Monday night is normally a night where you’re happy you got through the worst day of the week. You have a ton of sports on at this time of year from Monday Night Football to your local hockey and basketball teams taping up for a game. For Spurs fans, it was a bad night all around. All in all, summed up two bad performances, but hey, there was something to smile about (Rockets victory). This week in review will be a little different. Normally I start off relatively positive and looking at the glass half full. This week, was one I really was disappointed in.
While the Spurs have had some good offensive guard play from Bryn Forbes, the defense has been very bad. While the effort is definitely there, the anticipation, communication, lack of length, lack of skill on the perimeter, and on P&R is frustrating. We’ve seen some guards like De’Aaron Fox, Jeff Teague, DJ Augustin, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, and Wayne Ellington just dance on this squad’s point guards.
The significance of this, is that these guards I’ve listed, while they are great talents and professional ball players, they aren’t your top-tier, upper echelon guards like Harden, Curry, Kyrie. The Spurs miss the length and transition defense Dejounte Murray gave them night in and night out, as well as just the high level of play along the perimeter. On the P&R Murray tormented offenses, liquidating the opposition’s attempt at a routine play. They also miss the instincts he had defensively, as he was great at anticipating passes, clogging up passing lanes, great footwork while defending isolation play, among other things.
Communication & Paint defense
Both of these have been really bad. While Monday night we saw the Kings shoot 46% from three, bombarding the Spurs. Really, the Kings should’ve won by more than that, considering the number of open looks they just missed. On Wednesday night against Miami, the paint was all day for Hassan Whiteside. The man had one of his best performances of his career, making a living in the paint both offensively and defensively. While the Spurs held Houston relatively in check the entire night, they let 2 teams who offensively aren’t that dynamic, really take it to them.
The 3 point shot was falling for Sacramento. In both Miami & SAC, the amount of wide open shots they both had, seemed endless. Again, this isn’t an effort thing, this is more of a team chemistry thing. Not like an A+ grade in 2k, but an actual team finding a rhythm and flow. The Spurs are still giving up easy buckets. The paint seems to be i-35 for some teams, but in due time I believe it’ll be fixed.
Rebounding hasn’t been that strong so far either, while LMA has had some good games defensively, there’s also been some head-scratchers but then again, we are only 12 games in. You’re going to want to see an improvement on all assets on the defensive side of the court. Paint defense, P&R and perimeter defense will surely have to improve if the Spurs want to push forward as a high-level unit. While I’m in no way doubting them, this is more of a wait and see the magic Coach Pop cooks up.
The offense finally hit some small bumps in the road against the Heat as they only shot 33%. While hitting 41% from 3, it won’t be often that an NBA team will hit a higher % of 3’s than total FG %. The 3 point shooting has been solid throughout this year. Against Sacramento, the Spurs missed on numerous opportunities, with wide open shots galore. The Spurs could’ve actually won the game if they hit more often, we saw Davis and Rudy hit 5-9 combined from 3, while the rest of the team struggled to individually hit 25%.
Against Houston, the Spurs really well. Shooting a combined 45% FG and a whopping 50% from 3. I believe the FG % is something that is sustainable throughout the year, and honestly that 3 point percentage can easily be in the 38-42% range throughout the year. While that is a high number, the Spurs routinely get open looks. The case in Miami wasn’t the fact that the Spurs were locked down, they just weren’t hitting. That’s where you can put a lot of eggs in the basket that this team, while being a work in progress, can definitely add up to something serious in the later months of the season.
We have seen the Spurs this season really shoot the mid-range jumper at a high percentage. Whether it’s the Pick and Pop or iso ball or DeMar finding the open man, the Spurs have made their cookies out of the Mid-Range dough. Thus far, the Spurs have also had some good spacing with all the mid-range heavy players that are on the court at times. That shows with the high percent from 3, and as a new group, that’s something that can really be beneficial when the offense tends to dry up.
Patience with Derrick White, as well as Pop’s second unit
I’ve seen throughout media platforms, that the Spurs bench rotation thus far has been very, well, awkward would be the best term. Reason being, at times you see the Spurs trot out a bunch of spot up shooters like Marco, Davis, Patty, Pau, and then only one person who can really get their own shot, Bryn. The rotations get a little stale, very quickly because the ball movement isn’t that great, if the defense can just stick one in the paint for an aging Pau, or put their four out on him, on the perimeter, no player on the bench lineup can create their own shot and create open looks for anyone else.
At times you’ll see Dante Cunningham or Jakob Poeltl and while both are solid role players, at times they don’t benefit much to the group. This is all a work in progress, and to the 2nd unit I say, just be patient. This is a new group for Pop as well, again, 12 games in, without a full squad yet (Lonnie Walker). It’s going to take more than 12 games to really figure out what the Spurs have and what works best for this squad, but there’s definitely help coming soon. Why that is significant in my eyes is because at Miami, he could do it all offensively.
