Playoff Check-In, Draft Talk
Last we left you, Dear Reader, the Spurs were battling for something like a playoff chance and we wrote about watching and old favorite do good things.
I believe in the project. Good things require time, and getting draft picks is a surefire way to winning, simply tanking with no plan does not make for championships. The Sixers are closer to a title than they were all those years ago but that tanking and losing does not do it for me. This Spurs season had a lot of losing, but we thought Dejounte Murray would make a jump into the starring role and he did.
My gut tells me we will see Dejounte Murray leading all scorers. Not only has he added a quality midrange game that is not subject to as many variables*, but he has experience and likes to get out and run for easy buckets. He was the second-leading scorer at 15.7 per game last season, and with another shot or two coming his way (at least) he should be in the 17-19ppg range.
We predicted losing, and growth and fun. I think we got all of that. Every team needs a star. Every team needs another star after that. Every team needs complimentary pieces. Optimizing, and strategizing for the perfect team creates hesitation. You live in the present, and that is all that is guaranteed.
The Nets, a toe away from the ECF in 2021, were swept. They had and have the talent to beat anyone and yet… and yet. The Spurs believe in process, and another squad that stuck to principles and continued through struggles is thriving. Yes, I mean the damned Warriors. They powered through growing pains, and injuries and now have the odds-on favorite team to win the ‘ship.
Compete. Go out there and try to win. That is what the Spurs have done. The DeRozan/Aldridge years were not wasted, as they were times for DJ et al to grow and become better players. This season was about stepping into the season and doing it with no star vets of their caliber. We learned that DJ can be an All-Star. We learned that Vassell is growing into that offensive role (shooter!). We learned that Primo was a good pick after all.
The trades —- shrewd! — are going to bring in some young draft talent and next season we can expect a Spurs squad to continue to challenge for more. Play-in basketball showed the squad what needs to happen to execute in must-win games. It is a lesson that is best learned first-hand.
I like KOC’s draft guide insofar as he writes about every guy. I put less value on his ratings and fit, and a good portion of that is that it is very difficult to parse the trajectory of each of these guys. As a way to review who and what is happening in the draft, it is valuable. The Spurs have a very good development system, and a good eye on projection, but they are not perfect. I like the track record, however.
I do not think anyone can go wrong with simply choosing the *best* player in the draft, and reorganizing your team around the new hierarchy. That is to say, if there is someone that can be better than DJ or Keldon Johnson, or whoever you draft them and then figure it out later. Talent can play with talent, and you can always trade for fit later.
That said, I like the value available looking at the projected bigs. The Spurs have a 4.5% chance at the top pick, but there are some quality players available. Of course, look for the staff to find another Primo or something. Watching New Orleans beat up the interior of the roster highlighted a weakness. The Spurs could stand to get stronger and bigger. Pop previously highlighted the lack of athleticism and they worked to address that with Keldon, etc.
Veteran savvy can be had, but someone who can just be a freak athlete and get some easy buckets off superior athleticism provides variety. Keldon Johnson is that guy, but the Pelicans found a way to stifle that while Jonas Valančiūnas owned the paint.
There is no easy answer there.
We will know more after the Lottery in May.
I am anti-Mavericks, anti-Nets, anti-Warriors (while acknowledging their fun). I don’t know that I want the Celtics to win because of the insufferable nature of Boston fandom but I mean, it is hard to root against Derrick White and Ime Udoka. I like Embiid but I cannot root for Harden and so that presents a problem. The Suns are fun, and I appreciate Chris Paul, but I don’t know that they advance with a hurt Devin Booker.
The Pelicans are fun right now, but they cannot beat Golden State. The Warriors look too good and are coming up to full capacity at the right time. I can see the Bucks repeating just because Giannis is so good, but without Khris Middleton? Difficult.
Meanwhile, I was hoping DeRozan would have a good first round series but he got put in the clamps. He had a 41-point game two but followed that with just 11 in game three. Milwaukee just looks superior.
Boston looks really good and locked up some very good talent. I can see them coming out of the East and beating the Warriors but GS has a much better offensive scheme and will find ways to get their guys looks. They have seen everything against them in their time, and have more potential to find a way. I do like Udoka, though and have hope.