How might the San Antonio Spurs’ power forward rotation look for the 2017-18 season?
The San Antonio Spurs’ power forward position looks well-defined for the 2017-18 season. Not much was done to it, with the exception of letting David Lee go in free agency. That moves others up in the rotation or provides clarity to some player’s roles.
The power forward spot has been manned by LaMarcus Aldridge for the past two seasons. Will that remain this fall? Who could play behind him in the rotation?
Let’s look at the potential rotation for the Spurs and who could play a certain amount of minutes.
Third string: Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay was already mentioned as the second-string small forward, backing up Kawhi Leonard. However, when Gay and Leonard are on the court at the same time, look for the former to get time at power forward.
Gay entered the NBA as a prototypical small forward in 2006. He was tall (6-foot-8) but not too tall, could score a variety of ways, grab a few rebounds and flash some athleticism. That remained consistent with his game for the past 11 years on the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings, all while the NBA evolved into a more athletic and outside shot-first league.
Does Gay fit the modern-day NBA? Well, he still put up over 18 points per game in the 2016-17 season. However, he’s not quick enough to guard players at the wing and isn’t really someone to move around the lineup. That could cause a problem for the Spurs, but look for Gregg Popovich to try him out as a stretch four, anyway.
It’s a relatively inexpensive gamble for the Spurs, too, as they pay him $17.2 million over two years, with a player option for the second season. If it doesn’t work out and Gay opts in, he’ll be a cheap piece on the bench. If he plays well, then it’s just a one-year experiment that pays off in the team’s favor.
Next: Davis Bertans
Second string: Davis Bertans
Davis Bertans is almost the de facto backup power forward for the San Antonio Spurs, even though he’s best suited as a shooting small forward. In this case, he’ll be the stretch four that sits behind the starter.
Bertans showed a solid consistency from behind the arc, not only with the amount of shots he hit but the amount he took. It was over half the shots he attempted, which is an absurd amount for any player in the NBA, even if this Latvian forward only took three-to-five tries per game.
If Bertans remains the full-time backup at power forward, he’ll need to grab more rebounds than the one-plus he had in 2016-17 and have shot blocks like this. Look for around 10-15 minutes per game for him.
An improved season will help Bertans in the summer of 2018, as he can become a restricted free agent. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Spurs make an effort to keep him, as long as this season goes smooth. However, if there are glimpses of his improvement, then other teams may see him as a starter and try to lure him away. That’s even more so with the NBA shifting toward smaller and shooting lineups.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge
Starter: LaMarcus Aldridge
The starting role at power forward is a given, as LaMarcus Aldridge will be back. He’ll man the majority of minutes at the four spot, with some time at center sprinkled in.
Aldridge should see another healthy dose of minutes, potentially between 30-33. It will be enough for him to make an impact as the starter and second-best player on the Spurs.
It’s a contract season for Aldridge, as he can opt out of his deal in the summer of 2018. He’s owed $22 million, so look for better production out of the team’s power forward. Criticism was sent his way after poor playoff performances and regressed regular season stats, which were well below what he did for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Can Aldridge ever repeat his 23-10 averages? At age 32, maybe not. He plays with Kawhi Leonard who’s not only one of the NBA’s best players, but puts up one of the highest points per game averages in the league (25.5 in 2016-17). So, it may be wrong to expect the world out of the Texas product, but even if he can rise to 19 points and eight rebounds per game, it would look better for him.
How will the San Antonio Spurs’ power forward situation look?