With All-Star Weekend on the horizon, the Austin Spurs are positioning themselves for a second half push at a playoff spot.
Since our last update, the D-League Spurs have gone 8-8 and remain the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Obviously that’s nothing spectacular, but the Spurs are showing signs of being the expected contender that was predicted earlier in the season.
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BY THE NUMBERS
Across the board, the Spurs seem to be firing on almost all cylinders since the calendar flipped to 2017.
Out of the eight games lost since our previous update, two games were dropped in overtime, and three saw the Spurs within one possession late in the fourth quarter. But even with the well documented late game struggles, Austin has morphed into a cohesive unit with contributions from members of the roster that have evolved from afterthoughts into vital mainstays.
Cory Jefferson has solidified himself into a viable option on both ends of the floor, establishing himself as a reliable pick-and-roll player with the ability to stretch the floor. Nearly all of Jefferson’s 3-pointers have come off pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop action, with the forward knocking them down at a 42 percent clip in those situations.
Video via The Step Back
Jefferson’s future at the NBA level will hinge on his ability to not only shoot the 3 on a regular basis, but also on how rapidly he can adapt to a quicker release. With his improved footwork and raw athleticism, the 6-foot-9 forward could be creating highlights, like the one below, at the NBA level soon.
Ironically enough, Jefferson’s uptick in production happened after the San Antonio Spurs signed Joel Anthony to a 10-day contract, and eventually for the rest of the season. Not a slight to Jefferson as Anthony has been nothing but a consummate pro in the NBA for years, but it seems as if Jefferson has more of a chip on his shoulder now with the lack of attention from professional squads.
Two weeks ago the Austin Spurs traded forward Jarell Eddie to the Windy City Bulls in exchange for forward Hollis Thompson.
As Eddie entered his third season in the Development League, the forward seemed poised to make a permanent jump to the NBA. Though his time last season with the Washington Wizards failed to produce another contract, his previous body of work in Austin had Eddie listed atop the Prospect Watch list to begin this season.
Eddie’s protean role fostered early season struggles, as the former Virginia Tech product failed to recapture his instant offense and sharpshooting abilities that were on display in previous seasons. As a result, once the Windy City Bulls claimed Thompson off of waivers, he was immediately shipped to Austin in a trade that benefited both teams.
Undrafted out of Georgetown in 2012, Thompson latched on with the Oklahoma City Thunder, before being waived and winding up in the Development League. After a season honing his skills, Thompson managed to secure a spot on the 2013 San Antonio Spurs Summer League roster, before joining the Philadelphia 76ers.
For his NBA career, Thompson averaged 7.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists. He also shot 42 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.
So far for Austin, he’s averaging 17.0 points and 5.4 rebounds, with a .500/.484/.810 shooting split through six games.
Thompson’s addition gives the Spurs a more versatile frontcourt, as the 6-foot-8 guard is more of a natural power forward than Eddie. His rebounding and slashing ability gives the Spurs a missing penetration element, while maintaining their lineup fluidity and shooting potential.
With the All-Star break already upon us in the Development League, the Austin Spurs have the next 10 days off to get rested and reloaded for a second half stretch run. When action resumes, the Spurs will have a six game home stand, including one game at the AT&T Center in March.
You can catch the first game back on Feb. 23 against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. CST from the HEB Center at Cedar Park with the game being broadcast on Facebook Live and Fox Sports Southwest.
For more Austin Spurs coverage, visit our sister site, Spurs on Sixth.