The San Antonio Spurs returned to the hardwood on Thursday afternoon. In a scrimmage against a Milwaukee Bucks team with the best record in the NBA, the Spurs kept it close in the first half before getting blown away in the final two quarters. The Bucks prevailed in this meaningless scrimmage by a final score of 113-92.
Even though DeMar DeRozan started the game at power forward, he remained the team’s main playmaker in the halfcourt sets. I thought he looked somewhat decent, although he lacked the required explosion to turn the corner during many possessions. Defensively, I don’t think he’s much worse at PF than he is at any other position. In today’s NBA, it might actually be the position where he’s easiest to hide. Sure, DeRozan is a pitiful rim protector for a power forward but it’s easier to hide the fact that he has slow feet out on the perimeter when he’s at PF. He also doesn’t back down from physicality, which sometimes allows him survive against bigger players.
I was thrilled to see Derrick White starting at shooting guard next to Dejounte Murray at point guard. It’s the alignment that should have started together all season long. Let’s hope that he remains the starter in the last two scrimmages and the final eight regular season games. That said, it’s too early to put that in stone, as Bryn Forbes always seems to find his way back into the starting lineup. Against the Bucks, White did pretty well. He was the best passer on the team. While he turned down too many shots, the shots he attempted looked smooth. He also had strong moments on defense.
Although Dejounte Murray was technically the point guard, there were times when he was third or fourth in line in terms of ball-handling and playmaking duties. When Murray did look to create, it was usually for himself. His decision-making was spotty at best, although I did like his aggression. His defensive intensity was there but he was reaching too much.
Lonnie Walker IV
The coaches had Lonnie Walker IV start at small forward, which wasn’t a total surprised. The last time we saw the Spurs, DeRozan at PF and Walker at SF was an alignment we were seeing more and more. On Thursday, Walker did pretty well. I thought his jumper looked smoother than usual and he wasn’t bashful about letting it fly. His defense was uneven and his driving to the hoop was often too hurried — but Walker did enough to stay in the starting lineup for now.
The fifth member of the starting lineup was Jakob Poeltl. He kept himself busy doing Poeltl-like things such as hitting the offensive glass, patrolling the lane, setting screens and rolling to the hoop. All told, I was pleased with what he brought to the table. His defense was rock solid and he moved to the right spots on offense. With LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles out for the rest of the season, Poeltl has a chance to shine. This was a good first step.
Leading the bench units in minutes played was Keldon Johnson. Let’s hope that becomes a pattern. I was impressed by many areas of his game versus Milwaukee. Offensively, his court awareness and passing were better than I’ve witnessed previously. He attacked the rim well and exhibited no fear on either end. Johnson competed on the perimeter defensively and finished possessions by crashing the boards. Well done.
Bryn Forbes being demoted to the bench was surprising, although it’s something that should have happened many, many moons ago. I thought Forbes looked pretty good during his first few minutes of playing time against the Bucks — but his level of play quickly went south. As the game progressed, his decision-making got worse, he got sloppier on both ends and he offered very little resistance on defense. It’s no accident that Forbes finished with a team-worst plus-minus of -21 in 16 minutes of playing time.
There’s not much to report in regards to Rudy Gay. He still looks slow out on the perimeter. It’s becoming clear that he needs to play power forward or even center in order to not be a liability on defense. On offense, he actually had some really good passes and his shot looked okay.
Also passing the ball well was Marco Belinelli. He didn’t bring anything else to the table, though. He provided a tiny bit of playmaking but that was about it. We’ll see if he remains in the rotation once the regular season officially starts back up.
The only player who suited up and didn’t play was Patty Mills. Most likely, it was only due to a veteran player being allowed an extra day of rest. Then again, if the coaching staff is serious about using these final eight games to develop younger players, it’s theoretically possible that Mills could rack up more DNPs. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.
More of the same from Drew Eubanks. He flashed impressive athleticism for his size and had a few moments where he looked like a promising big. Then he had stretches where it appears as if he’s still learning how to play the game.
Chimezie Metu getting only ten minutes in this game isn’t a good sign that he’ll be part of the regular rotation. He has a chance to earn minutes with Aldridge and Lyles out but so far it appears as if he’s behind Eubanks on the depth chart.
Quinndary Weatherspoon played hard but I didn’t see anything that makes me think he’s ready for NBA minutes. He looks capable of providing decent depth at both guard positions, though.
The 19th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft didn’t play until deep into garbage time. Since he’s been drafted, all signs to the Spurs believing that Luka Samanic is a year or two away from being ready. That still appears to be the case.
It looks like Tyler Zeller was signed to provide depth and not necessarily be Poeltl’s backup. Considering that Zeller’s upside in minimal, that’s smart. Good to see it.
Becky Hammon was the head coach against the Bucks. A masked Gregg Popovich was there but he wasn’t doing much. Hammon was the one guiding the ship. I liked her decisions, for the most part. If the starting lineup was her idea, I’m hoping she continues to receive an increasing amount of input.