With veteran DeMarre Carroll off of the San Antonio Spurs’ roster, who could bring a positive impact?
With the official buyout of forward DeMarre Carroll, the San Antonio Spurs have caught themselves in limbo. If you’re a Spurs’ Twitter follower like I am, you’ve seen the angry mob calling for the Spurs to willfully “embrace the tank” and go full rebuild.
The San Antonio Spurs have not been the organization to enter tank mode even if there seemed to be a potential lottery pick worth sacrificing a season for (see Deni Avjida). According to ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the San Antonio Spurs are, “obsessed with obtaining the 8th seed.” If that is going to happen, Gregg Popovich and the front office must make some kind of move after striking out at the trade deadline.
If we were looking at who could be inserted and would make an instant impact, then 20-year-old Keldon Johnson seems to fit the bill. He is currently averaging 20.1 points per game while shooting 52.3% from the field in the G-League. Johnson has been described as a “dog” on defense, an area where the Spurs were hoping that 3 and D veteran Carroll would help, but again, he just wasn’t a “basketball fit” for our San Antonio Spurs.
Out of our three rookies, Johnson seems to be the most NBA ready and could provide that defensive aggression that our current Spurs lack. At 6’5 with a high motor, he could be the defensive spark we need to make a playoff push.
What about OUR Luka, you ask? Luka Samanic is currently averaging 15.3 points per game on 43.6% shooting and at 6’10, he would best be suited at the power forward position behind LaMarcus Aldridge and potentially Chimezie Metu. But is he ready?
Rookies don’t magically wake up one day and decide they’re ready, especially not on the San Antonio Spurs. They need playing time in the big leagues to prepare them for the true level of competition that they will face in their careers (example: Memphis Grizzlies). If Luka is going to be a focal point for years to come, then logging minutes with the main roster now would be the correct move.
Our last (and my most intriguing) rookie option would be Quinndary Weatherspoon, straight out of Hogwarts, I’m sorry, Mississippi State University. He is currently averaging 13.8 points per game on 44.7% shooting. What intrigues me about this 23-year-old rookie is his age and maturity.
Weatherspoon spent all four years at Mississippi State University, similar to what Derrick White did at Colorado. His G-League stats may not stand out as much as Johnson’s, but the scouting report from last year’s draft and his recent play indicate he could help right away. He’s a solid defender with quick hands with the ability to guard some forwards while standing 6’3. Could he be the latest young gun to log minutes directly under Popovich?
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If these options were not being considered, the Spurs could look to who is currently available on the market. Out of the big names such as Jamal Crawford, Dion Waiters, and Kenneth Faried, one name that stuck out to me as the best fit was Dragan Bender.
The 7’1 power forward/center most recently logged 3.7 points per game on 57.1% shooting while competing for playing time on a stacked Milwaulkee Bucks team.
Bender likely wouldn’t have a huge impact on the Spurs this season but he is a former lottery pick and, at 22 years old, he’s still got a lot of growing to do. If the Spurs wanted to truly embrace a youth movement they should take a chance on Bender, just like they did with Trey Lyles. Lyles looked like he was on his way out of the NBA before the Spurs signed him. He’s now become one of the team’s most important glue guys. Bender could have a similar impact if the team gave him the chance.
I agree with most of Spurs’ Twitter opinion that lineup changes are a necessity, and I’m hoping that by Friday’s Jazz game we hear some type of news of small changes, but knowing that Popovich is pretty stuck in his ways, will he want to utilize his rookies? Will he play our two defensive studs in Dejounte Murray and Derrick White in the same lineup for increased minutes? It’s anyone’s guess.
Bringing in some help via the G-League team or free-agent pool could be just what this team needs. In any case, here’s to being hopeful for a good final stretch of what has been a not-so-ideal season for the San Antonio Spurs.