Proposed World Cup format could give San Antonio Spurs a second chance
By Matty Farner
The NBA looks like it’s coming back, but how? One proposed idea would effectively give the San Antonio Spurs a second chance
As each day passes it seems more clear that the NBA season will resume, the only question is, how? As businesses are starting to reopen, professional sports are making preparations for a return, in all likelihood without fans. The NBA is trying to figure out how they should handle the resumption of the season and so far nothing seems off the table. So what does this all mean for the San Antonio Spurs?
Now the NBA is considering a World Cup-style format. According to Kevin O’ Connor from The Ringer, this new format would, “replace the first round of the playoffs with a ‘group stage’ in which the 20 teams with the best records would be placed into four groups of five teams.” The groups would be split up in five different tiers based on their records.
Tier one would include the Lakers, Clippers, Raptors, and Bucks. Tier two would be Heat, Celtics, Jazz, Nuggets. Tier three would be Rockets, Pacers, Thunder, and Sixers. Tier four would be Grizzlies, Nets, Magic, and Mavericks. Tier five. would. be Kings, Pelicans, Blazers, and the San Antonio Spurs.
Each team would play the others in their group two times and the two teams with the best records advance to the next round of the playoffs. For a full breakdown of all the possible group combinations check out this creative model. For the Spurs, this is a win-win. The playoff streak continues, and they will still have their lottery pick if the league were to freeze the lottery order where it currently stands.
Proposed World Cup playoff format gives San Antonio Spurs second chance
It’s no secret that the 2019-20 season was a complete failure for the Spurs. After questionably retaining almost everyone from a 48 win playoff team that was a few possessions away from making the Western Conference Semifinals, it seemed appropriate to believe that this year’s squad would build on the success of the previous season. The return of All-Defensive point guard Dejounte Murray made it almost all but certain the Spurs were in for an exciting year.
This, however, was not the case. Many player’s performances fell way below expectations, and there was almost no chemistry to be found for any given lineup. The newly proposed World Cup format may just be exactly what this team needs to get a head start on next season.
A resumption of the season in this format would give Coach Popovich and his staff a fresh start to make some much-needed changes that can carry into the next season. It may be stating the obvious here but one change that should happen is to allow more playing time for the young players including Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and even Luka Samanic. Giving more playing time and opportunity to the young core would be a great way to settle into a new rotation that could help jump-start the team next year.
Whether or not Coach Pop switches up the rotation all depends on what the franchises’ priorities are. In a time of uncertainty, familiarity may be something players can benefit from. This would mean, at least at first, sticking with the same lineups and rotations that ended the season. Drastically switching up the rotations now could mess up any hopes of the team finding a rhythm. Then again, it may be difficult to find a rhythm regardless of who’s on the court.
If the Spurs want to look forward to the future, they can use this as an opportunity not only to give more playing time to the young players but to give them more playing time together. Dejounte Murray shared the floor with Derrick White for just 102 minutes this season, Lonnie Walker 272 minutes and Keldon Johnson 33 minutes. For reference, Dejounte and Bryn Forbes shared the floor for 1020 minutes. If you want to know why the Spurs backcourt struggled so much defensively, that’s probably why.
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How many minutes did the trio of Dejounte, Derrick, and Lonnie shared the floor for? Six. This is not to suggest that playing everyone under the age of 25 for 30 minutes a game will suddenly turn the Spurs franchise around back into a contender immediately. However, it may be useful to recognize the reality that this roster the way it is currently structured while talented, is not going to compete for anything if the same rotations and lineups are used again.
This is a chance to lay out the blueprints for new rotations and lineups for next season. More versatility on the perimeter with lineups that include Derrick and Dejounte. Keldon Johnson earned more playing time towards the end of the season showing off his tenacious defense along with a high motor on offense. If Jakob is still out, it would be a great opportunity for Luka Samanic to get his first real taste of the NBA.
If the Spurs really want to start turning the page to the next chapter, it would be helpful to slowly reduce LaMarcus Aldridge and Demar Derozan’s minutes as well as their roles on offense. It may not be enough time for the young guys time to gain enough experience to immediately take over the team next season, but the foundations can start being built now.
For now, the only thing to do is wait. As Spurs and basketball fans alike patiently (or impatiently) await the announcement from Commissioner Silver, there is nothing more to do. There is still a chance the NBA will just start the playoffs right away with the 16 teams from both conferences. No one truly knows what will happen next, but if the Spurs are granted the opportunity to continue their season, at least for a little while longer, it would be a chance to start preparing for the future.