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San Antonio Spurs: 2 players that might win NBA awards in 2021

Aug 5, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) brings the ball up court against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of a NBA basketball game at Visa Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 5, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) brings the ball up court against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of a NBA basketball game at Visa Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Aug 5, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) brings the ball up court against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of a NBA basketball game at Visa Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

These two San Antonio Spurs have a chance at season-ending awards

It doesn’t take a brilliant basketball mind to tell you that the chances of any player on the San Antonio Spurs capturing MVP this year are just about nonexistent. But that doesn’t mean that the Spurs have to be shut out from the season-ending awards entirely.

In a weird way, the Spurs are almost more likely to see someone win a season award than they are to see one of their players named to an All-Star team.

Former All-Star’s like DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge might be capable of making a return trip and, if he has a stellar return from injury, Derrick White might generate some darkhorse buzz but the Spurs place in the standings is likely to torpedo any players chances of making the team.

All-Star Team selections disproportionally favor players on elite teams. It’s the reason we saw four players from the ’14-15 Atlanta Hawks team named to that year’s All-Star team and it’s the reason that Bradley Beal watched last season’s contest from the comfort of his home despite having some of the best numbers in the league.

The San Antonio Spurs are not an elite team, plain and simple. And that could really hurt some player’s chances at making an All-Star team this year. But those same players could still contend for hardware at the end of the season.

Here are a few San Antonio Spurs who we think could hear their names called at the 2021 NBA Awards Ceremony.

Next: Most Improved Player of the Year

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Aug 2, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs’ Derrick White (4) drives into Memphis Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke (15) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Could Derrick White win Most Improved Player of the Year?

Fresh off of signing a 4-year $73 million dollar extension keeping him with the San Antonio Spurs, what should we expect from Derrick White in his fourth year in the NBA? By making him the highest-paid member of their young core the Spurs signaled that they believe White can be a cornerstone for years to come. Let’s see him meet their expectations.

White will miss the first couple of the weeks of the season as he works his way back to game shape after surgery this offseason but when he’s back on the court there’s no reason to expect him not to pick up where he left off in the Orlando bubble.

Over the final eight games of the regular season, White averaged 18.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5 assists, 0.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game. Impressive numbers to be sure, but if they were sustained across a full season would they be good enough to win Most Improved Player of the Year.

To get an idea of what White would have to average this season to have a chance at winning the award I looked at how the past five award winners had improved from the season prior to their award-winning year, and applied similar improvements to White’s numbers from the full ’19-20 season. Here is what I found.

Derrick White will have to average close to 21.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game with a player efficiency rating of 23.4 to have a chance at the award. The block and steal numbers got a bit skewed but if he can average one and one he should be okay.

Not unreasonable numbers, right? He was the sharp point of the Spurs’ attack for much of their time in the bubble and should return to that role once he’s healthy. If he can lead the Spurs to a solid record he should be in the conversation.

The Spurs record is going to come into play here. This isn’t like Rookie of the Year where a good player on a bad team can rack up stats and walk away with the hardware.

Combined, the teams of the past five award winners averaged a 54 percent win percentage in the year their player won Most Improved Player. The Spurs will have to have a similar winning percentage if they want White to have a chance.

Next: Rookie of the Year

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Florida State guard Devin Vassell, a San Antonio Spurs draft prospect, lines up his 3-point shot Saturday, March 7, 2020.

Could Devin Vassell contend for Rookie of the Year?

There were some criticisms that the 2020 NBA Draft class was light on star talent but don’t tell that to San Antonio Spurs fans. Through three preseason games, we couldn’t be happier with who the team ended up taking.

Devin Vassell showed out in all three preseason games. He was doing everything Spurs fans had hoped he would and then some. His defense was superb, his three-point shot was falling, and he was even playing inside and above the rim to a greater degree than we expected.

Collectively it was a solid preseason showing from the Spurs highest draft pick since Tim Duncan. There’s no doubt that he deserves a sizeable role in the Spurs rotation. But can he take that next step and follow in Duncan’s footsteps and win Rookie of the Year?

In three preseason showings, Vassell averaged 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3 steals per game on 27.6 minutes of playing time per contest while also shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. The steals and three-point shooting don’t seem sustainable but the scoring, rebounding, and playing time should continue well into the preseason.

With Keldon Johnson and Derrick White set to miss the first few weeks recovering there is going to be a role for Vassell from the beginning. And if he plays as well as he did in the preseason he should have no problem holding onto it well after Johnson and White return.

One positive of the lack of star talent in the 2020 class is that we don’t have a clear frontrunner for ROTY like we did last year. Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, and Patrick Williams will surely have their cases but can we say for certain that they’ll be stronger than Vassell’s? I think it’s far too early to say for sure.

The Spurs could be one injury away from Vassell playing close to 30 minutes a night. Obviously, we all hope that doesn’t happen but injuries are a part of the NBA and the path to a significant role is there for Vassell.

I am suggesting that you take your incoming $600 check and bet it all on Vassell to win Rookie of the Year? Not necessarily. But he’s set at +4500 right now and a $600 bet on that would win you a smooth $27K so you make the call.

Next. All 5 Spurs' Finals MVPs, Ranked

The San Antonio Spurs are a classic team-first organization so don’t expect to hear anything from inside the organization about these player’s chances at winning these awards. But if the team takes care of their business these two Spurs stars will likely have a shot at hearing their names called at the 2021 NBA Awards.

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