Game Thoughts: Spurs @ Warriors – Game #56

Nobody beats these Spurs by 40 points. Instead, San Antonio sat LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan and proceeded to lose to the Warriors by a final score of 141-102.

Looking at the big picture, this game played out pretty well for the Spurs. With eyes on tomorrow night’s game in Portland, best case scenario tonight was a blowout to ensure that the good guys are as fully rested as possible when they land in Portland. Sure, it’s never fun to watch the Spurs get blown out by 39 points but, eh, it gives them a better chance to split the back-to-back.

Since there wasn’t much to take from this game, I’ll give my thoughts on some of the younger players:

-The talking heads on ESPN said the Spurs hope Derrick White is able to play against the Blazers. If true, that’d be great news. Previously, it sounded like he was out until after the All-Star break. Let’s hope his latest injury isn’t serious because San Antonio would be in big trouble if White’s gimpy for the rest of the season. A healthy White gives the Spurs a chance to win 50 games if things go right. 

Lonnie Walker IV was 0-for-10 from the floor with three turnovers. Ouch. It’s safe to say he isn’t ready for prime time just yet. He hasn’t looked as explosive since injuring his knee, specifically when it comes to jumping off of one leg. Walker looked a whole lot more athletic and freer with his movements in the preseason. The Spurs probably should consider shutting him down for the season if there is any risk of further injury to his knee. (Tonight, he had to leave the court after coming up gimpy in the first half … but later re-entered the game and wasn’t limping.) Against the Warriors, he missed a few early shots and then totally lost his confidence. Walker had a couple good passes but that was about the extent of his positives. And as bad as his offense was, his defense might have been even worse. He doesn’t have any instincts on that end and plays too upright, which allows players to easily get around him. All that said, I wouldn’t say Spurs fans should be low on Walker after this disappointing outing. He has tools to be a quality player down the road. It’s just not going to be this season.

Drew Eubanks is an interesting prospect. While he’s not especially mobile or light on his feet, he’s a decently explosive jumper. He’s also coordinated for a bigman and has big hands. His jump hook is an NBA-ready shot that he’ll be able to get off against most opponents. Eubanks also looks like he has a chance to become an elite shot blocker. The question is whether he’s a fit in today’s NBA. These days, it’s difficult to lack exceptional mobility, lack perimeter skill and lack an outside jumper and still make it. Eubanks has a chance but, as it is with any undrafted player, it’s a severe longshot.

Chimezie Metu is on the other end of the prospect spectrum when compared to Eubanks. While Metu doesn’t have anything as NBA-ready as Eubanks’ jump hook or shot blocking ability, he’s intriguing enough in enough categories to potentially make it at some point down the road. He’s a good athlete with fluid mobility. Metu’s seems to have a good jumper with solid form. He also has perimeter skill — he can dribble and pass better than a majority of 21-year-old bigman prospects. But for Metu to carve out an NBA career, he’s going to have to find areas where he can excel. Right now, he has potential in a lot of different categories but isn’t good enough at anything to warrant playing time. 

Jakob Poeltl at 23 years old is a really good center prospect. He doesn’t have a high ceiling but he’s going to be a strong asset at center for the next decade. Tonight against the Warriors, he flashed his passing potential along the way to setting a career-high with six assists. It’s clear that he’s an outstanding offensive rebounder and a great, high percentage finisher around the rim. Two areas he will have to shore up in order to reach his ceiling: First, he has to continue to get better on the defensive glass. He is much improved from his Raptors days in that category but he needs to keep improving. With how well he boards on the offensive end, there’s no reason why he can’t at least be an average defensive rebounder for a center. Secondly, he needs to develop enough of a post game to score against smaller players. In this small ball era, if teams figure out they can defend him with a small player (cue nightmares of Derek Fisher successfully defending Tiago Splitter as the Spurs were getting backdoor swept), Poeltl becomes a bit player who only can be put in the game in certain matchups. The other option would be Poeltl becoming a knockdown perimeter shooter … but that’s not nearly as likely as him figuring out how to score on the post against smalls.

LJ Ellis