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San Antonio Spurs: Ranking the Top 5 guys likely to take the big leap

Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray
Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray / Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
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San Antonio Spurs
Derrick White / Jason Miller/Getty Images

1. The runway is cleared for Derrick White to take off from San Antonio

After appearing in only 36 games a season ago, combo guard Derrick White has the green light to take the next step in his development. As the oldest returning player from last year’s group, the Spurs will lean on White to create offense for significant stretches of the upcoming season.

Despite his recurring bout with the injury bug, White bumped his scoring average to 15.4 points per game last season—a 4.6 PPG increase from his career average. He did so while taking the team’s third-most field goal attempts per game on the team behind Dejounte and DeMar DeRozan. With DeRozan’s 21.6 points and 6.9 assists per game vacated from the roster, there are serious holes to fill and White’s skills are optimal to fill that role.

Early indications from Spurs training camp suggest that San Antonio’s team defense will be much improved in the upcoming season. If that comes to fruition, the pressure will be on the Spurs’ scoring threats to generate enough offense to win games.

A dynamic pick-and-roll ball-handler who can knock down a pull-up jumper or put pressure on the rim, White has a chance to become the team’s offensive engine like DeRozan was for three seasons prior. Coach Popovich emphasized that this year’s team will play a simple, up-tempo style. It’ll likely involve a lot of pick-and-roll, which is Derrick’s forte.

When we discuss players taking ‘the leap,’ it indicates their offensive production will take a jump. A Most Improved Player campaign is partially reliant on a significant increase in the scoring department, and White has the greatest chance of any Spur to surpass 20 points per game if he can stay on the court this year.

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Before he was injured against the New Orleans Pelicans during the Spurs’ sixth game inside the Orlando Bubble, White averaged 21.8 points, 5.2 assists, and five rebounds per game for the Silver and Black. Though he didn’t quite get the opportunity to build on that last season, there’s strong reason to believe White is San Antonio’s most conventional breakout candidate.

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