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Taking stock in each Spurs performance inside The Bubble

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Grading and determining whose stock with the team rose, fell or stayed the same going into next season.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs’ historic 22-year playoff streak may have come to an end, but that doesn’t mean the eight games they played in The Bubble wasn’t their most enjoyable stretch of basketball since arguably the 2016-17 season. With their playoff prospects looking more bleak from the outset than they ended up being, Gregg Popovich went all in on the youth movement and was rewarded with high energy, effort, teamwork, and a certain cohesion that had been lacking throughout the main part of the regular season.

With that, here is a quick review of how every player performed, including a grade and whether his stock with team rose, fell, or stayed the same. Remember, grades are based on how players performed relative to expectations heading into The Bubble and are not intended to be rankings. First, the players who either didn’t play or hardly played enough to warrant a grade:

LaMarcus Aldridge: DNP — shoulder surgery

The Spurs chances to make any noise in The Bubble seemed doomed the instant it was announced that their best player was out due to shoulder surgery. They had struggled without him all season, so why would that change now? It turns out the Spurs benefited from the quicker pace they were able to play at without Aldridge, but his size was still missed against the bigger opponents they faced (and ultimately lost costly games to) in the Nuggets and 76ers. With DeMar DeRozan looking at home with the squad that played, LMA may face some questions at to whether he was the problem all along, but that won’t be the case in the Spurs’ eyes. Stock: Same

Bryn Forbes: DNP — quad injury

During the warm-up scrimmages before his injury, Forbes seemed ready and willing to take on a back-up role as Pop gave his starting job to his more promising youngsters while resting Patty Mills. He was his typical shooting self despite the reduced role before a quad injury knocked him out for all of the regular games, and it’s one he’d have to be willing to take if he plans on returning to the club next season. That being said, his status on the team took a hit thanks to the new energy the team found with his other fellow guards, and because of that his days with the team are likely numbered. Stock: Down

Trey Lyles: DNP — appendectomy

The third starter to miss the entirety of the eight Bubble games, Lyles is not necessarily a player who stands out when he’s on the court, and as a result he absence wasn’t overly noticeable considering the Spurs improbably found success with DeRozan playing power forward. Still, that’s not a move proven to work long-term, and Lyles’ defense and willingness to shoot threes remains a valuable commodity for the team, so expect the Spurs to guarantee the second year of his contract. Stock: Same

Tyler Zeller: N/A

Zeller was merely a space filler for Aldridge in case the Spurs became extremely desperate for a few minutes from another big man. While he did contribute roughly four such minutes, there’s no reason to think he’ll be back. Stock: Same (because there never was any)


DeMar DeRozan: A

At first, Power Forward DeRozan was born out of necessity due to a combination of the Spurs’ severe shortage of big men and Pop’s desire to find as many minutes as possible for his young guards. It worked out a whole lot better than expected. DeRozan wasn’t overwhelmed on defense, was unselfish on offense, and he found the perfect balance between deferring to the youngsters early while taking over games when he was needed. He was also much more reliable in the clutch than he had been much of the season. He can still opt out of his contract this summer offseason, but considering the odd times and enjoyment he seemed to find in being a leader of the young guard, he just might be back. Is that for the better of the Spurs? Before it seemed like a “no”, but now it’s not so clear. Stock: Up

Dejounte Murray: B

The Bubble was pretty much an extension of what Murray was all season: reliable on defense (beyond a few ill-advised steal attempts — and we’re just ignoring that one costly mistake from the Philly game that may or may not have been Pop’s call), inconsistent on offense with plenty of misses at the rim but signs that his outside shot is coming along, and room for improvement on decision making. After missing the entire previous season, it’s only fair to give him another season with consistent playing time to show he’s worth his extension, but if he doesn’t, the clock may begin ticking. Stock: Same

Derrick White: A+

Eligible for a contract extension this summer, White showed his best form at the right time. Arguably the Spurs’ MVP of The Bubble, his apparent fear of shooting threes disappeared overnight as his attempts per game skyrocketed from 3 per game in the regular season to 8 in The Bubble while hitting nearly 40% of them. The rest of his offensive game flourished as well, and his defense was as good as ever, including a Manu Ginobili-esque ability to draw charges. He can expect a contract extension this offseason because it’s highly unlikely the Spurs will want him to become a restricted free agent in 2021. Stock: Way up

