The NBA offseason is finally over as the San Antonio Spurs play host to the Miami Heat to commence the 2018 preseason.
It’s been out with the old and in with new in San Antonio this summer. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Joffrey Lauvergne and Brandon Paul found their way out the door. In their place, DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Marco Belinelli, Dante Cunningham, Quincy Pondexter, Lonnie Walker IV and Chimezie Metu have found a new home.
The Spurs are certainly not the same team from a season ago, but as long as head coach Gregg Popovich is running the show, don’t expect any sweeping changes. Locking down on defense and taking care of the ball will continue to sit atop his pyramid of priorities.
As for the visiting Miami Heat, it was an unusually quiet offseason for a usually busy team. With the exception of a few fringe opening day hopefuls, they’re quite literally a spitting image of last year’s troop.
Despite little to no improvements across the roster and internal drama surrounding disgruntled big man Hassan Whiteside, the Heat look poised for yet another middle of the pack finish within the Eastern Conference. While Jimmy Butler trade chatter has roused the fanbase, it’d be wise for the Miami faithful to tamp down their expectations.
Viewing details for the game are below:
Date: Sunday, Sept. 30Time: 4:00 p.m. CSTLocation: San Antonio, TXVenue: AT&T CenterTV Info: FSSUN, NBA TVLive Stream: FOX Sports GO, NBA League Pass
What might we learn about the new look Spurs in game one of the preseason? Let’s take a deeper dive.
What to watch for in the first game of the preseason
San Antonio’s 2018-2019 squad is nearly unrecognizable from years past. With change comes growing pains, and game one of the Spurs preseason is sure to have its fair share of highlights and hiccups.
Coach Pop has rarely let rookies loose for major minutes in the preseason, so don’t expect to see too much of rookies Lonnie Walker, Chimezie Metu, Jaron Blossomgame and Drew Eubanks. They’ll find time to shine and showcase their skills before the regular season starts, but they’ll have to earn those minutes just like every other Spur on the team.
Though rookies will scratch and claw for precious playing time, veterans and role players should have more than enough minutes to go around. The Spurs have always preserved their starters regardless of the circumstances, so look for rotational players to solidify their role within San Antonio’s system.
Keep an especially close eye on second-year combo guard Derrick White. The former Colorado Buff standout had an awesome Summer League campaign and Manu’s recent retirement will grant him the opportunity to seize significant responsibilities in 2018-2019.
The same goes for Latvian sharpshooter Davis Bertans. With the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Anderson, a huge hole was left in the Spurs rotation. Luckily for the third-year stretch four, San Antonio paid him this summer and he’s seemingly slated to eat up a good chunk of the minutes left behind in their wake.
Perhaps the most interesting storyline to follow this preseason is the battle of the big men in the Alamo City. 17-year vet Pau Gasol holds the title of Spurs starting center for now, but newcomer Jakob Poeltl is hot on his tail. While Gasol holds the edge in floor spacing and basketball IQ, Poeltl’s superior mobility and capacity to protect the rim could prove invaluable to San Antonio in today’s small-ball NBA.
The rest of San Antonio’s starting lineup leaves little to analyze. Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, and LaMarcus Aldridge secured their spots in the Spurs starting lineup long ago. Rudy Gay’s starting status is questionable, but few challengers seem worthy to fill his shoes.
What can we expect from DeMar DeRozan?
One new face to keep an eye on is four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan. After an abrupt trade from the Toronto Raptors, the 29-year-old shooting guard hasn’t been shy about his intentions to put the league on notice.
DeRozan is improbable to log significant minutes in his Spurs debut, but he’s hungry to prove himself and he’ll have the freedom to do so. More importantly, he’ll have the chance to build chemistry with his new teammates in a live game situation.
A major question mark surrounding the union of DeMar and the Spurs is their ability to space the floor. He’s never been much of a threat beyond the arc, but any concerns regarding their fit should be thrown out the door.
Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coaches the game has ever seen and DeMar DeRozan has continued to expand his range as he’s aged. Last year he set a career-high for three-pointers made and I expect him to continue to trend in that direction.
San Antonio Spurs fans have plenty to be excited for as we head into a new NBA season. The roster is flush with young talent, proven veterans line the bench and a new All-Star has come to town.
While the Heat are far from a formidable foe, the Spurs likely lack the familiarity to dominate a team from start to finish.
All the pieces may not fit together perfectly in the first go-round against Miami, but give it some time and Spurs will be up and running like a well-oiled machine.