San Antonio Spurs: Cause and effect of Kawhi Leonard’s return

Kawhi Leonard’s return cleared up some of the San Antonio Spurs’ rotation questions.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich tinkered with his lineups throughout the first two months of the 2017-18 season. Without Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and others for short or long stretches, different players stepped up and provided a spark that gave the team a 19-8 record (before Tuesday’s loss).

After Tuesday night’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Spurs have just one player left on the injury report: Anderson, with a sprained MCL. Leonard returned, in case you didn’t hear, and received the start, which shortened the injury list. He played 16 minutes.

The extra healthy players always meant someone would fall from the rotation. It wasn’t clear who, at least before the Dallas game. The situation didn’t even clear way, but there’s some indication of the direction Popovich will go.

Rudy Gay, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili were all givens to stick in the rotation. Even if all three don’t receive 20 minutes per game, like they did against the Mavericks, none of them stand to lose anything more than a minute or two from their average.

Bryn Forbes spent 21 minutes on the court, but only went 2-for-8 from the field for 6 points. He’s struggled at times in December. Otherwise, the second-year pro has found success as a shooter off the bench. Over 20 minutes per game may not be in his future, but something like 12-16 sounds about right at full strength.

Davis Bertans, Joffrey Lauvergne, Dejounte Murray and Brandon Paul all played, meaning the Spurs didn’t have a “DNP-Coach’s Decision.” However, none of these players had more than 6 minutes and Lauvergne was the only one that scored.

Bertans didn’t appear until the fourth quarter. Not the best thing for a player that’s at the edge of the rotation. There’s always use for a player to stretch the floor, except the Spurs have half-a-dozen of them on the bench.

Lauvergne remains the only true big man off the bench. Though, Popovich uses Gay as an undersized four at a 20-plus minute clip, which allows Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge to trade bench minutes.

As for Murray and Paul, they’re buried behind a handful of guards at the one and two. Leonard’s return only pushes them further away. Unless injuries hit, look for them to be on the outside looking in.

After Friday’s game against the Houston Rockets and when Anderson returns, we’ll get a clearer picture. For now, the rotation looks set.

Load Comments