San Antonio Spurs: Trey Lyles could be the answer at center

Trey Lyles of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
Trey Lyles of the San Antonio Spurs. (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Trey Lyles was in the starting lineup for the San Antonio Spurs starter on opening night, could he be the long term answer at center for the team?

Coming out of a less than graceful win over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night the San Antonio Spurs have plenty to work on. As a team the Spurs looked out of sorts, cutting down on turnovers will be a necessity going forward. But one positive thing that stood out in the win was the quiet effectiveness of Trey Lyles.

Lyles had started in a few games throughout the preseason so his position in the starting lineup wasn’t entirely a surprise. However, the efficiency he displayed did come as a bit of a surprise. Lyles was tied with Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl as a team leader in plus/minus rating, finishing the game at +9.

He is game wasn’t jaw-dropping but, in typical Spurs fashion, he flew under the radar and quietly did his job. In a starting lineup with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, Lyles doesn’t have to stand out. He just needs to do all the little things. It’s a role he’s embracing so far, much to the approval of his new teammates.

DeMar DeRozan raved about Lyle’s style of play to Tom Osborn with mySanAntonio after the win over the Knicks.

“He don’t get in nobody’s way,” DeRozan said of Lyles, a Kentuck-ex drafted 12th overall by the Jazz in 2015. “He just goes out there and does his job.”

A highly efficient performance in one game is nice, but can Lyles sustain his production over the entire season and lock down a starting role for the Spurs? There’s are a few reasons to believe he could.

DeRozan hit the nail on the head with his assessment. Lyles won’t get in anyone’s way in the starting lineup. He has the post presence to crash the boards when LaMarcus and DeRozan are operating in the mid-range and the outside shooting ability to spread the floor when needed. His outside shooting has been streaky in the past, but if he can find consistency in his stroke he could end up being more than just a suitable starter.

Another reason for Lyles to stay in the starting lineup is how comfortable Jakob Poeltl and Rudy Gay looked coming off the bench. Poeltl, in particular, looked very strong operating with Patty Mills and Derrick White. The pick and roll heavy second unit played right into his strengths. San Antonio’s bench is one of the best in the league already but if pairing Poeltl with White and Mills can take it to an even higher level then that’s the path the Spurs should certainly go down.

We have yet to see how Gregg Popovich will deploy DeMarre Carroll but it’s unlikely that it will have an impact on Lyle’s position in the starting lineup. There may be nights where Pop decides to start Gay or Carroll to counter a faster opponent, but those could be the exception, not the rule.

Next. Implications of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract guarantee

Signing Trey Lyles was viewed as a low risk, potentially high reward move. If he is able to maintain the level of play he showed against the Knicks, and find another level if he starts hitting three-point shots, the signing could end up as one of the Spurs’ greatest steals yet.