Checking In on 10 Former Spurs Players in the 2023 NBA Playoffs

Sure, the current San Antonio Spurs might be watching the 2023 NBA playoffs from Cancun but there are a lot of former Spurs participating in the postseason. Let’s take a few minutes to check in on ten such players.

Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

To end the 2022-23 season, Kawhi Leonard was playing some of the best basketball of his career. In his final 18 games of the regular season, Leonard averaged 27.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game while shooting 53.8% from the field, 47% from three-point land and 87.3% from the free throw line.

In the first two games of the first round series between the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns, the two-time Finals MVP was great. During the Clippers win in Game 1, Leonard had 38 points and was clearly the best player on the court. Even though L.A. lost Game 2, he continued his outstanding play with 31 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

Unfortunately, that’s when Leonard and the Clippers received bad news. He was diagnosed with a sprained right knee and ended up missing Game 3 and Game 4 against the Suns. 

To the surprise of no Spurs fan, Leonard’s current injury status is unclear. The Clippers, who now trail the Suns 3-1 in the series, have listed him as day-to-day but it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll play again in the first round. To avoid offending Leonard, the Clippers haven’t hinted at any sort of timetable regarding when their superstar may return to action.

Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks and Dejounte Murray finished the season with a record of 41-41. In his first season with the Hawks, Murray averaged 20.5 points, 6.1 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals. While undoubtedly productive, Murray’s points, assists, rebounds and steals were down compared to his final season in San Antonio.

In the first round, the seventh seeded Hawks are facing the second seeded Boston Celtics. After losing the first two games of the series, Murray and his teammates got a win when the series shifted to Atlanta. The Hawks will try to knot the series on Sunday.

Murray has played well in the first three games against the Celtics. He’s averaging a team-high 26 points per game to go along with 6.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.7 steals. Murray is also shooting well from the field while limiting his turnovers.

The Hawks remain a longshot to advance to the second round but so far Atlanta has to be thrilled with what they’re getting from Murray during his first postseason run with his new team.

Derrick White, Boston Celtics

Derrick White and Murray used to share a backcourt in San Antonio. Now White and Murray are going head to head in the first round series between the Hawks and Celtics. In fact, the two players have spent quite a bit of time guarding each other.

Like Murray, White has played well to begin the playoffs for the Celtics. In the first three games of the series, he’s averaging 20.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.7 blocks. White’s shooting couldn’t be much better: 61.1% from the floor, 56.3% from three-point range and 88.9% from the line.

This continues what has arguably been the best season of White’s career. He played in all 82 games for the Celtics and helped lead Boston to a record of 57-25, the second best record in the NBA. White had a true shooting percentage north of 60% and averaged 12.4 points, 3.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds.

Going forward, White is unquestionably the most likely player on this list to play a key role on a championship squad. 

Kyle Anderson, Minnesota Timberwolves

Kyle Anderson made headlines recently — but not for the greatest of reasons. Rudy Gobert, Anderson’s teammate on the Minnesota Timberwolves, punched him during the play-in tournament. Gobert ended up getting suspended by the team but Minnesota still managed to make it to the playoffs.

However, that postseason run appears to be nearing a conclusion as the Timberwolves have lost the first three games of their first round series against the Denver Nuggets. Anderson has played reasonably well, averaging 7.7 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. He’s leading Minnesota’s bench players in all three statistical categories.

Anderson’s first year with the Timberwolves has to be considered a success. The 29-year-old averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 28.4 minutes per game. He shot 50.9% from the floor, 41% from three-point territory and 73.5% from the charity stripe. 

Even if Anderson and Gobert can’t mend fences, it’s clear that the former Spurs forward remains a quality player in the league. 

Trey Lyles, Sacramento Kings

When Trey Lyles left San Antonio after the 2020-21 season, it looked like his NBA career was on life support. But, to his credit, he has actually played the best basketball of his career in the last three seasons and is currently a rotation player for the Sacramento Kings, arguably the most exciting team in all the land.

