The San Antonio Spurs lost for the second time in the preseason. What were the takeaways from this game?
On Tuesday night, the San Antonio Spurs fell for the second time in the preseason. The Orlando Magic won, led by former Spur Jonathon Simmons, 103-98. This dropped San Antonio to 2-2, with one more preseason game before the start of the 2017 regular season.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the way for the Spurs, with 16 points and hitting another 3-pointer. Dejounte Murray had his first double-digit point performance of the preseason, with 15 points. Patty Mills and Rudy Gay also scored 13 points each.
There was plenty to learn in the final home tune-up before the regular season. What were the takeaways from this loss?
Dejounte Murray flashes offensive upside
Dejounte Murray has started all four preseason games at point guard, so it’s safe to assume he’ll take this role for the 2017-18 season, until Tony Parker returns. That puts Patty Mills, the more offensively skilled of the two on the bench, the role he’s filled for most of his career.
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The first three preseason games didn’t show much, offensively, from Murray. He never scored in double-digits and isn’t shooter 3-pointers, something he didn’t do in his rookie season, as well. However, Tuesday’s performance was the Washington product’s best by far. He had 15 points (1 shy of the team’s high), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks. This came on 5-for-11 shooting.
These glimpses of greatness were seen in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, when Murray received some of Parker’s playing time. They were inconsistent, however, like the preseason. At just 21-years-old, that can be expected out of him. But, with plenty of regular-season starts ahead for him, it’s the opportunity to develop a consistent offensive game and settle in as the future point guard for the Spurs. Those blocked shots will help him, too.
Murray’s starting spot means the Spurs sacrifice some floor spacing to begin games (he’s attempted one 3-pointer in the preseason). With just about every other player on the roster able to stretch the court, it shouldn’t be an issue for him to be the outlier, especially with Mills supplementing him and Derrick White as the potential No. 3 guy.
Next: Battling for minutes
Is it a battle for guard minutes?
There hasn’t been much, if anything, on a battle for minutes at the end of the Spurs’ bench. This goes for the guards, with their being an abundance of them in training camp. The situation somewhat cleared itself up on Tuesday night, however.
London Perrantes and Derrick White didn’t play against the Magic. It’s either rest for the two or potentially there being no room for them to play. 15 players received on-court time, including guards Darrun Hilliard, Brandon Paul and Bryn Forbes.
Hilliard is on a two-way contract, so his spot is likely in the G-League. Forbes’s scoring punch wasn’t seen as much on Tuesday (7 points in 17 minutes), but the upside he showed against the Nuggets (20 points) staked a solid case for him to crack the rotation as a backup guard.
Paul is on a guaranteed deal for the next two seasons and a potential lock to make the team. He played just 6 minutes in the fourth preseason game, though. Is that a sign for his minutes to begin the regular season?
If that’s the case, it shows how deep the Spurs’ bench is. One, maybe two, guards will be on the outside looking in. Who won’t crack the Opening night rotation?
Next: Rudy Gay comes off the bench
Rudy Gay comes off the bench
After not playing in the first game, Rudy Gay received playing time in the last two contests, starting both of them. He played 22 minutes in the second start and scored 11 points.
For the fourth preseason game, Gay came off the bench to play 20 minutes (scoring 13 points), while Kyle Anderson received the start. If it looked like a surprise, it shouldn’t, because it’s the likely way the Spurs will use the 31-year-old forward for the 2017-18 season.
With a lineup of Dejounte Murray, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, it leaves Gay as the odd man out. His natural position is small forward, which is firmly occupied by Leonard. That leaves the sixth man spot open, or at least a share of it, with Patty Mills who’s acted in this role for the past few seasons.
Giving Gay minutes off the bench starts the process of getting him accustomed to a new role, one that will potentially be permanent. He’s always started in his 11-year career, so how much offensive production he provides in a different role, along with coming off a serious injury, will be one of the Spurs’ storylines to watch in the 2017-18 season.