So far this season, as the San Antonio Spurs have gotten off to a 5-2 start, we’ve seen a lot of guys playing well and contributing to wins. LaMarcus Aldridge, although his jumper has been a little off to start the season, has been his usual self, crashing the glass and dominating on the inside and putting up consistent numbers.
Pau Gasol, Marco Belinelli, and Patty Mills have already developed great chemistry for the second unit and have been very productive as well. But these four players have really stood out and exceeded expectations in the opening month of the season.
No Surprise here. DeMar DeRozan is a perennial all-star shooting guard that came into this season with already high expectations, and he has still found a way to surpass them. DeRozan has averaged 27.9 points and 5.7 rebounds so far, but perhaps the most impressive part of his game this season is his passing ability which has been on full display leading the team in assists at 7.3 per game.
Popovich said earlier this season about DeRozan, “he’s turned out to be maybe the best passer on our team, frankly”. This is high praise with skilled passers such as Gasol and Belinelli on the roster but well deserved. DeRozan has managed to completely open up the Spurs offense, penetrating and collapsing defenses at will and dishing it out to wide open shooters.
Rudy Gay is coming off his first 100% healthy offseason in what has felt like forever and it has shown. Averaging 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds, Gay has done well playing off of DeRozan and Aldridge, moving well within the offense, and making the most of his scoring opportunities posting up smaller players and shooting over larger ones. Rudy Gay is currently leading the team in field goal percentage at 52.5% while shooting a blistering 64.3% from three.
Rudy Gay was a productive role player last season for the Spurs, but you could tell that he was still recovering from an achilles injury that kept him from being the Rudy Gay basketball fans are accustomed to. But with a rehab-free offseason under his belt, Gay is on a mission this season, and that’s good news for Spurs fans.
Nobody has had more responsibility thrust upon them on such short notice than Bryn Forbes has to start the season. And as someone who is predominantly a shooting guard, Forbes has performed filling in as the interim starting point guard. With DeRozan acting as the primary ballhandler for the starting unit, Forbes has been able to play off the ball more as he is accustomed to and space the floor so guys like DeRozan and Aldridge can go to work inside.
Forbes is averaging 13.4 points and 2.7 assists per game all while shooting a career-high 41.7% from deep. Spacing was a main concern for the Spurs coming into this season with DeRozan and Aldridge doing most of their damage from the mid-range, but Forbes and Gay have done a fantastic job eliminating that worry.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season so far in San Antonio has been Dante Cunningham and his impact so far. With the losses of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the Spurs have been in desperate need of a defensively solid forward, and that is exactly what Cunningham has been. Cunningham has drawn the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player multiple times (including Lebron James twice) and held his own.
Cunningham is not on this list for his offense. He’s only averaging 2.9 points a game this season. But quite frankly, when you’re sharing the floor with DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay, the last thing you would want is someone who keeps the ball out of their hands. Instead, Cunningham hangs his hat on his defense and if the ball finds him on offense and he’s open, he is more than capable of knocking down a shot or two. And that’s exactly what the Spurs need him to do going forward.
With the opening month in the NBA closing, the Spurs currently sit at the top of the division. And while the Spurs are still working through some growing pains, mainly on defense, due to the huge roster changes this offseason, these four players have stepped up in a big way to make what is usually a painful process for many teams mostly painless as the Spurs finished the month well above the .500 mark.