According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, 64 percent of Spurs fans are confident the team is heading in the right direction. That’s up from 50 percent last week but down from 86 percent two weeks ago.
With the Spurs ending the regular season on a four-game skid, improving their overall record by just one win, and losing their lone play-in game, it’s not all that shocking to see fans losing a little confidence in San Antonio.
DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, Rudy Gay, and Trey Lyles will hit free agency this summer, opening up roughly $51M in cap space for San Antonio. And with several significant personnel decisions on the table for PATFO, the Silver and Black could see a drastic increase or decline in confidence from the fans depending on how they handle the offseason.
Every team still playing for the NBA championship has their season on the line in some capacity each game. However, some franchises are backed into a corner more than others. Wednesday night, the Western Conference played its first two play-in tournament games, with one team advancing to the NBA playoffs and the other seeing its season come to an end.
Fans around the NBA thought the Golden State Warriors had the best chance of advancing beyond the play-in tournament, with 81 percent believing the team will would one of their games. The Los Angeles Lakers were a close second, with 80 percent of fans believing they would win a game.
The Spurs, however, amassed the least votes, with only ten percent of fans across the league believing they would make it out of the play-in tournament and into the playoffs. Unfortunately, the voters got it right as Jonas Valunciunas and the Grizzlies sent San Antonio to the lottery for a second consecutive season for the first time in franchise history.
Los Angeles and Golden State both had the luxury of rostering perennial MVP candidates and two of the best players in league history. The Spurs didn’t. And While that may not have been the difference between playoff basketball and an early offseason, DeMar DeRozan’s 5-of-21 dud was a reminder of how limited San Antonio’s ceiling is with him acting as their go-to option.
Although nearly three-fourths of fans believed Steph Curry was more dangerous in an elimination game than LeBron James, it was the latter who nailed the go-ahead game-winner with the former’s hand in his face on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t a win-or-go-home game for the Warriors, but it certainly was when Memphis visited the Chase Center the following Friday. And the upstart Grizzlies pulled off an improbable upset over Steph and Golden State, claiming the eighth seed and final playoff seed out West.
The first of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament games were played Tuesday night, with the Boston Celtics earning the first bid into the playoffs after beating the Washington Wizards. About 61 percent of NBA fans believed the Celtics would advance, falling short of the Wizards team they overcame, which took 78 percent. The Indiana Pacers received the least amount of votes, with only 24 percent, but lived to fight another day after beating the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets’ loss ended their season, but it’s not the end of exciting times in Charlotte. Point guard LaMelo Ball received 52 percent of the fan vote as the player who should win the Rookie of the Year award. Ball beat out Minnesota Timberwolves’ top pick Anthony Edwards, who earned 36 percent of the vote, and Sacramento Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who took 12 percent.
Devin Vassell, San Antonio’s first lottery selection since Tim Duncan in 1997, never genuinely entered the ROTY conversation, but that wasn’t because he didn’t play well. Not only did he log the most minutes by a Spurs first-rounder since Kawhi Leonard, but much like The Klaw, he didn’t spend a single day in the G League.
The former Florida State Seminole showed impressive defensive instincts, flashed intriguing self-creation skills, and gave Gregg Popovich a reliable catch-and-shoot threat off the bench for most of the season. His first go-round a success despite trying circumstances, and he should continue to build on an already solid foundation in year two.
The Lakers earned the right to battle it out with the Phoenix Suns in the first round, while the Grizzlies survived the play-in for a shot at the first-place Utah Jazz and Rudy Gobert. The Jazz star was the top pick among fans to win Defensive Player of the Year, garnering 49% of the vote.
While San Antonio didn’t have a player in this poll, several guys stood out on the defensive end. Jakob Poeltl, Dejounte Murray, and Derrick White are all more than deserving of All-Defensive consideration, but when there are ten spots split between two teams, the odds of adding that honor to their résumé is slim to none.
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