San Antonio Spurs: DeMar DeRozan’s arrival shakes up crowded position
By Rob Wolkenbrod
DeMar DeRozan joined the San Antonio Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard trade, but other Spurs may be impacted by the move.
With the acquisition of DeMar DeRozan from the Toronto Raptors, the San Antonio Spurs bolstered their backcourt, with a player considered one of the NBA’s best shooting guards to line up next to Dejounte Murray. That’s fine, but it’s an addition at a position the Spurs were already loaded at.
Even with Danny Green‘s involvement in the Kawhi Leonard trade, the Spurs still substituted one shooting guard for another, adding to a group that featured Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White. If Manu Ginobili chooses to play next season, he only adds to the mix.
So how will the DeRozan acquisition impact these players? Let’s take a look:
Bryn Forbes returned to the San Antonio Spurs on a two-year contract this summer, marking one of the final free-agent moves, for now. He will play through years three and four in San Antonio after it signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
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Forbes found a consistent bench role in the 2017-18 season, mostly as instant offense that could stretch the floor, on a Spurs team that finished near the bottom of the NBA in three-point percentage. For 2018-19, that will potentially be the same.
Can Forbes replicate the 19 minutes per game he received last season, however? With DeRozan in town, who will likely take over 30 minutes per game, that may cut into the Michigan State’s on-court time. There’s even a chance for him to land at the end of the bench, if the Spurs waive Brandon Paul before the Aug. 1 deadline.
Forbes’ playing time could become a main casualty of DeRozan’s arrival. If anything, he will need to outplay San Antonio’s first-round picks of the past two seasons or hope Manu Ginobili retires this summer.
Next: Derrick White
The San Antonio Spurs basically placed a redshirt on Derrick White last season, their 2017 first-round pick. Despite the frequent call-ups to the NBA, White stuck in the G League for most of the season, including contributions towards Austin’s championship campaign.
As with Dejounte Murray, the Spurs may choose to throw White into the NBA rotation to start the season. He flashed enough in Austin and the Summer League to warrant a spot, with consistent 20-point games, but where is there room for him?
White’s main competition may come from Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker IV, as all three young guards jockey for position in the rotation. If Manu Ginobili retires, there may be room for all of them behind DeRozan. If not, who gets squeezed out?
There’s a case for Forbes, and there’s a case for White, who will go head-to-head with the aforementioned guards for playing time. He may have to prove himself, whether it’s the preseason or make due with little playing time to start the year, only to carve out a larger role from there. And it does not help if any of those guards get hot for a multi-game stretch from the field.
What can go White’s way, though? If Walker starts the season in the G League and goes the redshirt route. If that happens, a clearer path opens for the Colorado product in the NBA.
Next: Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili’s role stays status quo, no matter what happens for the rest of the offseason. As long as he plays for the San Antonio Spurs, there should be 15-20 minutes per game available over 60-65 appearances.
However, as of July 20, Ginobili has yet to announce his playing intentions for the 2018-19 season.
Ginobili’s departure would free up space for San Antonio’s young guards, allowing them room to grow in what could be one of the organization’s most interesting seasons. The Kawhi Leonard trade should open that path for youth to flourish and contribute towards a potential playoff team, and the Argentinian star’s absence trends towards that direction.
If Ginobili stays, he should reclaim his regular role behind DeMar DeRozan and act as a mentor for the young players, especially with Tony Parker‘s departure. With all the first, second or third-year players on the team, they can use a veteran voice.
Ginobili could sway the Spurs’ guard rotation either way, and may be something that comes to fruition soon. How many minutes will he receive if he returns?
Next: Marco Belinelli
Marco Belinelli’s arrival to the San Antonio Spurs, on a two-year, $12 million deal, means he’s likely in for a significant role as someone that stretches the floor. This can take place at shooting guard or an undersized small forward, so no matter how much playing time DeMar DeRozan receives, Belinelli should not be impacted.
Since the 2012-13 season, Belinelli has not averaged more than 26 minutes per game, and most of it has happened off the bench, as a sixth or seventh man. If that’s the case, it’s bound to cut into potential playing time for the young guards, especially if he subs in for DeRozan or enters the game to play next to him.
Belinelli’s role as a two or three, that’s mostly known for his three-point shooting, will allow him to find a consistent spot. Along with a career 37.7 percent three-point shooting mark, it backs up his case to take a marquee role to start the season.
Look for Belinelli to take a backup role to DeRozan or potentially start at the three, depending on how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sets up the lineup. It reduces the roles of others competing for time, so let’s see how it plays out with this group.
Next: Lonnie Walker IV
Lonnie Walker IV
Lonnie Walker IV could become the wild card of the rotation fallout. As the No. 20 pick, one would think he finds a spot with the San Antonio Spurs to start the 2018-19 season, but the past two years do not indicate that it will become the case.
As noted, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White spent most of their first seasons in the G League, which allowed them significant time in lower pressure situations. That’s unlike the NBA level, where there’s competition for playing time in a high profile environment. Both players flourished in Austin.
Will the Spurs take the same route for Walker? For now, it’s unknown, but DeRozan’s arrival, and Ginobili’s potential return, could make this possible.
With Belinelli, DeRozan, Forbes, Ginobili and White all in the mix — even Patty Mills in certain lineups — it allows the Spurs to not rush Walker into action and let him develop for the next 12 months. Sure, there will potentially be the weekly call-ups since Austin is not far from San Antonio, but San Antonio can rely on its more experienced players while allowing their first-round pick to thrive in a starting role and prepare for 2019-20.
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If the Silver and Black opt to not do this, Walker will have a tough task to find consistent playing time. The rookie-season upside is no more than 15-20 minutes per game, rather than the 25-30 in the G League.