Which San Antonio Spurs will lead the way in scoring in the 2018-19 season?
Once September nears its end, the San Antonio Spurs will retake the floor for preparation for the 2018-19 season. With a revamped roster and old, veteran faces elsewhere, a new-look team will take over the AT&T Center this season.
Those new faces are set to become stalwarts in the team’s scoring for 2018-19, especially near the top. Secondary pieces also filed in this summer, so how will they impact the game-to-game outcomes once the fall arrives?
The Spurs had lopsided scoring averages in 2017-18, starting with LaMarcus Aldridge‘s totals and a drop-off from there. Does that imply similar expectations for the new group?
Let’s look at the projected top-five scorers for 2018-19 and how much they may average:
5. Marco Belinelli: 9.5 points per game
Marco Belinelli returned to the San Antonio Spurs on a two-year, $12 million contract to supply three-point shooting, which was on the wrong side of the 30-team equation in 2017-18. If relied on heavily for this, he should push 10 points per game in the 2018-19 season.
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Belinelli crossed double-digit point averages in each of the past three seasons, something he failed to do in his previous eight seasons. Mostly with quality three-point shooting (aside from an outlier year with the Sacramento Kings in 2015-16), he consistently brought 3-5 outside shot attempts per game for averages that usually crossed 35 percent.
With the Spurs from 2013-15, Belinelli did not reach career-highs in points per game, but he shot 40.5 percent from distance, the highest percentage of any team he’s played on. If coach Gregg Popovich can work this from the Italian guard again, it would not be a surprise to find him towards the top of the stat sheet on some nights, especially if he pushes 25 minutes per game.
Belinelli will not place as a main scoring option, given other pieces in place, but he’s a solid complementary option for a Spurs squad that needs outside shooting production.
Next: Marco Belinelli
4. Dejounte Murray: 11 points per game
Dejounte Murray finished his first full season with the San Antonio Spurs with 8.1 points per game, but in just 21.5 minutes. His Per 36 Minutes numbers projected at 13.5 points. In an 82-game slate as the starter at point guard, in 2018-19, look for Murray to take his Per Game averages to the ballpark of his Per 36 marks.
Murray should find his way into 25-30 minutes per game as the starter, with a longer leash, now that Tony Parker resides with the Charlotte Hornets. Patty Mills sits as the backup and could play over 20 minutes per game, but the main job belongs to the Washington production, who may see an uptick in production across the board.
As Murray develops his game, his role in the offense will increase. He acted in limited duty in 2017-18, but after offseason roster changes and an offseason under his belt, more scoring opportunities should be on the way. That’s especially if his three-point game comes around.
Murray might lead the Spurs in rebounding and assists on multiple nights, but scoring, will not be often. Even so, look for him to place near the top of the team’s leading scorers for 2018-19 and take an extra step as an offensive threat.
Next: Dejounte Murray
3. Rudy Gay: 12 points per game
Rudy Gay took a step back in his first season with the San Antonio Spurs, due to a sixth man role that was never seen with the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors or Sacramento Kings. So, Gay finished with 11.5 points in 57 games and a career-low 21.6 minutes.
The Spurs handed Gay a larger role than expected, even as a sixth man, however, as Kawhi Leonard missed all but nine games with a quadriceps injury. This moved everyone up in the scoring pecking order, making the UConn product the No. 2 man behind the new No. 1 option, LaMarcus Aldridge.
For someone just nine months past a ruptured Achilles, this was potentially more than anyone expected from Gay. He still played off the bench, but finished second on the 2017-18 Spurs in scoring.
In another year for San Antonio, look for Gay to take a step back in his role, as was expected before the last season. It might be in the ballpark of 12 points per game, which signifies a minor improvement, or drop towards 10 points, given the presence of DeMar DeRozan and other new faces.
No matter where Gay falls in a double-digit average, the third spot behind Aldridge and DeRozan will be there for him, unless someone else steps up. After injuries that limited him to just 87 games over the past two seasons, 2018-19 can represent a fallback year.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge
2. LaMarcus Aldridge: 19.5 points per game
LaMarcus Aldridge, after a revitalized season for the San Antonio Spurs, falls from 23 points per game to 19.5. That does not indicate a return to how he played from 2015-17, but the fact there’s another dynamic scorer in town; one who projects to be around for most of the season, pending injuries that arise.
Aldridge, at age 32, played 75 games (his highest total since 2010-11), averaged 23.1 points per game (percentage points of his career-high) and shot over 50 percent from the field for the fifth time in his 12-year career. Perhaps the biggest jump came from shot attempts per game, which skyrocketed from 14.4 in his first two Spurs seasons to 18 in 2017-18.
Why did everything soar? Without Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge led the Spurs in scoring in the majority of the team’s games and no one else was within an average of 10 points per game once the season ended. Thus, the return of a top-flight scoring option to play next to him will remove some pressure to perform and from the opposition’s double-team defense.
Aldridge averaged 18.7 points per game from 2015-17 when Leonard was around, so expect a drop with DeMar DeRozan around, even if the latter two offer different skill sets. In the range of 18-20 points per game makes sense, with fewer shot attempts, too.
Next: DeMar DeRozan
1. DeMar DeRozan: 21.5 points per game
The DeMar DeRozan experience will kick into gear for the San Antonio Spurs this season, as he arrives from the Toronto Raptors in the offseason’s blockbuster trade. Essentially as Kawhi Leonard’s role replacement, look for DeRozan to carve out a main offensive spot imminently.
In San Antonio, DeRozan may never reach 27.3 points or even 23 per game, given LaMarcus Aldridge’s presence and the aforementioned others. Though, another 20-point season should be on the way, especially in the middle of his prime and as an improved playmaker.
DeRozan does not possess the three-point shooting to be an elite presence, but he still manages to shoot nearly 50 percent inside the arc. That’s a classic look in a revolutionary league, and it may work for the regular season, but once the playoffs arrive, how far can that and a career 28.8 percent mark from behind the arc go?
When the Spurs face adversity, however, or questions on their success, they find ways to put doubt aside. Will DeRozan become the figurehead for this and push away the two-pointers galore speculation?
Either way, DeRozan will find himself at No. 2 or No. 1 in scoring when the season ends. Despite the outside shooting concerns, the NBA still works further from the basket than closer, and could mean he finds more opportunities hit mid-range shots and hit open teammates to play off the 5.2 assists per game from 2017-18.