Preview 2021/22 | Spurs run out of stars | NBA

Like every year, Basket USA offers you a presentation of the upcoming NBA season, franchise by franchise, in the form of a countdown, from the 30th place to our favorite for the title of champion. Today, following our previews with the Spurs, a team which, like the Thunder or the Rockets, was accustomed to success during the last decade, before falling slowly, but surely, in the standings.

So much so that, in our opinion and as in the previous two years, San Antonio should remain out of the Top 8 – and out of the « play-in » altogether – in 2021/22. It must be said that, since the departures of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard in 2018, the Texans have continued to regress over time, despite all the efforts of the tandem DeMar DeRozan – LaMarcus Aldridge to maintain the group of Gregg Popovich in the playoffs. Tandem which is no longer present at Fort Alamo …

Obviously, without the slightest All-Star in their predominantly young workforce (less than 25 years of age), the Spurs are preparing to live a complicated season. Probably the most complicated since the 1996/97 campaign, the first of “Coach Pop” on the Texas bench. And, unless a player like Keldon Johnson or Dejounte Murray really explodes, losses should be legion for the franchise to the five NBA titles between 1999 and 2014.

Find an attacking leader

Now orphaned by DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the bottle-feeding class of San Antonio will have to do violence to themselves and grow faster than expected, by first determining who will recover the status of first offensive option. On paper, and given what they showed in 2020/21, Keldon Johnson and Dejounte Murray seem most likely to take over from the DeRozan / Aldridge duo. Unless, as in the Orlando “bubble” in the summer of 2020, the more experienced Derrick White dons this costume.

Still, the Spurs will absolutely need an attacking leader this season, to avoid leaving too many meetings on the way due to inexperience and ill-defined hierarchy. And, if several players certainly have the ability to turn at least 10 points on average, none has yet managed to reach the bar of 20 points per game. It remains to be seen who Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson or Derrick White has the shoulders to become the “go-to-guy” of the Texans.

Because it will certainly not be the newcomers Doug McDermott, Thaddeus Young, Bryn Forbes, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jock Landale who will fulfill this task. Not even the youngest Jakob Poeltl, Lonnie Walker IV and Devin Vassell, too fair to make it happen.

Expected internal progress

Hence this need for internal progress, which is crucial for San Antonio in 2021/22. Starting, of course, with those of Keldon Johnson and Dejounte Murray, whose development will be closely scrutinized. But, behind this Johnson / Murray pair, other elements will be much more expected, compared to last year, from Jakob Poeltl to Lonnie Walker IV, via Devin Vassell, Tre Jones or Luka Samanic. In other words, profiles present in the Texan workforce for at least a year, and which should be made more responsible by Gregg Popovich.

More trainer than ever, “Coach Pop” should spend a lot of time polishing his new nugget, Joshua Primo. Selected in 12th position in the 2021 Draft, the 18-year-old Canadian will be the youngest player in the league in the next exercise and his recent Summer League suggests good things, despite obvious waste for a rookie, all the more At this age. That he can be shaped at the Spurs school, by the Gregg Popovich method, is therefore a great thing for the former Alabama student.

Clearly, the 2021/22 financial year will be especially synonymous with development for San Antonio, which will try to embellish its campaign by snatching a place in the « play-in » at the end of the season. Committed to a full-scale reconstruction policy, franchise managers can in any case be happy to have sound bases and finances, as well as particularly promising talents. But to become again a serious contender for the playoffs, if not a potential candidate for the title, it will be necessary to be patient, which has not been seen for a long time, at Fort Alamo …


Arrivals : Joshua Primo (Draft), Thaddeus Young (Bulls), Doug McDermott (Pacers), Bryn Forbes (Bucks), Al-Farouq Aminu (Bulls), Zach Collins (Blazers), Jock Landale (Melbourne), Joe Wieskamp (Draft) .
Re-signatures : Keita Bates-Diop.
Departures : DeMar DeRozan (Bulls), Patty Mills (Nets), Rudy Gay (Jazz), Trey Lyles (Pistons), Gorgui Dieng (Hawks), Chandler Hutchison.


In incubator throughout the 2019/20 fiscal year, Keldon Johnson had finally revealed himself in the Orlando “bubble”, in the post-Covid recovery, taking advantage of the Spurs youth operation to shoot at 14 points and 5 rebounds on average, over eight games (and 64% on shots and 65% on 3-points!). Well launched by this Florida experience, the career of the 29th choice of the 2019 Draft then accelerated further in 2020/21, since he simply landed a role in position 3 Texan.

More empowered by Gregg Popovich, despite the presence of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, Keldon Johnson was up to this new mission, posting nearly 13 points and 6 rebounds on average, over the whole of last season (at 48% on shots and 33% at 3-pointers). And the qualities in defense, rebound and penetration of the promising 21-year-old winger are such that Team USA invited him to participate in his training camp for the Tokyo Olympics. Before outright keeping him in his workforce, after the withdrawal of Bradley Beal!

Impressive coaches, teammates and opponents wherever he goes, Keldon Johnson is now preparing to start his third year in the NBA with a very clear objective: to confirm the many promises made in 2020/21, and to continue his individual progress, while surfing his been victorious in Tokyo. Already considered by some as the future face of San Antonio, the former Kentucky resident is in any case in the ideal environment to explode and he has, therefore, a good head of Most Improved Player in the making …

AVERAGE AGE: 25 years old
PAY MASS: $ 119 million (25th out of 30)


Metamorphosed at the end of his golden summer with Team USA, Keldon Johnson quickly established himself as the « go-to-guy » of these Spurs who can also rely on a Dejounte Murray who is finally constant offensively and still as valuable defensively. Alongside the Murray / Johnson duo, the equally promising Lonnie Walker IV in turn crosses a course, while the explosives Joshua Primo and Devin Vassell appear alternately and flourish off the bench.

Add to that a regular Derrick White, spared from injuries, the leadership of a solid Jakob Poeltl under the panels or the presence of four veterans (Doug McDermott, Bryn Forbes, Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu) irreproachable to supervise this young Texan group, and you get a team capable of playing the spoilsport in the West, under the orders of a Gregg Popovich who even manages to reinvent himself somewhat.

If this cocktail may not allow San Antonio to settle in the Top 8 of his conference, it at least has the merit of allowing him to stay in the race for the playoffs until the end and to glimpse the future more serenely, thanks in particular to a new participation in the « play-in » at the end of the season …


If Keldon Johnson proves he has the shoulders to become the new face of Spurs, he still remains rough and irregular offensively. For his part, while Dejounte Murray still struggles to take off individually, Derrick White multiplies as (too) often the round trips between the floor and the infirmary. Without a real attacking leader, the Texas franchise therefore fails to win close matches, despite the ardor of its young blasters, namely Lonnie Walker IV, Joshua Primo and Devin Vassell.

Certainly professionals until the end, the Thaddeus Young, Jakob Poeltl, Doug McDermott, Bryn Forbes and other Al-Farouq Aminu do not impose themselves, either, as the expected leaders of this inexperienced group. Obviously, defeats accumulate much faster than victories, and Gregg Popovich does not manage to work miracles on the bench, thinking more and more seriously of retiring from coaching, one year from the end of his contract.

If the talent is present in San Antonio, it lacks a player who can pull the whole team to the top. Problem, the Spurs have never been one of the destinations favored by the « free agents », even when they won, and there is only one transfer (Ben Simmons?), A nice blow to the Draft or a progression internally that can get this formation out of the western conference slums.

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15 – Oklahoma city14 – Houston13 – Sacramento12 – San Antonio11 -…
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