San Antonio Spurs 2018-19 Team Preview

  • How’d We Get Here?

    The Spurs went through some organizational scrutiny for the first time in forever and it led to the trade of franchise player and two-way superstar Kawhi Leonard. Displeased with the team’s alleged misdiagnosis, mistreatment and then disparaging comments about his recovery from a quad injury apparently burned all the bridges for Kawhi, who forced his way out of town.

    The Spurs were able to land DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-rounder from the Raptors in exchange for Leonard and long-time Spur Danny Green. The Spurs did some other minor stuff like letting Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker walk, but the Kawhi saga will affect the organization for years to come.

    Offseason Moves

    Arrivals: DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Marco Belinelli, Dante Cunningham
    Rookie Arrivals: Lonnie Walker IV
    Departures: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker, Brandon Paul, Darrun Hilliard
    Retained: Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes

    Depth Chart and Minutes Per Game

    PG: Derrick White (24-28) / Patty Mills (25-28)
    SG: DeMar DeRozan (32.5-34.5) / Marco Belinelli (24-26) / Bryn Forbes (16-24)
    SF: Rudy Gay (25-30) / Dante Cunningham (17-24) / Lonnie Walker (DEC, 18-24) / Quincy Pondexter (0, 6-12)
    PF: LaMarcus Aldridge (30-33) / Davis Bertans (20-23)
    C: Jakob Poeltl (22-26) / Pau Gasol (21-24)

    Position Battles

    Point Guard: Dejounte Murray is in line for an expanded role as the Spurs have gotten rid of some guard depth this summer. Patty Mills will slot back into a backup role but is still more of a combo guard with Derrick White getting whatever minutes are left over for a third point guard.

    Update: Murray’s injury brings White into a likely starting role and forces bigger minutes for Mills and Marco Belinelli.

    Shooting Guard: If you’re going to lose an elite player, getting an All-NBA guy back in return isn’t half bad. DeMar DeRozan will dominate the work here and it’s quite crowded behind him with Marco Belinelli, Mani Ginobili and Bryn Forbes fighting for time. Lonnie Walker and Mills should also see some spot minutes as a shooting guard but that’s a lot of bodies.

    Small Forward: Rudy Gay appears to be the top candidate to start at small forward with the Spurs losing Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Kyle Anderson in the span of a few months. There’s not a ton of true small forwards on the roster so it’ll be lots of mixing and matching with Dante Cunningham, Walker and Belinelli chipping in depending on different lineups.

    Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge proved last season that he was still capable of carrying a big load and while the addition of DeRozan will eat away at that somewhat, LA is going to be doing some heavy lifting again. Davis Bertans will be the backup and has utility in the stretchier lineup combinations Pop can trot out with Dante Cunningham mixing in for different matchups.

    Center: It’s basically a coin flip between young Jakob Poeltl and old Pau Gasol. We’re hesitantly projecting Poeltl as the starter, given that a starting five with DeRozan, Gay, Aldridge and Gasol would have trouble defending no matter how strong the scheme is. The two will split minutes and it might end up being a pretty even timeshare.

    Outlook

    There’s a lot of skepticism about the Spurs’ title hopes with this core, and while that’s fair it’s not as though the team is chopped liver without Kawhi. The Spurs won 48 games a year ago without a top-5 player and did add a solid young center and an All-NBA guard.

    They might top out in the second round or Conference Finals or second round, but this is an easy 50-win team that commands respect as long as Gregg Popovich is at the helm. There are tough questions looming when he retires but until then you can expect the Spurs to be in the league’s upper echelon.

    Dejounte Murray

    Total Value: 121/141 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 178/199 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 81

    2017-18 Review: Murray caused a little frenzy early in the season for fantasy owners but ended up disappointing as far as 12-team players were concerned. He was an elite source of rebounds from the point guard spot and did manage to average 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks in only 21.5 mpg so you can see why there was some fervor, but even in his run of starts from January 21 to the end of the year he only received 26.5 mpg.

