With the season put on pause let’s take a look back at some early-season San Antonio Spurs takes we got completely wrong.
It hasn’t even been a week and I already miss the San Antonio Spurs. Even as they struggled they were still a primary source of entertainment and something we had all made a regular part of our lives.
The Spurs season was a struggle from the jump. Weak perimeter defense, the longest losing streak in Gregg Popovich’s coaching tenure, and a rash of late-season injuries had all but destroyed San Antonio’s playoff hopes before the season was ultimately suspended.
Early on in the season, before our playoff hopes were slowly ground down, we were pretty optimistic about the Spurs. They had made some value plays in free-agency, would be getting Dejounte Murray back, and their second star, DeMar DeRozan, would be more comfortable in his new home.
We may have put the carriage in front of the horse and made some predictions that, in hindsight, were pretty outlandish. From expecting defensive sieves to become adequate to predicting that new additions would actually be used, we were not shy about shooting for the stars on these early season predictions.
Let’s take a look back at four early-season takes that we got completely wrong.
Next: Not a triple-double in sight
Dejounte Murray will be a triple-double machine
Before the season started we went out on a limb and said that Dejounte Murray had all the potential to rack up triple-doubles in his first season back from injury. Jump ahead to where we are now and you can see that that wasn’t the most accurate take.
In his third healthy season with the San Antonio Spurs, Murray was averaging 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists before the season was suspended. He had yet to record a triple-double.
Reaching double-digits in points was never the issue for Murray. Even still, his improvement on the offensive end has been impressive. He had taken a big step as a shooter, he was letting it go from deep more than ever and hitting on an impressive 37.8 percent of his long-range attempts.
The problem wasn’t with his rebounding numbers either. Murray crossed the double-digit threshold four times this season and pulled down nine rebounds and a number of other times. He’s never shied away from throwing himself into the mass of bodies clogging the paint to bring down rebounds.
No, the issue was exactly where we thought it would be: his assist numbers. As we said in our early season prediction, the issue isn’t with Murray’s ability to set up his teammates, but the number of playmakers the Spurs have.
We saw Murray’s playmaking potential in two games on the first leg of the Rodeo Road Trip. With the ball in his hands more than it had previously been Murray took over, dishing out 9 assists in back to back games.
Murray is sure to pull down a triple-double at some point in his career but we were way off in predicting that it would happen this year.
Next: Bryn will be a better defender
Bryn Forbes will be a better defender
In one of the Spurs Stories videos that were released pre-season, San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes looked like he had packed on muscle over the summer. We thought that might help make him a better defender than he had been in years past.
If you’ve watched more than 30 minutes of any given game over the course of the season you’ll quickly realize that no, Bryn has not improved on defense.
No matter how much muscle he packed on, he’s still undersized for his position. He gives it his all while he’s out there but all it takes is one well-placed screen to switch him on to a larger attacker and from there it’s BBQ chicken.
Of all of the Spurs who have received meaningful minutes, Forbes is dead last in defensive box plus/minus at -2.1. When he’s on the court the team’s overall defensive rating drops by about 7 points. Pick any metric you want, they’re all going to tell you the same thing. Bryn is not a strong defender.
He’s a favorite of Gregg Popovich and is a valuable threat from behind the arc. As he is an unrestricted free agent this summer the Spurs need to think long and hard about the pros and cons of keeping him, given his horrible defensive track record.
Next: Defenses need to respect the DeRozan triple
Defenses need to respect DeMar DeRozan’s three
Frankly, this is the one I’m most embarrassed about. I blame the gummies Dion Waiters gave me. Saying that defenses need to respect DeMar DeRozan’s long-range game is, without a doubt, the worst take I have had all season.
To be fair, the idea was more that defenses would need to come to respect DeRozan as a threat from deep for the team to be successful. Not that they had to respect him right now, but they would have to going forward in order for the team to win.
After shooting just 45 three’s in his first season with the Spurs, DeRozan had gotten up to a whopping 30 before the season was suspended. At this point, I think it’s fair to totally abandon the idea that he will ever modernize his game in the way that other stars have.
The main point of the original piece was that, given how many Spurs players prefer to attack the rim, the team would need players to step up as floor spacers. More credible threats from deep would lead to more spread out defenses, which would lead to more wide-open driving lanes for guys like Murray and DeRozan.
Funnily enough, instead of becoming the long-range threat the Spurs needed, DeRozan ultimately became the primary benefactor of a player surprisingly expanding his game. No player saw their opportunities open up quite as much as DeRozan did after LaMarcus Aldridge started really shooting it from deep in late December.
DeRozan used the space formerly occupied by Aldridge to rampage to the rim, get easy trips to the line, and play some of his best basketball of the season.
Next: DeMarre Carroll will help
DeMarre Carroll will be a valuable addition to the Spurs
Hand up, I was really excited to see what DeMarre Carroll would bring to the San Antonio Spurs. Maybe it was just my way of trying to get over the Marcus Morris debacle but I honestly believed that Carroll would be a valuable role player.
He was coming in to fill a position of need, had made a name for himself as a hard-nosed defender, and was a consistent long-range shooter. What wasn’t to like?!
In actuality, Carroll was a valuable addition to the Spurs bench. On a nightly basis, he was a team leader in sitting, sitting, and….sitting. He appeared in just 15 games for the Spurs, totaling just 135 minutes in his brief tenure with the team.
None of this was Carroll’s fault, every report out of San Antonio indicated that he was being a consummate pro about the less than ideal arrangement. Eventually, you started to feel bad for him. Well, as bad as you can feel for a guy getting paid millions to sit courtside at NBA games. But he came to San Antonio to actually play and was being denied that opportunity.
Eventually, we just wanted him to be traded. Let the Spurs try to recoup some assets and send him to a team that actually wants him. Instead, the Spurs chose to buy him out. He would sign with the in-state rival Houston Rockets shortly after.
What an utter mess of a signing. It started out promising but quickly became one of the biggest wastes of time and money in recent Spurs history. Let’s cross our fingers and hope the team leadership doesn’t strike out in a similar fashion this summer.
There you have it, four of our worst early-season takes from this season. You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take and this won’t stop us from firing off more hot takes in the future. Stay tuned to see what we come up with as we progress into the offseason.