San Antonio Spurs: What to watch for in scrimmage with Brooklyn Nets

SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 19: Joe Harris #12 of the Brooklyn Nets chats with Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs before the start of their game at AT&T Center on December 19, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 19: Joe Harris #12 of the Brooklyn Nets chats with Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs before the start of their game at AT&T Center on December 19, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 19: Joe Harris #12 of the Brooklyn Nets chats with Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs before the start of their game at AT&T Center on December. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 19: Joe Harris #12 of the Brooklyn Nets chats with Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs before the start of their game at AT&T Center on December. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs next scrimmage is with the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday

There were plenty of turnovers, nervous play, and highlight-reel moments, all culminating in a 113-92 defeat at the hand of one of the best teams in the league. But honestly, none of it mattered. Yesterday the San Antonio Spurs played a real-life game against another team, and for that, we are immensely grateful.

Yesterday’s scrimmage gave us a look at what the young San Antonio Spurs could do. With Becky Hammon taking over as head coach for the day, we finally got an extended look at the trio of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker. We also were able to see all of the Spurs rookies log a few minutes, with Keldon Johnson ending the game tied for third on the team in scoring.

Overall, there were a lot of things to be happy about how the Spurs played. They were moving at a faster pace than we’re used to, the typical Spursian ball movement was there, and there’s some true defensive potential that could come out of a few of these lineups. But there were also plenty of things the team could do better.

These scrimmages are a great place to try new things and experiment with new lineups but there also the final chance the Spurs have to smooth some things out before making their final push for the playoffs. Here are a few things to watch for in San Antonio’s next scrimmage against the Brooklyn Nets.

Next: Ball security is job security

CLEVELAND, OHIO – MARCH 08: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 08, 2020 (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO – MARCH 08: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs reacts during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on March 08, 2020 (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs need to limit the number of turnovers they give up

You can chalk some of it up to rust and not playing a full-speed game against anyone but your own teammates for a few months but the San Antonio Spurs were far too sloppy with the basketball yesterday. That needs to be fixed over these next two scrimmages if they want to have a chance in the regular-season games.

Even if they had done everything else perfectly, it would’ve been hard for the Spurs to beat Milwaukee after turning the ball over 22 times. That’s far too many extra possessions handed to the opponent.

DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes led the way with 3 turnovers apiece but six other Spurs turned the ball over twice over the course of the 40-minute scrimmage. It took the whole team to chalk up the 22 turnovers and it’ll take a full team effort to get San Antonio back to where they should be.

Taking care of the basketball has always been a major point of emphasis for the Spurs. It’s something every team has a high degree of control over and if you lose the turnover battle, more often than not, you’re going to lose the game. San Antonio was the best in the league in limiting their turnovers this year and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to get back to that level.

The Spurs have shown they can take excellent care of the ball and win the turnover battle on most nights. Let’s hope yesterday’s performance was just the nerves getting to them. This is a statistic that bears watching as we progress towards the regular-season.

Next: Getting Jakob Poeltl more involved

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JANUARY 20: Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs high fives Patty Mills #8 after scoring against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 20, 2020 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JANUARY 20: Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs high fives Patty Mills #8 after scoring against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 20, 2020 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Will the San Antonio Spurs get Jakob Poeltl involved more

Maybe they already feel confident in his conditioning and want to save his legs for the regular season games when he has to play more minutes but it was surprising to see Jakob Poeltl log just 16 minutes in the San Antonio Spurs first scrimmage.

With Trey Lyles and LaMarcus Aldridge out, many figured that Poeltl would be the centerpiece of the Spurs frontcourt rotation through the rest of the season. And, to be fair, he did lead all Spurs frontcourt players in minutes yesterday. But frankly, I thought he would be more involved.

https://twitter.com/spurs/status/1286396238129246209

If the Spurs are focused on playing faster, Poeltl can do that. If they want to slow things down and work in pick and roll and focus on ball movement in the half-court, Poeltl can do that. Becky Hammon talked about finding a group that has a defensive edge, Poeltl would be a key part of that lineup.

There’s an argument for Poeltl being one of the most important players on the Spurs squad over these final eight games. He was a leader on the team in several advanced metrics this year including box plus/minus while also finishing third in value over replacement player. He was also the only player on the team to finish with a positive box score yesterday. He’s a key part of the Spurs’ success going forward and deserves to be treated as such.

I’m trying not to read too much into one scrimmage, especially as it was the first of three that the Spurs have before they get back to regular season play, but the fear of Poeltl feeling marginalized is nagging at me. He’s made it very clear that he will look at other teams in free agency, teams that are willing to offer him a larger role. The easiest way to push him out the door would be to continue to limit his minutes even while Aldridge and Lyles are out.

This is Jakob’s opportunity to shine and every Spurs fan should be hoping that his role is gradually increased as the team inches closer to actual games.

Next: More love for the rookies

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MAY 16: Luka Samanic #72 participates in workouts during Day One of the NBA Draft Combine at Quest MultiSport Complex on May 16, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – MAY 16: Luka Samanic #72 participates in workouts during Day One of the NBA Draft Combine at Quest MultiSport Complex on May 16, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Will we see more of the San Antonio Spurs rookies?

The San Antonio Spurs have a lot to juggle during these scrimmages. They’re trying to get their legs back underneath them, regain some of that chemistry they had in the regular season, while also tinkering with rotations and getting some younger players more minutes.

In the scrimmage against the Bucks, we saw every Spurs rookie get on the floor for at least a few minutes. Keldon Johnson got significant play, logging 18 minutes and finishing tied for third on the team in scoring. But the contributions of Luka Samanic and Quinndary Weatherspoon were significantly more limited.

Weatherspoon was on the floor for 7 minutes while Samanic saw just 4 minutes of playing time. We thought that with Lyles and Aldridge out, Samanic might be used more but that wasn’t the case yesterday.

The team has talked a lot about these games being focused on development but they’re also eyeing that final playoff spot. If they’re within striking distance and feel like they can make a real push for the playoffs with a few games left it wouldn’t be surprising to see Samanic and Weatherspoon pushed to the end of the bench.

With that possibility in mind, why not get them some additional minutes right now? It’s a balancing act, trying to get your key players ready for the regular season while also getting young players minutes, but it would be nice to see Samanic play more.

One offseason trade with every team – Miami Heat. Next

The San Antonio Spurs gave their fans a lot to be excited about in the first scrimmage with the Bucks. Let’s see if they can keep that trend rolling as they take on the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow.

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