    There’s a solid baseline here but Murray’s offensive game couldn’t pick up any slack in a workload that was solid but just not quite enough, though he was named Second Team All-Defense.

    This Year: All the roster overhaul shouldn’t affect Murray much since his bread gets buttered with defense and rebounds. His playing time will increase and some more talented offensive players around him (no disrespect to Kyle Anderson) might help him improve the assist numbers as well, assuming they can keep up the ball movement.

    Injury History: Murray missed just one game with a sprained left ankle. As a rookie he sat out two games with a sprained ankle and then 16 after sustaining a groin injury. There’s not a lot of risk here.

    Outlook: We’d feel far more confident about Murray as a top-80 asset if he could expand his offensive game even a little bit. He’ll get into the top-150 on the back of more minutes alone and his excellent defensive numbers have him working into the top-110 range. Watch out for the ADP if the hype train gets rolling but he has the looks of a solid, if untraditional, fantasy point guard.

    Update: He’s off the board now that he’s likely out for the year.

    DeMar DeRozan

    Total Value: 25/28(8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 46/47 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 80

    2017-18 Review: DeRozan always comes out of the kitchen with something fresh every season and this year he continued to improve as a playmaker while increasing his willingness and ability from behind the arc.

    The 3-point shooting was streaky and will never be a full-fledged asset but DeRozan was good about working things into the offense smoothly and wasn’t as prone to ball-stopping as he had been in years past. He set career-highs in assists and threes but the triples were still just at 1.1 and his scoring and efficiency both fell, canceling out those forward steps for fantasy owners.

    This Year: The Raptors made the bold choice to trade DeRozan after reportedly telling him that no deals were in the works. He’s been pretty upset about it and will head to San Antonio with a ton of motivation, so between that and the system he’s joining it’s going to be a pretty soft landing from a series of hard developments. He’ll be one of the team’s top scoring options and should be up to his usual tricks in the mid-range.

    Injury History: DeRozan was healthy last season and missed seven games with an ankle sprain the year before that. He’s not a major injury risk despite a history of huge workloads.

    Outlook: DeRozan only has so much higher to climb in the fantasy rankings since he’s still a poor defender (no steals or blocks are coming) and 3-point shooter. He might improve his efficiency since the Spurs do more damage than anyone else in the mid-range and have plenty of experience in scheming those bread-and-butter shots, but expecting more than top-40 value would be unwise. The chip on his shoulder will be bigger than the Lone Star State itself but we’re not going to be looking at DeRozan until the fourth round.

    Patty Mills

    Total Value: 142/145 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 194/202 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 82

    2017-18 Review: Mills was running around, plugging holes on the ship wherever they popped up. He played some as the sixth man, the starting point guard and even settled in as the starting shooting guard for a while. His percentages took a dive and his steals and assists also fell, which resulted in a bit of a letdown campaign for a player who posted increases in points and threes.

    This Year: Expect him to return to his more customary bench role, which might actually help him despite a decrease in playing time. That said, if there’s any change of plans he’s San Antonio’s old reliable and can deliver competent minutes whenever and wherever he’s needed. Don’t expect that to change.

    Injury History: Mills has only missed three games over the last three seasons but did undergo shoulder surgery back in 2014-15. It’s a minor concern but he’s pretty low in terms of injury risk.

    Outlook: Mills has been healthy enough to regularly finish as a fringe standard league guy in total value. His per-game numbers leave you wanting more but an improvement in efficiency would help him out and he’ll have a chance at top-175 per-game production.

    Pau Gasol

    Total Value: 85/83 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 120/112 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 77

    2017-18 Review: Gasol had two big noteworthy developments last season: his 3-point shooting predictably fell off a cliff (but was still fine) and he ended up leading the team in assists. Of course, dwindling playing time and falling blocks also left even his positive contributions a bit lower than you would’ve liked to see. While the .538 mark from deep in 2016-17 was obviously never going to repeat itself, going .358 was enough to set him back to a career-low .458 from the field.