Lonnie Walker IV: B+

Walker finally got the starting role fans have been clamoring for, and for the most part he did not disappoint. While still prone to zoning out at times, he was aggressive on offense, focused on defense, and showed he can score from all three tiers. He still has work to do, and depending on how the squad looks heading into next season he may face the most questions as to whether he’ll still be a starter or not, but it will be intriguing to see what he does with his first contract year. Stock: Up

Jakob Poeltl: B+

Facing restricted free agency, Poeltl came in ready to prove he deserves more minutes and/or a starting role, be it with the Spurs or someone else. He showed he can definitely be a valuable center in today’s positionless NBA thanks to his solid rim protection and pick-and-roll abilities on offense. His main room for improvement, predictably, is he needs to find a way to stay out of foul trouble. The Spurs still face a season of potentially having to juggle him and Aldridge, but he’s worth keeping around if another team doesn’t come in with an absurd offer. Stock: Up

Keldon Johnson: A+

The Spurs second of two rookies was just barely starting to show he was NBA-ready before the regular season was suspended, but he left no doubt in anyone’s mind in The Bubble. The newly dubbed “Mustang” was a beast on defense and showed off an offensive game that wasn’t in any of his NBA scouting reports. He drove and finished well at the rim while also hitting his threes at a likely unsustainable rate. Regardless, his days in Austin are definitely over, and a permanent spot in the rotation awaits. Stock: Up

Rudy Gay: A-

Gay looked dead in the water for much of the regular season. His outside shot had abandoned him, he appeared a step slower, and generally didn’t seem to be having a good time. Even in the scrimmages he appeared out of shape, but once the real Bubble games began, he was back to being the player the Spurs need him to be: a calm leader on the court, deadly shooter from outside who couldn’t be helped off of, and a solid defender. He might still be decent trade bait for the Spurs, but he showed he still has value if they want to keep him. Stock: Up

Drew Eubanks: A-

If there was one player who had the most at stake in The Bubble, it was Eubanks. With his two-way contract up, it was time to prove whether he belonged in the NBA or was going to be a prepetual G-League or overseas player. If nothing else, he proved he can be a decent enough back-up center in the NBA. He has nice touch around the rim on offense, and after initially appearing lost on defense he found his place without being completely overwhelmed. Whether he made a good enough impression on the Spurs or someone else to sign an NBA contract next season remains to be seen, but he did what he had to do to prove himself. Stock: Up

Marco Belinelli: C

Inside the Bubble, Belinelli rediscovered his shooting stroke that had gone AWOL for most of the season, but otherwise he was himself: useless on defense and not much of a passer. He likely still has a place in the league, but with the rise of younger, more versatile players behind him on the Spurs, his days in San Antonio are likely over. Stock: Down

Patty Mills: B

The Spurs spiritual leader came in to the bubble apparently with no intention to play. Whether that was by design so Pop could fully focus on the youth movement or if he really is in need some of Manu’s secret Grandpa Juice, it was an unselfish move on Mills’ part. Still. as injuries piled up and he became needed for a few games, he was himself: an energizer bunny off the bench, sniper from deep, pest on defense, and overall leader whether he was on the court or bench. Of course he’s not going anywhere. Stock: Same

Quinndary Weatherspoon: B-

The Spurs other two-way player got his first meaningful NBA action inside The Bubble, and he was arguably better than expected. His stocky frame makes him hard to get around on defense, and he took what few opportunities he had on offense. A sprained foot took away some valuable playing time in the Spurs final, meaningless game against the Jazz, but there’s little reason to believe he won’t be back on his two-way contract next season. Stock: Same

Chimezie Metu: D

The Spurs’ second round pick from 2018 remains one of their more out-of-nowhere signings. The Bubble was likely Metu’s last chance to prove he belongs in the NBA, but despite being short-handed on big men, he was still behind Eubanks and even Zeller in the Spurs rotation, which likely tells you all you need to know. He has the physical tools to be a solid NBA player, but the focus and situational awareness just isn’t there. He’s likely gone. Stock: Down

Luka Samanic: D+

Despite missing Aldridge, Other Luka did not participate in the youth movement has much as some may have hoped. That being said, the Spurs knew he was not NBA-ready when the drafted him at 19th despite little playing experience in the league, and no one expect that to change overnight. Still, he got the first real playing time of his in NBA career during their final game, and he showed what the Spurs (and many scouts) see in him. He’s a unicorn who can shoot from all three tiers, has solid defensive ability when focused, and he has an above average passing game for big. He will likely continue developing in Austin next season, but if he can bring his entire game together on a consistent basis, he has the physical tools to be special by 2022 and beyond. Stock: Same