June 7, 2019, 2:12 am
No Kawhi. No 3-pointers. No problem. Gregg Popovich continued his mastery and led the Spurs to another successful season and playoff berth. Even with many doubters, the loss of their starting point guard in the preseason and LeBron James moving to the West, the Spurs won one more game this year than they did last year.
2017-18 Record: 47-35, SRS: 2.89, 7th in West
2018-19 Record: 48-34, SRS: 1.80, 7th in West
(SRS stands for Simple Rating System. It is a schedule adjustment to a team’s plus-minus.)
Well, what is there to say about the Spurs? They’re a well-oiled machine. Once again, and with many factors working against them, the Spurs found success. Winning 48 games, making the playoffs and taking the Nuggets to seven games in the first round should be considered a success for them.
When you look back on their past year, there were many reasons to doubt the Spurs. Manu Ginobili retired and Tony Parker left in free agency. Their big three was officially over. Even if the talent had fallen off in recent years, having those two out of the locker room could have had a profound impact. They dealt Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. Leonard obviously was not a big factor in 2017-18, but Green was, and was another positive locker room presence. They also lost Dejounte Murray to a torn ACL in the preseason, and then incumbent starting point guard Derrick White was forced to miss the beginning of the season.
Nonetheless, the Spurs did what they do — make the playoffs and make those that doubted them look foolish. They were up and down to start the year – bungeeing from a top four seed quickly down to out of the playoffs in the span of a few weeks. That’s life in the early-season Western Conference. However, a 15-8 record after the All-Star break, including a nine-game win streak at the end of February and through most of March, secured their spot in the playoffs once again. And they did it in their style.
They took the fewest 3-pointers per game of any team in the regular season and postseason. In an era of pace, space, shooting, layups and free throws, the Spurs played at the 22nd-fastest pace, were 24th in free throw rate and led the league in mid-range shots. But, because they’re the Spurs, they won. It’s hard to explain how. They went against what every analytical gameplan calls for, but Gregg Popovich is the best coach of all time for a reason.
With rumors swirling about his possible retirement, all Popovich did this season was reaffirm his greatness once again and then sign an extension after the season. He is still taking every year at a time, and the extension doesn’t mean he will coach through the entire contract, but it’s obviously there if he wants it. There are many rumors that Pop will retire after coaching Team USA in 2020, and he was waiting for that commitment to be met for him to officially retire. But, with how quickly the landscape of the NBA changes, who knows what he’ll be thinking by then.
2018-19 marked the 22nd straight season the Spurs and Popovich have made the playoffs. The only time Pop was unable to make the playoffs was in his first season when he took over as coach after the first 18 games of the season. With David Robinson hurt and the season looking lost, it’s widely thought that the Spurs held Robinson out the rest of the season despite him being able to return in order to tank for Tim Duncan. And the rest is history.
2017-18 marked the first time the team didn’t win 50 games since 1998-99, when they won 37 of 50 games, including the NBA Finals, in the strike-shortened season. The only times Popovich didn’t win 50 games or the NBA Finals was that first interim season and these past two. But given the depth of the West and effectively not having Kawhi Leonard for the past two seasons, winning 47 and 48 games is still incredibly impressive.
With at least one more season, and another Olympics, Popovich will continue to add to his legacy. When it’s all said and done, it may seem like we took him for granted, especially over the past few years. They knew they weren’t true contenders without Kawhi Leonard, but Pop is too good to tank. With the end of their big three, and then the exit of one of the best players in the league, the Spurs were in uncharted territory this past season.
Still no problem for the best coach in basketball history.
ADP: 22/35 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 18/16 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 27/25(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 81
2018-19 averages: 81 G | 33.2 MP | 21.3 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 9.2 REB | 2.4 AST | 0.5 STL | 1.3 BLK | 0.519 FG% | 0.847 FT%
LaMarcus Aldridge has now turned in an early-round fantasy season two years in a row after a slight step back in 2016-17.
