With training camp just around the corner, Gregg Popovich will need to make his decision regarding the San Antonio Spurs starting rotation for 2019-20.
Rotations are fluid within the San Antonio Spurs’ system – a style in which the team is emphasized above the individual in a coordinated effort to attain victory. Part of the system is shedding yourself of ego and understanding that lineups are unpredictable. Spurs figurehead and all-time head coach Gregg Popovich brought the most dynamic player to fit in his system, Manu Ginobili, off the bench for the majority of his career, resulting in four championships.
After finishing as the seventh seed and getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season, San Antonio returns a healthy roster full of established vets and blossoming talent. Determining the ultimate positioning of each player in the rotation may prove difficult, but this group’s continuity and chemistry will shine above the pack.
Players will likely slot outside of their natural positions due to the roster construction and trends of the league, but each cohesive lineup provides enough versatility to be deadly in the long run. With playmakers slotting in at virtually every position, San Antonio’s storied ball movement will be revitalized and as a result, its players can flourish.
Floor spacing needs to be taken into consideration with the starting five, but a bench mob chock full of spacing and shooting should prove effective enough to counteract the team’s mediocre three-point shooting at the top of the depth chart.
Without further ado, here’s the projected starting lineup for the 2019-20 San Antonio Spurs – subject to change based on Pop’s discretion.
Next: Starting Point Guard
Point Guard: Dejounte Murray
When the time came for Tony Parker to decrease his role within the Spurs’ system, the franchise’s greatest point guard willingly and gracefully passed the mantle down to Dejounte Murray. Not only did TP9 offer him guidance and mentorship, but he provided a pivotal role in the young guard’s development which has proven to be similar to Parker’s own at that age.
It was settled at that point – Dejounte Murray is the Spurs point guard of the future and no ACL injury is going to derail that. After making a complete recovery and spending two consecutive offseasons expanding his repertoire, Murray is poised to return to San Antonio’s lineup with vigor and grace.
While Derrick White did an excellent job filling in for Murray for the time being, Murray remains the heart and soul of the team for his unwavering passion and dedication to the Spurs organization. This, combined with his championship mentality and endless work ethic, make him the ideal starting point guard for the Spurs organization.
After the 2018 All-Star Break, Murray played roughly 27 minutes per contest through 23 games and put up 10.5 points, 6.7 boards, 3.1 assists and two steals per game on his way to an All-Defensive selection at only 21 years old; the youngest player to ever earn that honor.
Dejounte is anticipated to show off an improved offensive arsenal including a more consistent three-point jumper in his third official season in the silver and black. DJ’s triumphant return to the hardwood is one of the most exciting storylines of the season for all of San Antonio and it’s only right that he reclaims his place as the starting point guard of this franchise.
Next: Starting Shooting Guard
Shooting Guard: Derrick White
Everything is falling into place for Derrick White heading into his third season. His breakout sophomore season was capped by a stellar playoff performance in spite of a rocky Game Seven performance. He carried the weight of that playoff loss into the Summer, where he reportedly locked himself in the gym to improve his three-point shot before standing out amongst some of the best talent in the sport at Team USA training camp.
White has a legitimate shot at competing in the FIBA World Cup under Popovich in a few weeks as he’s one of 15 remaining players to earn a spot on the 12-man roster. The 25-year-old has been praised as one of the best players on the court at any given moment for his extraordinary two-way effort, unwavering intensity as a scorer and foolproof court vision.
Derrick is stocky at 6-foot-4 with the length and athleticism to guard multiple positions, including the two-guard, where he’ll most likely be slotted in alongside Dejounte Murray. Similarly to his cohort in the backcourt, White displayed exceptional effort as a defender and was often tasked by Pop with guarding the best opposing player when necessary. This included some top-notch defensive performances against the likes of James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard.
Through 55 games as a starter, White averaged 11 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting from the floor and 34.9 percent shooting from deep. He managed to drop 4.1 dimes and 3.8 boards while averaging roughly a steal and a block per contest.
His skillset continues to grow with reps and practice, so the sky’s the limit for White in an increased role.
