We’ve continuously discussed how the San Antonio Spurs need a lineup change if they want to make the playoffs, and this may the group to do it.
Experimentation is in order for the struggling San Antonio Spurs, whether head coach Gregg Popovich likes it or not. His personal affinity for shooting guard Bryn Forbes has been detrimental to the team all year long, and while it makes sense that he doesn’t want veteran point guard Patty Mills pairing with Forbes off the bench, there are more pressing matters at hand.
It’s time to insert combo guard Derrick White into the starting lineup.
Yes I know, you’ve probably seen a lot of propaganda in favor of Dejounte Murray and White playing together as of late. The players themselves seem to be lobbying for it in the press, hoping and pleading that Old Man Popovich will yet the Young Guns get a brief taste of what’s to come.
While that’s a part of what I’m alluding to, it’s not the total picture.
The lineup of Dejounte Murray, White, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles have played a combined four minutes together this season. Allow me to reiterate: A lineup consisting of the Spurs’ best players at each position (when considering LaMarcus a center) has played a grand total of FOUR minutes together. That’s absurd.
Dejounte on being paired with Derrick White:"It’s great. I love playing with Derrick. He loves playing with me. We are both unselfish. We both can do a lot of things on both ends of the floor. Hopefully, it will continue to happen. But we can’t control that."
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) February 25, 2020
Last season, White started 55 games in place of Murray as he nursed a torn ACL. Fans longed for the days when San Antonio’s two most exciting, young players would lineup alongside each other, raising hell with their smothering defense and pestering hands. All that stands in their way is an undersized two-guard who can’t dribble for more than four seconds without fumbling the ball.
I’m not here to slander Forbes, he’s great at what he does and would be an impactful bench player if this team’s roster was constructed a bit differently. I respect him wholeheartedly because he wasn’t supposed to make it to this point, and he worked his tail off to get here.
However, now’s the time to separate the player from the person and make an important decision. Popovich and Forbes have a bond that’s grown exponentially over recent years, which is potentially a reason why he’s still starting. Bryn Forbes is not Tim Duncan, or Manu Ginobili, or even Bruce Bowen. He’s great at one thing (shooting), moderately adequate at others and straight-up bad at one of the most important aspects of modern basketball—perimeter defense.
Having played just 23 minutes together as of late, the trio of Murray, White and DeRozan have eye-popping numbers on both sides of the floor. Their defensive rating is stout at 86.7, which is an entire 25.8 points better than the team’s season average. When these three share the floor each of the following categories improves from the team’s average: Assist%, Assist-to-Turnover ratio, Offensive Rating, Net Rating, Rebounding%, True Shooting% and Player Impact Estimate.
Asked what he liked about how Murray & White finished the Utah game & if they'd be paired together more, Pop said, "We’ll see what the game demands. But they played a really complete game at both ends of the court. Really set up the defense for us & made good decisions…"
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) February 27, 2020
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So, um, yeah… those guys should probably get more run together. So what if the bench sucks at defense? At least the starters can hold it down, and Popovich can stagger the minutes so that Mills and Forbes barely have to share the court together.
As for the frontcourt aspect, Lyles gives the Spurs a flexible, versatile defensive player who can command attention on the boards and space the floor out with his jump shot. Though it’s become clear that Jakob Poeltl is the more impactful player, neither he nor Aldridge can be trusted to defend the perimeter consistently. Therefore, it’s better to let Lyles and Aldridge share the court while Poeltl holds down the paint when Aldridge is off the floor, or during stints through the course of the game.
Closing games has been a difficulty for the Spurs this season, which is why Popovich has begun inserting White into the closing lineup at the two-guard at times. Still, there needs to be more consistency established with this group in order to truly fulfill the team’s potential.
After all, the regular season is almost over and the Spurs are going to get bounced from playoff contention soon. So what is there left to lose?