3 Lessons Learned From the Spurs' Play-In Game

Keldon Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas
Keldon Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

On Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs had their season ended at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Play-In Tournament. In the fourth quarter, the Spurs got within six points, but massive games from CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Jonas Valanciunas kept the Spurs from really making a threat to the Pelicans later in the game.

Despite not making the playoffs, the Spurs' season should be considered a rousing success, and in the final game of the season, the Spurs showed fans some things to look forward to next season.

In a season full of lessons, the final game was no different. There were both positive and negative takeaways, but even the negatives can easily be fixed this offseason with a little bit of work.

San Antonio Spurs
Devin Vassell / Tim Heitman/GettyImages

1. I Owe Devin Vassell an Apology

As the regular season winded down, I gave grades to all the Spurs who cracked the starting rotation. I was harsh in my grading and gave Devin Vassell a “C,” citing a lack of development and not living up to the expectations from the start of the season. His shot was streaky and he had not yet become an elite defender.

I stand by him being fairly disappointing, as his 2020 NBA Draft class counterpart Saddiq Bey has been lighting it up for the Detroit Pistons and has been playing the role we expected Vassell to play.

On the biggest stage the Spurs have been on this season, Vassell was the only reason the game was even close. His 7/13 shooting from deep and 23 points was by far a team-high, and it was his hot hand that kept the Spurs in it down the stretch. With him balling out when the Spurs needed it most, it’s fair to say he can take a huge step next season. 

San Antonio Spurs
Dejounte Murray, Herbert Jones / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

2. The Spurs Need Dejounte Murray

Dejounte Murray got into very early foul trouble, which is uncharacteristic for him. While the calls were ticky-tack at best and he should have been able to stay in the game, he sat out much of the first half, which is why the Spurs were down by 11 at the half.

Murray ended the regular season sitting out with an illness, and it was very apparent that it took a toll. Without him playing elite basketball, the Spurs seemed lost. Having a spectacular two-way point guard is a blessing to be sure, but without him playing excellent ball, the Spurs seemed without an identity.

He still put up 16 points and nine assists, but he just looked exhausted out there and is probably looking forward to a relaxing summer after putting the team on his back. 

San Antonio Spurs
Lonnie Walker Iv / Brett Carlsen/GettyImages

3. Lonnie Walker Played his Last Game as a Spur

I don’t have any insider information, but it's very possible that Lonnie Walker will have a new home in October. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, as fans have been calling on the organization to not give him a new contract offer this summer. 

In a game where the Spurs needed all the help they could get, Walker came off the bench, scored 12 points on over 50% shooting, hit his threes, and did not turn the ball over. Then he went back to the bench and stayed there. I’m sure the coaching staff had their reasons to sit Walker, but he looked poised for a hot game, and I would just like to rest on my laurels and say I predicted he would have a big game.

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Walker was caught liking tweets suggesting he should have played more, and became a big fan of the phrase “free Lonnie.” I can’t say I blame him, but it looks like both camps: the Sliver and Black and the Walker family, might be shopping around for a new home this summer.