There is value in being just good enough. Whether that’s damning with faint praise or an actual endorsement of all that Trey Lyles brings to the court may be a matter of individual taste, but there’s no denying that Trey’s all-around game propelled the Spurs to their 114-113 victory over the Magic on Saturday night.
With 20 points on 8 of 13 from the floor, Trey led the team in scoring and added 9 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and 4 steals in nearly 40 minutes of playing time. Missing LaMarcus Aldridge, who sat out with right shoulder soreness, and without Jakob Poeltl, who left the game with a right knee contusion early in the 1st quarter, Trey’s production helped fill a pair of huge holes in the rotation.
But as usual for Trey, he scored his points in the gaps and seams of the defense, taking advantage of a Magic squad that has built a top-10 defense by denying and disrupting their opponents’ biggest offensive threats. Attacking that type of defense is a lot easier with a player like Trey, whose multi-faceted game can handle almost any role in the Spurs’ offense, which was reflected in the wide variety of ways he put up points.
He knocked down a pair of catch and shoot three-pointers, hit two pull up jumpers off the bounce, made a driving hook, and converted whatever this is. He also scored on a couple of pretty cuts that were two of his best plays of the game. Both came out of the same set and utilized his ability to seamlessly transition from big to ball handler and from screener to cutter.
Trey is good enough as a shooter that defenders have to respect his range. He’s good enough off the bounce that he can take hand-offs and attack close outs. He’s good enough as a screener that defenses have to account for him and the shooters that use his screens. And he’s obviously good enough as a cutter and finisher to get to the rim and throw it down on Aaron Gordon.
All that being said, he doesn’t really excel at anything on offense at the NBA level. His 37% from deep this season is well above average for a big, but his career 3P% is still just 33.7%. Of all the metrics Cleaning the Glass tracks, the only offensive area where Trey is in the top 20% of bigs is in corner three point attempt frequency, which is more a function of his role in the offense and the team’s ability to generate open looks for him than a sign of some talent on his part.
But Trey isn’t really bad at anything, either. You wouldn’t want him as the screener in a pick and pop with the game on the line, but you also wouldn’t mind it for most of the rest of the game. If he was a step faster and a little more explosive, or a little bit heavier and stronger without sacrificing what little quickness he has, he could be something more. He’s obviously still young at just 24 years old, so he likely still has room for improvement. For now, though, Trey can do everything the Spurs need him to do just well enough.