San Antonio Spurs: Injuries will give golden opportunities to young guns

Tre Jones (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Tre Jones (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The San Antonio Spurs will be shorthanded in their two remaining preseason games, but that will give some guys a chance to prove their value.

The preseason is usually a time you want to have a cohesive unit on the court in preparation for the season. Unfortunately for the San Antonio Spurs, some nagging offseason injuries aren’t allowing that to happen. There will be four guys hanging back as the Spurs travel to Houston for games on Tuesday and Thursday.

As Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia reported Monday, San Antonio will be without Derrick White, Keita Bates-Diop, Keldon Johnson, and Quinndary Weatherspoon for both matchups. Coach Popovich hasn’t given a specific return timetable for any of these injuries, only stating they “wouldn’t be with the team to start.”

While Weatherspoon and Bates-Diop aren’t in the rotation, White and Johnson certainly leave holes in the Spurs’ regular lineups. Starting Derrick has been a long time coming, and Keldon proved enough in Orlando to earn meaningful minutes as the Spurs continue with their youth movement.

Since the feeling is White and Johnson are likely being held out more as a precaution, these next two games could end up being a positive for the Spurs if they’re able to see what some of the new guys can do.

These three should have the biggest opportunities to show San Antonio what they’re made of twice this week as the regular season draws nearer.

Devin Vassell (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Devin Vassell (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

1. San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Vassell

I have a small sample size of NBA experience to draw from, but I still have a feeling Devin Vassell won’t need any favors to get some playing time. Vassell was impressive for the Spurs on both ends of the floor in their preseason opener, making his presence felt despite admittedly having some rookie jitters.

It’s hard to fake basketball IQ, and Vassell just has it. His play in practice and in the preseason has already earned him some compliments from DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Lonnie Walker, and Coach Popovich. When you’re getting in good graces with the head coach and veterans before the regular season even starts, you’re doing something right.

Expect Vassell to continue to impress in Houston as he gets more playing time.

Tre Jones (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Tre Jones (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

2. San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones

Tre Jones might’ve only played seven minutes of action in the Spurs’ preseason opener, but he still showed signs of his “as-advertised” defense. The 6-2 guard tallied a block and a steal in his limited time and also showed excellent position defense and the ability to stay in front of his man often. That alone puts him ahead of some of the recently departed Spurs guards.

Related Story. Jones: "I know how lucky I am to play for Pop"

While he’ll still play behind Dejounte Murray and Patty Mills, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get more run in Houston, especially given the Rockets’ propensity to go small at all times. If Houston gets it rolling with their abundance of guards, Jones could be a good option to slow that momentum down.

San Antonio Spurs Luka Samanic (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs Luka Samanic (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

3. Luka Samanic

After showing some signs of his capabilities in last season’s finale, Luka Samanic looked timid against the Thunder. Finishing 1-of-4 from the field, Samanic looked somewhat disinterested at times and didn’t quite take advantage of his 12 minutes of playing time.

Still, given the kind of year it’s been for the NBA and in general, it’s hard to fault anyone for being a bit rusty in their first game back. At 6-10 with a shooting stroke, Luka still has loads of potential, and the games in Houston could be the perfect chances for him to begin living up to them.

Coach Popovich will likely wait until the second half to give Samanic some burn, and he’d be wise to show hustle and heart when that happens.

*Update: Welp. Guess he’ll need to wait to prove himself until the regular season.

Luka Samanic will not play in Houston this week due to food poisoning, according to the Spurs.

— Evan Closky (@EvanClosky) December 15, 2020

3 Team goals for the new season. Next

The two-game series with Houston begins Tuesday evening at 8 pm ET from the Toyota Center.