The San Antonio Spurs had an All-Star streak that was broken in 2020 which poses the question: Which player is next up for the silver and black?
It’s not often that you see an NBA All-Star game as intense as the one played in Chicago this year, but San Antonio Spurs fans were left longing for something more despite the exciting finish. Not only were no Spurs selected to the All-Star team this year, ending a streak that began in 1998, but there wasn’t a Spur in any All-Star Weekend festivity at all.
San Antonio has one player assuredly playing at the level of an All-Star in DeMar DeRozan, but things aren’t really working out with him right now considering the Spurs are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time since the nineties, barring a miracle. Big man LaMarcus Aldridge continues to produce and has even begun stepping outside to become an elite three-point shooter, but he’s no longer at that level consistently.
It seems as if the Spurs are on the verge of some dark times for the first time in a long while, and that’s okay. It’s the natural progression of things, and they’ve held on for long enough, but it also makes us question who’s really going to be a part of the next great Spurs team.
With 16 men on the roster and a handful of young, developing players working their way up the totem pole, it’s hard to say who the team’s next All-Star is. DeRozan has a player option for next year and Aldridge is an unrestricted free agent the year after that, so the Spurs’ top current players may not be around for much longer.
In order to be a playoff team, you need legitimate All-Star caliber talent. Every playoff team was represented in Chicago this past weekend, and even some teams that’ll be fishing through the lottery were represented too. There’s plenty of talent on the Spurs’ roster, but the most important thing is that these players work to fulfill their potential.
It’s too early to say for the rookies, Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson, who have yet to play legitimate NBA minutes, but from the current group, there are a handful of All-Star candidates as long as they continue progressing as they have.
Next: No. 4 - So you're saying there's a chance?
4. Derrick White
There’s a narrative surrounding combo guard Derrick White that says he has the highest floor of his peers in the Spurs’ budding young core, but the lowest ceiling. No, he’s never been the most athletic player of the bunch or the guy most likely to make the highlight reel, but he plays the right way and gets the job done.
This leads me to pose this very important question: Why couldn’t Derrick be the next player to represent San Antonio in the All-Star game? He’s an improved shooter at roughly 36 percent from beyond the arc this season, he’s an excellent playmaker with pick-and-roll acumen far beyond that of most of his peers, and he’s one of the most versatile defenders in the league.
More so than anything, White has worked his tail off to be the player that he is today, and that isn’t likely to stop any time soon. He locked himself in the gym this summer, shooting 500 threes a day to ensure that his shooting stroke improved for the 2019-20 season, and it’s paying off.
White spent his offseason playing for his country and learning from not only Gregg Popovich, but from a group of the United States of America’s brightest, young basketball players at the FIBA World Cup. His role is bound to improve when the team’s backcourt logjam gets sorted out, and he has never let anyone deny him of becoming the player he wants to be.
He was never supposed to be where he is today—a genuine starting-caliber NBA player with All-Defensive team-level play. Every step of the way, Derrick managed to improve his game, so the sky’s the limit for the 25-year-old.
Next: No. 3 - Will the prodigal son take his leap?
3. Dejounte Murray
Walking the road less traveled in pursuit of his NBA dreams, starting point guard Dejounte Murray works tirelessly at his craft. It has required him to exert a level of mental fortitude and intensity that few individuals could match, especially given the organization that he was brought into as a young rookie from Washington. Murray earned the Spurs’ trust quickly and fought through an ACL tear to get back to the best version of himself.
Now in his third season, fourth if you count the year he sat out due to injury, Dejounte is becoming a more comfortable and confident scorer. That will be the catalyst in his pursuit of an NBA All-Star bid. Most players who make the All-Star game are big-time scorers on top of whatever else they bring to the table. Still, everyone knows it’s Dejounte’s defense that sets him apart.
The historic duo of Popovich and point guard Tony Parker both instilled their belief in Murray as a 21-year-old, just as Pop and Avery Johnson did when Tony was that age. They see his determination and work ethic, which sold them on his value as a leader and point guard. Murray is coming along as of late, limiting his turnovers and improving his all-around offensive production. His passing is crisp, his jumper looks refined and his instincts are improving.
