The only way for the San Antonio Spurs to continue giving power forward Trey Lyles a considerable role is if he can sustain a high rebounding rate.
Generating second-chance points is a key to success for NBA teams in the modern game. With the pace at an all-time high, the San Antonio Spurs have adapted by getting their guards and wings more involved on the defensive glass. They ranked ninth in the NBA in defensive rebounds last season but only 15th overall because of their poor offensive rebounding.
This is an area where the San Antonio Spurs need to see improvement from power forward Trey Lyles. The Spurs’ starting four through most of the year, Lyles put up 13.6 rebounds per 100 possession, which is the second-worst behind the starting center, LaMarcus Aldridge. Though the numbers are a bit skewed based on their playing and time how Lyles oftentimes shares the court with great rebounders in DeRozan and Murray, the fact remains that he can do more.
No Spurs forward outside of Rudy Gay, a natural small forward, had a worse offensive rebounding percentage than Lyles last season (6%). When your starting power forward fails to generate second chances, it leads to your team falling dead-last at No. 30 in offensive rebound percentage. At only 11 second-chance points per game, the Spurs rank 29th out of 30, just three-tenths of an offensive rebound ahead of the New York Knicks for the last spot in the league.
If Lyles wants to maintain his starting spot, he needs to accelerate his annual progression as a rebounder by making more of an impact next year. The fact that San Antonio has so many players willing and able to compete for defensive rebounds leaves no room for error on the offensive glass. Aldridge seems to be slowing down despite putting up considerable numbers this season and with that being the case, Lyles must improve his productivity.
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Next season, the rotation won’t be so cut-and-dried. In his second season with the club, 2019’s No. 19 pick Luka Samanic will begin to compete for Lyles’ minutes with each passing game. The same applies to the likes of Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu, who each have a decent chance of returning to the team next season. If Jakob Poeltl returns, he’ll likely play more often, forcing head coach Gregg Popovich to shrink the rotation and cut down on someone’s minutes. Part of those will come from Aldridge, but it’s reasonable to suspect many will come from Lyles as well.
Being in this features role has legitimized Lyles’ place in this league. Between Denver and Utah in his previous two seasons, Lyles failed to leave a lasting impact as a mid-tier role player who eventually got overshadowed by his teammates. Unless he takes a leap, becomes more productive and generates more second-chance looks, it’s only a matter of time before his minutes get cut and he finds himself looking for a new team.
This means Lyles must work on his body and conditioning to prepare for competition in the looming season. He’ll need to outwork, outhustle and battle with his opponents to make sure everything falls in line.
The San Antonio Spurs need that from Lyles and quite frankly, he’ll need to do it in order to secure a noteworthy contract as he enters the second half of a two-year deal with the River City.