The San Antonio Spurs’ preseason opener gave an interesting insight on the point guard situation, but left questions.
Heading into Monday night’s preseason opener, questions surrounded the San Antonio Spurs at point guard. With Tony Parker, who tore his quad in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, out indefinitely, it meant someone new will take his spot to begin the 2017-18 season, either Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray or Derrick White.
With the preseason game against the Sacramento Kings over, while not solved, the point guard situation found some clarity. That came before the opening tipoff, as Murray started the game as the primary ball handler. Mills was one of the first players off the bench.
For the Aussie, it was an identical role to what he played last season, the primary scorer off the bench. He made an impact, too, with 11 points on four of eight shooting.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 3, 2017
Murray had his ups and downs in the starting lineup. He faced defensive difficulties against De’Aaron Fox, the Kings’ rookie point guard, that looked nothing like a first-year pro. Fox found his way to the rim, with ease, which didn’t help the Washington product’s case. He recovered with two steals and one block, but still has ways to go.
Fox is outstanding but Dejounte Murray did not look good defensively. Was getting lost constantly, paired w/being beat off the dribble.
— '11 (@johnisbased) October 3, 2017
Despite how Gregg Popovich deployed the point guard rotation, it might have been a temporary look.
Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gay both didn’t play on Monday night. When they return, the rotation obviously will look different, with point guard as the most impacted, without including their typical small forward spot.
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Leonard will move into the starting lineup, which likely means Gay heads to the bench. If Popovich makes the latter the primary scorer off the pine, it removes Mills from that spot. It leaves the option of either giving the bench quality scorers from the forward and guard spots, or breaking it up and placing Mills in the starting lineup.
If the Spurs opt to save Mills’ output in a bench role, the starting rotation has enough scorers to survive, with Leonard, Danny Green, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. Floor spacing would be limited, since Murray isn’t a jump-shooting guard, so that may not mean he lasts for more than three or four minutes to start a game, before Mills subs.
In the starting lineup, the owner of a four-year, $50 million deal places more pressure on Brandon Paul, Bryn Forbes and Manu Ginobili to produce. Ginobili, at age 40, can’t be relied on for more than seven or eight points per game. Forbes and Paul are young and unproven, but if one can find shot consistency, it wouldn’t hurt as much to not have Mills on the bench.
Monday night’s game didn’t solve anything at point guard. With Leonard’s return not happening until the regular season and Gay having yet to play, it may take another two weeks to figure out the plan for the main ball handler.