Looking Back at the 2019-20 San Antonio Spurs

November 14th, 2020

by Alan Lu

The San Antonio Spurs’ present-day logo.
(Photo:
San Antonio Spurs/Sports Logo History)

The San Antonio Spurs were expected to contend for a playoff spot, and while they won less games than anticipated, they played well in the Orlando bubble, as they were in contention for the play-in game all the way until the end.  Though they won just 32 of 71 games, they won 5 of their 8 games in the bubble, as they played well there.  That was especially good, since they were without All-Star center LaMarcus Aldridge in the NBA restart, and the Spurs received solid play from DeMar DeRozan and their young players, which is sure to an encouraging sign for them moving towards the 2021 season.

DeMar DeRozan (pictured on the right) had a solid season in 2020, and he could be due to make a lucrative contract if he decides to opt out of his contract with the Spurs.
(Photo:
Alex D’Addese/Sportsnet)

G-F DeMar DeRozan – B

2020 (SAS): 68 GP, 22.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 5.5 RPG, 53 FG%, 26 3PT%, 84 FT%, 34.1 MPG, 21.6 PER, 7.3 WS

DeMar DeRozan also had a solid season, and he excelled as a scorer, facilitator, and rebounder on the court this year.  He was arguably the Spurs’ most valuable player in 2020, and he averaged over 20 points and over 5 rebounds and assists apiece this past season.  He will need to improve his three-point shooting and on-ball defense, but DeRozan has been a solid player who will continue to excel in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting Small Forward of the San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2021 rating: 3 stars

Side note: DeRozan has a player option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

San Antonio Spurs’ point guard, Dejounte Murray had a solid season in 2020, and he has a bright future ahead of him.
(Photo:
Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images, via Air Alamo)

G Dejounte Murray – B-

2020 (SAS): 66 GP, 10.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 46 FG%, 37 3PT%, 83 FT%, 25.1 MPG, 16.2 PER, 2.6 WS

He is a very athletic, skilled point guard that had a solid season with the Spurs in 2020.  Murray was efficient at knocking down shots to space the floor for his team, and he also played a solid all-around game.  He will need to be much more assertive in taking shots on offense, though, but he will likely be the team’s starting point guard in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting point guard of the San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars (3 star potential)

San Antonio Spurs’ big man, LaMarcus Aldridge played fairly well individually, but his team won more games without him during the 2019-20 NBA regular season.
(Photo:
Eric Gay/Associated Press, via The Houston Chronicle)

C LaMarcus Aldridge – C+

2020 (SAS): 53 GP, 18.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.6 BPG, 49 FG%, 39 3PT%, 83 FT%, 33.1 MPG, 19.7 PER, 4.5 WS

LaMarcus Aldridge put up fairly solid numbers individually, but he missed considerable time late in the season due to a shoulder injury.  He excelled at making shots from all over the floor, and he also showed off some passing and shot blocking skills.  However, he will need to improve his rebounding and position defense. 

Even more curiously, though he put up solid numbers overall, the Spurs seemed to play better without him on the court, as they were 23-30 with him, and 9-9 without him.  He will likely be a key cog in the Spurs’ lineup next season, but he will need to find a way to get his team to win more with him on the floor.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting center of the San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars

F Trey Lyles – C+

63 GP, 6.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 45 FG%, 39 3PT%, 73 FT%, 20.2 MPG, 12.6 PER, 2.2 WS

Trey Lyles excelled at making three-point shots to help space the floor for his team, and he was also very active in getting rebounds, especially on the defensive end.  He will need to be far more assertive in taking shots on offense, and he will need to improve his defense.  Lyles is a role player that projects to be in the Spurs’ rotation in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating:2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Bryn Forbes – C

2020 (SAS): 63 GP, 11.2 PPG, 42 FG%, 39 3PT%, 83 FT%, 25.1 MPG, 11.1 PER, 1.5 WS

Bryn Forbes is a microwave type of scorer that excels at knocking down outside shots to provide his team with sharpshooting skills from beyond the arc.  He doesn’t add much else other than his jump shot and ability to make threes and free throws efficiently however, and he is a situational use type of player, as he tends to struggle in non-shooting or scoring related areas of the game.  Most likely, he will be in an NBA team’s rotation in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

