Spurs’ Popovich won so much, he never learned how to tank

San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
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San Antonio Spurs Devin Vassell Lonnie Walker (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
San Antonio Spurs Devin Vassell Lonnie Walker (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs’ tank could use some tweaks

If we’re looking at purely losing ball games for the sake of tanking, I guess Gregg Popovich’s recent strategies are actually paying off quite well. Sticking with Patty Mills, who went 0-for-6 from the field, for 21 minutes against Portland? Right on. Going with the defensive black hole lineup of DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and Mills for long stretches? Go for it.

All three are perfectly fine basketball players, and I don’t blame Coach Popovich for his reliance on them for periods of time. But when you’re sitting at 12 losses in 16 games without making any major changes, I think the plan for the rest of the season is pretty clear. There’s just one last issue with how this team is approaching tanking.

It’s been beaten to death already, but for a good reason: why are guys like Vassell, Samanic, and even guys like Keita Bates-Diop, who played well during the COVID-depleted stretch, being glued to the bench? We saw what G League experience did for Samanic — it turned him into a completely different player.

While Vassell’s character tells me he doesn’t have an issue waiting for his turn, it must be frustrating knowing how well you’ve played and suddenly getting no minutes because Lonnie Walker returned.

The Spurs have the NBA’s second-toughest schedule going forward, including three matchups with the Phoenix Suns and two against the Utah Jazz. If they’re looking to keep losing, it won’t hurt to do so while giving minutes to guys that have earned them over some struggling veterans.

Injury prevention is always a concern, but it’s especially important right now with the condensed schedule. This isn’t even about winning this season anymore. It’s about setting yourself up for the future. Whether the Spurs make the play-in tournament or not, we all know the talent in the Western Conference is too deep for them to have a legitimate shot at making noise.

Next. Roster Implications of Markkanen Interest

There’s a way to tank while also developing the young guys even more. With 18 games left, now should be the time.

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