Here’s why you should have faith in the San Antonio Spurs this year
After missing the playoffs for the first time in over two decades, the San Antonio Spurs will be facing an uphill battle to return to the postseason this year. As tough as that task may seem, history has shown us that you should count the Spurs out at your own risk.
There’s no debating that last season’s performance was a severe let down for Spurs fans. The team’s struggles were apparent to anyone who regularly watched the team play. A lack of 3-point shooting and historically bad defense being the most glaring of the bunch. Thankfully, the team spent the offseason directly addressing those issues.
The Spurs didn’t break the internet with shocking draft day trades or splashy free-agent signings but they quietly improved their roster with quality, NBA-ready additions and made necessary and smart free agency signings.
Devin Vassell and Tre Jones should be able to contribute right away. They’re both coming from top-tier programs with a record of sending pro-ready players to the league. Vassell could be in line to have the biggest role that we’ve seen from a Spurs rookie since Kawhi Leonard and Jones should be able to take over the role of the team’s second unit leader in the event Patty Mills gets moved at the deadline.
The rookies are certainly going to have an impact but they’re not the only reasons to have faith in the San Antonio Spurs. Here are four reasons that you should believe in the Spurs this year.
Next: Reason 1 - Improved Defense
The San Antonio Spurs should be vastly improved on the defensive end
The San Antonio Spurs’ decisions this offseason showed the power of addition by subtraction. Well, addition by addition too but for now we’re focusing on addition by subtraction.
By letting Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli walk the Spurs got rid of two of the worst defenders on their roster. They followed that up by making excellent draft selections in Vassell and Jones, both of whom should be able to make an immediate impact on defense.
One of the biggest improvements to the Spurs defense should come in what is likely to be their new starting backcourt of Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. After months of pleading for the two to get more playing time together, the Spurs coaching staff finally made the switch in the bubble, rolling the two out as the teams starting backcourt in seven of the team’s eight games in Orlando.
During the time that the two shared the court in Orlando, the Spurs allowed 109 points per 100 possessions. That’s a markedly better rate than the 113.5 points per 100 possessions that the team gave up across the season and it would have ranked as the 9th best defense in the league if they had carried that performance across the entire season.
You don’t want to read too much into the team’s performance in the bubble as it was such a small sample size but it’s hard not to be optimistic about the team’s defensive potential.
With improvements from guys already on the roster and the addition of two NBA-ready defenders, the San Antonio Spurs should be a vastly better defensive team.
Next: Reason 2 - The youth movement
San Antonio Spurs will lean on their young players, even more, this year
San Antonio Spurs fans are incredibly excited about the additions of Tre Jones and Devin Vassell and they should be! But let’s not overlook the potential of other young players already on the roster. Keldon Johnson, Luka Samanic, and Lonnie Walker should all be prepared for much heavier workloads this year.
Let’s start with Walker. The Spurs 2018 draft pick has game-breaking athleticism and last year he started to show off a more well-rounded game that, when combined with his speed and leaping ability, should make him one of the most exciting players on the Spurs roster.
The high-flying dunks will generate the majority of his highlights but it’s Walker’s shooting ability that should have the greatest impact on the team’s success. After last season’s All-Star break, Walker was connecting on 43.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. If he was able to carry that accuracy across the entire season it would have made him one of the five most accurate 3-point shooters in the league.
The Spurs’ 2019 draft picks are equally promising. Keldon is coming off of a phenomenal bubble performance where he averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 64.7 percent from behind the arc.
He was absurdly accurate with his jumper in Orlando and that’s not something that anyone can reasonably expect to carry over into this season but his comfort with letting it fly when he’s open should be there once again.
It looks like he’s packed on some more muscle over the offseason as well. We should be in for plenty of and-one opportunities from Big Body this year.
The biggest question mark of the bunch is unquestionably Samanic. He showed off the potential that’s so exciting for Spurs fans in the team’s final game of the season but it remains unclear what kind of role he may have this year.
With Drew Eubanks, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Jakob Poeltl all returning, Samanic’s path to significant playing time isn’t any clearer than it was last year. But he’s got far too much potential to sit on the bench or in the G-League for another full season. Look for the Spurs coaching staff to get him involved.
Next: Reason 3- Veteran leadership
DeMar DeRozan is still the leader the San Antonio Spurs need
The San Antonio Spurs and DeMar DeRozan are in a weird spot in their relationship. The star wing opted in to the final year of his deal as many expected to do and will now be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
The contract situation puts a definitive timeline of sorts on DeRozan’s tenure with the Spurs. If they don’t see this as a long-term fit then they’re likely to move him before the trade deadline rather than see him walk for nothing. But until we get clarity on what they’re going to do on that end we should appreciate everything he brings to the Spurs while we can.
For all of the complaints that we may have about his refusal to shoot three’s, DeRozan remains elite at what he does. And if he gets enough space to really work, look out.
When Aldridge stepped out behind the arc and started shooting three’s in mid-December of last year it opened up a world of opportunity for DeRozan. He proceeded to rattle off a streak of games with 20+ points and 3+ assists while shooting better than 52 percent from the floor that put him in the company of legendary players like LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
He also proved time and time again that when the Spurs needed a bucket most, he was the man for the job. He led the team in clutch scoring and was undisputably their go-to option when the game was on the line.
This might be his last year in San Antonio so take time to appreciate DeMar DeRozan while you can. He’s a great player and an even better person and we shouldn’t overlook his contributions even as we’re thinking about possible trade partners.
They’re still a long shot to make the playoffs in the brutal Western Conference but there are still a lot of reasons to believe in our San Antonio Spurs this year.