• Justin Levine

Spurs Post All-Star Break Outlook


USA Today

As the noise of All-Star Weekend quiets down, we eagerly await the final lap of this glamorous NBA regular season with no distractions of trade rumors. Despite a slow stretch heading into the All-Star break, Gregg Popovich once again has the Spurs sitting 7 games above .500 at 33-26 and in good standing to continue their incredible 21-year streak of finishing over .500 and making the playoffs. They currently hold the 7th spot in the West, ahead of the Clippers (1 GB), Kings (2 GB) and Lakers (3 GB) but just two games back of the 4th placed Trail Blazers in a wide open Western Conference playoff picture.

The combination of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge has proven to be an excellent one-two punch to lead an efficient offense (3rd in the NBA in offensive efficiency). Both players are averaging around 21 points per game and DeRozan a career high 6.1 assists per game.

The Spurs entered the season with many questions regarding the shift from Kawhi Leonard to DeRozan as “the guy” in San Antonio. DeRozan is filling his role quite well through the dynamic connection with Aldridge, even though he is not what Leonard was on the Spurs. Leonard is bigger with a more refined skill set on the offensive end and quicker with better instincts on the defensive end. His massive hands don’t hurt either. Leonard’s defensive abilities have been missed this season as the Spurs see themselves in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency and defensive rating.

Rudy Gay has been a consistent third option offensively, so look for that to continue the rest of the season. If the Spurs want to continue their playoff streak and possibly even elevate themselves to a contender for second place in the West though, DeRozan and Aldridge need help. Look for role players like Davis Bertans, Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills to step up toward the end of this season to provide relief on the offensive end for DeRozan and Aldridge. Add onto that the key return of combo guard Derrick White, who is expected to return soon after the All-Star break, and you have a long list of guys with opportunities to prove their value on both ends of the floor.

This is the time of the year when coaches need to figure out their best starting lineup heading into the playoffs; expect to see the trustworthy starting five of DeRozan, Forbes, White, Gay and Aldridge to remain intact once White returns from injury, but don’t be surprised to see Jakob Poeltl seeing minutes with the starters to give the Spurs a bigger lineup with an inside defensive presence.

The Spurs end the season with a relatively easy stretch, seeing the Cavaliers (twice), Hornets, Hawks, and Wizards during their final 8 games of the season. The key part of the season will be the first few weeks in March where they will see the Thunder, Nuggets, Bucks, Blazers, Warriors, Rockets and Celtics. Being only 13-16 against

teams with a record above .500, San Antonio will need to prove they are among the better teams in the West and beat some noteworthy opponents along the way to give them the confidence they need heading into playoff time.

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