Murray’s ceiling is as high as he pushes it, and we all know he’ll never stop or settle for something less than the best from himself. This is the kind of mentality that you need to become an All-Star, so even if he doesn’t have all of the tools to be that player just now, the Spurs have bought into him for the next four seasons with their most recent contract extension and he has plenty of time to do it in the silver and black.
Whether or not he gets there is to be seen, but Murray’s heart is that of a champion, and even if he’s not one yet, he’ll do everything in his power to become one in San Antonio.
Next: No. 2 - The perfect archetype of an All-Star wing
2. Lonnie Walker IV
Showmanship is essential for All-Stars in general, but it’s particularly necessary at the guard and small forward positions. Luckily for Spurs wing Lonnie Walker IV, he’s got that in boatloads.
Even though he’s only a 21-year-old sophomore, Lonnie is already one of the most exciting players in the league due to his dynamic athleticism and masterful finishing abilities near the basket. He flies in for dunks and layups, finishing acrobatically with either hand as his head meets and rim and his array of finishing moves stun his opponents.
More so than just his finishing ability, Walker is becoming an exciting offensive player in every facet of his game. He’s making 38.7 percent of his threes this year and has shown a distinctive ability to create shots for himself using a range of crossovers, in-and-out moves, hesitations, ball-fakes and stepbacks. Scoring comes naturally for Lonnie, and it’s not hard to see him as the team’s leading scorer in the years to come.
Defensively, he’s still got a ways to go, and there’s some hesitancy about him as a volume scorer. However, it’s easy to forget that he’s still roughly seven years removed from his prime years and already has an exceptional skill set to boast.
Players like Zach LaVine and Devin Booker are average defenders if I’m being generous, but they know how to attract defensive attention and score. That’s what Lonnie could do for this team while maintaining the potential to be superb on the opposite end. Though he still has to learn how to be a team defender, Walker is a great one-on-one defender even at this stage of his career and has the motor to become an elite defensive player one day.
Few Spurs have as much all-around potential as Walker, which is why he’s the most likely player currently rostered to make an All-Star game.
Next: No. 1 - The best is yet to come
1. Someone that’s not on the roster yet
The selections of Derrick, Dejounte and Lonnie are all speculative, but none of them have actually proven themselves to be All-Star caliber players yet. Each of them has that potential in their own special ways, but the most likely candidate to become an All-Star for the Spurs is someone that we haven’t figured out yet.
It’s 2020, and team loyalty is nothing like it once was in the days of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. who stayed in one place for their entire careers. 12 of this year’s All-Stars began their careers somewhere other than where they are this year, including the All-Star MVP and former Spur Kawhi Leonard. Player movement is frequent in the modern era of the sport and San Antonio will have the same chance that everyone else gets to trade for a star when the time is right.
Someone will get mad at their situation and decide it’s time to move on, and the Spurs could put their name in the hat just like everyone else does.
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Or, on the flip side, they could very well draft their next All-Star caliber player. Likely headed for the lottery, the Spurs have their highest odds for a top draft pick this year, which means they’ll have a better opportunity to draft a top-tier talent.
Young players are better than they’ve ever been before, as seen by Trae Young and Luka Doncic starting in the All-Star Game this year. Trae is 21 and Luka is only 20, but they’re both strong enough players to make the game this early. No one would be surprised if Zion Williamson and/or Ja Morant make it next year because they’re simply that good.
This isn’t meant to slight anyone on the Spurs roster, but they’re not a playoff team right now and no one is showing that they’re 100 percent guaranteed to make that jump, so the most probable answer for who San Antonio’s next All-Star will be is someone who hasn’t arrived yet.
And while that’s unknown territory for this team in the last two decades, that’s okay. It’s how this league works when you don’t have a Tim Duncan to hold it down for 19 seasons.