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San Antonio Spurs: Ins and outs of the rotation after Kawhi Leonard returns

By Rob Wolkenbrod
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots a free throw during the game against the Golden State Warriors during Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 14, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 14: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots a free throw during the game against the Golden State Warriors during Game One of the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 14, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Kawhi Leonard’s return will likely kick someone out of the San Antonio Spurs rotation.

At this point, it’s no secret that Kawhi Leonard will soon make his season debut for the San Antonio Spurs. He alluded to it before Monday’s win over the Detroit Pistons. The Spurs have gone 24 games without him in the lineup, accumulating a 16- 8 record.

Without Leonard, it’s allowed players to step up and take roles not expected of them, at least when the season started. Most notably, Kyle Anderson, who started the first 23 games of the campaign, before injuring his knee on Sunday night.

Unfortunately, for some players, the opportunity will end soon. There’s only so many that head coach Gregg Popovich can deploy in his rotation, meaning there will be one or two “DNP-Coach’s Decisions” incoming.

“I feel good. Soon I’ll be able to play on the floor.” – Kawhi pic.twitter.com/BiBil9nl8a

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 5, 2017

Who’s in?

Bryn Forbes may not receive ample playing time but there’s a spot for him — as long as he’s hitting 3-point shots. Aside from the past two games, the second-year pro hit multiple shots per game, behind the arc, throughout November. It earned him a consistent spot in the rotation. But, once the team gets healthy, he must fight to keep that playing time.

Joffrey Lauvergne won’t leave the rotation, as he’s the lone, pure backup big man to LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. He won’t receive heavy minutes but it’s difficult to see him departing the rotation. Although, Lauvergne didn’t play on Monday, potentially due to the dislocated finger he suffered.

Davis Bertans has played his way into the lineup. Sure, he’s flawed and strictly shoots 3-pointers, but there’s room for him as a stretch four in situational moments of the game. Plus, the Latvian forward displayed some defensive prowess against the Thunder, totaling 4 blocks. It was reminiscent of his EuroBasket performance.

THREEEEE DAVIS!

Spurs take the lead! pic.twitter.com/xCn28p0s0M

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 5, 2017

Who’s out?

It starts with Brandon Paul, who’s seen his time dwindle since a positive, early-season performance. He’s played in double-digit minutes just twice since Nov. 14, one of which came when Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay were all rested.

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A handful of minute-less games may be imminent for the former Illinois guard. Especially when Anderson returns, likely after Leonard. There just won’t be room while the two and three spots get filled.

Derrick White won’t come as a surprise. He recently returned from a fractured wrist, played against the Oklahoma City Thunder and found himself at the end of the bench vs. Detroit. A healthy Spurs rotation potentially pushes him to the G-League, and for the long term.

Don’t rule out Dejounte Murray receiving a few DNP’s. His playing time dwindled once Parker returned, seeing 10 minutes or fewer in each game the latter was available for. With Leonard and Anderson’s ability to handle the ball, it lessens the need for the young Murray to play.

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Whether it’s Wednesday or Friday, we’ll soon find out who, if anyone, gets dropped from the rotation. Which player would be your choice?

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