It will take a full team effort for the San Antonio Spurs to pull themselves back into the playoffs but the contributions of these three players will be key.
The San Antonio Spurs will return to action tomorrow night to finish off their annual Rodeo Road Trip with a quick weekend bout of action against the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs already dwindling chances of making the playoffs were severely damaged by their performance on the first stretch of the road trip. They’ll look to kick start a playoff push with their play this weekend.
San Antonio’s 1-5 start to the road trip really took a hammer to their playoff chances. As the league resumes action tonight the Spurs sit five games back of the eighth seed and only two games ahead of the 13th seed. If this team is truly determined to make the playoffs something needs to change soon.
Different players have stepped up or stepped back throughout the season, all contributing to the Spurs erratic win-loss record. Making it back into the top eight in the Western Conference will take a total team effort. The keyword there is effort. It’s been a rare occasion that San Antonio strings together a full 48 minutes of solid basketball. Regardless of who is playing that needs to change.
It likely won’t come down to the contributions of one specific player but these three Spurs can have a serious impact on the teams’ playoff chances if they can step up over the final 28 games of the season.
Next: Bryn Forbes
It’s Bryn’s time to shine
We’ve been pretty harsh on Bryn Forbes throughout the season. His shooting regression combined with his abhorrent defense has made him a frequent target of Spurs fans outrage on social media.
The defensive issues with Forbes are well known and well documented. He’s an undersized guard who has frequently been attacked by opposing offenses. He’s out of position far too often and has been on the receiving end of a few shoves by teammates trying to get him back into position.
Earlier this year, in a game against the Phoenix Suns, the Suns broadcast crew accused Forbes of “fake hustle” or hustling for a play he has no chance of making. And they’re not wrong, he’s got a habit of sprinting for close out’s he has absolutely no chance of making a difference on.
As much of a liability as Bryn is on defense, he also has a rare skill set that not many other Spurs players possess. He’s one of the few players on San Antonio’s roster who can get scorching hot on a given night and pull the team back into a game in a flash.
There’s no better example of this than what Bryn did to the Suns in the same game he got called out for his “fake hustle.” In that contest he went 7 for 8 from behind the arc, setting a new team record for most 3-pointers made in a half.
His 3-point percentage is down five points from where it was last year but Forbes has still shown that he can transform a game on the right night. The final playoff spot has come down to the thinnest of margins in years past, a few games of Forbes going nuclear from behind the arc can be the difference for San Antonio.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge unleashed
When LaMarcus Aldridge originally expanded his range out past the 3-point line earlier this year it was a revelation. His performance against the Memphis Grizzlies on December 23rd kicked off a stretch of games where he suddenly transformed from a mid-range maestro to the teams’ premier deep threat.
He tapered off the long balls throughout the Rodeo Road Trip, averaging just over 1 3-point makes per game after averaging closer to 2 per game in January. Over the final 28 games of the season, Aldridge needs to be empowered and willing to take more three’s than ever before.
The Spurs offense totally changes when Aldridge is hitting from deep. His ability as a pick and pop threat allows for more high pick and roll sets with DeMar DeRozan or another guard, with several shooters surrounding the action. Forcing the defense to either play catch up with DeRozan as he attacks the rim or rushing out to cover an Aldridge long ball is exactly the kind of situation that San Antonio should be looking to create.
Even before he finally bought into the 3-point revolution, Spurs fans were calling for Aldridge to let it fly from deep. But it’s like the old bedtime story: If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk. Aldridge is finally shooting three’s and now we want even more of them.
He’s the most accurate Spur from behind the arc and he’s fourth in 3-point attempts. That needs to change. There is no reason he should only be shooting three 3-pointers a game. If he could hover around six per game, as Bryn and Patty Mills do, the team would be much better off.
Next: Dejounte Murray
Dejounte seizing the moment
The Spurs aren’t the most active team on social media. As a team they’re not chiming in on the MLB cheating scandal like LeBron James or posting overly cryptic, hyper-woke, third eye ramblings like Kyrie Irving. But there was one particular bit of recent activity on social media that got Spurs Twitter BUZZING.
Lonnie Walker posted a nice Instagram photo of him and Dejounte with the caption “In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life.” Dejounte’s response was what really got the fanbase riled up.
“I Swear We Gone Take Over This Sh*t When We Get That OPPORTUNITY Brother!!!!!!! ???♂️?”
Clearly DJ feels strongly about the potential that the young Spurs guards show. And he should, he and Lonnie are two of the most exciting players the Spurs have had in years. But why wait for the opportunity?
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Now I know it isn’t as simple as taking over a game on command but if Dejounte really wants to prove that he and Lonnie are the future of this team then drag this group to the playoffs. We’ve seen what Murray can do when he’s on. Now let’s see him maintain that energy and production over the final 28 games of the season.
Murray is coming off of one of the best stretches of play of his young career. Over the final three games entering the All-Star break, he was averaging 18.6 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. Those are All-Star level numbers.
Now, two of those three games did come without DeMar DeRozan in the lineup which did put the ball in Murray’s hands more than it typically would be. But the point is that Murray has proven that he can play at an All-Star level, he’s proven that he can be the leader of this team when he’s given the opportunity.
If Murray can pick up where he left off he will have to be given the opportunity he is so clearly hungry for. He’s proven that he can handle the biggest stage, now his coaches just need to share that belief.
They’ve got a lot of work to do but the playoffs are still within reach for the San Antonio Spurs. Key contributions from these three players will go a long way in getting them back into the post-season where they belong.