After speculation surrounded the San Antonio Spurs signing a free-agent point guard, the 2017-18 starter may have been on the roster all along.
In an interview with EuroHoops.net, Tony Parker said he expects to be back from his torn quadriceps injury in January 2018. He hurt it in the NBA playoffs, and missed the rest of the postseason for the San Antonio Spurs.
Before this, Parker was in the midst of one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. He averaged 10.1 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 46 percent, his lowest mark since the 2003-04 season.
With this, and at age 35, Parker won’t be around forever. So the Spurs showed interest in Chris Paul, which didn’t work out. The same thing went for George Hill. Interest was shown in Derrick Rose, but his name has hardly been connected to San Antonio since.
The Spurs did re-sign Patty Mills, however, to a four-year, $50 million deal. It sounds like starter money, but in 441 career games, Mills started just 18 times. He’s thrived as an energy player off the bench, backing up Parker and providing a perimeter presence.
Hidden in the woodwork of the point guard situation is Dejounte Murray, the Spurs’ 2017 first-round pick. He hasn’t stood out as the potential starter, due to the speculation around the big-name free agents. With the way things are shaping up, it looks like this could be Murray’s team for at least the first few months of the 2017-18 season.
Murray will only be 21-years-old when the fall comes around, so the Spurs would be placing their the ball-handling duties in the hands of their youngest player. It’s not the veteran option they may have hoped for, but Gregg Popovich found success with this strategy before. He gave the offense to a 19-year-old Tony Parker in 2001-02, who played 29.4 minutes and started 72 games. The Spurs won with him as the starter in 2003, at age 21.
The minimal but helpful playoff experience goes in Murray’s favor, as well. He showed an extended ability on the defensive end, racking up 12 steals in four games in the Western Conference Finals. The Washington product’s shot didn’t fall well (38 percent), but he made up for it in ball distribution, with 15 assists.
Dejounte Murray's Wingspan making an early case for Utah SL MVP pic.twitter.com/y5Khu9qhqE
— Bruno Passos (@bouncepassos) July 4, 2017
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Before the Conference Finals, however, Murray had his breakout game against the Houston Rockets. He knocked down half his shots, scored 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. It came in just 24 minutes as the leading man off the bench, resulting in the Spurs winning Game 6 of the semifinals.
Murray is the higher upside option at point guard, but it should be noted he started just two playoff games after Parker went down. Mills took the reins and walked out with averages of 10.3 points, 2.7 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game. These aren’t top-of-the-line numbers — more representative of a player that gets time off the bench to provide production. The Aussie even shot just 40 percent from the field, well below his Spurs average of 44.
Murray will get the chance to shine in starter’s minutes in the 2017 Summer League. Will he rise to the occasion for next season?