While at times the shot could be inconsistent (very common among rookies) the athleticism and ability to create was a trait that made him a hot commodity and a STEAL to many for the Spurs. Insert Lonnie in the group, sprinkle in Pau like medicine, as well as Patty, because they work best in quick, small doses, and you may have yourself a solid 2nd unit.
Derrick White has came back and is someone I am very high and hopeful on. We saw the display of solid jump-shooting and passing Saturday night with an efficient 14-8-4. Like I’ve mentioned before, all the Spurs need out of their point guard is about 12-6-4 on efficient shooting and good defense. While the inexperience showed against Sacramento and the rust of the first game back against the heat, he will be a solid young PG in due time. He’s shown flashes, while needing some work and tightening up defensively but surely it’ll come. He’s a phenomenal talent.
Three games in and all signs point that with time, he can make a difference for this team. Hold back the judgment, let the kids rock for a minute. This Spurs team is a lot younger and different than what we have seen before. There’s going to be growing pains and frustrations, even more so than the fans are used to. This team though, is very dynamic and at full strength can stay and become very dangerous. It’s very early, we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet, let them cook and we’ll see the dish come out soon.
New Segment: 12 game MVP
This is something I’m adding to every 12th game the Spurs play for the following articles that come after the 12,24,36,48,60,72 then finally the season MVP at 82. This I feel is better because it gives you 2 extra games to really digest and choose the MVP for those 12 games and so fourth. The rubric for the MVP is more than scoring and stats. It is for how you make the team better, how’ve you been on all facets of both offense and defense, consistency among other things.
My 12 game MVP is with no surprise, DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan since coming to San Antonio has been worth every ounce of that trade back in July. DeMar has averaged 25 PPG, 6.4 REB, 6.6 AST, one STL while shooting 50% from the floor. Defensively he is in the top 36 of DRTG, higher than the likes of Jaylen Brown, Rudy Gobert, among others. He has played great defense at times, showing great anticipation for steals, clogging up passing lanes, really showing a higher effort and attention to detail on defense.
Offensively, he’s helped tremendously with floor spacing and ball movement. While the three-point shot for him hasn’t been falling as well as you’d hope, he’s really helped others with their own game. Countless open shots as he finds the open man when driving, great vision and iQ no matter what situation he finds himself in. He has shown that now instead of being an “underrated passer” he has really become one of the best passers in this league.
That Mamba Mentality is way deeper than hitting a J in your face. The impact he has on the court with LaMarcus has been great as well. While LMA hasn’t had the best of starts thus far, you could tell very early, they play off of each other so well. That is a beautiful thing to see as the Spurs go on in the year, this team will go as far as they take them. What a phenomenal player DeMar DeRozan is, as Spurs fans all around love him.
Predictions for 11/14-11/19 (8-4)
@ Suns: W. 120-96. Last time the Spurs saw Phoenix, it was a very quick day at the office. While Ayton is a good player, Booker to me is already a top 20 player, outside of that they really have very little around them. Ariza is a solid 3&D player but in the end, it’s no match for the Spurs as they should take care of Phoenix early.
@ Clippers: L. 113-107. The Clippers are an interesting team. They have some good wins under their belt. They provide a lot of good shooting with Lou Will, Tobias, Danilo and low-key all around good play of Montrezl. I think they give the Spurs some fits, as a wild card type of team and catch the Spurs napping on a back to back for the win.
Golden State: If Curry plays: L. 126-121. If Curry doesn’t play: W. 109-105.
You won’t see me do something like this often, but this is totally necessary. If Steph Curry doesn’t play, I believe the Spurs jump out on them quick and ultimately take home the W. The Spurs throughout the years outside of the 2 Kawhi-less series in 17-18, have played the Warriors very tough. Picking up wins in both Golden State and in San Antonio.
I believe right now Golden State without Curry do miss his importance offensively (even though KD might be the best iso player ever) I mean let’s be honest, if you have the greatest shooter ever, you’re going to miss him. If Curry does play, I very well can see the Spurs still keeping it close, with Marco, Davis, Bryn having good nights hitting transition 3’s. Still, the Warriors I believe would still pull away.
We saw against the Lakers, Pop threw a lot at LeBron, I would imagine to see a lot of Rudy Gay on KD, which is the best matchup SA has for him. Rudy Gay has the length to at least contest a KD shot although you need a 50 inch vertical to even block his shot. I do like the matchup of the Spurs bench VS Golden States bench, the Spurs have a good mix of young talent and veterans as do the Warriors, so this will be a slobber knocker like the great J.R. says.
@ Pelicans: L. 112-100. I honestly think the Pelicans really catch the Spurs on a back to back with them potentially resting some of the older guys like Gay, Aldridge and honestly maybe even DeRozan. NOLA hasn’t been the easiest place for the Spurs to play in recent years either, I see Davis, Julius Randle, Jrue Holiday to all seek revenge for the contest in San Antonio earlier this season and take a win home. I do believe the Spurs will have the same approach though, contain AD and let Jrue do his work. If they can keep that same energy throughout, this game can get interesting and maybe, the silver and black take it.