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San Antonio Spurs 2017-18 season: Player rankings for Week 1

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 18: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs talk during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 18, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 18: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 and Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs talk during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 18, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
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In the first edition of San Antonio Spurs player rankings, how do things stand in Week 1?

The San Antonio Spurs began their 2017-18 season on Wednesday, Oct. 18 and sit at 2-0. They defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls in Week 1, having a fast start and looking like the same, quality Spurs team of the past 20 years.

Through these two games, players stood out or underwhelmed for the Spurs. It’s early and the performance evaluations are only for 96 minutes of play, but could mean something for the remaining games in October and onward.

How do these Spurs players stack up against each other? Let’s look at the Week 1 player rankings for the top 10 contributors.

No. 10: Bryn Forbes

Not counting the 10 seconds Bryn Forbes played in the season opener, he received 16 minutes against the Chicago Bulls, a somewhat surprising development. However, with the Bulls playing smaller, athletic players for most of the game, it allowed Forbes to contribute more.

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The two-year pro had just 4 points on 2-for-7 shooting. Nothing special for his real season debut, but there’s time to establish himself before Tony Parker returns and shakes up the rotation.

By Monday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, we should get a better look at where Forbes stands. Will he receive similar playing time?

No. 9: Patty Mills

Fresh off a four-year, $50 million contract, Patty Mills has been quiet to start the 2017-18 season. He’s taken just six shots in about 44 minutes of play, totaling 5 points. The most recent performance saw Mills go just 1-for-2 from the field.

Mills is known for his outside shooting, so this slow start shouldn’t last long. He’ll be an offensive weapon off the bench and the co-sixth man with Rudy Gay, so there’s no cause for concern, yet.

If the Aussie struggles shooting, will it impact his playing time when Parker returns? Maybe not as much as if Forbes finds trouble, but with Dejounte Murray establishing himself, it could be an early-season storyline.

Next: No. 8 and 7

No. 8: Joffrey Lauvergne

Through two games, Joffrey Lauvergne hasn’t set the world on fire with his play, but he’s done enough to be a capable backup big man. This is with 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds on 33 percent shooting.

With Lauvergne as the lone backup center, he’ll get minutes no matter how good or bad he plays. That’s the risk the Spurs took with acquiring just one true big man in the offseason, relying on Rudy Gay as a stretch four and backup in smaller lineups.

The Frenchman won’t stand out but can do some of the little things to contribute on offense. This includes working around the rim, making the extra pass or two and being a big body to fight in the paint.

Manu brought the intensity off the bench last night ? https://t.co/GRfMuOBS8n

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 22, 2017

No. 7: Manu Ginobili

The Manu Ginobili of 2017-18 looks similar to the Manu Ginobili of 2016-17. He’s scoring between 5-10 points per game, handling the ball and taking a fair amount of 3-point shots (7 through the first two games). Along with quality defense, it’s what the Spurs are going to get from him for this season.

Ginobili played over 20 minutes in both games, but that probably won’t last. When Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard return, they’ll clog minutes and reduce the time for the 40-year-old, who can use the rest as the season progresses.

Next: No. 6 and 5

No. 6: Kyle Anderson

For however long Kawhi Leonard is out, Kyle Anderson will be in the starting lineup, based on how head coach Gregg Popovich used him in the preseason and the first two games. Anderson averaged 30 minutes, 8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. It’s obviously not the offense output of the usual starter at small forward — nor should that have been expected — but it’s enough in spot duty.

This extra playing time helps Anderson’s value, as he’s a restricted free agent in July 2018. How well he produces in this extended look remains to be seen. It will make the San Antonio Spurs think on if they want to match an offer sheet or, like Jonathon Simmons, let him walk. 80 games are left, so this test is far from over.

No. 5: Danny Green

Perhaps the quietest beneficiary of Leonard’s injury, Danny Green has benefited on the offensive end through two games. He averaged 12.5 shots per game — nearly double his attempts per game from 2016-17 — and had 12.5 points. It’s on 44 percent shooting from the field and 3-point range.

Green will receive these added offensive opportunities as long as Leonard remains hurt. He won’t be the No. 2 scorer the Spurs need, but the same reliable 3-point shooter that tops 10 points on occasion.

The defensive prowess can’t be forgotten, either. He’s still one of the best perimeter defenders and offers the most value in this role.

Next: No. 4 and 3

No. 4: Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol returned back for his second season in San Antonio. At age 37 and a decreasingly mobile center, it’s not the same version of this future Pro Basketball Hall of Famer fans were used to in the 2000’s and early 2010’s. Athletic big men will run circles around him, as seen with Lauri Markkanen‘s performance on Saturday night.

Gasol will continue to get between 20-30 minutes per game, as seen in his first two outings. It depends on the type of lineups teams throw at the Spurs, usually if it’s small ball. He can’t defend quicker big men, so look for Popovich to sit him against the unconventional lineups.

Rudy to Patty to LA pic.twitter.com/Tk7VIIXeRj

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 22, 2017

No. 3: Rudy Gay

As expected, Rudy Gay became a bench player for the San Antonio Spurs — their best one. He played a combined 45 minutes in the first two games, averaging 13 points, 4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 50 percent shooting. This didn’t include any made 3-pointers, but the 31-year-old has done an adequate job off the bench as arguably the team’s No. 2 scorer.

Gay will remain off the bench for most of the season, if not all of it, barring injuries. He’s best suited as a scoring threat that enters the game in the middle of the first quarter, bringing energy and talent that can top most teams’ options off the pine.

Next: No. 2 and 1

No. 2: Dejounte Murray

Taking over the No. 2 spot in the San Antonio Spurs player rankings, Dejounte Murray flashed his potential in both regular-season games. He not only found ways to score but used his seven-foot wingspan (he stands at 6-foot-5) to wreak havoc on defense and grab rebounds. This included 7.5 rebounds per game and 2 steals.

Popovich showed confidence in giving Murray the starting role over Patty Mills, who returned to his usual bench role after re-signing in the offseason. So far, he delivered solid results that will potentially translate against the better starting point guards in the NBA.

The biggest question will be Tony Parker. He could return in a little over one month, which puts Murray’s starting spot in jeopardy. If Popovich feels confident enough in his young point guard, however, will he remain the starter over the loyal veteran?

LA finishes the first road game with 28 points and 10 rebounds.

His second consecutive double-double. pic.twitter.com/Mpge9axkGR

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 22, 2017

No. 1: LaMarcus Aldridge

The San Antonio Spurs’ best player, by far, was LaMarcus Aldridge through two games. He posted two double-double’s, both of which were for 25-plus points and 10 rebounds. This came from developing a rhythm early and often, as he took over the offense and looked like his old Portland Trail Blazer self.

This main offensive role will last as long as Kawhi Leonard is out — the No. 1 spot in the rankings, too. With no timetable for his return, this offense is Aldridge’s.

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If this double-double pace continues, the five-time All-Star will return to the game that celebrates the NBA’s best players in February. That’s far away but remains an option if he continues to play inspired basketball.

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