By this point, Spurs fans should be used to their team being snubbed by the national media. In a piece I wrote on Devin Vassell back in August, I described this phenomenon: “San Antonio is a small market by NBA standards (even though it’s one of the top 10 largest cities in the U.S.), and this puts our players at a disadvantage come All-Star selection time and awards season.
The last time that Spur won [Most Improved Player] was 1986 (Alvin Robertson), which happens to be the first year that the award was given.”
A History of disrespect of the San Antonio Spurs
Even at the peak of the Spurs Dynasty, players wearing the Silver and Black were left out of the conversation when awards season came around. Coach Gregg Popovich, the winningest head coach of all time and widely considered the best the NBA has ever seen, has only won three Coach of the Year awards. More recently, players such as DeMar DeRozan are neglected in All-Star discussions while in S.A. only to receive MVP consideration putting up similar stats in different cities.
Last year, it took an injury to Draymond Green for Dejounte Murray to make his first All-Star team as a replacement; he led the league in steals while nearly averaging a triple double! Admittedly, sometimes being left out of the spotlight is fun— the Spurs have won five championships in the last 25 years, and yet it feels like there are almost zero “bandwagon” fans. Meanwhile, Steph Curry and the Warriors have won four and you can find a Golden State fan on every corner of the earth.
I’ll tell you what’s not as fun, though: when big lists are released leading up to the new NBA season, and it’s obvious that whoever put it together didn’t spend a second thinking about San Antonio. That’s the case in the most recent edition of ESPN’s NBArank (subscription required), a feature that lists the “expert” panel’s opinion of the top 100 players in the league. Players 100-26 were released today, with 25-11 coming out Wednesday, 10-6 Thursday, and the top five on Friday.
NBArank’s recent disregard of the Spurs
With no player listed in the 75 released today, San Antonio will have zero players in the top 100. As I’ve laid out, it should come as no surprise to fans of the Spurs that the team was disregarded yet again. Be that as it may, I’ll say it: even if we should be used to this, it still sucks a lot! Yes, the team is as bad as it’s been in 30 years. Yes, the Spurs are entering a rebuilding period. Sure, San Antonio doesn’t have a top 60 or 70 player in the league. But no top 100??
Keldon Johnson and Jakob Poeltl should be insulted. To name a few poor rankings, Knicks’ center Mitchell Robinson is not better than Poeltl, and yet he’s at 98. Listing Grant Williams (99) and Brandon Clarke (94) over Keldon is heresy. You can even get down to number 80, Cavaliers guard-forward Caris Levert, and ask what he does better than Keldon Johnson. No disrespect to the players named, but I’m mad for the good guys!
All of this to say, I hope KJ and Big Jak see this list and use it as motivational fuel for their performance this season. Even though they weren’t necessarily left off this year, I hope the younger guys like Devin Vassell and Joshua Primo see the list and say “I’m going to be on that next offseason.” I want Jeremy Sochan to see fellow rookie power forward Keegan Murray at no. 95 and says “what has that guy done that I haven’t?”
Unfortunately, however, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that we’ll be having a similar conversation next offseason.