Spurs 2019-20 Review: Trey Lyles impresses in first season with Spurs
By Ethan Farina
A late summer signee, Trey Lyles emerged as a solid role player for the San Antonio Spurs thanks to his rebounding and floor stretching ability
After their attempted signing of Marcus Morris fell apart, the San Antonio Spurs turned to Trey Lyles to help solidify their frontcourt. Lyles had bounced between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets in his first four years in the league. His signing with the Spurs looked like a solid chance for him to find some stability in year five.
Shortly after he was signed, we predicted that Lyles would have to work for his minutes, as all new signees do. But if the Spurs famed coaching staff could help him find some consistency with his 3-point shot he could be a real asset for San Antonio off the bench.
We got it half right. Lyles did end up finding consistency with his 3-point shot. He was knocking down a career-best 38.7 percent of his long-range attempts before the season was suspended. But it didn’t take long for him to start contributing, and he wasn’t doing it off the bench.
Even though he was just brought in fairly late in the summer, Lyles quickly made an impression on the coaching staff. He was starting games for San Antonio from the get-go and was a frequent presence in the starting lineup all season long.
One of the biggest attractions about Lyles’s game coming out of college and as a free-agent signing was his ability to space the floor. He had swung between dialed in and ice-cold in his first four years but was more accurate than ever this year. In the past, this has been followed by a sharp regression but the Spurs and Lyles did a good job of setting him up for success by emphasizing shots from areas where he was most effective.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/12/23/0021900450/380/2d2ca299-e4f0-72b8-6d9f-833505f31c65_1280x720.mp4
In total, Lyles shot more from behind the arc this year than he ever has before. 49 percent of his field-goal attempts came from deep, a big step up from his career average of 40 percent. Additionally, there was an increased emphasis on getting shots from the corners. He was shooting 27.4 percent of his long-range attempts from the corners and making 45.7 percent of them.
When he wasn’t spotting up in the corner he was working in a pick and pop two-man game with one of Spurs guards. He’s a solid screener, and when he was able to pop out for a clean look it was an effective part of the Spurs offense.
He was a great catch and shoot threat, every single one of his 3-point attempts was assisted on. He embraced his role as a perimeter threat and stayed out of the guard’s way, letting them slash to the rim while he waited outside for easy looks.
It took him a while to get comfortable within the flow of the Spurs offense, there were quite a few times in the early parts of the season where he would pass out of a clean look. It could have been because it was what he thought he should have been doing but he left several good shots on the table per game. That gradually became less of an issue as the season went along and he seemed to gain confidence in his role.
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As a big man, Lyles was also expected to mix it up with the big men grab his share of rebounds. His overall rebounding totals weren’t particularly eye-grabbing but he was one of the Spurs’ most efficient rebounders.
He was third on the team in rebounds per 100 possessions and given Chimezie Metu‘s limited sample since he might as well have been second. Additionally, he was pulling down 15.3 percent of the available rebounds when he was on the floor, the highest mark of his career.
Lyles wasn’t much of a defensive presence but that was relatively in line with what we expected so there’s no reason to hold that against him. He was in the middle of the roster in terms of defensive rating. While he didn’t bring a ton on the defensive end he was hardly the worst player on the floor. The Spurs can make much more impactful defensive improvements at other positions.
Overall it was a solid first year for Trey Lyles and the San Antonio Spurs. He rebounded well, developed into a consistent 3-point threat, and filled his role without complaint. He probably shouldn’t be the long term solution as a starter but Lyles will have a role on this team as a spot-up shooter for years to come.