With preseason in the rearview, the San Antonio Spurs will begin their 2021-22 campaign Wednesday night at home against the Magic. In the Gregg Popovich era, the Spurs have gone a ridiculous 22-2 in home openers. They will look to continue that success when they face Orlando, one of the younger teams in the league, with eleven players age 24 and under.
After so many changes to the roster in the offseason, it will certainly be interesting to see how things shake out as the Spurs begin to craft their rotation after preseason evaluations. Here are a few things to look for when San Antonio takes the court Wednesday evening:
1. More Dejounte Murray and Derrick White Lineups
Ever since the two were drafted a year apart, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White have seemed a logical fit next to one another on the defensive side of the ball. But it's not a pairing we've actually seen a ton of up to this point. Between injuries and an abundance of options at the guard position over the last four years, the duo hasn't seen the floor together as much as one might think.
In the last two weeks of preseason, the tandem started four of five games. It's likely we see this trend continue into opening night, with Lonnie Walker IV and Devin Vassell filling out the backcourt off the bench.
2. An Improved Keldon Johnson Shot Profile
Being around DeMar DeRozan for two years is going to enhance any player's isolation moves and offensive game overall. Keldon Johnson has shown more and more development in that department, pulling out turnaround jumpers and off-glass floaters to boot.
I expect to see him use screens to find open space and knock down his increasingly reliable midrange pull-up. And when he can find a lane to the basket, he's an underrated finisher with his unique combination of finesse and strength.
3. Backup Big Man Competition
With Jakob Poeltl presumably starting at the five, the minutes at center off the bench will be split between Drew Eubanks and newcomer Jock Landale. Assuming Landale is ready to suit up after missing the final two preseason games in concussion protocol, the competition between these two should be worth keeping up with.
Landale's basketball IQ and offensive skill set make him an intriguing option going forward. On the other hand, Eubanks remains a strong defensive presence and a force to be reckoned with in the paint. Both can show they belong as part of this group long-term.
4. Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes Filling It Up From Deep
Bryn Forbes has been his usual self in his homecoming to San Antonio thus far, connecting on 13-of-27 (48%) shots from behind the arc in preseason. His return to the rotation provides the Spurs a knockdown shooter that defenses will be forced to respect. Likewise for Doug McDermott, who will aid in lineup versatility with his ability to play the four. Look for the duo to knock down at least six combined threes in the opener.
5. Josh Primo Minutes
I know what you're thinking. Gregg Popovich would rather spend his day at the DMV than give minutes to a rookie. But Josh Primo showed some surprising flashes in the preseason after the Spurs shocked everyone by drafting him 12th overall. I'm predicting he gets some burn in game one and continues to do good things with the ball in his hands.