OTG Team Awards: San Antonio Spurs
With the 2018-2019 season coming to an end, Off the Glass is giving out the traditional NBA awards for each team in the league. Today we look at the awards for the San Antonio Spurs.
Sixth Man of the Year: Marco Belinelli
Largely due to the contributions of Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have finished in the top ten in bench scoring and bench minutes in every season since 2005. With Ginobili gone, the bench has been led by Marco Belinelli, who has come off the bench in all but one game this season, averaging 23 minutes per game and about 10 points a night. In addition to his leadership, Belinelli gives the Spurs a dynamic shooting ability off the bench that has catapulted them to an astonishing, league-leading, 39.3% on three pointers.
Honorable Mention goes to Patty Mills, who sports similar numbers to Belinelli, but who has seen his role minimized by the emergence of guards Bryn Forbes and Derrick White, who we’ll see more about in just a sec.
Defensive Player of the Year: Derrick White
After an injury-riddled rookie year, Derrick White took off this season; he’s provided steady effort on the offensive end, contributing with great ball control and poise. Where he has made his money this year, though, is on the defensive end. This season has not seen the lockdown team efforts of years’ past, but White has proven he can do it individually as a starter. As the team leader in steals and ranking second in defensive win shares while usually guarding the opposing team’s best guard on the court, White is an easy choice here. As the Spurs look to make a playoff run, team defense led by White will be key to their success.
Most Improved Player: Bryn Forbes
When promising PG Dejounte Murray’s torn ACL ended his 2019 season before it began, the Spurs’ season looked doomed. After losing both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili after the 2017-8 season, San Antonio was really counting on Murray to be the focal point of their new attack, and his absence was truly devastating. The job Bryn Forbes has done replacing Murray cannot be overstated.
Not heavily recruited out of high school, Forbes was not even considered an NBA prospect until his senior year at Michigan State. Undrafted out of college, Forbes has seen his skillset questioned since the moment he entered the league, so naturally people doubted Popovich’s decision to name Forbes the starting point guard. To the surprise of many, Forbes has provided a steady 11.7 points per game on 45.5 FG% - 42% from three - and a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio while starting all but one game this season.
Rookie of the Year: Lonnie Walker IV
As the 18th pick in the 2018 draft coming out of Miami, Walker did not make the Spurs roster to begin the season, and spent most of the year with the Austin Spurs of the G-League, performing well on that level. After averaging nearly 17 points per game in Austin, Walker was called up to the big leagues on March 22 and recently posted a career-high 16 points in 16 minutes for the San Antonio Spurs. It’s not much, but it’s the most we’ve seen from a Spurs’ rookie this year.
Most Valuable Player: DeMar DeRozan
For the Spurs, the most valuable player is basically a toss-up between DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. The offense relies equally on the two to provide anywhere from 40 to 60 combined points each night, which has given the Spurs a dynamic one-two punch. I gave the slight edge to DeRozan here as he is both a more dynamic scorer and playmaker, and therefore has a greater hand in the success of the team. The magic of Gregg Popovich to get the most out of his players cannot be overstated, and DeRozan’s improvement (career highs in rebounds and assists) since coming to San Antonio epitomizes Pop’s brilliance.
Honorable Mentions go to both Aldridge and Popovich, who are the other two legs of the Spurs’ tripod of success.