We’ve come to know that Aldridge isn’t a defensive stopper by any means, but his 1.3 blocks per game and 0.5 steals per game helped owners in the aggregate. Combine that with 21.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and shooting percentages of 51.9% from the field and 84.7% from the free throw line, and you get a rock-solid fantasy asset. His health was also a big plus for him this year, as it has been throughout his career.
In terms of injuries, he dealt with a wrist injury and an illness this year, missing only one game. Over his 13-year career, he’s played fewer than 70 games just three times. He logged 63 as a rookie, 55 in the lockout-shortened season (out of a possible 66), and a nice 69 in 2013-14. While playing 70 games is still missing 12, that has been a solid mark as of late with how much rest has been incorporated into star players’ schedules.
Aldridge will be 34 years old next month, but he still looks to be playing at a high level. There could certainly be some regression in skills due to age, but we should continue to treat him as a trustworthy fantasy asset. The Spurs will continue to lean on him and fantasy owners should do the same.
ADP: 18/32 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 25/33 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 38/43(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 77
2018-19 averages: 77 G | 34.9 MP | 21.2 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 6 REB | 6.2 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.5 BLK | 0.481 FG% | 0.831 FT%
After nine seasons above the border, DeRozan was surprisingly traded this past summer in a deal for Kawhi Leonard. DeRozan grew up with the city of Toronto and helped build a consistent, solid team, even if they came up short against LeBron James. There was some question about how he would gel with San Antonio early on, but he came out of the gates firing.
With Dejounte Murray and Derrick White on the shelf for the first few weeks of the season, DeRozan found himself being a distributor as well as scorer. He was doing it all for the Spurs, and continued it throughout the rest of the season.
He set new career highs in rebounds per game – 6.0 – and assists per game – 6.2. He had only been above 5.0 in each stat only once, but sustained over 6.0 for both. His points per game dropped a tad and it was mainly because of his 3-point shooting.
After a “breakout” shooting season in 2017-18 where he made 1.1 threes on 3.6 attempts per game, he dropped down to 0.1 makes on 0.6 threes per game. And in the calendar year of 2019? Zero. He made zero 3-pointers in since the calendar flipped, including the playoffs.
His total value stayed near his ADP thanks to his 77 games played, but his per-game value was just a slight disappointment. The 3-pointers were a big part of this. Dropping one make per game not only hurts that individual category, but also helped contribute to his points falling slightly from 23.0 to 21.2 per game.
With Murray due back and White likely in for a bigger role next season, DeRozan may see a drop in his usage, but almost certainly will see a drop in assists. If he continues to not take 3-pointers, which is likely, then he may come into next season a tad overvalued.
ADP: 113/138 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 89/88 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 83/84(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 69
2018-19 averages: 69 G | 26.7 MP | 13.7 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 6.8 REB | 2.6 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.5 BLK | 0.504 FG% | 0.816 FT%
After a fairly disappointing first season with the Spurs – 57 games played, six starts, 21.6 minutes per game – Rudy Gay made an impact in real life and for fantasy owners in 2018-19.
Deemed a selfish, inefficient scorer for most of his career, the fit of Gay and the Spurs seemed questionable to begin with. And in his first season, it didn’t go great. But in year two, Gay showed some transformation in the way he plays. He was much more effective on defense, shot a career-high in both 2-pointers and 3-pointers and started 50 games for the first time since 2015-16.
However, he did miss 13 games this season. Gay was questionable to miss the opener with a right heel soreness, and ended up missing four games in November because of it. It’s notable that Gay also dealt with right heel bursitis in late-2017 that caused him to miss a few weeks. Luckily, his Achilles tear from a few years ago was on the left side. Gay also missed a few games due to minor sprains in his left wrist and left ankle, as well as an illness.
