As suggested by the Orlando restart, the version of the San Antonio Spurs that we see in the 2020-21 season may be very different from what we’re used to.
Finding equilibrium was a difficult task for San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. To begin the year, it was clear that young players weren’t getting nearly as much priority as the veterans. With legitimate playoff intentions coming off of an admirable seven-game first-round series in 2019, the San Antonio Spurs deployed their seasoned players in pursuit of the greater good.
By the end of the season, we saw a complete transformation of intention. Heading into their eight sending games inside the NBA’s Bubble, the San Antonio Spurs knew this would be a time for development. An invisible line has been drawn between the San Antonio Spurs’ future and the past with impending free-agent DeMar DeRozan standing firmly in the middle of it.
Needless to say, we’re going to see a very different iteration of the San Antonio Spurs next season. Many of the players will be the exact same — In fact there aren’t likely to be many changes at all. However, we’re going to see shifts that align with how the team proceeded when it became Kawhi Leonard’s team around 2015. The Big Three of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili found themselves playing fewer than 29 minutes per contest in the ’14-15 season.
The next year, their minutes each dropped once more with LaMarcus Aldridge joining the team to assume a leadership role with extended minutes. Now, it seems like LaMarcus could find himself on the opposite side of that scenario.
Playing without him in the Orlando bubble, the San Antonio Spurs put together one of the most confident performances in the restart. Overshadowed by the upstart Phoenix Suns, the Spurs managed to post one of the best Net Ratings of the season in arguably their best stretch all year long. They did so by allowing their young players to assume a more predominant role.
Expect to see a lot more of the Dejounte Murray/Derrick White combination next year with a strong possibility that they each start. Whether it’s off the bench or at the starting small forward position, Lonnie Walker is slated for an uptick in playing time and usage as well. This means we could be in for a full season of DeRozan at small-ball four unless Popovich decides only to utilize it in bursts throughout the night.
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Aldridge is almost certainly going to start, but the rotation won’t lean on him quite as heavily as we move forward. Tim Duncan was at 28 minutes per game at Aldridge’s age, which is a more likely outcome than ever with the Spurs’ young talent proving they’re ready to make an impact early into their careers.
The talent pool in professional basketball is deeper than ever. International talent assimilates to the NBA much more easily and frequently as the sport grows globally. More kids than ever are dedicating their time to being professional athletes — Specifically with NBA dreams. These young players enter the league hungry to compete with wide-ranging skill sets that help set their teams up for success.
Popovich’s hand is going to be forced the quite frankly, we don’t see as much of the veterans in the 2020-21 season. This is amplified by the fact that they’ll add their highest draft selection since Duncan himself.
Brace yourself for a different approach from Popovich in constructing lineups next year.