Three lineup adjustments that could help save the Spurs season
Stuck in a losing streak it’s past time for the San Antonio Spurs to switch up their rotations. Something needs to change for this squad.
Coaches can only do so much to affect the on-court performance of their teams. Gregg Popovich can coach to the very best of his ability but at the end of the day, it’s up to the players in the San Antonio Spurs locker room to go out and win games.
That being said, Pop and his staff can try changing up a few things to help snap the Spurs out of the losing streak that they’re stuck in. It could be inserting new faces into the starting lineup, tinkering with who comes off the bench first or reducing a particular player’s minutes.
The definition of insanity is trying the same thing again and again and expecting different results. San Antonio can’t continue to do the same thing night after night and expect things to suddenly get better. Maybe a switch gets flipped down the road but in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, the Spurs don’t have the luxury of waiting for that to happen.
We’ve seen how rotation adjustments can kickstart this team before. Last year the Spurs opened up the season with Dante Cunningham as a frequent fixture in the starting lineup. Just like now, the Spurs had a less than ideal start to the season. It took inserting Derrick White into the starting lineup to spur a winning stretch that launched the Spurs back into the playoff picture.
There is no one fix for the Spurs issues but at this point, any change might help. Here are a few rotation adjustments that San Antonio could make to help snap this cold spell.
Next: Derrick White to the rescue (again)
Inserting Derrick White into the starting lineup
Bringing Derrick White into the starting lineup was exactly the spark that the Spurs needed last year. Could the same be true this season? It certainly wouldn’t hurt to find out.
Bryn Forbes impressed enough in the preseason to hold on to his starting role but it could be time for him to vacate that position. He hasn’t played poorly necessarily, but he hasn’t taken the leap that the Spurs needed him to in the wake of Davis Bertans‘s departure.
He’s shooting the ball more but less accurately. He’s regressed from close to 43 percent from behind the arc to 39 percent this year. A small step back to be sure but one that the Spurs can hardly afford. More noteworthy has been his poor defensive performance.
Forbes’s defense has never been his strong suit, he’s always made more of an impact on the other end of the floor. But given how he had filled out his frame over the summer there was a reason to hope that might be changing. So far there has been no such luck. When he shares the floor with Dejoutne Murray the Spurs have an offensive rating of 100.5 and a defensive rating of 112.9 for a total net rating of -12.4.
Derrick White and Dejounte Murray have hardly shared the floor at all this season. They’ve played all of seven minutes together. With a sample size that small, we can’t put too much thought into their absurdly positive net rating but it should be mentioned anyway. The two are posting a very impressive 26.7 net rating in their very limited minutes together.
Pairing the two together could give the Spurs one of the strongest defensive backcourts in the league. There are worries about spacing but they could be overblown. White is hitting on 40 percent of his three-point attempts this year, on 1.9 attempts per game. He’s looked good shooting it all year and who’s to say that would change if he was reinserted into the starting lineup.
San Antonio has struggled on defense all year. Reintroducing White to the starting lineup could provide exactly the spark the Spurs need to get back on track to having one of the better defenses in the league.
Next: DeMarre Carroll wasn't signed to sit on the bench
Finally playing DeMarre Carroll
San Antonio has struggled to defend and make three’s all year. A solution to that would be to actually play the seasoned veteran they brought in to do precisely that. DeMarre Carroll was a great off-season addition for the Spurs and yet he’s been completely forgotten by the coaching staff.
Carroll has played a whopping 47 minutes all year. For comparison, Marco Belinelli has played 237 over the same period. I’ll listen to any argument as to why Marco is more deserving of those minutes than Carroll, it should be a pretty short discussion.
Carroll has made an impact in his limited playing time. When he finally did check into the game against the Dallas Mavericks he immediately provided a spark by playing solid defense on Kristaps Porzingis and knocking down one of his two three-point attempts.
One of the reasons that Gregg Popovich cited for not playing Lonnie Walker earlier in the year was his lack of effort. He called him out for being non-competitive and not making the most of his minutes. It’s hard to envision him launching that same criticism at Carroll. DeMarre has made a career out of bringing it on the defensive end of the floor night after night and knocking down open looks when he has to.
DMC could be inserted into either the starting lineup or brought off the bench as a complementary player. He’s skilled enough to hold his own against other starters and would fit in well the more ball movement focused second unit. He’s the rare type of plug and play guy who you can use in almost any situation and never have to worry about.
The Spurs signed Carroll to a three-year deal worth close to $21 million over the summer. Paying someone $7 million dollars a year to ride the pine is an absurd move and one the Spurs need to change.
Next: Give the people what they want
It’s Lonnie Walker’s time to shine
Log on to Twitter at any given point during a San Antonio Spurs game and you’ll see Spurs fans of all walks of life asking the same question. Some do it in more colorful language than others but the core message is the same, why is Marco Belinelli playing while Lonnie Walker sits on the bench?
Lonnie was heavily criticized by Gregg Popovich following his lackluster performance against the LA Clippers earlier in the year but he needs to play in order to get better. He can work his butt off every day in practice but it’s not nearly the same as real game minutes.
It doesn’t take a genius to look around the league and figure out that the Spurs aren’t contending for a title this year. Apologies to any fans who may have still been holding on to that belief but it’s not happening.
More from Air Alamo
- San Antonio Spurs: How Spurs stack up against the best teams in the West
- San Antonio Spurs: 3 Games postponed in wake of positive COVID tests
- Andre Drummond is everything the San Antonio Spurs don’t need right now
- San Antonio Spurs: White’s return to form skyrockets Spurs potential
- San Antonio Spurs: Four trade partners to watch for as deadline nears
Maybe playing Marco helps them contend for a playoff spot down the road but would you rather get punted out of the first round by one of the teams from Los Angeles or spend the next few months watching one of the most athletic players the Spurs have had in the past decade get valuable playing time? It seems like an easy decision.
Lonnie’s own teammates have called for him to get more playing time. Rudy Gay called for Walker to see the floor more in a conversation he had with Jeff Garcia of Spurs Zone after San Antonio’s recent loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“He needs reps, he needs to play and he’s a hell of a talent, he just has to just get older and smarter,” said Gay. “It’s tough to do all that when you’re younger and you’ve got a lot of guys playing in front of you.”
Watching Belinelli go out and chuck off-balance three-pointers for 16 minutes a night isn’t helping the Spurs, is blocking Walker’s development and might be considered cruel and unusual punishment in some states.
These lineup changes won’t fix everything for the San Antonio Spurs. At the end of the day, that’s up to the players. But what they can do is put guys in a position to maximize their talents and those of their teammates in order to help get this season back on track before it’s too late.