After being drafted in the late rounds, Gay impressed with top-90 value in 8- and 9-cat, as well as per-game and total. He was .504/.402/.816 on his shooting splits, the former two numbers being career-highs. He also saw an increase in rebounds at 6.8 per game, up from 5.1. Extra playing time also helped him double his assist total from 1.3 to 2.6 per game.
Gay is a free agent this summer and is already making noise with some workout videos for some #OffseasonContent. It seems Gay has taken the Spurs way to heart and might be able to make an impact on a contender, if that’s who ends up signing him. Coming back to the Spurs is still in the cards, but his landing spot will have major impact on his fantasy value heading into next season.
ADP: NA/148 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 123/124 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 122/121(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 67
2018-19 averages: 67 G | 25.8 MP | 9.9 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 3.7 REB | 3.9 AST | 1 STL | 0.7 BLK | 0.479 FG% | 0.772 FT%
As the Spurs do, White was a late first-rounder that many fans didn’t know about going into the draft.
White was barely 6’0″ coming out of high school and didn’t have an offer from a four-year university. His only offer was from Johnson & Wales University, an NAIA school. However, their coach, Jeff Culver, was then hired by University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, a Division II program, and offered White a room and board stipend to play there. White was projected to grow in college, as his dad did, but Culver expected White to come along slowly and start towards the end of his career; White started out as a redshirt freshman.
However, that growth spurt happened before he even got to campus. Coming in around 6’4″, White only needed a few practices to shed the redshirt status and he started every game for three seasons before transferring to the University of Colorado – the only program showing interest in him at the time. He switched to point guard once he got to Colorado due to his high usage at UCCS and his natural decision-making ability.
So after succeeding at every step of the way yet still not getting recognition, who best to select White but the Spurs?
He spent most of his rookie season in the G-League, but was needed in year two after San Antonio Dejounte Murray in the preseason. He suffered his own injury that kept him out until November — a left plantar fascia tear that was announced on October 12th. He was given a 6-8 week timetable to return, but ended up only missing nine games and returned to game action on November 11. It’s also worth noting that White missed six more games in February with a sore right heel.
He took some time to shake off the rust of the early-season injury, but as the middle of December rolled around he essentially secured the starting point guard job. From December 19 on, he started every game he played in. He didn’t blow the doors off, but he was productive on a good team in his first real NBA season. And let’s not forget his coming out party in the playoffs, dropping 36 in a big Game 3 win against the Nuggets, and playing good defense on Jamal Murray throughout the series.
It’s unclear what the Spurs rotation will look like with Murray returning and White proven to be a productive player. There’s a chance both start with DeMar DeRozan sliding to the three. This is certainly reasonable if Rudy Gay signs elsewhere, but they could also use Gay as a sixth man. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Gregg Popovich wanted to stagger Murray and White so they could each run point with their respective units. We’ll have to wait and see how the Spurs are going to use White, but he’s a candidate for a breakout season, and will likely be getting a lot of buzz for it.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 125/116 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 179/165(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 28 MP | 11.8 PTS | 2.1 3PM | 2.9 REB | 2.1 AST | 0.5 STL | 0 BLK | 0.456 FG% | 0.885 FT%
Another young, overlooked breakout player for the Spurs. Who would’ve guessed the best coach of all time knows how to develop talent?
Bryn Forbes was by no means lighting the world on fire, but in his third season he played 82 games, starting 81 of them, and logged 28.0 minutes per game. After being undrafted out of Michigan State, Forbes has really found his footing in the NBA. He shot 42.6% on 3-pointers this season, making 2.1 per game on 5.0 attempts. He tallied 11.8 points, 2.9 boards, 2.1 assists and 0.5 steals per game to go along with marks of 45.6% from the floor and 88.5% from the charity stripe.
