Aug 2, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, USA; San Antonio Spurs’ Derrick White (4) confers with teammates Rudy Gay (22), DeMar DeRozan (10) and others during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Who should the San Antonio Spurs have in their starting lineup?
The NBA Draft has come and gone and, barring any crazy last-minute trades, the San Antonio Spurs roster is all but set.
After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 22 years, Coach Pop and the front office know adjustments have to be made if they want to have a chance at making the playoffs next season. They did not make any big moves on draft night contrary to many rumors leading up to it, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
By all accounts, the Spurs were on the phones aggressively trying field offers from teams around the league for their veteran leaders like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills among a few others. Those rumors, in the end, were ultimately smoke and mirrors, and the Spurs have opted to do some restructuring internally as they are accustomed to.
Re-signing Jakob Poeltl, drafting Devin Vassell and Tre Jones, and letting Bryn Forbes walk has set the Spurs up to remain competitive this upcoming season while keeping their cap space for next offseason well intact.
Given who they drafted and who they brought back, it’s reasonable to expect the Spurs to roll out similar lineups this year that we saw in the Orlando bubble. This means more small ball, more fast breaks, more defense, and most importantly, more youth.
It would also be reasonable to expect multiple guys being slated in different positions depending on fluidity and matchups, among other factors.
Keldon and Demar may run some time at the four, Lonnie could get minutes at the two, even rookie Devin Vassell could play right away at the three. The Spurs have a lot of different lineup combinations to play with and it’s fun for us to talk about.
They might not be competing for a championship but this team should be fun to watch every night. Here’s who you can expect the Spurs to have in their starting lineup on night one of the ’20-21 NBA season.
Next: Starting Point Guard
Dec 12, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) goes up for a dunk in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs starting point guard, Dejounte Murray
After a shaky return this past season, it seems the San Antonio Spurs are still all in on Dejounte Murray being their point guard for the foreseeable future. It’s easy to make the case for Derrick White to get the nod as the starting point guard after his incredible bubble performance. But as we saw in Orlando, their roles are pretty interchangeable and we live in a world where they can, and should coexist in the backcourt.
If Derrick does carry over his tremendous bubble play into next season, you might see him facilitating the offense more than Dejounte and that’s okay.
Dejounte steadily improved in every statistical category on offense this past season coming off an ACL tear. He did have a shaky season and his ceiling may not be as high as we originally thought a couple of years ago. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a very good player for this Spurs team.
Don’t forget he averaged 12.6 points, 6 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 29.5 minutes per game in Orlando. If we are to believe the Spurs are going to use the same formula as we saw in the bubble, look for more minutes and higher numbers from Dejounte this season.
He is still one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. He was fourth in the league in steals and 13th in deflections in just 25 minutes per game. Now, next season the Spurs plan on pairing him with guys like Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, and even Devin Vassell instead of Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli, and Patty Mills, which is only going to bring out the best of his defensive abilities.
With guys like that having his back Dejoutne should feel even more empowered to get his hands in passing lanes and use his length and quickness to hound opposing point guards. That’s where he makes his money and it’s about time he’s set loose to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
For DJ, it’s all about consistency. All season long we saw flashes of tremendous ability that were overshadowed by poor performances. Although, it’s probably worth giving him the benefit of the doubt considering what he’s had to go through with missing an entire season and being paired with so many defensive liabilities this past year.
Dejounte is a confidence player like many others in this league. The better he plays, the more his confidence grows. Come opening night, number 5 will in all likelihood remain the Spurs starting point guard.
Next: Starting Shooting Guard
San Antonio Spurs starting shooting guard, Derrick White
With the new opening thanks to Bryn Forbes leaving for the Milwaukee Bucks, who better to fill his spot than this guy?
There isn’t much to say about Derrick White’s bubble performance that hasn’t already been said. He was flat out fantastic. Offensively he was by far the best player with maybe the exception of DeMar DeRozan. Defensively he stepped up as a leader maybe not in steals or blocks (although he had plenty of those) but by leading the team in charges, five alone against Sacramento.
Charges are more than just forcing a turnover. They are huge momentum swingers and they are not as easy as people think. To sacrifice your body (or in Derrick’s case, a tooth) and to show to your teammates that you’re willing to constantly take those hits, that takes real leadership and Derrick showed plenty of that.
Derrick proved this season that he is too good of a player to have come off the bench. As previously brought up, Derrick and Dejounte can coexist both defensively and offensively.
In the bubble, Derrick shot 45 percent from three, with a lot of those coming from spot-up looks. Dejounte has also proven to be a capable three-pointer as well. What does that mean? The concerns about floor spacing that once plagued these two are gone. They’ve proven can play off each other without having any spacing issues.
Defensively Derrick is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league that didn’t make an All-NBA Defensive selection this year. In just under 25 minutes per game this past season, White was second in the league among all guards in blocks this year at 59. More than Marcus Smart, Eric Bledsoe, and Patrick Beverly all of whom made the All-NBA Defensive team this season.
Offensively there’s not much he can’t do. His numbers may not show it but White is very talented on that end, with the ability to score at every level. We reference the bubble a lot when talking about next season and for good reason, when given more minutes, Derrick took full advantage. In Orlando, the rising guard averaged 18.9 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds in 29 minutes per game.
