San Antonio Spurs: What did the NBA restart mean for Trey Lyles?

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 04: Thanasis Antetokounmpo #43 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against Trey Lyles #41 of the San Antonio Spurs during a game at Fiserv Forum on January 04, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 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 Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 04: Thanasis Antetokounmpo #43 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against Trey Lyles #41 of the San Antonio Spurs during a game at Fiserv Forum on January 04, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 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 Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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After starting for most of the season, power forward Trey Lyles was absent in the bubble and the San Antonio Spurs took off. What comes next for him?

There were two separate versions of the San Antonio Spurs this season: The pre-corona Spurs and the Bubble Spurs. One was a dreadful team that gave up easily and played down to poor opponents. The other version fought hard no-matter-what, trusting in themselves to be the best versions of themselves while playing hard for the full 48 minutes.

Unfortunately, forward Trey Lyles wasn’t able to be a part of that team, leaving behind an array of questions. In his first full season with the silver and black, Lyles played way above expectations. His floor-spacing, rebounding and agility were crucial to a Spurs team clawing at the playoffs, but he played with one of the most statistically devastating starting lineups in basketball.

Lyles is a capable and reliable player who knows his role and executes it well. San Antonio should be glad to bring him back on a team-friendly deal next season, but there’s really no telling what his role looks like. After going young and playing DeMar DeRozan at the four-spot, could head coach Gregg Popovich look to implement the same strategy at the start of next season?

DeRozan also mentioned getting Trey Lyles back next season: "Kind of a great feeling going into it, understanding that once we are healthy, understanding what we really could be."

— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) August 14, 2020

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Technically, Lyles is young enough to be a part of the youth movement at 24-years-old. However, the rookie Luka Samanic is waiting in the shadows to take his role. After his breakout game at the end of the season, Samanic could be ready sooner than we ever expected. That, combined with the resurgence of Rudy Gay and the emergence of Drew Eubanks leaves Lyles in a tricky position.

He’ll certainly be a rotation player and maybe even a starter next season, but Lyles could see his 20.2 minutes per game decrease in his second season with the team. There are also two other possibilities that I don’t deem likely. The first of which is that San Antonio capitalizes on his great debut season in silver and black and package him in some sort of trade. I don’t know that there are any teams dying to have Lyles in their lineup, but his masterful rebounding and floor spacing would make him a valuable addition to many lineups.

The other option is that San Antonio flat-out declines his team-option for next season. I just don’t see that happening unless something drastic changes.

Next. Free agents to watch in the EC first-round

Only time will tell what Lyles’ role shall become as he progresses in silver and black.

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