Popovich's "likely" starting lineup should thrill Spurs fans
The San Antonio Spurs are coming off their first preseason win this past Tuesday, defeating the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City with a final score of 111 to 104. The team played their best game of the preseason against a rebuilding Jazz team, mostly due to standout performances from Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell. The Spurs are slated to face the Oklahoma City Thunder this Thursday at home in San Antonio.
After this past Tuesday's win, however, in a conversation with the San Antonio Express News' Tom Osborn, Coach Pop made a hint that the regular season starting lineup is more or less solidified.
With a fully healthy roster this past Tuesday in Salt Lake City, the Spurs opted to start Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, and Jakob Poeltl. While Coach Pop noting that this lineup "could change" before the start of the regular season could lead to a bit of ambiguity, his calling this starting five the "likely" group moving forward is likely the closest thing we'll hear to a full endorsement from him. Assuming this lineup stands, Jeremy Sochan will be the first Spurs rookie in years to be named a day-one starter.
Predicting the Spurs 2022-'23 bench lineup
Now that we know the likely starting lineup, this means we can begin to unearth what the Spurs' bench lineup will look like going into the regular season. At this point, we think that Joe Wieskamp, Alize Johnson, and Romeo Langford are the players in most jeopardy of being cut, so we're going to operate on the premise that they'll be toward the end of the bench in a best-case scenario for them. Meanwhile, we think Dominick Barlow and Jordan Hall, the Spurs' two two-way contract signees, will begin their careers in Austin.
Eliminating those players, that leaves Blake Wesley, Gorgui Dieng, Malaki Branham, Isaiah Roby, Keita Bates-Diop, Josh Richardson, Josh Primo, Zach Collins, and Doug McDermott to fight for a role coming off the bench with regularity. With that in mind, if I were to guess now, I think the Spurs most common bench lineup will consist of Josh Primo, Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott, Isaiah Roby, and Gorgui Dieng.
Will Bates-Diop, Collins, and the other two Spurs rookies get some playing time? I think probably so, but this prediction is premised on one core belief: the Spurs' veterans will receive the most playing time initially so as to increase their trade value leading up to the trade deadline. While Branham and Wesley could potentially receive playing time if and when Josh Richardson or Doug McDermott are traded, I'm inclined to think Branham will be given more playing time first while Wesley stays in Austin to develop.
The Spurs will begin their regular season campaign next Wednesday against the Hornets in Charlotte at 7:00 PM CST.