Dec 23, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Vassell (24) during the game at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs should get these three players more involved
Last year, the San Antonio Spurs rotations were a reoccurring point of frustration with fans. Seeing young players stuck on the bench and the constant presence of poor defenders in the starting lineup drove us mad.
However, how Gregg Popovich has managed his players playing time so far this season leaves very little to complain about. Every fan might have a few things they’d rather see done differently but for the most part, things are looking about as well as we could have hoped for.
Before the Spurs’ first game of the season, it wasn’t sure if Keldon was going to be playing. He’d been dealing with a foot injury and his status was considered questionable. You can imagine Spurs fans surprise when they saw both him and Walker in the starting lineup on opening night. The two have been fixtures there ever since.
Still, there are some players we’d like to see get more involved. There’s no question that there are players on the Spurs bench who would benefit from some more run, but how they make that happen is a difficult question to answer.
When asked why Trey Lyles wasn’t playing as much this year, Pop said it was a matter of having too many quality players. This is a problem that every player wanting more minutes is going to face.
It might take some creativity or a few more blowout games, but these are the San Antonio Spurs we think should get more involved.
Tre Jones waiting for his opportunity with the San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs had some of the best luck in the 2020 draft when they were able to use the 41st overall pick to select Tre Jones. The Duke product and younger brother of Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones, Tre was one of the most accomplished guards in his class.
The younger Jones seems like the kind of player who will have a long career as a quality rotation player. He’s a skilled two-way player who could take over as the leader of the Spurs’ second unit in a few years.
We haven’t seen much from Jones this season. He’s appeared in just three games and logged just ten NBA minutes in his young career.
Unfortunately for Jones, he’s going to have a hard time finding playing time in the Spurs’ deep backcourt rotation. The minutes he does get will likely come in blowouts like the one San Antonio and Utah engaged in.
Still, what we have seen from the young point guard has been encouraging. He’s made timely cuts, runs down rebounds, and has knocked down shots when given the opportunity.
Losing Derrick White didn’t move the needle on Jones’s playing time and it’s unclear what it would take to get him a larger role. Barring an injury to another key guard, Jones will likely have to wait until the G-League picks up again to get real game minutes.
Until then, we’ll be crossing our fingers and waiting for more blowouts to get Tre on the floor. Hopefully, the Spurs are on the delivering end of them.
Next: Devin Vassell
San Antonio Spurs need to find ways to get Devin Vassell on the court
One of the things that has stood out most through the Spurs’ first nine games of the season is how good of a player they’ve got in Devin Vassell. We loved him as a draft prospect and he’s done nothing but exceeds expectations so far.
He isn’t garnering the headlines that some of the other members of his draft class are but Vassell is making winning plays for the Spurs on a nightly basis. Averaging 15.6 minutes per game, Vassell is already the most involved rookie the Spurs have had in years. But there’s a strong case for ramping his playing time up even more.
Vassell’s offensive opportunities thus far have been fairly limited but that hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing. He’s locked into his three-and-D role and thriving in it.
Vassell’s been one of the Spurs’ best shooters this season. He’s hitting 47 percent of his three’s good enough for third on the team. Three-point shots have made up most of Vassell’s offensive contributions, 51.5 percent of his field-goal attempts have come from behind the arc.
It’s simple but wildly effective. Vassell’s got the second-highest net rating on the team largely due to his impressive outside shooting and shutdown defense.
Vassell’s passing the eye test with flying colors as well. He’s looked very comfortable on both ends of the floor and has been a key cog in the Spurs rotation.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/01/07/0022000121/407/4860cfbf-6254-1a04-e248-db69a928704f_1280x720.mp4
Just look at this recovery. On a night where seemingly no one could stop Talen Horton-Tucker, Vassell managed to give up the lane and still sneak his hand in to percent THT from getting his shot off. That wingspan is already paying dividends.
Vassell has impressed us already but there’s still so much more to his game that we haven’t seen. Keep giving him opportunities and I’m sure we will see what else he’s got in his bag.
Next: Jakob Poeltl
Jan 3, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) battle for a jump ball in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Will Jakob Poeltl ever see a bigger role with San Antonio Spurs?
Over the summer, when Jakob Poeltl started talking about concerns over his role with the San Antonio Spurs, fans rightly got a little nervous. The rim-protecting center was coming off of two seasons in roughly the same role and was looking for a larger one.
After signing a three-year extension with the Spurs this summer, it seemed inevitable that Poeltl’s role would expand. But so far he’s in just about the same spot as he was last year, and the year before that.
Last season, Poeltl averaged 17.7 minutes of play per night. He’s up to 20.2 per night this season but the conundrum is, as it has always been, how to get Poeltl on the court while also playing LaMarcus Aldridge the minutes he needs.
Forget playing the two together. The Spurs have tried it in the past and it just doesn’t work. Even with Aldridge spacing the floor, the two just aren’t destined to play together.
The solution is to surround him with shooters and slashers and let Jakob be the lone man in the middle. Three of the Spurs’ top four lineups in terms of playing time involve playing Poeltl with those kinds of players, with two of them including Devin Vassell as well.
A lineup featuring Poeltl, Vassell, Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay has a net rating of +48.1 across the seven games they’ve played together. That’s not sustainable but clearly, this lineup shows promise. That it gets two of our three identified players on the court together is just the icing on the cake.
It bears repeating that the San Antonio Spurs rotations this year have been miles better than they were last year. We’re happy with how things have gone so far! Still, getting these players more involved as the season goes on could be a source of improvement.