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San Antonio Spurs: 3 Lineup wrinkles to try out over final month of season

Apr 16, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich grabs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) by the shoulders in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 16, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich grabs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) by the shoulders in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
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Apr 16, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich grabs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) by the shoulders in the second hal
Apr 16, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich grabs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) by the shoulders in the second hal

The San Antonio Spurs should try out these lineups over the coming weeks

As I think we all know, the last few weeks have not gone as well as many San Antonio Spurs fans had hoped. The team has pulled out of the nosedive that they were in for most of late March/early April but they’re still not a shoo-in for the play-in tournament.

No matter how the season ends, I think most Spurs fans have come to the realization that this season was always going to be a transitional year. The mix of young up-and-comers and veterans on expiring deals is interesting, but ultimately not enough to get the Spurs into legitimate contention.

So if the Spurs aren’t contending for a title and they’re refusing to tank, what should Gregg Popovich and his coaches do with the rest of the season?

What most fans seem to want is a full turn towards a youth movement, with more playing time for guys like Devin Vassell and Luka Samanic. And while I think that’s the right move, we’ve to balance that with what should be reasonably expected given how Pop has managed his rotations in the past.

So while we should hope to see some more rotational experimentation over the next month, don’t expect Luka to be running point any time soon. But lookout for these three lineup wrinkles to be tried out before the season is over.

Can the San Antonio Spurs put the ball in Lonnie Walker’s hands more often?

One thing that we’ve touched on before and will continue to emphasize through the end of the season is the improvements Lonnie Walker has made as a playmaker. And if you just watch him play the changes are pretty apparent.

https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2021/04/16/0022000853/536/24b9e8c1-7df3-7c8c-6fc9-03fa767a4efe_1280x720.mp4

We’re seeing more and more of this from Walker. Getting to the rim has never been a problem for Lonnie, it’s what he does when he gets there that’s had our attention. This year he’s cut back on the strong layups off the back iron and has also shown better vision and awareness once he gets in the air and looks for teammates to pass out to.

The next step I’d like to see Lonnie work a bit more with over the coming weeks is running through a few more pick and roll sets when he’s out on the floor. He’s nearly doubled the number of possessions he’s running pick and roll’s on (2.1 per game this year, 1.1 per game last year) but practice hasn’t led to results, at least not yet.

His effective field goal percentage when he’s the ball handler in P&R has increased year over year from 30.7 percent to 34 percent but he’s also increased his turnover percentage from 10.6 percent to 13.8 percent. In total, he was in the 9th percentile last year and is in the same spot this year. So, again, even while what we’ve been seeing in-game has been impressive, there is still work to be done here for Lonnie.

If he’s going to continue in his role as the Spurs’ lead scoring/playmaking threat off the bench, this is an area he’s going to have to improve in. And this isn’t something that’s just going to happen overnight, Lonnie is going to need real, in-game reps. I hope we can see the Spurs put him in more of these situations before the season is over.

As far as what this means for lineups, I’d like to see Walker playing with more second unit guys who can help elevate his playmaking. That means more time sharing the floor with shooters like Devin Vassell, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay. These are all players Walker has run with before and should be ready and willing to help him grow as a playmaker.

Next: Let the frontcourt of the future play together

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