the bench. Samanic played overseas but still didn’t get a ton of experience.
He put on a lot of weight over the summer and played well in the Summer League, but he can learn a lot from LaMarcus Aldridge so it would make sense to keep Aldridge on the roster.
As a prospect, Luka has a good feel for the game and has the potential of being able to score from 3, on the drive, and in the post.
Samanic couldn’t have landed in a better spot than the Spurs as he is not the most athletic but is fundamentally sound and has a low ego. Luka Samanic is a true Spur for all the right reasons.
The Spurs need to realize that mediocrity is not a place you want to be in the NBA. They gave the DeMar experiment a chance, but it’s time to move on. He is a very talented player but does not fit today’s game.
The Spurs are taking the most 2 pointers in the NBA and are easily in first in % of shots that are in the mid-range at 18.9%. You just can’t win that way in today’s game.
DeMar DeRozan is also a liability on the defensive end of the floor because he is allowing his opponent to shoot 56.7% from the court, so while he might be able to put up points, he is hurting them almost just as much defensively.
That opponent field goal % is also worst among all players that have played in all their team’s games. Usually, it would be a big man who has the worst opponent field goal % because most of his opponent’s shots are closer to the rim, but Derozan has somehow managed to be the worst so far this year.
The Spurs need to find a way to move off many of these veterans. It shouldn’t matter entirely if they don’t get a ton in return; the real gift is playing time for your young players. It would also give the Spurs a better chance at a higher pick in this upcoming draft.
I understand Spurs coach Greg Popovich is getting up there in age at 70, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he coached for longer than people are anticipating. Pop had the unfortunate passing of his wife last year and I think basketball has been a healthy distraction for him. He decided to coach this past summer for Team USA, which was strange because many of the NBA’s stars decided not to participate. This is just speculation, but don’t be surprised if he coaches for another 5-7 years.
The team wouldn’t even need a true rebuild anyways as they already have a good amount of young talent that this front office believes in. They wouldn’t have to tank for years and make fans suffer through bad basketball. Pop is still one of the best coaches in the NBA and his team won’t need to be the most talented to be competitive.
Going with the young players will give this team more upside for the future, and it is riskier, but doing nothing does not benefit this franchise whatsoever.
The Spurs need to realize that it is time for a new era.
Article written by Bradley Patten
All general stats found on Basketball-Reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com)
All advanced stats found on NBA.com (https://stats.nba.com)
Photo Credit to Darren Abate (https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/celtics/2019/01/11/lamarcus-aldridge-scores-spurs-top-thunder-double/LFG7XmJx5P9jSmpZPBSVpJ/story.html)