Mar 31, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (10) talks to teammate LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the second half against the Sacramento Kings at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
These three San Antonio Spurs could be in for smaller roles this year
There has been no shortage of hot takes in the days following the San Antonio Spurs‘ first preseason game of the 2020-21 season. The 121-108 drubbing at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder was certainly not how any of us hoped to see the Spurs get started.
A lot of the talk coming from Spurs players and coaches during training camp has stressed the importance of picking up where they left off in Orlando. Whether it was LaMarcus Aldridge shooting more threes or the team playing at a faster pace, all the changes the Spurs were making were to get them back to the groove they found in the bubble.
Given the narrative that had been building it was surprising to see Rudy Gay among the Spurs starters. It was even more surprising when he led the team in minutes.
We’re not going to read too much into the minute distribution of one preseason game but that was an interesting note from the Spurs return to play.
As San Antonio works their way through these next preseason games, look for Gregg Popovich to continue tinkering with lineups. Some of the changes could result in smaller or different roles for these players.
Next: Rudy Gay in for reduced role
Aug 5, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) reacts during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets at Visa Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Rudy Gay to fulfill a similar but reduced role for San Antonio Spurs
Getting the same version of Rudy Gay that they had in the bubble would be huge for the San Antonio Spurs. He looked alive in Orlando, averaging 13.4 points and 5.7 rebounds a night on 45.7 percent shooting from behind the arc.
I’m all for whatever it takes to get Rudy playing like he was in the bubble but I didn’t think that would mean a starting role and 26 minutes a night. Even with his impressive finish to the season, Rudy seemed like he was in line for a smaller role than last year.
There are two main points in the case for tweaking Gay’s role: It could open up more opportunities for young players and it could help keep Gay fresh for later in the season.
Keldon Johnson missed this first preseaon game with an injury but he’s a player that the Spurs need to get involved early. And at some point this season it’ll be important for them to see what Luka Samanic can do with some more consistent playing time.
Gay has already talked about dropping pounds and working to stay mobile as he looks to extend what has been an impressive NBA career. Maybe he’d be open to a more aggressive load management program this year if it can help him add years to his career while also helping the Spurs young guys.
Next: Vassell puts pressure on other wings
Devin Vassell ready to put pressure on the San Antonio Spurs coaches
One of the things that stood out most from the San Antonio Spurs’ first preseason game was just how good Devin Vassell looked. We’ve been excited to watch the rookie make his debut and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
Vassell logged 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals in 25 minutes of play. It was an impressive all-around performance that showed exactly how the promising young wing can positively impact the Spurs on both ends of the floor.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 13, 2020
Little plays like this – a subtle swipe of the ball on one end of the floor followed by knocking down the three at the other – are what Vassell is capable of doing on a regular basis with a heavier minute load. This doesn’t mean that he’s suddenly going to start getting starters minutes but it’s clear that the Spurs have a rookie who’s ready to play.
The Spurs coaching staff is going to have to find ways to get him onto the floor and some of that could come at the expense of other young players.
There’s a role waiting for him if Keldon Johnson isn’t ready to start the season. The more interesting part will come later when the Spurs coaches have to find a way to get minutes for all of their young players.
Next: What does LMA's role look like?
What does LaMarcus Aldridge’s role with the San Antonio Spurs look like?
One of the biggest questions facing the San Antonio Spurs this season was what LaMarcus Aldridge’s role within the offense would be.
It was a point of much speculation and conversation throughout the lead-up to the season and our first look at LMA and the Spurs in months gave us an idea of what to expect going forward.
First and foremost, the three’s. Oh wow, the three’s. Aldridge really leaned fully into his new shooting responsibilities and fired off ten three-point attempts during the team’s first bit of action.
I don’t think that’s something that we can expect from him on a nightly basis but it’s very clear that we’re going to see a lot of Aldridge from behind the arc.
I’m not sure that Aldridge’s role will be reduced so much as it’ll be heavily modified. The Spurs thrived on quick ball movement in Orlando so the days of the LaMarcus post-up may be behind us.
There’s only so much that you can learn about what Aldridge’s role will look like from one preseason game but it’s clear that he’s one of the players who will have to make the largest adjustments. That’s likely to be a work in progress so keep your eyes on how his role in the offense changes over the first few weeks of the season.