San Antonio Spurs: Play, sit, or let go, 2022 edition
Jakob Poeltl, C
Finishing with the 17th-best defense might not be great, but it could've been so much worse. When Jakob Poeltl was inserted into the starting lineup after it was clear LaMarcus Aldridge was on his last legs, we all collectively realized something. Poeltl is an extremely good defender.
In fact, as a fellow Air Alamo writer discussed in extensive detail in April, Poeltl ranked near or at the top of the league among centers in several defensive categories. His ability to contest shots is elite, his screen and roll game is fantastic, and he's a solid offensive rebounder. Unless the Spurs strike gold this summer, he should remain as the starting center for the foreseeable future.
As was made clear by his effort against Jonas Valanciunas, he needs to hit the weight room this summer and lock the door. He was absolutely bullied in the play-in game, and that wasn't the only time that happened. Still, unless the Spurs find a diamond in the rough over the summer break, he should be the starting center.
Lonnie Walker, SG
Since being drafted in 2018, Lonnie Walker has been steadily improving and adding more to his game by the minute. Unfortunately, injuries and COVID protocols never allowed for him to get settled into a set bench role where he could make a Ginobili-like impact.
Still, Walker has added playmaking and spot-up shooting to his arsenal while improving as a cutter and finisher. Next up for Lonnie? Refining his defense and ability to stay in front of his man. On a team in which White and Dejounte are primed to lead going forward, Walker should be a solid third option.
He had a poor showing against Memphis, but I can't be too reactionary based on one game. Lonnie Walker is part of this team's future.
Keldon Johnson, SF
There's a reason Keldon Johnson had such a sudden meteoric rise on the Spurs: the dude can play. While he slowed down a bit from his hot start to the season, Johnson still averaged 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Spurs and finished third on the team in offensive rebounds per game with 1.3.
At 6-5, Johnson has established a reputation for being a one-man wreck crew on the inside. Unfortunately, many teams have caught onto this and turned him into an outside shooter, which is the main reason for his slight dropoff.
As I wrote recently, Keldon is one move away from reaching the next level in his game, but with how fast he's been improving, I expect that to come soon.
Dejounte Murray, PG
If his 4-year, $64 million contract extension in 2019 didn't convince you that Dejounte Murray is the team's point guard of the future, maybe his play this season did. Murray's line of 17.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per night is easily the most well-rounded of his four seasons, and he still has things he can work on to get even better.
At the rate Murray has been increasingly becoming more consistent, Dejounte should be in the running for All-Star appearances for the next few season, especially if DeRozan departs this summer. There's no reason to make the verdict suspenseful for Murray.
Like Walker, Dejounte struggled against Memphis, but he did still have a triple-double. It would be a mistake to do anything but invest further in him.