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SA Spurs: Examining 3 Options for starting power forward

San Antonio Spurs Keldon Johnson
San Antonio Spurs Keldon Johnson / Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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The San Antonio Spurs were expected to make big offseason moves this summer. The expectations were centered around Lauri Markkanen and John Collins, either of whom would have immediately become San Antonio’s starting power forward, which is a position that has no clear frontrunner.

While he didn’t start, Rudy Gay was the Spurs’ conventional power forward last year, and DeMar DeRozan also played a lot of minutes in the four spot. Both of those players are gone. Gay took his talents to Utah in free agency and DeRozan was shipped off in a favorable trade with the Chicago Bulls.

The frontrunners to fill the starting power forward position all have their own pros and cons. In one instance, a current Spur still needs to prove himself. Inserting him into the starting lineup could bolster a wasted draft pick into a potential franchise player, or it could blow up in the Spurs’ face.

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs Luka Samanic / Elsa/Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs PF Option 1: Luka Samanic

Picked 19th in the 2019 NBA Draft, Luka Samanic has yet to play in 40 NBA games. It makes sense. In his very limited playing time he has shown flashes but ultimately is an end-of-the-bench guy so far.

In two short seasons against NBA competition, he has not shown himself to be an excellent rebounder, passer, scorer, floor spacer, or defender. It is true he simply has not had the time to develop against the more experienced competition, and the Spurs could very likely throw him to the wolves by putting him in the starting five and just seeing what happens.

Maybe he gets obliterated and remains on the bench, sent back to Austin, traded away, or cut entirely. Maybe he develops into an adequate, if not good, NBA player. Maybe he proves he is not a starter but can fit in very well with the second unit.

While his NBA play has been admittedly disappointing, moving on from Trey Lyles seems to open up a spot for him on the permanent roster. And in only 36 appearances, judging his overall NBA play makes little sense.

In his two seasons with the Austin Spurs, Samanic has been the exciting player the Spurs were hoping to find in the draft. He’s averaged 16 points (21 last season!), 11 rebounds, scored very efficiently from inside, and has shown a willingness to shoot from deep. 

If that can transition to the Association, Samanic could easily become a starting-caliber forward. He just needs some minutes, and seeing him in the starting five at the start of the season is a very real possibility. 

If he doesn’t play well or just treads water, expect Popovich and Company to make some moves with the starting five. If he remains at the top of the lineup after December, expect him to remain a focal piece of the ever-improving young core.