    The Kawhi injury messed with all the Spurs, and Gasol was no different. His smart reads and passes weren’t as useful with a less-talented supporting cast and his scoring ability just isn’t what it used to be. The per-minute numbers were still fine, but the end is on the horizon even as Gasol ages rather gracefully.

    This Year: The Spurs might still need him to take more threes than he should since most of their work already gets done in the mid-range, but some stability will do well for everyone. If Jakob Poeltl can hold up it’s possible that Gasol slips further to the 20 mpg range, so his stock is falling even though he remains a nice player for the Spurs to have around.

    Injury History: The big man missed a single game for each of a sore groin, sprained right wrist, left knee bone bruise and sore shoulder, plus one rest day. The shooting splits from before and after the shoulder injury suggest that it lingered, but it wasn’t enough to sideline him. Gasol missed 15 games with a fluky fractured finger the year prior but has generally been healthy as he’s aged, so he’s not a threat to miss major time but a lock to miss a little.

    Outlook: Gasol is a solid per-minute player but the lack of playing time is going to hurt. The skillset is a solid one for fantasy owners so he should maintain late-round numbers but it’d take a big spike in blocks are some more hot 3-point shooting to get him back into the top-100.

    LaMarcus Aldridge

    Total Value: 21/13 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 27/18 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 75

    2017-18 Review: Aldridge went from requesting a trade to signing an extension after the Spurs went back to the drawing board and put LMA in positions where he can excel. His marks in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and blocks this season were all good enough for top-3 standing in his 12-season career.

    Obviously not having Kawhi helped, as Aldridge received usage commensurate with his late-Blazer days and took nearly four more shots per game despite only one extra minute of playing time. It was a nice reminder of Aldridge’s game after a tough 2016-17 season.

    This Year: The Leonard trade will help bolster Aldridge’s floor but DeRozan is definitely coming for some of those shots. He won’t take as many as Kawhi would’ve but it’s still not the most positive sign for LMA. He should be able to keep his efficiency up given San Antonio’s revamped playbook, and as long as that happens it’s tough to dislike his prospects all that much even as he loses a little responsibility.

    Injury History: He missed three games with a sore right knee and another with a sprained ankle but was mostly healthy. There’s a heart arrhythmia that could pop up at any time but he has yet to miss major time with it, and after five straight seasons of games in the 70s we’d look for him to miss some time with minor problems rather than anything big.

    Outlook: Aldridge had us worried after 2016-17 but checked all the requisite boxes last season, addressing pretty much all of the big concerns. He won’t be a top-30 guy again but is looking like a mid-round asset.

    Rudy Gay

    Total Value: 191/187 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 155/149 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 57

    2017-18 Review: Gay joined the Spurs coming off an Achilles rupture, sacrificing guaranteed cash for a chance to play deep into the postseason. A lower workload was an assumed part of the deal and he ended up playing just 21.6 mpg, which led to career-lows in 3-pointers and steals while he tied career-lows in blocks and assists and had the worst numbers since his rookie year in terms of rebounds and scoring. He was a solid real-life player for San Antonio but was significantly overvalued by other sites.

    This Year: Gay might have some bounceback appeal as he could end up starting at small forward. He’s more of a four at this point in his career but he can get away with playing either spot as the Spurs can scheme around most of his weaknesses. His playing time will likely come up but the Spurs will still keep a close eye on his minutes to combat overuse.

    Injury History: He made a surprisingly quick return from his brutal Achilles injury, needing just 10 months off to get back on the court. He did miss 23 straight games with right heel bursitis at one point and also blew out his eardrum, though that one didn’t cost him any games.

    Outlook: Assuming Gay starts and ends up with something like 25 mpg, there might be enough for late-round value. Anything else and you’ll probably end up stuck with a guy who’s too good to drop but not productive enough to leave your fantasy bench most weeks.

