Four Spurs players to watch during 2021-22 season: Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson among breakout candidates

For 2-plus many years, the San Antonio Spurs had been one of many league’s premier franchises. They made 22 straight playoff appearances and received 5 titles due to the likes of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Now, the glory days are over and the crew is heading in a model new route. 

After they misplaced to the Memphis Grizzlies within the play-in match, it confirmed that they might miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the primary time in franchise historical past. And with DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills off to hunt extra aggressive conditions, the Spurs are formally embarking on a uncommon rebuild. 

However as a result of they’ve been so profitable for thus lengthy, there is not any marquee prospect to construct round. Even once they’ve missed out on the playoffs they’ve nonetheless been drafting within the back-end of the lottery and have not had a top-10 choose since they took Tim Duncan again in 1997. There isn’t any Zion Williamson or Cade Cunningham on this roster, nobody to carry up as the way forward for the franchise nor convey within the followers.

Due to that the Spurs aren’t solely going to be fairly dangerous this season, they’re additionally going to be largely ignored. For instance, the Spurs solely have 5 nationwide TV appearances this season, and 4 of these are NBA TV, which does not really matter. That is not the end-all-be-all of curiosity, nevertheless it offers a fairly good indication of who the league and the media thinks individuals will care about. 

That is going to be a very totally different Spurs crew than we’re used to seeing, one full of largely younger and considerably unknown gamers — no less than to the broader nationwide viewers. Forward of coaching camp, listed here are 4 younger Spurs gamers to control this season:

San Antonio Spurs roster

The crew’s main returning scorer, Murray enters this season because the Spurs’ greatest participant. Which, no offense to him as a result of he is a very enjoyable and versatile younger guard, however that provides you a good suggestion of the place the Spurs are at proper now. 

After tearing his ACL and lacking all the 2018-19 season, Murray has regularly improved since his return. Final season was his greatest but, as he put up 15.7 factors, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals per sport. He is set to tackle a good larger position this season, and will probably be fascinating to see how he responds. 

We all know Murray has the bodily attributes and might do the entire little issues. He is lengthy and athletic, has improved as a playmaker and will get after it on the defensive finish. He is simply an absolute pest on that finish of the ground and goes to make just a few extra All-Defensive groups earlier than his profession is over. 

However to take the following step and grow to be a star, and even borderline star as a lead guard, you will have to have the ability to put the ball within the basket frequently. That is going to be the problem for Murray this season. Can he make the most of this chance and carry this Spurs offense? Lots will rely on the state of his jumper, which has been inconsistent all through his profession. He was stable from the mid-range final season, capturing 45.4 p.c, however solely hit 31.7 p.c of his 3-point makes an attempt. 

Just a few years in the past, within the first spherical of the 2019 playoffs, the Spurs practically pulled off an upset towards the No. 2 seed Denver Nuggets. That was thanks largely to White, who had one thing of a popping out social gathering in that collection, which included a thunderous dunk over Paul Millsap in Recreation 1. 

Since then, nonetheless, his profession hasn’t taken off in the best way the Spurs may need hoped. He was stable within the pandemic-shortened season and had some nice video games within the bubble, however then was restricted to simply 36 video games final season due to a streak of dangerous luck. He had offseason foot surgical procedure, then fractured his toe, then bought COVID-19 and at last suffered an ankle damage. 

This season might be an opportunity for White to begin contemporary, each from a well being and position perspective. He’ll be beginning alongside Dejounte Murray within the backcourt and may have extra scoring and playmaking duties than ever earlier than. Very like with Murray, the query is what can he do with that chance?

When wholesome we all know he is a brilliant reliable participant who can do a variety of issues properly. He knocks down 3s at a good clip, is a stable playmaker and can defend a number of positions. Due to that, there is a fairly excessive ground for his manufacturing. However whether or not he can take that subsequent step and be greater than a job participant stays to be seen. 

Many followers tuning in to observe Group USA this summer time on the Tokyo Olympics had been most likely stunned and/or confused to see Keldon Johnson’s title on the crew sheet. In spite of everything, he is solely performed 86 video games within the NBA, and whilst an damage alternative he appeared just like the odd man out on an American roster full of All-Stars. 

The No. 29 choose within the 2019 draft, Johnson spent his rookie season between the Spurs and their G League affiliate in Austin. That additional improvement time paid off, as Johnson impressed in his sophomore marketing campaign, placing up an environment friendly 12.8 factors, six rebounds and 1.8 assists per sport. His play caught the attention of USA Basketball, who invited him to affix the Choose Group, and finally the Nationwide Group for the journey to Tokyo.

Johnson performed sparingly in Tokyo, checking in for simply 22 minutes throughout 4 video games. Any precise taking part in time was all the time going to be a pleasant bonus, nonetheless. The actual profit for Johnson was simply having the ability to make the journey, to apply towards and be round a few of the greatest gamers on the planet for a month. That have ought to solely make him higher. 

If Johnson finally ends up making an enormous leap this summer time, it will not be laborious to determine why. He is already a stable all-around participant who works laborious and excels at attending to the rim and ending — 59.7 p.c on 5 makes an attempt within the restricted space per sport. He nonetheless has room to enhance, after all, specifically together with his protection and 3-point shot, however Johnson is simply too well-rounded to not proceed being profitable. 

With the No. 12 total choose on this 12 months’s draft, the Spurs chosen Joshua Primo from Alabama. The youngest participant within the draft class, many mocks did not even have him going within the first spherical, not to mention the lottery. Consequently, the Spurs’ choice was extensively seen as some of the shocking and complicated picks in years. 

But what if there was a method to the Spurs’ apparent madness? Nobody would let you know that Primo just isn’t proficient. The priority was extra that it was too early to take somebody so younger, and who wasn’t even the perfect participant on his school crew. Nevertheless, the Spurs are in determined want of star energy, and a house run swing on somebody like Primo — who would have been a lottery choose subsequent 12 months if he stayed in school — is an comprehensible danger to take. 

Primo is already a powerful 3-point shooter and has the instruments to be a pesky perimeter defender. These are two of the principle talent necessities to make it as a guard within the league, and he flashed some much-improved self-creation throughout Summer season League. Sure, it was only some video games, however there have been some actual optimistic indicators this summer time. 

At simply 18 years outdated, and with a variety of guards forward of him on the depth chart, it isn’t clear how a lot Primo goes to play this season. The Spurs have a famend participant improvement program, and it is probably that Primo will bounce between the massive membership and the G League as a way to get reps. However in any case, he is actually one to control. 



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