3. The San Antonio Spurs’ future is brighter than it seems
Seeing that everything that could have gone wrong for the most part went wrong for the Spurs, particularly against the Celtics, there’s still something positive that was learned from recent games: good things happen when the Spurs’ young players touch the ball.
Yes, the Spurs will have to focus on building a talented frontcourt around Jakob Poeltl, among other things, before there’s any good chance of a deep playoff run. There’s also a decent chance that DeRozan opts to leave the Spurs for a team that can give him a chance for a ring, which may initially feel like a step in the wrong direction.
But some of the Spurs’ young players like Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV have shown that there is still a lot to look forward to in the near future. Dejounte Murray has undoubtedly taken the next step in his career with his performance this season, breaking several franchise records, including recently becoming the only Spur in the Popovich era to record more than three triple-doubles in the same season.
In Boston, he was only two assists and two rebounds shy of recording his fifth of the season. Moreover, he’s increased his scoring production and maintained a respectable 3-point percentage of 34 percent on the season on nearly double the attempts compared to last season. If he can continue to improve his shooting and maintain his impressive defense, he will be a serious two-way threat for years to come.
Meanwhile, in the absence of Derrick White, Walker is continuing to prove that he has the potential to be one of, if not the best scorer on the team. It is becoming increasingly difficult not to see his potential as a scorer, floor-spacer, and even playmaker with some of the Manu-esque passes we’ve seen over the course of the season.
What was very disappointing to be me about the Spurs’ play, particularly in Boston, was how little the ball made it to Lonnie’s hands, as he only recorded 36 touches in the game– about six over his touches per game average this season.
To put that in perspective, when you look at touches per game over the course of the entire season, Lonnie trails Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills.
Simultaneously, including every player on the team that plays at least 15 minutes per game, Lonnie leads the team in points per touch. In other words, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of his scoring potential, and the Spurs need to work on finding him more often.
When accounting for the Spurs’ other young players that haven’t even been mentioned here, like Keldon Johnson, Derrick White, Devin Vassell, and Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs may be quietly building a young team with a ton of upside. It’s very possible, if not likely, that fans have only had a taste of that potential this season, and that the best is yet to come.