In the early part of their season, the San Antonio Spurs have relied on DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Bryn Forbes to carry the responsibility of creating for the team in the starting lineup.
Recently, Gay has been dealing with a right heel injury that has sidelined him for the last three games. However, he could be making his return Monday as the Spurs announced he’s been upgraded to probable for their game against the Kings.
In the last two games, the Spurs have added another playmaker back to the fold in Derrick White. While White only played 16 minutes in his first game against the Miami Heat, he got a large chunk of minutes in his second game against the Houston Rockets and he ended up being a key player for the Spurs to get the win. White played 30 minutes against Houston and finished with 14 points, eight assists, and two turnovers.
How impactful was White in shot creating for others? Only DeRozan has had more assists in a single game this season, when DeMar tallied a career high 14 dimes in an early season game.
While White controlled the ball more against Houston, DeRozan had to find other ways to impact the game since he shot below 42% from the field, and he impacted the game by grabbing 11 rebounds and still dishing three assists.
For the season, DeRozan has a 30.6% usage rate, which places him in the 96th percentile among wing players according to CleaningTheGlass.com. Saturday though, he had a usage rate of 22.1% (70th percentile) while White had a usage rate of 27.8% (72nd percentile).
DeRozan has also been creating for his teammates at a ‘James Harden’ level, where he’s been accounting for 29.3% of his teammates’ made baskets (100th percentile among wings). But, in the win over Houston, DeRozan only finished with a 13% assist percentage (62nd percentile), while White had a 42.1% assist percentage (90th percentile).
DeRozan, Aldridge, Gay, and White all have a usage rate above 20%, meaning they’re all capable of creating for their teammates. When all four players are back in the lineup together, it’s going to take some time to figure out a balanced system where each player gets their chance to create and produce.
One of the main ways to make sure four high usage players get the ball in their possession to operate is by staggering their minutes. This means the coaching staff could start looking at different lineups where they’re able to have one or two of DeRozan, Aldridge, Gay, and White on the floor during the 48-minute game.
Having another playmaker in White will also help DeRozan and Aldridge, who are both averaging over 35 minutes again early in the season. The Spurs’ bench unit is having to rely on Marco Belinelli (20.5% usage) and Pau Gasol (18.9% usage) to have to facilitate the second unit. If the Spurs can add one or two of DeRozan, Aldridge, Gay, or White for a few minutes, they can try to win the minutes when the opposing team has their second unit in the game.
When the Spurs do have all four of DeRozan, Aldridge, Gay, and White available, keep an eye on the substitution patterns to see if staggering the lineups is one way to keep one or two of those players on the floor at all times.