Since the departure of Kawhi Leonard, the San Antonio Spurs have been without a franchise player. That’s not to say the organization is a rudderless ship. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan facilitated the in-between era, guiding Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, and Derrick White to eventually take the reins.
Dejounte Murray and Derrick White could easily be fringe All-Stars this season and Lonnie Walker could make a case for Sixth Man of the Year. However, none of them have taken the leap quite yet to be a “franchise player,” the clear leader of the team, or a perennial All-Star.
The Western Conference is full of competition. Realistically, the best San Antonio fans could hope for is for the Spurs to finish behind the Suns, Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Mavericks, Blazers, and Warriors. This would place the Spurs in the play-in tournament, one spot above where they were last year.
Traditionally, a ninth-place finish is less than ideal for the city of San Antonio, but given that the team is without a definitive leader and is between eras, a shot at the postseason is spectacular.
So when do the Spurs find that franchise cornerstone of the future? Well, I think they already have it. Derrick White and Dejounte Murray are the two most skilled players on the team, and Lonnie Walker provides a massive boost off the bench. Once Murray and White figure out their respective roles in the backcourt, they could be one of the better, more complete backcourts in the entire league.
My main concern with the Walker, Murray, and White trio is that it will take each one of them a while to find their place. In my mind, Murray should run point for the starting five, bringing the ball up and attacking the basket, kicking it out to White or a shooter when he doesn’t have a good look at the hoop.
For the second unit, I would really like to see Tre Jones get playing time and run the point, but make it clear to everyone that the second unit belongs to Lonnie Walker IV. He would have the green light to shoot or drive whenever he wants, and will eventually be the rare bench player considered for an All-Star nod.
Right now, it’s less about having a cornerstone or franchise player and more about building a team that plays well and works well together.
Between White and Murray leading the charge with Keldon Johnson cleaning up any messes and Lonnie Walker taking absolute leadership with the bench, any single player may be labeled “the guy,” but by the halfway point of the season, the San Antonio Spurs should be the most complete young team in the league.