With the postseason around the corner, the San Antonio Spurs must decide who will be their go-to guy in clutch situations during the playoffs.
The San Antonio Spurs are in the postseason for the 22nd year in a row.
That is a particularly incredible achievement considering they’ve had to overcome adversity all season long and were dealing with more roster turnover than they ever have during the Gregg Popovich era.
Unlike last season when the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs were ousted by the Warriors in the first round, San Antonio has another star alongside LaMarcus Aldridge to help carry the offensive load down the stretch in close games in DeMar DeRozan.
Aldridge and DeRozan have taken turns taking over in the fourth quarter all season long, and I suspect they will continue that trend to some extent in the playoffs.
However, one of them is likely to emerge as the alpha dog when the chips are down in a win or go home situation this postseason.
Who should that be, and will Pop choose the right man for the job?
Next: DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan has had an up-and-down year during his first season in San Antonio, but there’s no doubt that he and LaMarcus are the Spurs’ most reliable offensive players.
Unfortunately, DeRozan’s playoff record during his time in Toronto is spotty at best.
He averaged over 20 points per game in each of his five playoff runs with the Raptors, but he was often extremely inefficient scoring the basketball.
While DeMar did maintain a true shooting percentage of 55% in the postseason of 2014 and 53.3% in 2017, DeRozan’s true shooting percentage hovered around 46% during the 2015 and 2016 playoffs and he finished his most recent postseason with a TS% of just 51.1%.
DeRozan has taken 2.4 field goal attempts per game in clutch situations during the regular seasons compared to Aldridge’s 1.5 because DeMar is able to create his own shot a bit easier from the guard position.
However, Aldridge has been more efficient with those attempts while DeMar has more clutch assists than the big man.
DeMar’s improved playmaking ability should help him avoid taking such bad shots in his first postseason run as a Spur, but it remains to be seen whether he can be called upon to score efficiently down the stretch in the playoffs.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge has the advantage of being in the Spurs’ system for the past four seasons, and he has earned the trust of Gregg Popovich during that time.
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Aldridge’s playoff performance has been up-and-down during his time in San Antonio, but he’s averaged over 20 points per game in two of the last three postseasons.
LaMarcus had a true shooting percentage of 57.9% on 27.7% usage during his first playoff run with the Spurs in 2016, and he maintained a 59.9% true shooting percentage on 27.8% usage last postseason despite being the only credible offensive weapon on that team.
He was much worse in the 2017 playoffs, but it looks like he’s learned something from those struggles to bounce back strong last season.
His playoff numbers as a Spur are much-improved from his postseason stats as a Trailbazer where he never had a true shooting percentage of over 52% during his five playoff runs in Portland.
Aldridge shot 51.7% from the field on 1.5 attempts per game in clutch situations during the regular season this year, but he doesn’t offer the same playmaking ability that DeRozan does when the defense crashes down on him.
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With all that said, I believe Pop will, and should, draw up more plays for LMA than DeRozan down the stretch because of Aldridge’s proven playoff record in San Antonio and the years of trust they’ve built up between each other.