San Antonio Spurs’ guard, Derrick White’s presence on the 2019 U.S. team may have been a controversial inclusion given the United States’ vast talent pool of point guards to choose from, but his knowledge of Popovich’s system, high basketball IQ, and ability to make plays in his role has made him a very good fit with the Spurs.
(Photo:
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images, via Pounding the Rock)

G Derrick White – B

2020 (SAS): 68 GP, 11.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 46 FG%, 37 3PT%, 85 FT%, 24.7 MPG, 16.4 PER, 4.2 WS

Derrick White played for Team USA in the summer  of 2019, and it was an accomplishment that he made the team, but the team he played for ultimately had a disappointing finish overall.  This season in the NBA, White excelled in virtually all facets of the game, as he excelled at making shots efficiently, and he also displayed solid playmaking, rebounding, and defensive skills.  He will need to be more assertive on offense, but White is a solid player that will be an integral member of the Spurs’ rotation in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starter/solid bench player
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars (3 star potential)

C Jakob Poeltl – B

2020 (SAS): 66 GP, 5.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 BPG, 62 FG%, 17.7 MPG, 19.1 PER, 4 WS

Jakob Poeltl played very well this season, and he did just about everything well for his team.  He excelled as an inside scorer and interior defender, and he also passed and rebounded the ball well.  He excelled as an interior player for the Spurs, and he will likely earn a lot of minutes in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starter/solid bench player
Projected 2021 rating: 2.5 stars (3 star potential)

Side note: Will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G-F Keldon Johnson – A-

2020 (SAS): 17 GP, 9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 60 FG%, 59 3PT%, 80 FT%, 17.7 MPG, 19.1 PER, 1.1 WS

Keldon Johnson had a fairly solid rookie season overall for the San Antonio Spurs, all things considered.  After starting off not playing very much early on, Keldon Johnson was able to get some playing time late in 2020, and he really excelled as a shooter and scorer on offense.  Keldon Johnson played very well in limited minutes, and he could be due for a breakout season if he gets an expanded role in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars (3 stars potential)

G Lonnie Walker – C

2020 (SAS): 61 GP, 6.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 43 FG%, 41 3PT%, 72 FT%, 16.2 MPG, 10.5 PER, 0.3 WS

Lonnie Walker excelled at knocking down outside shots to provide some floor spacing for his team and he also was a capable rebounder on the court, but he struggled in most of the other categories outside of knocking down threes from beyond the arc.  He will need to defend as well as he did in 2019, but he will need to improve his ability to score inside the arc and defense in the meantime.  Right now, he projects to be a likely rotation player for the Spurs in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Patty Mills led Australia to defeat the U.S. in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but during the regular season, while he shot the ball well, he wasn’t quite nearly as effective as he was in the summer of 2019.
(Photo:
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images/AFP, via PhilStar Global)

G Patty Mills – C+

2020 (SAS): 66 GP, 11.6 PPG, 43 FG%, 38 3PT%, 87 FT%, 22.5 MPG, 14.8 PER, 2.8 WS

Patty Mills is a skilled, scoring point guard that excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball, as he made shots efficiently last year.  However, he seemed to struggle in the other facets of the game, but his jump shot will likely allow him to be a mainstay in San Antonio’s rotation next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars

F Rudy Gay – C-

2020 (SAS): 67 GP, 10.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 45 FG%, 34 3PT%, 88 FT%, 21.8 MPG, 15.4 PER, 2.1 WS

After having a very good 2019 season, Rudy Gay saw his numbers decline, as he generally did not shoot the ball nearly as well as he did the year before, and he did not have the same impact as a playmaker nor defender on the court.  He’s been a versatile swingman that could contribute on both ends of the floor over the years, but Rudy Gay has started to hit the decline stage.  While he will need to improve his defense, he could be a rotation player for the Spurs next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars

