San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray managed to take his game to the next level this season by averaging an outstanding 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists, and 2.0 steals. His play earned him his first All-Star selection and he finished second behind Ja Morant in voting for Most Improved Player.
While Murray didn't ultimately win the award, two other players on the Spurs could by breaking out in a similar fashion next season. With that in mind, let's examine if anyone can follow in Murray's footsteps and make a Dejounte-esque leap in 2023.
The Spurs owe much of their late-season success to Keldon Johnson, who elevated his play during the second half of the year, averaging 20.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. Overall, Johnson had a career season, averaging 17 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, but he could be just scratching the surface of his potential.
After all, he made significant progress throughout the season, and another extended offseason to hone his abilities may do wonders for his game. If Johnson can further develop over the summer, he could pick up right where he left off next season, perhaps even building upon his post-All-Star break play.
That'd mean that Johnson, in theory, could average 21 points per game next season, which would be comparable to Murray's scoring gain. Better yet, depending on how good the Spurs are, he might even join Murray on the All-Star team.
Another player primed for a big leap next season is Devin Vassell. Vassell became a starter following the Derrick White trade and could thrive in that new role full-time. Just the fact that he's already starting is a great sign considering San Antonio usually brings young players along slowly, except for a select few.
For instance, Murray became a starter in his second season while Johnson joined the starting lineup in the NBA bubble as a rookie. It seems clear that the Spurs like what they see from Vassell and believe in his talent. As a result, I expect that he'll be given the green light to shoot, possibly even averaging eight 3-point attempts per game like he did over his last seven games.
During that span, the play-in game included, Vassell averaged 17.8 points while shooting 44% on 8.4 threes per game. He won’t shoot quite that well from deep over an entire year, but bombing away from three while drilling 38% of his attempts is certainly doable for Vassell. Additionally, he’s effective scoring inside the arc, which, when combined with his 3-point shooting, could make him very efficient next season.
Actually, with increased minutes and more shots, Vassell could see his scoring jump to around 18 points per game and could offset any 3-point shooting dropoff by getting to the line more. If he were to do so, he'd increase his scoring by about five points, similar to Murray's 5.4 points per game jump this season.
Ultimately, San Antonio has two players in Johnson and Vassell that are capable of taking their games to the next level. It's unclear whether they actually will, but based on their play to end the year, it's certainly possible that both Johnson and Vassell could make a Dejounte-esque leap in 2023.