Before the San Antonio Spurs begin their 2017-2018 preseason schedule Monday in Sacramento, the team gave local fans in San Antonio a chance to see the squad play beforehand. The Spurs held a free open scrimmage Saturday morning at the AT&T Center where all players on the 19-man roster participated except Tony Parker (injury recovery) and Kawhi Leonard (right quad rehabilitation).
After watching the game, here were some early impressions of lineups and specific players.
With the Spurs announcing Leonard will miss the entire preseason schedule while rehabbing his right quad, Kyle Anderson started in his place alongside Dejounte Murray, Danny Green, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. The second unit to play against them was Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans and Joffrey Lauvergne.
Over the preseason, it’ll be interesting to see which one of Anderson or Gay continues to start at the 3 while Leonard is out. Murray playing with the starters might also indicate Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich wants him to continue to start him at the point while Mills comes off the bench with the second unit.
Impressive Returning Players
Three players who stood out at different times in the game returning from last season’s squad were Murray, Bryn Forbes and Bertans. With Murray starting at the point, he did a better job controlling the pace and getting the team into their sets while also knowing when to get a bit more aggressive, especially after corralling a defensive rebound and taking the ball down toward the other end of the court past multiple defenders.
Forbes’ strong play in Utah and Las Vegas has carried over to San Antonio as he remained very aggressive and confident on offense. Whether he was throwing passes down court to open teammates or hitting mid-range and 3-pointers, Forbes has continued to show his growth into his second season. The most critical part on offense is how Forbes looks more comfortable creating a shot off the dribble after a defender closes out on him. That was a skill he was showing in Vegas and now he’s doing it against his fellow Spurs teammates.
While Bertans remains more a of a pick-and-pop big on offense, he showed he was quicker to read the defense and slash toward the rim off the ball when he was out on the 3-point arc so his teammates in the post could find him for a layup attempt.
Impressive New Players
A few new players who stood out in the opening scrimmage were Lauvergne, Gay and 2-way G-League player Matt Costello. As written earlier this summer, Lauvergne has some of the tools in his arsenal that Boris Diaw used to have for the Spurs with his ability to play inside and out, his passing vision, and his ability to handle the ball. Whether it was snagging rebounds and running the ball up the floor to initiate the offense like a point guard, going coast to coast with a spin move for a layup through traffic, or finding his teammates cutting, Lauvergne shows he’ll be a solid addition for the team since Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee won’t be back on the squad this season.
While Gay didn’t score much in the game or even take too many shots, he did show his versatile skills on the other parts of the floor. Whether it was dishing zip passes on good-to-great action, rebounding, fighting through screens or switching onto different players, Gay showed he’ll be able to play with multiple lineups and at multiple positions this season. Even once, Ginobili tried to throw an alley-oop to Gay off the baseline and while they didn’t convert, it showed the different ways Gay can impact the game without the ball.
Lastly, while Costello can only play up to 45 days in the NBA with the Spurs and the rest of the time he must play in Austin, he showed he’ll be able to provide a balanced game in the frontcourt when called upon. Costello had a good knack of knowing where to be in securing rebounds both from inside and outside, while he also threw a dart pass to a cutter for a basket earlier in the game. He was also very patient with the ball in his hands and he didn’t rush.
While this was just one scrimmage game, you should keep in mind that it was just that, a scrimmage. With the players playing against their own teammates, they made sure not to play too aggressive based on observations to avoid injury so you saw a lot more jumpers than drives to prevent too much contact. Monday when the preseason begins, it’ll be interesting to see which of the new camp invites will compete with Forbes for the last roster spot. For now, Forbes is the frontrunner it looks like for the 15th spot that needs to be settled by the opening game of the season.