His value this past season was mostly as a streamer in standard leagues. When the Spurs were thin at guard was when Forbes’ value spiked, but there were times that he wasn’t valuable enough to hold. If you played in deeper leagues, though, Forbes was at worst a 3-point specialist for essentially the entire season. Playing 28 minutes per game and not missing a game is the consistency fantasy owners like to see. Heading into year four, Forbes may not stick in the starting lineup if the Spurs do start both Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, but at the very least Forbes has established himself as a great 3-point shooter.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 154/132 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 201/171(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 76
2018-19 averages: 76 G | 21.5 MP | 8 PTS | 1.9 3PM | 3.5 REB | 1.3 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.4 BLK | 0.45 FG% | 0.883 FT%
After not being drafted in most fantasy leagues, Bertans showed some life as a deep-league guy, but there’s not too much to see.
Like Forbes, he’s turned himself into a reliable 3-point shooter, hitting 1.9 threes per game on 4.4 attempts, good for a clip of 42.9%. While he was effective on his 2-pointers – 51.3% – he only took 1.5 per game and had his field goal percentage settle in at 45.0%. The rest of his line was 8.0 points, 1.3 assists, 3.5 boards, 0.5 steals and 0.4 blocks.
If Rudy Gay doesn’t return, it’s conceivable that Bertans picks up some of those minutes and adds a little more to his statline, but it’s hard to see it changing too much. He’ll likely be a deep league 3-point specialist once again.
ADP: NA/139 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 139/140 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 197/199(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 82
2018-19 averages: 82 G | 23.3 MP | 9.9 PTS | 1.9 3PM | 2.2 REB | 3 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.425 FG% | 0.848 FT%
Patty Mills has been a staple of the Spurs bench for years now and although he’s not quite what he used to be, he was still able to turn in a top-200 per-game fantasy season. Now, top-200 doesn’t sound spectacular, but given his expectations, it was solid.
His ADP was a little inflated because of Dejounte Murray’s injury, but he actually saw a decrease in playing time this season.
He played in all 82 games for the second year in a row but went from 36 starts down to just one, and 25.7 minutes per game to just 23.3. With Murray, Derrick White and Bryn Forbes all with secure playing time next season, it wouldn’t be surprising if Mills saw another small decline in playing time in 2019-20.
ADP: 957/132 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 181/166 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 239/214(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 77
2018-19 averages: 77 G | 16.5 MP | 5.5 PTS | 0 3PM | 5.3 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.9 BLK | 0.647 FG% | 0.533 FT%
Jakob Poeltl, and no I’m not even going to try and pronounce it correctly, was part of the DeMar DeRozan – Kawhi Leonard trade, and was not a throw-in by any means. His first two seasons showed some promise, and he was a legitimate role player for Toronto in 2017-18, playing all 82 games at 18.6 minutes per game.
Some thought his move to San Antonio would open up more playing time — and it did, once Pau Gasol was out of the picture. Poeltl’s Spurs career got off to a very slow start, but he picked up his play by the end of the season, starting 16 of the final 19 games he was active for.
In his 24 starts he averaged 21.3 minutes per game compared to his 14.3 minutes per game in 53 games as a reserve. In games that he received 20 or more minutes, starter or reserve, he averaged 8.0 points, 7.3 boards, 1.7 assists, 0.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. If he can get the playing time next season and continue to develop, he might be able to provide fantasy owners with late-round value.
ADP: NA/142 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 173/172 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 226/216(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 79
2018-19 averages: 79 G | 23 MP | 10.5 PTS | 1.9 3PM | 2.5 REB | 1.7 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.413 FG% | 0.903 FT%
After a productive second half of 2017-18 and playoffs with the Sixers, Belinelli signed with the Spurs, where he played from 2013-14 through 2015-16. Unsurprisingly, Belinelli saw a decline in playing time and usage compared to what he got in Philadelphia.
Playing 23.0 minutes per game over 79 games, Belinelli was mostly only usable as a deep league 3-point specialist. And in 2018-19, it seems that 3-point specialists are a dime-a-dozen with how much shooting there is.
