After an active offseason that saw the San Antonio Spurs make a number of roster changes, it appears they’ve built a deep team. While having a deep team is definitely a good thing, finding a way to distribute minutes can be difficult.
This is made harder by San Antonio’s need to balance player development with the desire to compete during a rebuild. Fortunately, coach Gregg Popovich has proven adept at prioritizing both. With that being said, let's take a look at the projected minutes for each player in the Spurs rotation.
Projecting the minutes for each starter
Dejounte Murray - 32.5 mpg
Derrick White - 31 mpg
Keldon Johnson - 32.2 mpg
Doug McDermott - 22 mpg
Jakob Poeltl - 30.5 mpg
Unlike in seasons past, I expect San Antonio to play most of their starters at least 30 minutes per game. After all, all five of the team's projected starters are under the age of 30. Dejounte Murray, for instance, is just 25 and projects to be the team’s best all-around player this season. Therefore, I expect him to lead the team in minutes. White, on the other hand, is equally important to the team’s success. However, he's struggled to stay healthy in the past and could play fewer minutes than other starters.
Keldon Johnson, who’s the team’s youngest starter, appears likely to average the second-most minutes, particularly following the departures of DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay. With both players gone, Johnson will likely be a part of the closing lineup as a small-ball power forward, all but guaranteeing an increase in minutes over last season. Given how well he’s played in the preseason, that could definitely be a good thing.
Doug McDermott, who was acquired in the offseason from Indiana, started three preseason games and will presumably continue on as a starter in the regular season. With San Antonio’s 3-point
struggles last season, his sharpshooting is definitely needed, especially in the starting lineup. However, I expect him to average the fewest minutes of any starter due to his defensive issues.
As for Jakob Poeltl, he averaged 29.5 minutes as a starter last season and proved crucial to the team’s defensive success. Poeltl also provides the team with rebounding, hard screen-setting, and is an effective finisher in the paint. Despite that, his free throw struggles and potential matchup issues could prevent him from closing out some games. Thus he is unlikely to see much of an increase in minutes.
Projecting the minutes for the bench
Bryn Forbes - 18 mpg
Lonnie Walker - 25.2 mpg
Devin Vassell - 20 mpg
Thaddeus Young - 21.6 mpg
Drew Eubanks - 15 mpg
In regards to the Spurs bench, with the starters playing more minutes, the reserves will likely play less than in previous seasons. Still, the second unit could play an important role this season. For example, Bryn Forbes has played well in the preseason with his sharpshooting and could be a weapon off the bench in limited minutes.
Conversely, Lonnie Walker projects to have a bigger role and could even emerge as the team's next sixth man. Assuming that happens, he could be a part of the team's closing lineup and should lead the bench in minutes per game this season.
Devin Vassell also appears poised to have an increased role this season after an impressive showing in training camp and solid play in the preseason. Thaddeus Young could play an important role as a reserve given his versatility and could see minutes at power forward or center in the closing lineup.
As for Drew Eubanks, he is set to play his first full season as the team’s backup center. While Poeltl ranks as the team’s best defensive center, Eubanks is arguably the team’s best offensive center and could see a slight increase in minutes as a result. Nevertheless, depending on certain matchups, he could be benched in favor of Young and could lose time to Zack Collins once he’s fully healthy.
Overall, the lineup appears set, though other players not currently in the rotation will also get the chance to play, including players like Joshua Primo and Tre Jones. As far as the actual rotation goes, I expect San Antonio to rely more heavily on their perimeter rotation and to play a lot of small ball this season.
In doing so, they can play many of their best young players at the same time. Moreover, it could allow San Antonio to take advantage of their length and athleticism on the defensive end, and use it to force turnovers and get out in transition. Ultimately, we’ll soon see whether these projected minutes for each player in the Spurs rotation are proven to be accurate.