Here are 3 San Antonio Spurs stats to pay close attention to in Orlando
As the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of the NBA start gearing up for the resumption of the regular season in Disney in just over a month we the fans should also start refamiliarizing ourselves with the team.
It’s been months since we last saw the Spurs play, and the team that takes the court in Orlando will surely be different than the one that we saw for the majority of the regular season. The most obvious change will be the absence of star big man LaMarcus Aldrdige who underwent shoulder surgery earlier in the summer and will miss the rest of the season and any potential post-season baskets.
Another question that the team will have to deal with will be the potential absence of players who are deciding to abstain from finishing up the season due to health or family concerns. So far we have not heard of any Spurs players sitting out but with players like Jakob Poeltl returning from injury, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a player or two join the ranks of Trevor Ariza and Avery Bradley as players who will not return to play with their teams.
Even if a few players sit out there will hopefully be enough of the young players going that these final eight games of the regular season will still be interesting for Spurs fans. We might even walk away with a better idea of what the future of the team looks like.
Statistics can’t paint a full picture of a team but backing these three key statistics up with what we see in Orlando can go a long way in helping us understand what next season may hold for the San Antonio Spurs.
Next: No. 1
San Antonio Spurs Key Statistics: 6 minutes
It’s dang near impossible to watch Lonnie Walker, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick White play basketball and not feel optimistic about the future of the San Antonio Spurs. They might not all develop into All-Star level talents but each one of them looks like they can be an above-average starter on a quality team, at the very least. So why haven’t the Spurs given them the chance to run together?
Throughout the entire season, the Spurs young trio of guards totaled a whopping six minutes of playing time together. The Spurs set aside fewer minutes for the future of their franchise than most people do for making breakfast. For a franchise that has long been credited for making all the right decisions, this was a massive misstep.
Now, San Antonio’s playoff streak isn’t dead yet, there’s still a fraction of hope. But we should all probably start picking out a headstone and a plot of land in the hill country to bury it in. Without LaMarcus, the team has a nearly nonexistent chance of making the playoffs. So why not let the young guys use these final eight games to play together and prove that the franchise should build around them rather than continually reloading on veterans to help chase a low playoff spot.
Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that some of the teams vying for a play-in spot, the time in Orlando will be treated more like an extension of the Summer League, rather than a legitimate attempt at making the postseason. The Spurs should be firmly in that camp.
Going all-in on their promising group of guards has to be the path forward for San Antonio. Let’s hope the coaches see these final eight games as a sandbox environment to try out playing the dynamic trio together rather than sticking with the same rotations that pushed them out of the playoff picture in the first place.
Next: No. 2
San Antonio Spurs Key Statistics: All of Jakob Poeltl’s stats
Murray and White get a lot of credit for being the spearheads of San Antonio’s defense but Jakob Poeltl is the team’s most impactful defensive player by a fair amount. He had the best defensive rating, defensive box plus/minus, total box plus/minus, and third highest VORP on the team. He was also 5th in the league in blocks per 36 minutes.
Both Poeltl and LaMarcus Aldrdige had one of the best seasons of their careers in terms of sending shots back. Given the Spurs porous perimeter defense, it’s not entirely surprising. Opposing guards frequently found their way to the rim, we’re just lucky that one of Poeltl or Aldridge was there to meet them.
With Aldridge out for the rest of the regular season, there will be a spotlight on Poeltl’s play. He is coming off of a knee injury that caused him to miss some time towards the end of the season but should be ready to go in Orlando. If he plays well he could stand to make himself quite a bit of money over these final few games.
A restricted free agent this summer, Poeltl can use these wrap-up games to prove to the Spurs front office that he can be more than just a rim protector off the bench. He’s gradually improved on the offensive end, both as a passer and finisher, and developed a solid pick and roll chemistry with Derrick White throughout the season.
He probably won’t make any All-Star games but Poeltl can be a serviceable offensive weapon as well as one of the best defensive big men in the league. With Aldridge approaching unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2021 the Spurs front office would be wise to at least consider what the future of the team could look like with the Poeltl taking over a permeant role as the teams starting center.
San Antonio did recently sign Tyler Zeller to give themselves a bit more depth up front but make no mistake, these final eight games will be Jakob Poeltl’s time to shine.
Next: No. 3
San Antonio Spurs Key Statistics: 71 years old
If the San Antonio Spurs are going to treat the final regular games as an extension of the Summer League, why not fully commit and hand the reigns over to Becky Hammon and let her coach out the final eight contests?
Gregg Popovich is 71 years old, the oldest head coach in the league, and well into the age range where he’s considered to be at a greater risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. Given the spike in coronavirus cases that we’ve seen Florida over the past few weeks, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let Pop sit this one out in favor of someone younger.
Having Coach Becky lead the team through the final eight games serves multiple purposes. Firstly, she’s led Summer League teams in the past, winning the Summer League title in 2015, so she’s proven that she can excel in leading a younger group of guys. Secondly, it would ensure Pop’s safety. And finally, it could serve as an indication that the franchise views her as next in line for the team’s head coaching position.
Hammon has drawn interest from other teams around the league in the past, she was recently linked to the New York Knicks head coaching job. That’s a problem for the Spurs. The head coaching job is Pop’s as long as he wants it but the team has to be thinking about life after Popovich. And when their bench is routinely raided by opposing franchise looking for their next head coach or high-level assistant, San Antonio has to do all they can to hang on to top-level talent when they can.
There shouldn’t be any questions about Hammons’s ability to lead the team, she’s certainly a better basketball mind than some of the people you see leading teams around the league. But no one aspires to remain at the assistant level forever. Eventually, a team is going to woo her away with a head coaching opportunity that’s too good to pass up.
Now, that’s probably not the Knicks, but it’s coming. The Spurs would be wise to let her coach out the rest of the regular season as an indication that they view her as the top candidate for the head coaching role that will someday open up.
There will be more to watch than just these three key points when the Spurs take the floor in just a month. No matter how these final eight games shake out, it’ll just be good to have basketball back in our lives once again.