San Antonio Spurs: Three breakout players for 2018-19
The San Antonio Spurs have a lot of young talent on this roster. Who are the three players primed for a breakout year in 2018-19?
San Antonio Spurs fans were probably more excited for the season a couple of weeks ago before injuries have affected many of their promising players.
Dejounte Murray would’ve surely made this list before he suffered a season-ending ACL injury last week.
Lonnie Walker was a candidate for a breakout year as the Spurs’ first round rookie, but he will miss the first six-to-eight weeks with a meniscus injury. And now Derrick White will be sidelined for a similar amount of time with a preseason heel injury.
Fortunately, San Antonio has plenty of other young talent on their roster that can step up to support their two All-NBA players.
Here are the three Spurs I expect to have a breakout season:
Next: Jakob Poeltl
DeMar DeRozan was obviously the headline piece of the Kawhi Leonard trade, but the Spurs were extremely excited to acquire a young center with the talent of Jakob Poeltl in that deal.
The former Utah Ute was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft and he showed some promise in his rookie year before emerging as a legitimate role player for a very good Raptors team last season.
Poeltl scored 6.9 points with a true shooting percentage of 66.2% last year while grabbing 4.8 rebounds and blocking 1.2 shots in 18.6 minutes per game.
Poeltl has the potential to become the type of dominant rim-protector on the defensive end and a rim-runner on the offensive end that the Spurs haven’t had in the past couple of years.
I expect him to seize the starting center job at some point this season on his way to a breakout year.
Next: Bryn Forbes
The recent rash of injuries at the guard position has opened up an opportunity for Bryn Forbes to play a larger role in his third season with the Spurs.
Forbes excelled as a three-point specialist last season as he hit 39 percent of his shots from behind the arc on 2.9 attempts in his 19 minutes per game. However, he didn’t do much else as he only averaged 1 assist and 1.4 rebounds per night.
Forbes wasn’t much of a distributor in college either, but he earned the start at point guard in Friday’s preseason game against the Magic.
The Spurs likely won’t ask Forbes to handle the ball a ton if he begins the regular season as the nominal point guard as DeMar DeRozan will be the main playmaker in the starting lineup.
I think Forbes’ three-point shooting would make him a good fit with the starters, and he has the potential to fill it up from deep this season.
Next: Derrick White
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Yes, I’m aware that Derrick White will miss the first six-to-eight weeks of the year with a left plantar fascia tear. However, I don’t think that will prevent him from breaking out in his second NBA season.
White didn’t get much playing time with the Spurs as a first-round rookie, but he was excellent in the G League last year and Gregg Popovich has praised White’s development leading up to the regular season.
“He’s a really steady player,” Popovich said in early October. “He’s a good shooter, makes good decisions. He’s a good passer.”
Once White is healthy, he has a good shot at reclaiming the starting point guard spot after a good showing in his one preseason start.
White scored 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting with six rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal in 29 minutes agains the Hawks. Those are the type of numbers the Spurs would love to get from their point guard night in and night out this season.
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It’s possible that White’s injury lingers all year long and prevents him from being effective when he gets back on the court. But if he can return to full health after the first two months of the season, he is still in a good position to have a big year.