It may be hard to replicate those numbers exactly, but expect Derrick White to thrive as a starter this season.
Next: Starting Small Forward
Jan 27, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) practices before the game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs starting small forward, DeMar DeRozan
After opting into his $27 million dollar player option, it looks like DeMar will be playing in silver and black for at least one more season.
After his performance in Orlando, it was clear that Demar is willing to take more of a backseat role to allow the younger guards behind him to see more touches on offense. Still, when it came down to the fourth quarter, there was one guy Coach Pop was calling on to take over and that was number 10.
While the San Antonio Spurs certainly had a down year, DeRozan had one of his best. Scoring 22 points to go with 5.6 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game while shooting 53% from the floor, he had one of the most offensively efficient seasons by any guard in NBA history. He’s still pretty deadly from the midrange and his playmaking ability has only improved since arriving in San Antonio.
His defense, while better, has still been an issue. Interestingly enough, Coach Pop played DeMar at the four during the bubble, a move most people did not see coming.
The injuries to LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles may have played a role in that, it actually worked out pretty well. The small ball lineups created mismatches for the Spurs to exploit on offense and defensively they held their own, thanks mostly to improved perimeter defending.
With a new season, however, it is likely that the Spurs will return to a more traditional lineup and that means DeMar moving back to the three. While he may start there, don’t be surprised if we see more small-ball lineups this season that would move him back to the four. Maybe Coach Pop will look to do that earlier than we think, one thing is for certain, DeMar will be in the starting lineup one way or another.
Next: Starting Power Forward
Nov 1, 2019; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) reacts after the Spurs made a basket against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter at the Chase Center. (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs starting power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge
Like it or not, the seven-time All-Star is back next season unless, similar to DeMar, he is traded prior to the deadline. However, with each day that goes by that appears less likely.
While it’s fair to argue for trading LaMarcus Aldridge instead of letting him walk for nothing at the end of next season, it’s also fair to point out that trading him will not be as easy as people think unless the Spurs are really willing to take a low-ball deal.
For now, at least, LaMarcus is back and will remain a starter and one of the best players on this team. The only question is though, how will he fit in with the new-look Spurs?
It’s worth bringing it up since we already know how well DeMar fit. Sidelined after shoulder surgery, Aldridge was forced to sit out of the NBA restart which really opened the door for more small-ball lineups that we saw in Orlando. With his return now, it will be interesting to see how the Spurs plan on incorporating him back into the lineup.
While his game may seem more redundant by the day, LaMarcus still had a pretty productive season. Averaging almost 19 points per game along with 7.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists, he proved he can still be a bucket-getter even in today’s game. One underrated aspect of LaMarcus is his defense. Finishing 16th overall in the NBA this past season in total blocks with 87, he has been a much better paint protector.
The knock on LaMarcus’s game is obviously his fit with the team and the fact that he does slow the offense down, which in the end may cause more harm than good. Just look at the pace the Spurs played at in the bubble.
There may be a happy medium where the Spurs are able to incorporate LaMarcus back into the lineup without taking that step backward on offense. Adopting a more 3-and-D type of role would be better suited for this new-look team, and he proved he is capable this past season, shooting 38 percent from three.
Would it be the craziest thing to suggest that Coach Pop might roll with a lineup of Dejounte, Derrick, Lonnie, DeMar, and LaMarcus opening night? Defense would be an issue but the offense could be explosive.
For the time being, LaMarcus is a Spur and there are much worse players to be stuck with on much worse contracts. Hopefully, his return doesn’t diminish the roles of the youth core that we’ve seen blossom so quickly.
Next: Starting Center
Feb 11, 2020; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Trey Lyles (41) reacts after a call against him by officials during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. (Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs starting center, Trey Lyles
After losing out on Marcus Morris last offseason, the San Antonio Spurs rebounded with Trey Lyles who was surprisingly one of the few bright spots throughout the year. Trey clearly made a very good impression with Coach Pop and his staff early on by getting the starting nod on opening night. He understandably took a little time to adjust to the new team and trying to find his place within it.
While he was struggling with his jump shot for the first few months of the season, he was pretty consistently one of the best rebounders on the team. Another thing about Trey that won’t show up in the stat book is that he’s a pretty versatile defender for a big, allowing him to hold his own for the most part on the perimeter whenever he is switched onto a guard.
As the season went on, Trey improved pretty steadily as he gained confidence and comfort with his new team. When LaMarcus went down with a shoulder injury, Trey stepped up and had some of his best games of the season. He eventually became a constant scoring threat from three without losing a step on defense.
Some impressive numbers from games later in the season include 20 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks vs Orlando, 20 points, 6 rebounds vs Indiana, 23 points, 10 rebounds vs Portland. In those games, Trey shot 10 for 17 from three.
Another fun stat, in the first 47 games of the season, Trey reached double figures just five times. In the next 16 games, he reached double figures nine times. His season was cut short before the NBA restart sadly due to an appendectomy. For Trey, his starting spot is not etched in stone and is probably the one most likely to change if any.
Thanks to his constant improvement, however, Trey earned the confidence and trust of his coaches which for now, which will probably give him the starting nod come next month.
The San Antonio Spurs starters could easily change as other players force their way into the conversation but, for now, this is who it looks like the Spurs will be rolling with on opening night.