G Marco Belinelli – C

2020 (SAS): 57 GP, 6.3 PPG, 39 FG%, 38 3PT%, 83 FT%, 15.5 MPG, 10.8 PER, 0.8 WS

Belinelli is a skilled swingman whose sharpshooting skills have enabled him to be a regular rotation player for various teams in the NBA.  He excelled at knocking down shots from all over the floor, and he also showed that he also displayed decent playmaking skills.  However, he struggled to rebound or defend this year, and with younger players vying for playing time, it’s uncertain if Belinelli will return to the Spurs, but he’s a good enough player to find minutes somewhere with a team in the NBA in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 rating: 2 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F-C Luka Samanic – C

2020 (SAS): 3 GP, 5.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 31 FG%, 38 3PT%, 75 FT%, 16 MPG, 8.8 PER, 0 WS

The 2018 first-round selection seldom saw playing time this season as a member on the Spurs’ team, but he saved his best performance for the last game of the year, and he showed some real promise in the Orlando bubble by scoring 16 points, making 3 threes, and he also dished out 3 assists in that game.  Samanic is an agile, skilled floor-spacing man that can shoot and score the basketball, and he is a versatile scorer that may remind people of Miami Heat forward, Kelly Olynyk in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 rating:1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

C Drew Eubanks (Two-Way) – B-

2020 (SAS): 22 GP, 4.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 64 FG%, 12.4 MPG, 17.3 PER, 0.8 WS

Drew Eubanks played well in limited minutes as a player on a two-way contract with the Spurs, and it’s looking to be increasingly clear that he should have his contract converted to a standard one.  Eubanks excelled as an inside scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker on the floor.  He will need to be more assertive on offense, and also work on his on-ball defense, but Eubanks could be ready to be the team’s backup center on a consistent basis, as he could project into a rim protector role for them in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation-caliber player
Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

F-C Chimezie Metu – C

2020 (SAS): 18 GP, 3.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 57 FG%, 5.8 MPG, 22.2 PER, 0.3 WS

Metu is an athletic big man that was a 2018 second-round pick drafted by the Spurs, but he has yet to see regular playing time in the NBA.  He was efficient in making shots when he was on the floor, and he showed that he can rebound and block shots, as well as pass the basketball.  However,  he will really need an opportunity to get regular playing time on an NBA team.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster player
Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

C Tyler Zeller – D+

2020 (SAS): 2 GP, 1.0 PPG, 2 RPG, 25 FG%, 2 MPG, 22.4 PER, 0 WS

Added late in the season just in time for the Orlando bubble, Tyler Zeller received sparse playing time, but he showed that he can rebound the basketball, but did little else there.  He is not expected to be a regular in any NBA team’s rotation next year, and he has not played 1000 minutes in an NBA regular season since the 2017-18 season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth big man, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 rating: 1.5 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Quinndary Weatherspoon (Two-Way) – D

2020 (SAS): 11 GP, 1.1 PPG, 1.0 APG, 29 FG%, 20 3PT%, 50 FT%, 7.1 MPG, 3.2 PER, -0.1 WS

Quinndary Weatherspoon was a 2019 second-round draft selection that was selected by the Spurs after having a solid senior season and after having played very well at the Portsmouth Invitational afterwards.  The skilled, scoring guard didn’t see the floor very much, but he excelled as a facilitator in limited minutes.  He projects to be a skilled combo guard off the bench that can shoot and pass if he gets to see regular playing time in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth guard, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 rating: 1 star (2 star potential)

San Antonio Spurs’ head coach, Gregg Popovich has won lots of games throughout his NBA career, and he is a legendary coach that has won 5 titles, but the 2019-20 NBA season was not especially kind to his team this past season as they barely missed the playoffs.
(Photo:
Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images, via Air Alamo)

Head Coach:
Gregg Popovich, 2020 season grade: C
2020 (SAS): 32-30, missed the playoffs
Head Coaching Career: 1227-614, 170-114 in his playoff career, has won 5 NBA titles

The Spurs were expected to contend for a playoff spot in the West, and they did contend for one, although for long stretches of the season, they had struggled, and midway through it was thought that they were out of the running.  The Spurs played well in the Orlando bubble, but it was not enough to make up for their sluggish start, and they ended up missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997.  One minor concern or curious note is that the Spurs have not seemed to get as many wins as expected in the regular season, as that is likely due to Popovich’s load management tendencies to rest his players for the playoffs.

