Let’s look back at Joffrey Lauvergne’s season for the San Antonio Spurs.
When the San Antonio Spurs signed Joffrey Lauvergne in the 2017 offseason, he seemed to be the first of two or three backup big men behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol to be signed. That never happened, as the Spurs did not acquire another center or power forward, instead opting to use Davis Bertans to stretch the defense and Rudy Gay as an undersized four.
That would mean Lauvergne has his biggest role yet in the NBA, right?
Wrong — at least if fans look at his 9.7 minutes per game, which became a career-low for the Frenchman.
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Lauvergne actually played somewhat heavy minutes for a backup center in the first three games: 12, 17 and 16, respectively. Early but it was a trajectory towards his 17.6 minutes per game with the Denver Nuggets in 2015-16.
However, a sprained ankle derailed Lauvergne in the season’s third game. This took him out for three weeks, part of which saw him come back healthy but not receive playing time.
From there, it was a complicated process for Lauvergne to reenter the rotation permanently. Bertans played his way into a regular role, while Gay took over 20 minutes off the bench, in a role next to Aldridge or Gasol to give lineups the shooting that combats the modern-day NBA. Partly due to this, Lauvergne only picked up double-digit minute totals in 21 games after Nov. 14.
There was an outlier amongst these 21 performances, however: the 26 points and 11 rebounds on the final day before the All-Star break, against the Denver Nuggets, when Aldridge was out and the Spurs desperately needed scoring production. Surprisingly, this came from Lauvergne’s scoring total on 12-for-15 shooting. No one saw that coming, and it was by far his best game of the season.
This game kept Lauvergne in the rotation until Mar. 15, which started his run of six “Did Not Play” tags in the final 14 games. Of the eight games, the 26 year old played, he had more than five minutes of court time twice. Four of them were in garbage duty, playing in fewer than one minute per outing.
Earlier this season, around the time Kawhi Leonard went down, Pounding the Rock preached to not “hate” on Lauvergne. He flashed some skills in an abbreviated role, including passing and finding a knack to grab rebounds as not the strongest or quickest big man in the league. Heck, he even had a 109 Offense Rating (second best of his career) and a cool 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in limited time.
In a changing landscape, though, there just was not a consistent spot for Lauvergne. Couple that with depth at guard that consumed most of this rotation, and it put him at a disadvantage.
This might not be the end of Lauvergne’s run in San Antonio, as he can opt into the second season of his two-year deal. It’s only for $1.6 million, according to Basketball-Reference, but would another organization offer something greater than this?
If the Spurs turn their roster over more than anyone expects, it’s possible they can trade or release Lauvergne and absorb a financial hit. It limits them, but that’s if the player even opts into 2018-19. This is just one of multiple storylines for the organization this summer, so let’s see what develops.