San Antonio Spurs: Who should start for Doug McDermott?
By Josh Paredes
The San Antonio Spurs lost more than the game when they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Although an MRI of his swollen right knee came back negative, San Antonio Express-News writer Tom Orsborn reported Doug McDermott will miss Thursday's game and likely the other two on the road trip.
Where the Spurs will miss McDermott most will be from the outside, as his 45.5% start to the season leads the team. His off-ball cutting action on offense has also been effective, although his defense has been about as mediocre as advertised.
Facing a three-game road trip with two of the opponents being playoff teams last season, San Antonio will need to make a shift to their rotations as they await his return. Doing so can give someone an opportunity to show what they can do against other starting units alongside San Antonio's starters.
San Antonio Spurs Option 1: Lonnie Walker
Scoring 17 or more points in three of the four games so far, Lonnie Walker has shown early signs that he's ready to be a more consistent player. Coming off a season-high 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the outside, his confidence is showing and so is his game.
With all that said, I'm not sure why Coach Popovich would make a change to what's clearly working for Lonnie. Popovich has stated before that he loves the energy Walker brings from the bench and even compared him to Manu Ginobili in that aspect in April.
Putting Walker into the starting lineup wouldn't hurt the starting unit in the slightest, but it would make the bench a little bit weaker. Since depth is one of the key factors for this team remaining competitive in each game, I'm not sure that's the wisest move.
San Antonio Spurs Option 2: Thaddeus Young
Sometimes, Coach Popovich likes to get cute with his starters when there's an injury -- something he did by giving Luka Samanic multiple starts last season. There are a few factors that could lead him to start Thaddeus Young: his size, his veteran status, and the need to showcase.
It's heavily expected that San Antonio may look to trade Young before the deadline next year, so giving him some burn as a starter would give them the chance to showcase his talents. He hasn't really impacted the box score in either of his two games played so far, but he's still a capable player. Still, I don't think he'd be the best choice to take McDermott's spot.
San Antonio Spurs Option 3: Keita Bates-Diop
If Coach Popovich wants to keep his bench rotation relatively the same, he might opt to do what he did against the Lakers and have Keita Bates-Diop take McDermott's place. Keita had some good minutes in his last showing, including a big jumper in the overtime period. He also has the length that could work well defensively with the starting unit.
Bates-Diop is a dark horse pick for starting in place of Doug, but I wouldn't be completely shocked if he gets the nod. I think there's one option that makes more sense though.
San Antonio Spurs Option 4: Devin Vassell
In turning this question over to you on Twitter, the answer I received the most for who should start in McDermott's place is Devin Vassell. The 21-year-old has had an impressive start to the season as well, scoring 19 in two of his outings while shooting 45% from downtown.
While Vassell seems like the clear option, it might not be as clear-cut of a choice for Coach Pop as we might think. Vassell and Walker have been quite a one-two punch off the bench for San Antonio, so he might not want to break that up right now.
I feel like this shouldn't be too tough of a decision if you don't overthink it. Coach Pop may want to go with a veteran like Thaddeus Young in the starting unit to keep Vassell in his thriving bench role, but Devin has already proven he's worthy of serious playing time. He should be the starting forward as long as McDermott is out.