San Antonio Spurs: Predicting the point guard starter

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HOUSTON, TX - MAY 11: Assistant coach James Borrego of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Dejounte Murray
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 11: Assistant coach James Borrego of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Dejounte Murray
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San Antonio Spurs, SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 1: Tony Parker
San Antonio Spurs, SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 1: Tony Parker

How could the point guard depth chart look for the San Antonio Spurs?

The San Antonio Spurs will head into the 2016-17 NBA season with an interesting situation on its hands. The point guard position may be up for grabs, with Tony Parker’s torn quad, he suffered in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

There are a handful of players left at the position, however, to take over. The exclusive point guards available have limited experience, but will be options to start.

With two months to go before the regular season, it’s time to take an early look at the potential starter at point guard. Who will fill Parker’s shoes in October? What player has the lowest chance of claiming starter minutes?

HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: Assistant coach James Borrego of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Dejounte Murray
HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: Assistant coach James Borrego of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Dejounte Murray

Dejounte Murray

Dejounte Murray has just 38 games of NBA experience, with the rest of his playing time in the G-League. It may be enough to make him the starter at point guard, however.

Murray’s jus 20-years-old, but flashed upside with heavy minutes in the playoffs, after Tony Parker tor his quadriceps. This included a game of 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists and another one of 9 points, 7 assists, and 5 steals.

The defensive ability is there for Murray, if the San Antonio Spurs eye him as the starter. He may not get 30 minutes per game for this, but can start off as a lockdown defender and distributor while his offensive game develops.

Aside from this, it’s a risk to start an inexperienced player with veteran options available. The development doesn’t need to be rushed, so Murray can work his way into a bench role before taking off as the starter in the 2018-19 season and beyond. It allows him to learn the NBA game at age 21 (he’ll turn this in September) and potentially transform into the point guard Gregg Popovich wants to run his team.

It’s safe to assume Murray will start at least a few games in the 2017-18 season at point guard. But, look for this number to increase in about one year.

Prediction: Outside chance of starting

Next: Derrick White

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 6: Derrick White
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JULY 6: Derrick White

Derrick White

Derrick White is an interesting case. He’s an unknown, which is beneficial since he hasn’t played a NBA game, but a con for the same reason. It leaves the San Antonio Spurs with an interesting situation for the start of the 2017-18 season.

White could shine in training camp and prevent the Spurs from sending him down. That may exceed the promise Dejounte Murray shows, as these two could battle for the same minutes in the early fall. If the Spurs want Kawhi Leonard at the wing and Patty Mills off the bench, then Murray and White’s battle is for starting minutes.

However, unless White becomes the shining star of training camp, it’s difficult to see him get starting time at point guard to begin the year or any time afterward for next season. It’s the experience factor of the players ahead of him that limits this opportunity, along with a clogged roster.

There’s a chance White becomes the third or fourth string point guard to start the season. If so, the Spurs may be better off sending him to the Austin Spurs to get consistent playing time like Murray. It’s a better experience than riding the pine for 50 games and playing just a handful of minutes per game in garbage time.

White as the season-opening starter seems unrealistic, unless there’s an injury to Murray or Mills and Popovich doesn’t place Leonard as the point guard.

Prediction: Slim chance of starting

Next: Patty Mills

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 20: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Patty Mills
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 20: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Patty Mills

Patty Mills

Patty Mills is back for another season on the San Antonio Spurs. Actually, he’ll return for four more years, if he lives out the full deal worth $50 million. This came about in the offseason, when Mills re-signed with the team he’s been with since 2011.

When Tony Parker went down in the 2017 NBA playoffs, it allowed Mills to step in as the starter. He didn’t finish with striking statistics, but played 26 minutes per game, shot 40 percent, and averaged 10.3 points. There will be every opportunity to build off this in October, though.

Of the Spurs’ options at point guard to start the season, Mills has the most NBA experience. He’s played since the 2009-10 campaign, acting as a 3-point shooter off the bench for San Antonio and the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s rarely been as a starter, which could be a concern, but given the Spurs’ placement of this Aussie in the playoff lineup, it should be a positive toward him being in the opening five on October 18.

Mills probably has the best chance of earning the starter job at point guard. It’s a matter of if someone outshines him in training camp to grab it, or if the Spurs look in another direction.

Prediction: The likely starter

Next: Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard

The wild card at starting point guard is Kawhi Leonard. He’s not labeled for this position, as he’s known as a shooting guard or small forward, if these are considered official spots in the lineup anymore. If anything, he’s a wing player, and one of the best in the NBA.

Leonard’s offensive involvement increased with every year he’s been in the league. From a spike in assists per game (3.5 in 2016-17) to a 31.1 Usage Percentage and a 18.9 Assist Percentage, the San Diego State product always had the ball in his hands and proved to be a productive player with the increased responsibility.

Leonard’s involvement would only increase as the point guard. His assist numbers would go up and, who knows, his point total could rise or stay status quo like James Harden when he became the Houston Rockets’ ball distributor.

If the San Antonio Spurs choose to use Leonard as the starter, it means a small-ball lineup should be expected. That means LaMarcus Aldridge or Pau Gasol at center, with Rudy Gay, Danny Green, and a dispensable fifth player used in between. More likely, given the contract extension Gasol received, it won’t be a full-time smaller lineup, yet.

With the lineup Popovich deployed after Parker’s injury, is that enough to keep Leonard from the starting job? Mills and Murray received the extra minutes at the one spot, opting for the more traditional lineup. If that continues to be the case, then San Antonio can use Leonard as the primary scorer (likely) and the No. 2 distributor in other situations (also likely).

Prediction: The Wild Card

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