San Antonio Spurs: Why did Trey Lyles disappear from the Spurs lineup?

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 02: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs, Trey Lyles #41, and Drew Eubanks #14 watch the closing seconds of second half action at AT&T Center on March 02, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. The Indiana Pacers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 116-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 02: Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs, Trey Lyles #41, and Drew Eubanks #14 watch the closing seconds of second half action at AT&T Center on March 02, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. The Indiana Pacers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 116-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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Through five games we’ve hardly seen the San Antonio Spurs big man

No one was expecting the world from Trey Lyles when he signed with the San Antonio Spurs shortly before the end of the 2019 offseason. On his third team in five years, it looked like Lyles was just hoping for a new foothold in the league, not a featured role.

It didn’t take long for Lyles to find himself as a fixture in the starting lineup. He’d end up starting 53 games for the Spurs, providing valuable shooting and rebound alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.

After having his appendix removed, Lyles was forced to miss the bubble. This made his reintegration into the lineup this year a bit of a question mark but given his skill set, it seemed like his fit would be almost seamless.

So it’s quite the surprise to see Lyles nearly glued to the bench through San Antonio’s first five games. A role change that saw him move to the second unit wouldn’t be a shock but he’s hardly seen the floor. What’s going on here?

Why is Trey Lyles stuck to the San Antonio Spurs bench this year?

Through five games, Lyles has logged just 10 minutes of playing time. Those minutes came in negligible performances against the Pelicans and Raptors. Even when the Spurs’ frontcourt rotation was depleted against the Lakers they still didn’t turn to Lyles.

If Trey was a last-minute addition coming into the season this behavior wouldn’t be news. But he started 53 games for San Antonio, they clearly trust him to be part of the rotation. And he was playing so well before the season shut down!

After the All-Star break, Lyles was shooting 48.8 percent from behind the arc while giving the Spurs 12.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per night. That’s solid production! He finally looked like he was comfortable in the Spurs offense and had found the balance between moving the ball around and knowing when to take his open opportunities.

So why has he been glued to the bench so far? Honestly, it’s hard to tell. It’s almost certainly not attitude related. He was involved in the Spurs photoshoot for their new Fiesta jerseys and talked about how much that meant to him to be included with the rest of the Spurs young core.

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So is he just stinking it up in practice? Has the shot that made him such a valuable member of the rotation last year completely abandoned him now? Outside of that, I can’t see much of a reason for relating him to the bench like this.

It’s not like the Spurs’ current frontcourt rotation is playing astoundingly well. They got whooped by the Lakers and could use an injection of energy if LaMarcus Aldridge continues to miss games. As long as Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks continue to be inconsistent you’ll find us wondering why Lyles isn’t at least getting involved in the mix.

Maybe it’s just a matter of having too many mouths to feed. When the Spurs are fully healthy there are always going to be a few odd men out. We thought that minutes crunch would cramp Luka Samanic’s season but thought Lyles’s performances last year might have insulated him from that. It appears we were wrong.

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The San Antonio Spurs have a brutal month of January that is really going to test them as a team. With a busy schedule and inconsistent frontcourt production, don’t be surprised to San Antonio shake things up and get Trey Lyles involved in the rotation.

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