clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Power Rankings - Week 1: Veteran leadership and young guns show up this first week

The week was mostly a win with a loss that had some good in it.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the new season is finally underway and the San Antonio Spurs came out of the gate running and gunning. The third game of the week saw a tough match up lead to a loss on a SEGABABA which should be viewed as a learning experience for the young core.

Week 1: The San Antonio Spurs started the season with a fiesta - or at least wearing Fiesta jerseys in their game versus the Memphis Grizzlies. And to add to the excitement of finally seeing the fans’ dream come true, the Spurs put on a good show by winning against a team many consider to be an up-and-comer. For a moment, the old familiar pattern of falling behind early seemed to be making a return, but after about a quarter, the Silver and Black found their way back to the fast paced game of the Bubble with both the young guns and vets providing some highlights. After missing the preseason, Keldon Johnson returned to the court with 3 steals and 16 points as part of a group of starters who all scored in double digits. Lonnie Walker IV had two incredible dunks to add to the highlight reel.

Many fans (myself included) reveled in any list of standings that had the Spurs listed as being in first place (hey, it’s been a tough year, gotta get your joy where you can). But others wondered if the Memphis game was a fluke or the start of a pattern. In the next contest against DeMar DeRozan’s former team the Toronto Raptors, the level of competition was expected to increase and the feisty Spurs kept up the pace. In the past, DeRozan has usually gets hyped up playing versus the Raptors, and this game was not any different. DeRozan led the squad with 27 points (hitting 3 of 4 three pointers), 8 assists and two steals. He wasn’t the only star of the game that again saw all starters in double digits. Keldon Johnson’s play did not match his stat line (12 pts, 1 steal, 1 block, 9 rebounds) as he battled against Aron Baynes in the paint and had a rim-rattling dunk. Dejounte Murray didn’t have a great scoring night, but contributed all over the court and got a triple double (10-10-11).

In a Saturday night game with the new-look Pelicans, the Spurs had a roller coaster game of ups and downs. The Pelicans have added some new faces that made this a nightmare match up. To play alongside big man Zion Williamson, Steven Adams in a four team trade that also included Eric Bledsoe from the Milwaukee Bucks. Considering the lack of size in Silver and Black, a frontline of Williamson and Adams caused problems for the Spurs. Luckily, the Spurs youth movement kept the offense moving with double digit points and some defensive sneakiness. But it was the vet Rudy Gay who led the way with 22 points, 2 blocks and 2 steals. If DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge had played a little more like the first two games, the game would have ended up in the win column.

Last week: 2-1 — 131-119 @ Grizzlies; 119-114 vs Raptors; 98-95 @ Pelicans (loss)

This week: 12/30 vs Los Angeles Lakers; 1/1 vs Los Angeles Lakers; 1/3 vs Utah Jazz

Andrew Lopez, ESPN - 17 (Last Week: 20)

DeMar DeRozan went 9-of-35 from deep last season, just a little over half an attempt from deep per game. He already has attempted eight 3-pointers so far this season, as he seems to be taking more of what the offense is giving him. He also is making the right decisions, averaging 9.0 assists per game as he leads the charge for a Spurs team balancing the veterans’ minutes with those of some of their younger players. — Lopez

Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports - 12 (Last Week: 20)

After wins over the Grizzlies and Raptors to open up the season, the Spurs suffered their first loss on Sunday to the Pelicans. DeMar DeRozan has taken on a facilitating role, averaging nine assists over his first three games to go along with 21 points. Young players like Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson have looked solid in the young season, with Derrick White on the mend and hopefully re-joining the lineup soon. San Antonio has played well despite LaMarcus Aldridge getting off to a slow start, which is a good sign.

John Schuhmann, - 19 (Last Week: Preseason Rank - 22)

LaMarcus Aldridge was supposed to be the Spurs’ new 3-point bomber this season. But after one week, it’s DeMar DeRozan who’s attempted more 3-pointers (8) than mid-range shots (7). And against his former team on Saturday, DeRozan drained two huge threes (on looks he would have run himself out of last season) down the stretch before Aldridge got the game-winning put-back. After six days, the Spurs rank only ninth in the percentage of their shots that have come from between the paint and the 3-point line (15%), having led the league in each of the last two seasons, (28% and 24%).

One thing that has been very Spursy is the strength of their bench. They’ve been outscored by 30 points in 70 minutes with both Aldridge and DeRozan on the floor, but Rudy Gay is a plus-44 in 76 total minutes and Patty Mills has averaged 14.7 points in just 24 minutes, with the highest true shooting percentage (80.5%) among 109 players with at least 25 field goal attempts.

Mo Dahkil, Bleacher Report - 19 (Last Week: Preseason Rank-25)

The Spurs climbed up a few spots after nice wins over the Grizzlies and Raptors. They averaged 125 points in their first two games, and more impressively, they’ve played at a pace higher than we are accustomed to seeing.

The youth movement is in full bloom with Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker IV all in the starting lineup. Murray put up his first career triple-double in their second game with an 11-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist performance. Johnson and Walker have been attacking the paint relentlessly. Gregg Popovich is trusting these young Spurs to push the tempo.

With all the young talent on the Spurs, their veterans are still delivering and helping them seal wins. DeMar DeRozan nearly dropped a triple-double in Game 1 with 28 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points in the first two wins, while Patty Mills and Rudy Gay are providing a boost off the bench.

In their one loss, they failed to score 100 points and were forced to play at a much slower pace. In what seems to be very un-Spurs like, when they run they win, and when they do not they lose.

Michael Shapiro, - 19 (Last Week: NA)

The Baby Spurs have been downright delightful through their first three games, especially the play of Lonnie Walker IV. The 2018 first-round pick has shown some serious growth early in 2020–21, shining as a destructive transition force and a legitimate spacer in the half-court. Walker is still extremely raw as a prospect. He isn’t a playmaker for others by any stretch. But the athletic gifts are undeniable. Walker should be a valuable piece on the wing for years to come.

Kevin O’Conner, - 22 (Last Week: NA)

Keldon Johnson is for real

Few things have given me more joy so far this season than watching Spurs second-year wing Keldon Johnson hurl his body into the paint. Sometimes he scores. Sometimes he gets swatted. Sometimes the referees should have blown the whistle. But every time, it’s entertaining. See for yourself:

These new-look Spurs are fun. Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, and Devin Vassell make up an exciting trio of young wings. We’ve got DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge jacking 3s now, too. The Spurs are adapting to the times and developing their kids, all while competing.

According to the pundits, the young core is leading the Spurs to a faster pace and probably more wins. Pounders, have you seen enough to agree that the Silver and Black have made that commitment to the youngsters or do you need to see more? Let us know in the comments.