Even with a disappointing loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, the San Antonio Spurs are still a near-lock for a spot in the play-in tournament. Whether they make noise there remains to be seen but you can bet on San Antonio playing a little extra basketball after the regular season is over.
Three and a half games behind the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks and four games ahead of the 11th seeded New Orleans Pelicans, the Spurs have the breathing room they need on both sides to get through the rest of the season without too much worry. But what happens after that?
If the play-in tournament started today, the Spurs would have a date with the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry. But thanks to two key factors, the folks over at The Ringer aren’t counting them out, and neither should anyone else.
The Ringer calls San Antonio Spurs the 4th most believable play-in team
The Spurs mix of veterans and young players has been frustrating at times and reassuring at others. For every time that we get frustrated that young players aren’t getting the time we think they deserve there is another where I’m quite happy to have the reassuring veteran presence of someone like DeMar DeRozan on the team. And it’s this kind of mix that gives the folks at The Ringer confidence as well.
In a recent episode of The Ringer NBA Show, Justin Verrier and Rob Mahoney ranked the Spurs as the 4th most believable play-in team. Here’s a bit of their rationale.
“DeMar DeRozan is a different player and a different level of terror in a play-in context versus a playoff context. He’s a different dude. We can talk about how teams can pick him apart over seven games and there’s certainly precedent for that. But if we’re talking about one night where DeMar can get to his spots and shoot over you – which he can do for a lot of his matchups – I like his odds in a lot of those situations.”
I think the guys are spot on in their analysis of what makes DeRozan such a dangerous player to face in a single-elimination play-in situation. Over a full playoff series sure, teams can scheme against him and minimize his impact but in one night, one game, there are very few players in the NBA I’d rather hand the keys of the offense to and say “hey, go win this thing.”
Unfortunately for San Antonio, the player who I’d most want to have on my side during a single-elimination play in-game is the one they’re likely to face in the tournament. Curry has been a different beast over the past month and is likely to carry that momentum through the end of the season.
The San Antonio Spurs’ ability to get out of the play-in tournament is going to come down to their ability to guard Curry but with stars like DeMar DeRozan on their side, they should have as good of a chance as anyone of moving on.