1. The San Antonio Spurs could mix up the starting lineup
Injuries and COVID-19 protocols have undoubtedly thrown a wrench into the San Antonio Spurs’ season. Once 22-16, they’ve just barely been able to remain above .500 thanks to some improved overall play and the emergence of Derrick White in April.
While they’ve improved in this area recently, the Spurs have had a recurring issue of falling behind early in games. Some of that has been due to tired legs, but another issue with the Spurs’ starters has become apparent over time — there’s not enough outside shooting there.
When fully healthy, the Spurs have been rolling with a starting lineup of Jakob Poeltl, Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, DeMar DeRozan, and Derrick White. It makes for a fine defensive lineup, but I can’t help but think the spacing on offense is being hurt by the lack of outside threats in this group. Here’s how each starter breaks down in regards to shooting threes.
- Poeltl: Not a threat in any sense — has only attempted two threes in over four seasons.
- Murray: 33 percent from three. He’s been improving lately but isn’t someone you have to run off the line quite yet.
- Johnson: 34.2 percent from three. See above.
- DeRozan: 25.7 percent from three. DeMar has missed his last 15 attempts.
- White: 35.9 percent from three. Derrick is one of the team’s best outside shooters and has been growing in confidence as he returns to 100 percent.
If I was scouting for an upcoming game against San Antonio, I would simply force this starting unit to beat me from the outside. It’s a strategy that was devastating in the Spurs’ forgettable nine-game homestand and has seen success all season long.
To keep at least two shooting threats on the floor, a shift in the starting lineup would likely have to start with sending Keldon Johnson to the bench. Although he’s had a great season and deserves to be a starter, his style of game would be just as effective with the second unit as it is with the first.
Lonnie Walker, who has started 31 times this season, would be the logical replacement for Johnson. Lonnie is second on the team in 3-pointers made per game at 1.6 and is shooting 35.5 percent.
Another option, however unlikely, would be 3-and-D specialist Devin Vassell. Anyone following my work this season knows how high I am on the rookie, and I feel like the spacing he would bring with his high-arching shot and basketball IQ could do wonders for the Spurs out of the gate. This brings me to number two.
Next: No. 2