What to Watch For as the San Antonio Spurs Begin Preseason Play

While it’s difficult to know what to expect, here’s what I’ll be watching for during preseason play — beginning this evening versus the Thunder. 

1. Minutes for the Starters

Due to the truncated nature of the preseason, it’d make sense that Pop would play his regulars more than he usually does during preseason action. There’s just not enough time to gently get the main cogs ready for the regular season. For that reason, my assumption is that we’ll see the starters play around 20 minutes in this first preseason game.

2. Impact of Injuries. 

Derrick White (toe surgery) and Keldon Johnson (foot) could be out into the regular season. Quinndary Weatherspoon (knee) is also injured. Lonnie Walker IV has been battling a back issue and might not be ready for the Thunder game.

White and Walker were starters in the Orlando bubble. Johnson was one of the first players off the bench. All three players appeared to be in line for major roles this season. How does Pop plan to fill those holes?

3. Who is the Power Forward?

Back in the good ol’ days, Spurs fans never needed to worry about their power forward. Now? It might be the biggest question mark heading into the season.

DeMar DeRozan was the power forward in the bubble. Will that continue into this season? Rudy Gay also played a lot at PF in the bubble — and that’s probably his most viable position at this stage of his career.

Before missing the Orlando restart due to appendicitis, Trey Lyles was San Antonio’s starting power forward. Will he be given a chance to reclaim that spot?

And then there’s a chance that Pop decides to move LaMarcus Aldridge back to power forward and starts Jakob Poeltl at center. While I don’t think this will happen, it can’t be dismissed considering that Aldridge prefers playing power forward and the Spurs just invested heavily in Poeltl

4. Rookie Watch

The rookies are in an unenviable position right now. With no summer league and a limited training camp, it’s safe to say Devin Vassell and Tre Jones have no real idea of what’s going on. Expecting much out of them in the preseason — or even early in the regular season — wouldn’t be wise.

That said, Vassell and Jones are relatively advanced prospects so it’s not impossible that Pop opts to just throw them into the fire.

5. Luka Samanic

When the Spurs drafted Luka Samanic, I thought he needed two years in the G League before he’d truly be ready for the NBA. But with the G League in limbo, what Pop has in store for Samanic deserves its own section on this list. 

Samanic was so green last year that he barely even played in preseason. With so many options at power forward (DeRozan, Gay, Lyles, Aldridge) and center (Aldridge, Poeltl and Drew Eubanks), it’ll be a challenge for Samanic to force his way into the rotation. If Pop doesn’t even give him a shot in the preseason and the G League doesn’t happen, Samanic would be in line for a lot of time on sitting on the bench this season. 

6. LaMarcus Aldridge’s Fit

The Spurs had success in the bubble by going small and increasing the tempo. How will Aldridge fit into that? The best case scenario is he embraces the three-point shot even more and helps space the court. If he’s focused on spacing the court, the fit should be seamless. If he insists on getting touches in the post, that’d be incompatible with how the bubble Spurs played.