Next: Starting Small Forward
Small Forward: DeMar DeRozan
Although it’s not his natural position, wing DeMar DeRozan will slot in as the starting small forward for the Spurs out of necessity. Personally, I believe he’ll work best against two-guards because of his size advantage and isolation prowess, but the 6-foot-7 mid-range killer proved last season that he can slot in at the small forward and break down defenders just as well.
Some of the pressure is relieved from DeMar heading into next season – Dejounte’s return means that playmaking duties will simmer down and scoring opportunities could level up. His catch-and-shoot jumper and willfulness to shoot deep jumpers will be tested, especially with the ball out of his hands and a presumed lower usage rate. Still, there’s plenty of opportunity for DeRozan to emerge this season as an All-Star once again on the verge of contract negotiations.
DeRozan will be arguably the best free agent on the market in 2020 after the 2019 offseason saw many of the biggest names in the sport switch teams. As a result, lots of cap space was devoured and options could be limited, but DeRozan will work hard and prove himself worthy of another sizeable payday this year.
Outside noise will always play a factor for DeRozan and rightfully so, his playstyle is easy to scrutinize, and the results of his play can be wishy-washy. With that said, Spurs don’t care about outside noise – they prefer to fly under the radar and allow others to underrate them while they stick to their wits and devise game-winning strategies.
DeRozan fits in perfectly with the Spurs’ system and has done everything in his power to help this team reach success, starting at small forward is only a small piece of the puzzle.
Next: Starting Power Forward
Power Forward: Rudy Gay
Re-upping Rudy Gay on a two-year deal this offseason was not only a great team-building move, but it was a testament to the franchise’s culture. Few players have embodied the Spurs Way better than Gay in the Post-Big Three era because of his relentless efforts to maximize his game, condition his body and transform his play style.
It’s only right that he gets the start going into next season – although it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come off the bench from time to time. The addition of DeMarre Carroll can ease Gay’s workload with both players offering similar traits at the forward position. Still, his near 50-40-90 shooting splits and career-high 58.3 percent true shooting in the 2018-29 season will be extremely valuable for this year’s iteration of the team.
Rudy will serve as the primary floor spacer for this club and rightfully so, his catch-and-shoot three-point ability has greatly improved since coming to San Antonio. He made 39.2 percent of catch-and-shoot triples last year and is a candidate for regression this year, but Gay will have a lighter load to carry this year, so his percentages are anticipated to stay roughly the same.
There’s still a full arsenal of moves at his disposal – Gay remains one of the most reliable shot creators in the game with nifty slashing ability to complement it. There’s pretty much nothing he can’t do as a scorer and sometimes, you simply need a guy to buy a bucket, so having Rudy at the four-spot will be valuable.
If he can put on some weight and learn how to better defend players at the power forward slot, the Spurs will be a much more well-rounded team.
Next: Starting Center
Center: LaMarcus Aldridge
Sometimes star players need to make sacrifices for the greater good of their team and unfortunately for LaMarcus Aldridge, this means he’ll need to accept playing at the starting center position for the time being. His disdain for playing the five-spot has been lauded for quite some time but San Antonio lacks the center depth to justify starting Jakob Poeltl alongside him. It’s still quite possible and in certain cases, I’m sure we’ll see the traditional two-big lineup in action, but Popovich is going to need to conserve his bigs.
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LaMarcus racked up his seventh All-Star selection last season – his third as a member of the Spurs – and was narrowly edged out for a forward spot on the All-NBA teams. The 34-year-old averaged 21.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a career-best 1.3 blocks in 33.2 minutes per game last season. He finished with the second highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of his career at 22.9 while stabilizing the Spurs with his consistent post scoring and mid-range shooting.
Anyone who has followed his career can attest to Aldridge as a model of consistency. Even with a rough early-going during his tenure with the Spurs, LaMarcus remained an exquisite and calculated scorer with the ability to take over as necessary. Having Dejounte, Derrick and DeMar in the starting lineup will be highly beneficial for Aldridge, who now has multiple options to operate the pick-and-roll with.
San Antonio strayed away from the pick-and-pop last year – a strategy that most effectively complements Aldridge’s intended play style. This is something we could see much more of this season with the team’s handful of playmakers ready and willing to set up their All-Star for buckets.
There are concerns about his age and a potential decline coming his way, but LaMarcus continues to age gracefully, adding new skills to his game with each passing year.