    Jakob Poeltl

    Total Value: 119/109 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 181/161 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 82

    2017-18 Review: Poeltl got a lot of run in closing lineups after proving himself as a steady defender. He’s got great instincts as an offensive rebounder but struggled on the other end because of his tendency to try and contest every shot. He’s an extremely limited offensive player but fit with the Raptors nicely and emerged as one of the team’s better rim-protectors.

    This Year: As Poeltl improves his defensive awareness he’ll become less of a negative on the glass. We’d also like to see him do more than pick up buckets on easy cuts, though it’s a solid skill that will be put to excellent use in San Antonio. His defensive abilities give him a good shot to earn the starting center gig, so keep an ear to the ground for any clarity on that situation as we get into training camp season.

    Injury History: Poeltl has yet to hit the injury report as a professional.

    Outlook: Poeltl already has utility as a boards and blocks player, and he’s a nice flier pick who will have a good shot at 12-team value given the likelihood of a playing time increase. If he’s named the starter Poeltl’s going to be a popular sleeper and late-round pick but there might enough here to warrant a late pick either way. He belongs on most watch lists in leagues where he doesn’t get drafted.

    Manu Ginobili

    Total Value: 215/242 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 232/265 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 65

    2017-18 Review: Ginobili reversed a few late-career trends last season as the Spurs struggled to get much offense out of their backcourt. His minutes increased for the first time in eight seasons but it only yielded averages of 8.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.0 triples. You can see why he was only at the edge of 20-team formats.

    This Year:

    Injury History: Ginobili got plenty of maintenance days but did injure his heel in the playoffs and missed six games with a sore thigh and one with a bruised sternum in the regular season. There’s going to be plenty of absences but most of them won’t be because of injuries.

    Outlook:

    Marco Belinelli

    Total Value: 111/104 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 160/145 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 80

    2017-18 Review: Belinelli did as Belinelli does, coming off the bench and taking shots that he really has no business taking. He knocks a lot of them down, to his credit, and between the Sixers and Hawks he was able to average 12.9 points and 1.9 triples per game.

    The move to a contender actually did him some good, as he was able to post 13.6 points, 1.6 assists, 1.8 boards, 2.0 3-pointers on 49.5 percent from the field and 87.0 percent from the line in Philadelphia. That nice little run as a surprising source of scoring and ball-handling put him firmly on the standard league map to end the year.

    This Year: Belinelli heads back to San Antonio, where he’ll be asked to play a similar role albeit under far more control. He’ll be competing with Bryn Forbes for minutes but both will get their minutes.

    Injury History: Belinelli was healthy last year, tying a career-high with 80 games played. In 2016-17 he had a left ankle injury that cost him a few weeks and a finger injury down the stretch. As a member of the Kings in 2015-16 he dealt with a foot issue and he had a groin injury cost him multiple games the year before with the Spurs. He’s a low-level injury risk at his age and shouldn’t be counted on for more than 75 games.

    Outlook: While things have changed a ton since 2014-15, Belinelli was just a top-225 option in 22.4 mpg the last time he was in San Antonio. The Spurs won’t give him the free reign that boosted his output with the Sixers, so we’re steering clear until the 16-team territory. Belinelli is plenty capable of standard league runs while he’s hot but he won’t be worth a draft pick in most formats.

    Davis Bertans

    Total Value: 238/219 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 306/279 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 77

    2017-18 Review: Bertans offers a fun skillset as a floor-stretching big but he didn’t get too much consistent run beyond January. His averages were nothing to write home about and while there were flashes of his potential, Bertans remains a long-term project for the Spurs.

    This Year: Already 25, we’re coming up on now-or-never time for Bertans as he hasn’t snatched away playing time from anyone despite a game that suits the modern NBA nicely. He could be the backup power forward or he could fill the same role he did last season and settle into minutes in the low teens.

    Injury History: Bertans has only dealt with minor issues besides two torn ACLs he sustained while playing in Spain’s ACB. There hasn’t been anything of note on the radar in the NBA but you can’t exactly forget about the knee stuff.

