The San Antonio Spurs get set to tip off the franchise’s 50th season on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Hornets. If the sportsbooks are right, it is sure to be a historic one, and the polarity of the evening will be astonishing. On one hand, the franchise celebrates the career of Manu Ginobili. His Hall of Fame designation being added to his number 20 jersey in the rafters. That legacy with the “Big 3” clashes in contrast with the new collection of young, inexperienced players wearing the silver and black. The Spurs are projected to have their worst win total ever and finish at the bottom of the 2022 standings.
While they likely won’t win many games, the young players will deserve recognition for playing through this difficult season. Despite having a lot of potential, there isn’t any real star power presently on the roster. This means that the 17 men on the Spurs this year will have the opportunity to stand out. With that, we take a look at the players starting the season on the 2022-2023 roster and project who will stand out. It’s time for some Spurs team awards predictions.
San Antonio Spurs Team Awards Predictions for 2022-2023
Scoring Leader – Keldon Johnson
Last season, Keldon Johnson finished second on the team in scoring average per game with 17 points per appearance. With the team’s scoring leader Dejounte Murray gone, Johnson can be expected to pick up Murray’s 21 points per game. Playing on such a young roster, fans could drive his figures higher. One could even expect that number to be closer to 23 or even 24 points per game. Afterall, the pace should be wild as the defense hasn’t looked promising in the preseason.
The potential for Johnson to pace the team in scoring, however, assumes that he can continue his production from beyond the arc. After a rough start to the 2021 season from the perimeter, he found his stroke in December and finished the season shooting 39.8 percent from three-point range.
Assist Leader – Tre Jones
Perhaps the most difficult part of Murray’s game to replace on the offensive end was his ability to set up his teammates with buckets. In his All-Star season, Murray averaged 9.2 assists per game, four more than Derrick White had before getting traded to the Boston Celtics at the All-Star break. In limited opportunities, Tre Jones finished third on the team with 3.4 assists per game, a mark that will surely increase this season. The Duke product is a more traditional point guard who has emphasized that his priority is to distribute the ball on offense. With more playing time, especially from the starting rotation, Jones could reasonably average seven or more assists per game.
Rebounds – Keldon Johnson
You may be asking “What about Jakob Poeltl?”. The truth is, the team could play two months or more without the Austrian seven-footer. Come the trade deadline as he could be moved to a contender at the trade deadline in exchange for draft picks. Behind him, Zach Collins has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Despite standing 6’6”, “Big Body” plays much bigger than his frame. His game is very similar to Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors who is the same height.
While the addition of rookie Jeremy Sochan and a healthy Collins could see Johnson moved to a more natural fit at small forward instead of power forward, that won’t take away his motor. He finished third on the team in rebounds in 2021 behind Poeltl and Murray with six boards per game. That number could reasonably skip up to eight, or even see Johnson average a double-double this season.
MVP – Devin Vassell
After projecting Johnson to lead the team in points and rebounds, surely he’ll be the team’s MPV, right? Wrong. Devin Vassell eclipses him as MVP in these Spurs team awards predictions. When it comes down to it, Johnson may be the soldier doing the dirty work, but Vassell is going to be the captain for San Antonio. Throughout the preseason, he’s shown a much more aggressive play style and is poised to take a big leap. When it comes to crunch time and the team needs a leader, look for Vassell to shoulder the load. If the Spurs are going to draw up a play for late in the fourth quarter, it’s him.
Most Improved Player – Tre Jones
The team’s second-round pick in 2020, Jones has the opportunity to join a long line of spectacular point guards to helm the Spurs. As mentioned above, he will simply have the opportunity to showcase his game with Murray and White gone. In addition to the assist production, fans should really see Jones’ scoring take a jump. A highlight of the preseason was seeing that he had put in the work to be a more efficient scorer. In the five games, the third-year guard averaged 10 points per game. He connected on 51 percent of his shot attempts, showing a new ability to connect from deep shooting 40 percent.
Comeback Player of the Year – Zach Collins
Since being taken with the 10th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft out of Gonzaga, it has been a difficult career for Collins. Now in his sixth season, he is still just 24 years old with plenty of time to realize his potential. Collins played in 28 games in 2021 after just 11 with the Portland Trail Blazers year before. Now, the big man finally enters the season healthy again, serving as the backup center to Poeltl.
Collins finished the preseason on the injury report, after sustaining a concussion in the game against the New Orleans Pelicans. If the team does move their primary big man in Poeltl, it’ll be Collins’ job to lose. He will have the stage to show he is able to hold down the demands of the modern center, be it for San Antonio or another team.
Sixth Man of the Year – Josh Richardson
Josh Richardson will earn this award for his impact off the court as much as he will potentially have on it this season. He is another candidate to finish the year on a contender via trade. The former Celtic has graciously accepted a supporting role with a team on which he could be a starter. Coming off the bench, Richardson will likely be the veteran voice on the Spurs’ second unit. He’ll be responsible for supporting Josh Primo and the rookies.
Going back to his days in Miami and during his stops in Dallas and Philadelphia, Richardson has been a strong scorer with the ability to take over at times. His play will surely be overshadowed by the inexperienced play of the young rotations for as long as he is in San Antonio. Even if he doesn’t finish the season with the Spurs, Richardson deserves the team’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Defensive Player of the Year – Josh Primo
When the Spurs selected Primo with the 12th overall pick in 2021, many were thrown off. The team selected a guard despite a glaring need for a modern big. At just 18 years old, there was a lot of talk around the Alabama product still growing into himself. That left his future fit on the team up in the air. Long for a point guard, would he add an inch or three to fit as a small forward? How does his frame look after hitting the weight room at the NBA level?
Of what he displayed in his first season, one of the more intriguing elements of his game was how lengthy he played, which factored greatly on defense. In one of his first appearances with the San Antonio club last December, Primo recorded four blocks and three steals in just 18 minutes against the Phoenix Suns. While he didn’t record close to those numbers at the NBA level the rest of the season, he did with the Austin Spurs in the G League, meaning there’s a chance it wasn’t a fluke. Leaning on the side of optimism, Primo could stand out as a top defender on the Spurs. If anyone is to swipe it from him (pun intended), Sochan could be the culprit.
Rookie of the Year – Jeremy Sochan
Sochan is the team’s highest draft selection since San Antonio took Tim Duncan first overall in 1997. The Spurs need him to stand out. Judging by his place on the opening night starting five, Popovich is of a similar mind. Based on the positional need at power forward combined with the draft investment made in him, Sochan will be learning by doing this season. By the sheer advantage of playing minutes, fans should see him develop throughout the season at a faster rate than his classmates Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley. Like his starting role, being the team’s Rookie of the Year is Sochan’s to lose.
What do you think? Could Isaiah Roby give Richardson a run for his money as the team’s Sixth Man of the Year? Is MVP too high of a projection for Vassell? Be sure to comment below or let me know on Twitter @JarkClonas.
All stats used in this article are from NBA.com.