During the regular season, Lyles averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds, while shooting 45.8% from the field and 36.3% on three-pointers. He played 74 games off the bench for the Kings and averaged 16.9 minutes per game.

In Sacramento’s Game 1 win over the Golden State Warriors, Lyles was tremendous. He finished with 16 points and six rebounds in only 18 minutes and hit a number of momentous shots for the Kings. Since then, though, Lyles has struggled. In Game 2 and Game 3 combined, he is 0-for-8 from the floor in 28 minutes.

The Kings are currently up 2-1 in their series against the Warriors. If Sacramento is going to finish off the defending champs, they’ll likely need a few role players like Lyles to step up. 

Chimezie Metu, Sacramento Kings

Another bench piece in Sacramento is former Spurs second round draft pick Chimezie Metu. In his third season with the Kings, Metu averaged 4.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in 10.4 minutes per game. Unfortunately for the 26-year-old, those are the lowest numbers during his tenure with the Kings.

In the postseason, Metu has been out of the rotation. He has only played three minutes against the Warriors. But if Lyles continues to struggle, head coach Mike Brown (one of the main branches of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree) could turn to Metu in an attempt to spark the team.

Jock Landale, Phoenix Suns

Last season, Jock Landale played his rookie season for the Spurs. After being dealt in the Dejounte Murray trade, Landale landed with the Phoenix Suns. His sophomore season was actually pretty impressive. The 6-foot-11 center from Australia averaged 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 69 games with the Suns. He played 14.2 minutes per game and even started four contests.

In the playoffs, the Suns have tightened their rotation and Landale is on the outside looking in. Phoenix has gone with veteran center Bismack Biyombo behind starting center Deandre Ayton.

The door shouldn’t be closed on Landale playing a role for the Suns during the postseason, though. If Phoenix faces a team that stuffs the paint, Landale’s perimeter ability could land him a spot in the rotation.

Lonnie Walker IV, Los Angeles Lakers

In his first 29 games with the Lakers, it looked like Lonnie Walker IV could finally have his breakout season. During that time frame, he was averaging 15.5 points and hitting 46.5% of his shots from the field, 39.4% of his three-pointers and 87.1% of his free throws.

Sadly, the former first round pick by the Spurs has seen his role shrink more and more as the season has progressed. When the Lakers made a push to qualify the playoffs, Walker was mostly out of the rotation. In their first round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers continue to go with other options.

It’s looking unlikely that Walker will play important minutes for the Lakers in the playoffs. The good news for Walker is that the 24-year-old showed enough promise early this season to warrant another contract in the NBA. 

Danny Green, Cleveland Cavaliers

Three-time NBA champion Danny Green is still playing notable minutes in the playoffs. He began the season with the Memphis Grizzlies but is currently with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite playing in only eight regular season games with the Cavs, he played a total of 32 minutes in Game 2 and Game 3 for Cleveland in their first round series versus the New York Knicks.

Green and the Cavaliers trail the Knicks 2-1. During his 32 minutes of postseason action, the 35-year-old is only 1-for-5 from the floor. While he’s playing good defense, the Cavs obviously want more from their veteran who has a history of shooting well in the playoffs.

After coming back from a devastating knee injury, Green could be playing in the final games of his very successful career. For his sake, hopefully he has a little bit more gas left in the tank to help give the Cavs a boost.

Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets were the first team to get eliminated from the playoffs after getting swept by the Philadelphia 76ers. Patty Mills is on the Nets — but he can’t get much blame for the sweep because he barely played. The only minutes he saw against the Sixers was a five minute stint in Game 4.

Mills couldn’t have been surprised by the lack of playing time because he fell out of Brooklyn’s rotation after the All-Star break. What happened? The Nets have a lot of guards and head coach Jacque Vaughn decided to go with Seth Curry over Mills off the bench. 

Is this the end of the line for the 34-year-old? Probably not. First of all, Mills’ per-minute numbers were close to his career averages. Secondly, he has a guaranteed contract for next season. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Mills is regarded as a valuable locker room presence so the Nets will likely keep him around even if he only plays sporadically.