Introducing a new feature here at Project Spurs, where we bring you the latest happenings from the Austin Spurs of the NBA’s Development League.
With the All-Star break behind us and just 18 games left in the season, it’s time to see how the Austin Spurs have played to this point and what lies ahead on their quest for a second D-League championship.
Let’s start with where they are currently. If you haven’t paid attention to the guys out in Cedar Park, then you’re in luck. Ken McDonald has his team at 20-12 and in second place in the Western Conference, despite being 5-5 in their last 10 games. Eleven out of the last 18 games for the Spurs will be at home, where the silver and black are 9-5 on the season (.643). On the road, the Spurs fair just as well at 11-7 (.611), with only one of their seven remaining road games coming against a team above .500, the league leading Sioux Falls Skyforce, who are eclipsing the D-League at a ’96 Bulls-esque rate at 23-7.
Statistically, the Spurs do a lot of things well, but are not dominant in many areas. Offensively, Austin ranks fifth in field goal percentage (.465) and second in three-point percentage (.386), while being third in rebounding at 46.4 boards per game. The Spurs’ offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) is third in the league at 107.5, while playing at the slowest pace in the league, averaging 96.2 possessions per 48 minutes. Their middle of the road defense boasts a 104.3 defensive rating, giving the Spurs a net rating of +3.2, good enough for fifth overall.
And if you ever needed more proof of the similarities between Austin and San Antonio, the ‘big league’ Spurs are also third in offensive rating at 109.3 PP/100, while playing at the 24th fastest pace in the NBA, at 96.3 possessions per 48.
The biggest issue with Austin right now is roster turnover. Austin has had a host of warm bodies come through the organization thanks to teams like the Atlanta Hawks using the D-League’s flexible assignment rule. The rule allows NBA teams without their own D-League affiliate to assign players to the development team of their choosing, as long as that team is willing to accept the assignment. The Spurs have had 20 different players log minutes for them this season, and only two have played in all 32 games for Austin. But it’s a problem Ken McDonald has faced before, losing three of his starters last season to NBA call ups, with an equal number of call ups this season. Which leads us to…
Where Are They Now
Bryce Cotton – The 23-year-old Cotton received a second shot at the NBA only four games into the Austin Spurs season. Cotton appeared in just three games for the Phoenix Suns before being waived in January and making his brief return to Austin. Three weeks ago, Cotton took his talents to China as a member of the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, where he joined former NBA players Andrew Goudelock and Andray Blatche. Last night the Tigers defeated Stephon Marbury and the Beijing Ducks, 104-101, to take a 2-0 series lead in the first round of the Chinese Basketball Association playoffs. Cotton had 12 points in the victory.
Jarell Eddie – After a myriad of injuries, the Washington Wizards gave Eddie an early Christmas present by signing him to an NBA contract. He would instantly make an impact scoring 12 points in 14 minutes in his NBA debut versus the Brooklyn Nets. But as the Wizards got healthy, Eddie’s minutes quickly went from impactful to irrelevant. The 24-year-old three-point specialist is averaging 3.0 points and 0.9 rebounds in 5.6 minutes per game.
Orlando Johnson – The Phoenix Suns signed Johnson to a 10-day contract on February 5th, giving new Head Coach Earl Watson a familiar weapon off the bench. In two games with the Suns, Johnson averaged 8.0 points and 4.5 rebounds, but shot under 30 percent from the field. According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Johnson finds himself in a limbo with the trade deadline. His 10-day contract expired on Tuesday, and Phoenix may not want to re-sign him to a second one until after Thursday’s 3 PM deadline, because the available roster spot allows the Suns an extra bit of flexibility in any potential deals.
Up next for the Austin Spurs will be four straight games against the Oklahoma City Blue, with a home back-to-back this weekend in Cedar Park. The Blue are dead last in the D-League at 11-22, but are led by the always exciting J.P. Tokoto, who recently did his best Vince Carter impersonation during the D-League dunk contest.
For more in-depth coverage on the Austin Spurs, visit our sister site Spurs on Sixth.