1. The San Antonio Spurs need help defending size
This lesson is not so much a lesson for the team per se, but more of a lesson for the front office. In terms of defensive prowess, the Spurs’ lack of depth at the 3-5 positions becomes very evident in games like these.
The fact of the matter is, for the time being, players like Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, and even Dwight Howard are matchup nightmares for the Spurs on defense, even with a defensive anchor like Jakob Poeltl in the game. In his record-breaking game against the Spurs, Jayson Tatum put up 60 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.
The Spurs coaching staff and front office should be well-aware by now that at some point in the near future, if the Spurs are to have any meaningful success moving forward, they will need to acquire more players to help defend skilled forwards and athletic bigs. Specifically, the addition of a defensively skilled power forward to accompany Poeltl in the frontcourt could tremendously help.
Unfortunately, it will likely be difficult for the Spurs to address the lesson learned here until after the season is over purely because of available personnel. While someone like Keldon Johnson should be able to handle the size and strength of forwards like Tatum, overall, his defense is still very much a work-in-progress, particularly when he’s off the ball.
Similarly, while Lonnie Walker has shown that he is a very capable on-ball defender, he’s still too small to reliably defend players like Tatum. While I think that someone like Devin Vassell could eventually become one of the solutions to this issue and potentially become an elite wing defender, he will need to gain weight to reliably guard strong forwards like Tatum.
Even then though, the Spurs will also need to prioritize finding strong and versatile defenders through the draft, especially if they can help with the Spurs’ very underwhelming perimeter defense. Some of the players in the upcoming draft that could potentially help to fill this void were featured on my two top 5 lists of Spurs 2021 draft prospects for both the first round and second round.
Because of the Spurs’ need for a power forward, Kevin O’Connor’s draft suggestion for the Spurs also makes a lot of sense.