The San Antonio Spurs weren’t expected to do much going into the 2020-2021 NBA season, and they didn’t. Gregg Popovich‘s team won one more game in the regular season than they were expected to, finishing with a 33-39 record and making it into the new NBA Play-In Tournament. San Antonio, as the No. 10 seed, was quickly eliminated by No. 9 seed Memphis Grizzlies.
One of the big storylines of the season didn’t happen on the court but on the sideline. When Popovich was ejected from a regular-season game against the Los Angeles Lakers, assistant coach Becky Hammon made history as the first acting female head coach in NBA history. Don’t be surprised if Hammon gets an opportunity in the next few years as she continues to help develop San Antonio’s young players.
Another event of note was the Spurs deciding to part ways with LaMarcus Aldridge. The seven-time All-Star was obviously at the end of his career. San Antonio knew that Aldridge was taking up minutes that could be better used on younger players on the team. Nonetheless, Aldridge spent five very successful seasons with the Spurs, earning three All-Star selections while averaging 19.5 points per game. Aldridge ended up signing with the Brooklyn Nets before retiring prior to the regular season concluding.
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The Spurs weren’t great on offense or defense this season, which isn’t a shock to anyone who is familiar with the players on their roster. They ranked 20th in points per game (111.1) and 19th in their opponent’s points per game (112.8). One category that sticks out about the 2020-2021 Spurs team is their lack of three-point shooting. Especially nowadays when centers and power forwards are making threes, you need to have multiple “go-to” three-point shooters to keep you in games. The Spurs didn’t have that, finishing last in the NBA in three-point attempts and three-pointers made.
MVP – DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan was the only “big” name on the roster for the duration of the season. The 31-year-old isn’t talked about much anymore because he isn’t on a championship-caliber team but still averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game this season. What factored into him being the Spurs’ most important player is the fact that he played in 61 out of their 72 games. Had he rested more games this season, San Antonio likely wouldn’t have even made the play-in tournament. He is better suited right now as a third option on a real contending team. The Spurs shouldn’t bring him back because they aren’t in a position to win another championship right now.
Defensive Player of the Year – Dejounte Murray
Murray was the second most valuable player on the Spurs this season and his defense was a big reason why. He blew the rest of his teammates out of the water in terms of defensive rebounds per game (6.2) and also averaged 1.5 steals a game, which also led his team. At just 24 years old, San Antonio has one of their next franchise cornerstones if he can keep this play up.
Sixth Man of the Year – Patty Mills
Mills is one of those bench players that isn’t talked about much around the league because he isn’t on a team like the Los Angeles Lakers or the Brooklyn Nets. However, he keeps putting up valuable numbers for the Spurs. After putting up 10.8 points per game this season, Mills has now averaged double digits in points in three of his last four seasons in San Antonio. The veteran was one of the best three-point shooters on his team, shooting 37.5 percent from behind the arc. Mills only missed four of the Spurs’ 72 regular-season games before playing 30 minutes a game in their play-in loss to Memphis.
Most Improved Player – Dejounte Murray
Murray had a solid year last season as he got more comfortable being a starter in the NBA. After averaging just above 10 points per game last season, he bumped that average up to 15.7 this season. His 15.7 points per game finished second on the team, only behind DeRozan. Murray also improved his number of field goals made, two-point percentage, and assists from last year to this year.
Biggest Disappointment – Rudy Gay
The Spurs’ biggest disappointment may have actually been letting Aldridge go since he ended up retiring before the season even ended but as for someone on their team, it’s Gay. His season averages in points, rebounds, and assists were all lower than his career averages. That might not seem so bad when you take into account that he was in his 14th year in the league. However, he didn’t earn the $14 million he was paid this season by San Antonio.
Now that the Spurs’ season is over, they will look turn their focus to the NBA Draft. They are excepted to pick 12th, according to Tankathon. However, that could change as the draft lottery hasn’t occurred. The Spurs would be smart to try to select their next Aldridge-type player. One option could be Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson. The power forward ranked eighth in the nation in block percentage during his freshman season under John Calipari.
DeRozan is their big free agent and as mentioned earlier, San Antonio might want to move on. Doing so would allow them to start to rebuild around Murray and whoever they select this year. The Spurs simply aren’t talented enough to compete with the biggest Western Conference contenders next season. Perhaps this offseason is the real start to Popovich’s last buildup for another title run.
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