    Outlook: Bertans has the out-of-position production that fantasy owners like to chase but until he carves out real minutes he’ll only be a deep league flier.

    Bryn Forbes

    Total Value: 282/275 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 388/371 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 80

    2017-18 Review: Forbes did well to crack the rotation in his second year, averaging 19.0 mpg after appearing in only 36 games as a rookie. All the injuries certainly helped and Forbes was mostly tasked with catch-and-shoot threes, but it’s a skillset that the Spurs didn’t have a ton of last season.

    This Year: While you’d expect Forbes’ role to grow as a 25-year-old who showed a lot of improvement in his second year, the Marco Belinelli signing pours some cold water on his prospects. The shooting guard spot is pretty well accounted for so he might be limited to situational work.

    Injury History: Forbes has nothing on his medical records and shouldn’t be viewed as an injury risk.

    Outlook: If Forbes can continue to hit 39 percent of his threes he should force his way into more work but there are slim odds of him becoming anything more than a 3-point specialist in the near future.

    Lonnie Walker IV (R)

    2017-18 Review: Walker headed to the University of Miami as a McDonald’s All-American and after he recovered from a torn meniscus he proceeded to quietly lead the Hurricanes in scoring at just 11.5 ppg. He showed enough to get the Spurs’ seal of approval at No. 18 in the draft.

    This Year: Walker will play behind DeMar DeRozan and next to Marco Belinelli but assuming he can confidently step in and hit shots there should be a nice little bucket of minutes for him.

    Injury History: Walker tore a meniscus in his right knee during practice prior to last season and he returned in time for 2018 action. He also suffered a right ankle injury in Summer League but we haven’t heard anything to indicate it’s serious. The knee issue will be something to watch but we’re not going to assign any real injury risk to him heading into this season.

    Outlook: Walker has the seeds of a decent stat set with the money counters but ultimately falls short. He’s off the radar in redraft leagues of any reasonable size but Dynasty owners may want to get aggressive and bet on the Spurs brand name.

    Dante Cunningham

    Total Value: 241/221 (8/9-cat)

    Per-Game Value: 298/268 (8/9-cat)

    Games Played: 73

    2017-18 Review: Cunningham came over in a mid-season deal with the Pelicans, and while it was widely assumed that he’d be waived the Nets decided to hang on and give him a spot in the frontcourt rotation. His playing time actually went down but his scoring, rebounding and 3-point shooting all improved. Go figure. He also saw a little bit of time at center in Brooklyn’s super-small groups but it was nothing to write home about.

    This Year: Now in San Antonio, Cunningham will help bolster the depth at the three and four spots and be asked to hit any open threes that come his way. The Spurs will make use of his defensive abilities but he’s unlikely to play enough to matter in fantasy.

    Injury History: Cunningham missed time with a sore knee, sore back and concussion but the big thing in his history is a right tibia fracture back in November of 2016. He’s played in at least 63 games every year of his career, so considering his place at the end of most of those rotations we’ll declare him low-risk.

    Outlook: The Spurs tend to make all of their players look good but Cunningham would only be an option in very deep leagues even then. He’s low-usage and knows his role, so in a best case scenario he might squeak out 2.0 combined steals, triples and blocks a night with numbers that are basically non-factors across the rest of the box.

    Chimezie Metu (R)

    2017-18 Review: Metu showed nice progression throughout college, winning Pac-12 Most Improved Player as a sophomore and then leading USC in scoring and rebounding as a junior. He put up 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game while showing hints of an outside shot. Metu is green defensively but has nice mobility, making him a worthwhile development play for San Antonio.

    This Year: The Spurs are pretty full up front so Metu might have to log most of his minutes in the G-League.

    Injury History: Metu broke his wrist before training camp and probably won’t be ready for the regular season, though there are no long-term concerns.

    Outlook: Leave Metu undrafted in all formats.

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