Popovich is a legendary head coach that has won 5 NBA titles in his coaching career.  He’s getting up there in age, as he will be 72 late in January 2021, but he has continued to impart his wisdom and excellent coaching knowledge over the years.  Easily, Popovich deserves to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame one day.  Though the 2020 Spurs missed the playoffs, Popovich’s terrific coaching in his career will forever live in our hearts.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Head coach of the San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2021 rating: 3.5 stars

The 2019-20 San Antonio Spurs didn’t quite meet their expectations this past season as they missed the playoffs, but they were in playoff contention up on the last day of the regular season.
(Photo:
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images, via Air Alamo)

The San Antonio Spurs’ 2020 season grade: C

They missed the playoffs, but it’s not for a lack of trying.  The 2020 Spurs made a valiant effort in the Orlando bubble, and they excelled there by winning 5 of their 8 regular season games there, but it was not enough to get the invite to the play-in game prior to the postseason.  The Spurs excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball, and they also were excellent in taking care of the basketball.  They rated in the middle of the pack in assists and rebounds, but they struggled defensively this year, as they were among the worst teams in points allowed per game and in opponents’ field goal and three-point percentage.

The San Antonio Spurs’ Projected 2020-21 NBA Rotation

Projected Starters:
C LaMarcus Aldridge
F DeMar DeRozan* (Has a player option)
G Lonnie Walker
G Derrick White
G Dejounte Murray

Key Reserves:
C Jakob Poeltl* (RFA)
F Trey Lyles
G Keldon Johnson
F Rudy Gay
G Patty Mills

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
The 11th Overall Pick
G Bryn Forbes* (UFA)
G Marco Belinelli* (UFA)

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
F-C Luka Samanic
C Drew Eubanks (Two-Way Contract)
C Chimezie Metu
G Quinndary Weatherspoon  (Two-Way Contract)
The 41st Overall Pick of the 2020 NBA Draft

Players that will be Restricted Free Agents:
Jakob Poeltl

Players that will be Unrestricted Free Agents:
Bryn Forbes
Marco Belinelli
Tyler Zeller

Projected Players Cut from Next Season’s Roster:
None

2020 NBA Draft Picks:
#11, #41

Projected Offseason Plan for the Spurs:

The Spurs missed the playoffs for the first time since 1997, but they were very competitive in the bubble, and they were in it until when they got eliminated on the last day of the regular season.

As a team though, they are at a crossroads.  Both of their top players, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are in their 30s, and the Spurs actually had a better record without Aldridge then with him this season.  The Spurs had more success going to a smaller lineup when they played DeRozan at the four in the Orlando bubble, which is an extremely atypical, unconventional lineup.  It’ll be imperative for them to re-sign Jakob Poeltl, and it is expected that they will do what they can to try to keep DeRozan. 

The Spurs have not indicated a willingness to start over and re-build, so it’s likely that they will try to make the playoffs next season.  The Spurs are capped out, but if DeRozan opts out, that would free up cap space for them to sign some solid players to their team.  The Spurs’ best players are DeRozan and Aldridge, but they are building around Dejounte Murray and Derrick White for the long haul.  It seems that in the draft, they would likely select a wing player or a versatile combo forward to complement those four, but they also could select a center in case they can’t re-sign Poeltl, or if they wish to trade Aldridge.

Expected Regular-Season Record in 2021*: 33-39, 12th in the West

Expected 2021 Season Outcome: They will compete for the 8th seed in the West, but it will be a tough challenge for the 2021 San Antonio Spurs to make it to the playoffs. (* – The asterisk denotes that the expected regular season win total is adjusted for the 72 game schedule that the NBA will play for the 2020-21 season.  The initial projection for the Spurs was for them to get 37 wins in an 82-game season.  Also, the projected record does not take into account for the NBA draft or free agency, as those events have not happened yet.)

In case if you need the rubric for my player rating system of projecting NBA players for the 2020-21 season, here is the link. In addition, Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and Spotrac were vital information sites that I used to look at player and team statistics, as well as contract information.

Side note: Also, the letter grades attached to the player name was my grade for their 2019-20 season, as it is my judgment of their performance and whether or not they met or exceeded my expectations, and didn’t have much bearing on my projection of how they will perform for the 2020-21 NBA season.

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