NBA Disney Contenders or Pretenders: San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are one of 22 teams that will play in Florida. They will play eight season games to end the 2019-20 NBA season. The playoffs would then begin afterward. However, unlike some teams playing in Florida, the Spurs will need to fight for a playoff spot.

The Spurs record is 27 wins and 36 losses, which is 12th in the Western Conference. The team they have to catch up to, the Memphis Grizzlies, has a record of 32 wins and 33 losses. The Spurs will need to be almost perfect in the last eight regular-season games. Pulling it off is anyone’s guess, as the Spurs face an uphill battle.

The San Antonio Spurs: NBA Disney Contenders or Pretenders

DeMar DeRozan’s Impact

DeMar DeRozan has probably been the best player of the Spurs this season. He is averaging 22.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.0 steal, and 0.2 blocks per game. This has been by far the most efficient season for DeRozan as he is having career-highs in free-throw, two-point, and field goal percentage. Yes, he still struggles with a 26.7 percentage from the three-point line. However, it does not take away from the excellent season he is having this year.

Furthermore, his leadership skills will be tested. A lot of players in the Spurs organization look up to him, and he understands his responsibility according to Jeff Garcia of Spurs Zone.

“Knowledge,” DeRozan said. “Helping them understand how to approach the game. How to play the game. How different the game may be under these circumstances.”

One of DeRozan’s best games was against his former team, the Toronto Raptors. He had 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals. The Spurs would go on to win that game 105-104 on January 12th.

Dejounte Murray’s Impact

Dejounte Murray is one of the Spurs’ most promising young players. In the 2019-20 NBA season, he is averaging 10.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game. Murray is having a career year this season with career-highs in points, assists, and steals. He is also having career-highs in a field goal, effective field goal, three-point, and free throw percentage. He has made a big jump this year offensively.

However, his biggest strength for the Spurs is his defense. For example, in steals, Murray is tied for sixth in the NBA and has the highest steals per game for the Spurs according to NBA.com. He also has the accolades to prove this as he made it to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2018.

Murray has shown flashes of both defense and offense. An example would be against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 8th, where he had 17 points, 6 assists, and 6 steals. Unfortunately, the Spurs lost in overtime against the Cavaliers 132-129.

Greg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs said this about Murray according to Jeff Garcia of Sports Zone:

“His future is really bright as long as he stays on that path where he steadily improves,” Popovich added.

The only problem is that Murray is still young and is not yet an NBA All-Star. As the Spurs’ starting point guard, he will have a lot of responsibility to lead the Spurs to another NBA playoff berth.

LaMarcus Aldridge Will Not Play in Orlando

The Spurs suffered a major blow as LaMarcus Aldridge will sit out for the rest of the season. Aldridge got a shoulder injury on February 21st against the Utah Jazz according to Sportsnet Staff. He had surgery on his right shoulder last month.

This is a big blow to the Spurs’ chances of making the NBA playoffs. Aldridge is the Spurs’ second-best player and was the Spurs only NBA All-Star in 2019. He is averaging 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game.

Aldridge is having a career-high in blocks but has dipped in points and rebounds. His points per game have dropped by 2.4 and his rebounds per game have dropped by 1.8. Still, Aldridge is a great player and the Spurs are going to miss him.

Now the question is who is going to replace him. This will most likely be Jakob Poeltl. This is what he said according to Paul Garcia of projectspurs.com.

“I feel like I want to step up,” said Poeltl. “I have to take up as much of the load that we’re missing here. We’re going to have to all step up.”

Unfortunately, Poeltl will not be enough. The whole team which includes other players like Patty Mills will have to step to fill Aldridge’s void.

Poeltl is averaging 5.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. He is having a career-high in assists, steals, and blocks per game. Still, his stats are not at Aldridge’s level. It is going to be hard for the Spurs to overcome that. This is especially true when they will have to surpass four teams in the Western Conference to get an NBA playoff spot.

Offense and Defense

The San Antonio Spurs are tied for 11th in offensive rating with the Raptors according to stats.nba.com. This is pretty good and that alone should put the Spurs in an NBA playoff spot. According to espn.com, seven NBA players are averaging at least 10 points or more in the 2019-20 NBA season. While not great, their offense is good enough for an NBA playoff berth.

The problem though is the defense. Yes, Murray is a good defender, but he cannot do it alone. This is proven in the Spurs defensive ratings, which is tied for 24th with a 112.8 rating according to stats.NBA.com. This is not good enough and is a big reason why the Spurs have a record of 27 wins and 36 losses. A clear example of this was their 139-120 loss against the Brooklyn Nets on March 6th.

San Antonio Spurs Contenders or Pretenders Verdict: Pretenders

There are only a handful of NBA teams that are contenders. Even some of the NBA teams with a good regular-season record can be considered a pretender. The Spurs have not even had a good regular-season as they sit 12th in the Western Conference.

The last time the Spurs failed to make the NBA playoffs, Kobe Bryant played his rookie season according to Eddie Bitar of fadeawayworld.com. Unfortunately, this run will most likely end in the 2019-20 NBA season. As mentioned previously, the Spurs have 27 wins and 36 losses.

They are 12th in the Western Conference and are four games back of the Grizzlies, which has a record of 32 wins and 33 losses. The Spurs have a respectable four wins and six losses without Aldridge according to poundingtherock.com in the 2019-20 NBA season. However, this is still not good enough to make the NBA playoffs.

They will probably need to win at least seven or all their games to give themselves a chance. It is not just the Grizzlies; the Spurs need to surpass. It is also the New Orleans Pelicans, the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Sacramento Kings. That is four teams in total that are ahead of them in the NBA playoff race.

Furthermore, their defense and even offense will need to step it up in these last eight NBA season games. Something which seems unlikely to happen, especially with the injury of Aldridge.

According to nba.com, their first game will be a big one. They will face the Kings, who are only a half-game ahead of the Spurs on July 31st. If the Spurs win that game, it is a small step into making the NBA playoffs.

The season is just a few days away, on July 23rd the Spurs played their first pre-season scrimmage this month. They lost 113-92 to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Main Photo:
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