Belinelli will be in his age-33 season in 2019-20, and with the Spurs’ depth at guard, it’s hard to see him doing anything significantly more than what he did this year.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 304/292 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 380/349(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 64
2018-19 averages: 64 G | 14.5 MP | 3 PTS | 0.5 3PM | 2.9 REB | 0.8 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.475 FG% | 0.778 FT%
Surprisingly, Dante Cunningham logged 21 starts for the Spurs this season. Unsurprisingly, Cunningham was not usable in essentially every fantasy format. His presence as depth in the frontcourt certainly helped the Spurs throughout the season, but he’s not going to play big minutes or put up big numbers. He only played 14.5 minutes per game this season, his lowest since his rookie year. Expect Cunningham to again serve as depth and a fill-in starter in 2019-20.
Lonnie Walker IV
ADP: 977/139 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 443/439 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 457/450(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 17
2018-19 averages: 17 G | 6.9 MP | 2.6 PTS | 0.3 3PM | 1 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.348 FG% | 0.8 FT%
A flashy athlete with minor character concerns coming out of college, Lonnie Walker was a surprise pick by the Spurs. They usually don’t take players that have glaring holes on or off the court, and Walker fell to 17th overall due to a combination of medical scares and character concerns.
That doesn’t mean that Walker doesn’t boast a lot of potential if he can put it all together. And as we’ve seen with many Spurs players in the past, San Antonio is a great place to learn how to put it all together.
He’s a quick, high-flying wing that can shoot off-the-dribble and really heat up quick. But, when he’s cold, it can get bad quickly. As most Spurs rookies have done lately, Walker spent a lot of the season in the G-League, which explains his 17 games played, but he also had meniscus tear in early October. It’s notable that he’s dealt with knee injuries going back to college now.
He flashed his talents at times in his limited time, but we didn’t get enough of a sample size to really have a clear look at him. He’s unlikely to get enough playing time in his sophomore season to breakout, but if Rudy Gay is gone and Walker flashes in camp, there’s a chance he becomes a consistent role player.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 401/398 (8/9-cat) | Per Game Value: 474/464(8/9-cat) | Games Played: 53
2018-19 averages: 53 G | 5.5 MP | 1.8 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 0.9 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.2 STL | 0 BLK | 0.5 FG% | 0.81 FT%
Quincy Pondexter didn’t sign with the Spurs until the end of August, but his playing time showed why. He only played in 53 games despite not suffering any injuries, and only logged 5.5 minutes per game. He took just 1.1 shots per game and was good for 1.8 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game. If you owned Pondexter in fantasy this past season at all, I’d love to know what kind of crazy league setup you have.
This team doesn’t need anything to accomplish their own goals. While a championship is the ultimate goal for each franchise, some teams know it’s not within reach. The Spurs likely know this due to their lack of star power, but will remain competitive nonetheless. Between LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, they have enough second or third-tier stars to remain a 45-plus win team. Not to mention their up and comers, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White.
Murray has already made an all-defensive team and White had a breakout second half of the season and playoffs. As long as those two can stay healthy, the Spurs will have a nice base to build from in the coming years.
On top of Murray and White, Bryn Forbes has turned into a very useful role player, Jakob Poeltl has shown potential in both Toronto and San Antonio, and Lonnie Walker IV has great athleticism and upside. That’s a lot that the Spurs might be able to tap into.
In terms of this offseason, Rudy Gay is their only free agent that had a large role for them. They’ll also be getting Murray back at the start of next season as he recovers from a torn ACL. It’s unclear which way the Spurs are leaning with Gay’s free agency. In his time in San Antonio, he has re-worked his game to fit their team first, defense-first style, after being known as an inefficient scoring wing for most of his career. It’d behoove the Spurs to keep Gay if they can make the numbers work, but if they don’t retain him, they should be just fine as Quincy Pondexter is their only other free agent.
We should expect another typical season for the Spurs next year in an extremely tough Western Conference.