San Antonio Spurs: How they got here and what’s next after a strong start

San Antonio Spurs huddle (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs huddle (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports) /
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San Antonio Spurs
NBA San Antonio Spurs DeMar DeRozan (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

The San Antonio Spurs’ old guys

The Spurs’ roster is uniquely constructed. They have 10 players that I would consider to be part of their core rotation when everyone is fully healthy, but the interesting thing is that, of those 10, I don’t think we can consider any of them to be in their prime. Four are past it, and six of them are younger players still trying to find their way in the league.

The young guys are the most valuable to the franchise’s future, but the Spurs wouldn’t be where they are without the significant contributions from their older veterans – DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills.

DeRozan is the key to the whole operation. He’s no longer the same volume scorer who earned All-NBA team selections in Toronto during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, but he doesn’t need to be. What he provides for San Antonio is a reliable isolation scorer in late-game/clock situations, something they can’t really get from anyone else on the team.

But outside of those situations, you’ll see DeRozan playing within the system more often than not. His minutes are still nearly right at his career average, but his shot attempts are the lowest since his rookie season.

Instead, DeRozan has transitioned into a player that picks his spots as a scorer, and it’s translated to one of the most efficient shooting seasons of his career and by far his best as a passer. His ability to play within the confines of their ball/player movement offense while still having the freedom to take over as an isolation scorer in big moments has brought out what I think is the best possible version of DeRozan at this stage of his career.

The numbers are the numbers and I could go one-by-one for each of these four players, but their impact is much greater than what is on Basketball-Reference.

Young teams don’t win in the NBA, and the four “old” guys bring poise and big-game experience to an otherwise very young roster that is invaluable. They’ve bought into their roles in coach Gregg Popovich’s system and have shown the younger players how to win games in the NBA, which is no easy task.