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Assessing the Spurs’ Future at the Guard Positions

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A look at what the future holds for each Spurs guard.

Utah Jazz v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Sports seem to be on its way back, but as of now, fans around the world are still waiting with bated breath for the return of NBA basketball.

During this stoppage, one area of the San Antonio Spurs’ organization that has not stopped working is the front office. Franchises are always looking towards the future in one way or another, and executives are constantly trying to make sure that either have the right pieces to maximize their rosters or are in position to acquire them.

Over the next few days, we will look at the Spurs’ guards, forwards, and centers, and walk through what the future likely holds for each player in a Spurs uniform.

(Note: All stats come from NBA.com, Basketball-Reference, or Cleaning the Glass)

Dejounte Murray

Age: 23

Contract: Signed thru 2024 (Extension)

Personally, I love Dejounte Murray and would enjoy nothing more than to see him end up as the Spurs’ starting point guard for the foreseeable future. Defensively, he is already a stud, using his jumbo frame and quickness to cause disruptions at an elite level, although he could stand to improve in terms of strength at the point of attack. Yet, his play offensively is enigmatic, and Murray needs to make significant improvements in order to reach his full potential.

One on hand, Murray’s speed, specifically in transition, provides a dimension that no one else on the Spurs can offer. Additionally, he’s made significant strides finishing in the mid range. However, he struggles in the three most important offensive characteristics of elite point guards: finishing, pull up shooting, and play making. While Murray can get to the rim due to his first step, change of pace, and quickness, he is only shooting 57% around the rim. Getting stronger and improving his touch at the basket should help, but leveraging the threat of his jumper and play-making could mitigate these concerns. Murray’s shooting percentages create hope, but the lack of volume and poor marks on pull up attempts are likely more indicative of future shooting in his role. Finally, he’s a passable playmaker for someone in an off ball role, but if he wants more usage, he will need to improve his floor reading and decision making.

Derrick White

Age: 25

Contract: Signed thru 2021 (Rookie Deal)

White’s been fantastic in an off ball role. Some fans might have expected a bigger jump from him this season, but the lack of shooting forced him to come off the bench for most the year, limiting his ability to produce to his fullest ability. White uses his IQ and great positional size to his advantage in the half court. He uses his size and the threat of his ability to read the floor to get to the hoop, and has even showcased some in-between game with a wonderful floater and shot making flashes from the mid range. If defenses do surround him, he can find the open man.

As he continues to develop, White needs to expand his play making chops, not just limiting himself to simple reads. He has solid distribution metrics for an off guard, but is not a true distributor. More importantly, he needs to become more confident as a shooter. He seems to be more of a bet to shoot than Murray based on percentages, but is similarly, if not more, unwilling to take shots from deep. Taking more threes, especially ones that are self-created, could open up the rest of White’s game.

The Murray/White dilemma is an interesting one. Paired as a tandem, the two are arguably the best defensive back court in the NBA and have enough talent to make it work offensively. But is it realistic to expect them to reach that ceiling? It will take a significant shooting and play making leap. Hopefully it will not come to this, but if both are not able to reach the lead guard threshold, one of the two will likely have to be moved or San Antonio will have to bring in a true floor general. Despite personal preferences, it seems that White will take control of the position when the dust settles, with Murray serving as a nice change of pace option alongside him.

Patty Mills

Age: 31

Contract: Signed thru 2021 (Bird Rights)

Mills has been a key fixture in San Antonio’s rotation for over five years and has developed into one of the more impactful players on the team. The Spurs are +11.3 points better per 100 possessions when Mills is on the court, approximately 1.64 times better than the next best roster member (Jakob Poetl). Additionally, he is part of San Antonio’s three best lineups this season in terms of efficiency differential, mostly thanks is his hyper efficient scoring that does not require significant on ball usage.

Unless you have not figured it out by now, Mills should and most likely will stay a member of the Spurs. The organization loves to use veterans familiar with the system as a sort of liason between the coaching staff and players. Who better fits the mold than the longest tenured member of San Antonio’s roster? That gives Mills value on its own. When you add in what he brings in terms of on court production, and I expect Mills to stay with the Spurs well past 2021.

Bryn Forbes

Age: 26

Contract: Signed thru 2020 (Early Bird Rights)

Check out Noah’s piece addressing Forbes’ upcoming free agency in more detail here.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about Forbes’ game as the piece above covered it well, but in short, he’s been a valuable floor spacer in a starting lineup that really lacks it. Forbes alone takes 6 threes per game (making almost 39% in 2019-20), while the other four main starters take 7.8 combined. Despite the value he brings as an off ball scoring threat, Forbes’ subpar defense and lack of on ball equity significantly hinders his value. His on/off numbers are concerning, as San Antonio was almost 11 points per 100 possessions better with Forbes sitting.

However, shooters always have a place in the NBA, and if he gets offered real money this summer, the front office will likely end up having to choose between Forbes and allocating resources and minutes to Mills after 2021. It would not be surprising to see him back in a Spurs jersey next year under a reasonable contract, but the variety of options at guard who offer a higher ceiling probably takes priority over Forbes, who would likely prefer a role where he can maximize the prime years of his career.

Marco Belinelli

Age: 34

Contract: Signed thru 2020 (Mid-Level Exception)

A career 38% shooter over almost 13 seasons in the NBA, Belinelli was brought for a second stop with the Spurs in 2018 to help space the floor off the bench and provide a bridge as San Antonio’s younger guards continued to develop. With his shooting numbers from three dropping below the 50th percentile this past season, is his time with the Spurs coming to an end?

While a decent ball mover within the flow of the offense, Belinelli’s shooting decline takes away the main advantage of keeping him in the rotation. Pop definitely trusts him (the main reason he was given consistent opportunity this season), so it seems like there should be interest in bringing Belinelli back. However, it should only be in a leadership/mentorship role and not in a scenario where he is taking away valuable minutes from more promising, athletic, and probably better players.

Quinndary Weatherspoon

Age: 23

Contract: Signed thru 2020 (Two-way Contract)

The Spurs seem to be trying to mold Weatherspoon into one of their classic off the bench guards, one who can shoot at a high level while providing additional value as a secondary guard and a non-negative defensively. A 6% increase in assist rate, a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, and an assist to usage ratio that would have landed him in the 66th percentile among all NBA combo guards all seem to indicate positive development in this area. His scoring has not been as effective as his collegiate days (it is unrealistic to expect so), but if he increases his diet and efficiency of off ball threes, he should be able to provide value in this aspect.

With Forbes entering free agency and Mills with one year left on his deal and entering his mid-30’s, I would expect to see San Antonio giving Weatherspoon legitimate rotation chances next season. the Spurs ability to find replacement level players gives Weatherspoon a seemingly short lease, but if he performs up to expectations, Pop has a solid third ball handler/fourth guard and another diamond in the rough.