It was a wild and tumultuous campaign for the San Antonio Spurs in 2021-22. In their first season with no true veteran leadership after the departures of DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay last summer, the team was headed in a new direction from day one. We didn't have a clear picture of what that direction was last August, but it's gotten a little clearer now.
This season was filled with highs and lows, shakeups, and records broken. It was just an all-around interesting developmental year for a squad that's clearly got some work to do before they contend for a title. Let's break down some of the biggest takeaways from this Spurs season.
1. Dejounte Murray Is A Star
You can't begin talking about this season without mentioning Dejounte Murray. In a year when many analysts and media outlets picked the Spurs to finish at the bottom of the conference because they supposedly had no star players, Murray rose up and delivered in a huge way.
Earning his first NBA All-Star selection, Murray led the way on offense and defense for San Antonio all season. He took another step as a scorer, becoming even more confident in his driving and pull-up shot-making ability. Dictating the Spurs offense to a tee, Murray notched 13 triple-doubles on the year, good for the second-most in the NBA.
Defensively, he was as good or better than he was before taking on the role of the team's leading scorer. Murray was the league's steals leader with 138 and held the highest average for steals per game as well with 2.0. Many thought he could never reach this level as an overall player, and this year, he proved a lot of doubters wrong.
2. Brian Wright Means Business
Like Dejounte Murray, the Spurs' General Manager Brian Wright turned a lot of skeptics into believers this year as well. After much noise from the fanbase to be more aggressive and make moves to load up on assets, Wright did all that and more.
On trade deadline day, he made a lot of Spurs fans' jaws hit the floor (myself included) when he traded away Derrick White to the Boston Celtics for Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 1st round pick, and a 1st round pick swap. He followed that up by sending Thaddeus Young and Drew Eubanks to Toronto for yet another 1st round pick.
Wright's decisive thinking netted the Spurs three future 1st round picks, as well as several additional players that can be flipped down the road. In a year when San Antonio will presumably be picking in the top 10 for the first time since 1997, they now have a plethora of trade fodder to move up and draft a franchise-changing player of their choosing. The leadership of the Spurs' GM was a game-changer this year and has to leave fans feeling good about this summer and beyond.
3. The Spurs Are Still A Piece Away
We saw a lot of impressive moments and encouraging trends from several Spurs players this season. Jakob Poeltl had an incredible year as the Spurs' starting center. Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and even the rookie Josh Primo all showed flashes of greatness. Watching this group get Gregg Popovich to a record 1,336 coaching wins was truly special to see.
But at the end of the day, we learned that San Antonio won't be a bona fide playoff contender until Dejounte Murray has a co-star. They need another player performing on his level to truly get back to contending in this league.
It's possible that player could be found in this summer's draft, or they could even be hiding on the current roster somewhere. As soon as San Antonio finds that missing puzzle piece, they'll be on the fast track to re-creating the golden years of Spurs basketball.