Close to one month through the NBA season and the San Antonio Spurs find themselves in a nasty losing streak. Who needs to step up?
After over two decades of sustained success, the San Antonio Spurs find themselves in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation. With a losing record for one of the few times in franchise history and fighting through a five-game losing streak, the Spurs have a lot of work to do to get back into playoff contention.
It’s been a tough stretch of games with several close losses. It’s not going to get any easier. San Antonio has won one of their five road games thus far and play their next four away from the comforts of the AT&T Center. That’s a recipe for continuing this losing streak if things don’t change.
Poor spacing, awkward lineups, inconsistent effort, and absent three-point shooting. Take your pick, the Spurs issues are clear and will be tough to fix. No one move can get San Antonio back on track but a few have been proposed.
It’s been reported by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor that the Orlando Magic are interested in dealing for Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan. Making those kinds of blockbuster trades mid-season isn’t a typical San Antonio Spurs move but it could be an option if the right package is proposed.
It’s far more likely that San Antonio will have to rely on the players they have in house. Whatever moves need to be made to snap this losing streak will have to be rotation or schematic changes. The Spurs have one of the deeper rosters in the league. With potential impact players at every position, it would only take a few guys elevating their game to help San Antonio get back to where they need to be. Here are the players who need to step up.
Next: The off-season addition
Trey Lyles can do even more
After the Marcus Morris deal went sideways, San Antonio brought in Trey Lyles as a low risk, high reward off-season signing. So far he has exceeded the expectations of many Spurs fans. It was a bit surprising to see Lyles entrench himself as San Antonio’s other starting big man alongside LaMarcus Aldridge but he’s performed well.
Lyles has quickly endeared himself to his teammates by doing all of the little things that a big man is asked to do. He rebounds well, moves the ball quickly within the Spurs system, and cashes in when he’s set up for easy looks. All of that is well and good, but Lyles can do even more to help the team.
One thing that has stood out in San Antonio’s first month of action has been how deferential Lyles has been. He’s making 47 percent of his shots but attempting the fewest of his career. He’s passing out of open looks far more often than he should be. Ball movement is critical for any team and the Spurs have always emphasized the value of passing up good looks for great ones. That being said, Lyles is leaving points on the board by not being more aggressive.
One of the most appealing things about Lyles’s game is his ability to stretch the floor. His shooting touch was one of the main reasons he was drafted so high out of Kentucky. He’s been hot and cold from deep throughout his career. It was our hope that he would finally find consistency from behind the arc in his first year with the Spurs. Lately, it’s looked like that might be the case.
Over the past seven games, he’s started to increase his three-point attempts. He’s knocked down 60 percent of his shots from deep over that same stretch. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come. San Antonio has struggled to knock down three-pointers this year, if Lyles can consistently connect from deep he could end up being an even greater asset for the Spurs.
Next: Finding help from behind the arc
Bryn Forbes can help solve the Spurs problems from deep
One of the biggest moves that San Antonio made this summer was sending Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards to make room for Marcus Morris. With Bertans gone it was clear that the Spurs other three-point shooters would have to step up to fill the void created by his absence. San Antonio is missing Bertans more than ever right now as they have struggled to make up the difference.
The most obvious candidate to help fill the Bertans sized hole on the Spurs was Bryn Forbes. But so far Forbes has not elevated his game in the way that Spurs fans would have hoped. It’s not that Forbes has played poorly. He’s been a solid starter and has played at close to the level that he did last year. But to put themselves back into playoff contention, San Antonio needs him to take the secondary leap that they had hoped he would.
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With similar playing time and a similar role, we have seen Forbes’s shooting percentages drop across the board. He’s averaging two more three-point attempts per game than he did last year but his percentage has dropped from close to 43 percent last year to 38 percent this year. That’s not a poor percentage by any stretch but with so few deep threats it’s more impactful than the Spurs can endure.
As a team, the Spurs are attempting the fewest three-pointers in the league. If they’re not going to give themselves many chances to connect from long range they have to make them count when they do. With Marco Belinelli also regressing its more important than ever that Forbes elevates his game.
Forbes’s contract is up after this year. If he can take that leap he could play himself into a major pay-day. He’s shown the ability to go on hot streaks before, San Antonio could sure use one right now.
The San Antonio Spurs are at a crossroads. They’ve got the skilled players and experienced veterans they need to fight for a playoff spot. At the same time, they have more than a few young players who could benefit from NBA minutes. If the players like Lyles and Forbes are unable to elevate their games to push the Spurs back into the top eight teams in the conference then there may come a time when San Antonio decides to punt this season and play their young guys.
It’s been a turbulent first month of action for San Antonio. The Spurs had a similarly difficult start last year but were able to turn things on in December and rattle off an impressive winning streak. If Forbes and Lyles elevate their games we could see San Antonio go on a similar stretch as November comes to a close.