With Manu Ginobili’s retirement announcement, several San Antonio Spurs stand to benefit from increased playing time.
The 2017-18 offseason has not been kind to San Antonio Spurs fans. Tony Parker left the team to join former Spurs assistant and current Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego in the Queen City. After months of turmoil and dissension, the Spurs traded the heir-apparent to the franchise in Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors. And to top it all off, Spurs legend Manu Ginobili announced on Monday that he would be retiring from the NBA after 16 seasons repping the Silver and Black.
While Ginobili’s retirement is yet another psychological blow, leaving the team without additional hardened veteran with a championship pedigree, his departure opens up the opportunity for other players to absorb more valuable minutes.
Which Spurs players will gain the most from Ginobili’s absence on the roster next season?
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3. Bryn Forbes
While the re-signing of Forbes baffled some Spurs fans, considering the bevy of options already available at the guard position and the severe void that existed at the center position, the Michigan State product is back and ready to build on a much-improved sophomore campaign.
Forbes saw action in nearly every regular season game last year (80) and averaged nearly 20 minutes a game. Although Ginobili’s departure will open up an avenue for increased court time, I suspect the uptick will only be minor.
Forbes has an advantage compared to other players on the bench, coming into his third year within the Spurs system, but the issue with Forbes will be his one-dimensionality and unproven playmaking abilities. Forbes’ ability to knock down the three-point shot, which he did at a 39 percent clip a season ago, marking the best percentage of any Spurs player (min. 50 attempts), will be the greatest asset that he can contribute. However, it may be his only one.
Undersized at the shooting guard position, Forbes is a liability on the defensive end and his inability to effectively guard across multiple positions will hinder his ceiling within the Spurs’ framework.
Next: 2. Derrick White
2. Derrick White
Fresh off of a G-League championship with the Austin Spurs, White lit up the Utah Summer League in a similar manner Bryn Forbes did the previous summer. That said, the White hype-train is ready to leave the station.
The Spurs’ 2017 first round pick spent almost his entire rookie season playing for the organization’s G-League affiliate, only recording 139 minutes of big league action in San Antonio. However, with the departures of Parker and Ginobili, White is well-positioned to see a major increase in playing time, serving as the team’s third point guard option behind Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills.
Further, because of his size and versatility White can even play off-ball in sets with Mills, giving the Spurs multiple shooters and playmaking ball-handlers on the court at the same time on their bench unit. Plus, if White’s shooting stroke carries over from the summer he’ll have no problem seeing the court.
While seeing White dominate in the summer league was an encouraging sight for Spurs fans, one has to remember that it was only just that: summer league. However, White looked like a more confident player who was able to assert his will offensively to get to his spots, knock down threes and get others involved. That’s exactly what Coach Popovich and the staff will want White to do with his allotted time and I think he’s more than capable of meeting those expectations and exceeding them.
Next: 1. Lonnie Walker
1. Lonnie Walker
While a strong case could have been made for letting Walker take a red-shirt year to develop in the G-League the same way Derrick White did, Ginobili’s departure gives the Spurs a compelling reason to throw their 2018 first round draft selection into the fire sooner rather than later.
Because of Walker’s freakish athleticism, he has actually drawn some comparisons to Ginobili, with respect to how the Spurs will want to integrate Walker into the flow of the system.
“The one thought that went through my head when (Walker) would use some of that athleticism and do something a little off the cuff, I started to think about Manu when he was young,” Popovich said during a media session this summer.
From a teaching and learning perspective, perhaps Ginobili’s presence on the roster would have allowed Walker to ease himself into the NBA game while being able to lean on the guidance of a 4-time champion. However, sometimes the best experience is just plain experience. Walker is an extremely talented and exciting prospect but he will undoubtedly have his rookie struggles but I believe the Spurs are confident in letting Walker navigate those bumps in the road during the regular season.
Often picking in the latter third of the first round, the Spurs are very rarely in a position to draft a blue-chip player like Walker, who most basketball pundits pegged as a surefire lottery pick despite dropping all the way to pick18 where the Spurs selected him. A scrappy defender who plays with his head above the rim, Walker’s minutes will fluctuate based on how Pop wants to stagger all of his guards but of all the ones mentioned thus far, Walker has the greatest potential to carve out a significant role in the rotation even if he starts off a little bit raw.
Ginobili’s retirement has cleared up one piece in the Spurs’ guard logjam, which will hopefully allow players like Walker, White and Forbes the opportunity to make an impact off the bench and continue the Spurs’ trend of having an elite bench-scoring unit.