Believe it or not, Training Camp for the 2021-22 NBA season is just one week away! As a result, sports sites are starting to release their annual player rankings, and a couple of Spurs received some love, beginning with:
No. 83: Dejounte Murray
San Antonio Spurs | PG
2020 NBArank: No. 83
One thing to watch for: With DeMar DeRozan gone, will Murray take on a bigger role in the Spurs’ offense? Already a standout defender, Murray took a jump last season averaging career highs in points (15.7), rebounds (7.1) and assists (5.4) with four triple-doubles. — Andrew Lopez
It’s hard to say if this is a decent ranking or not. Murray is most definitely a better player than this time last year, so whether he should be the same spot this summer is up for debate (although moving parts around him should also be taken into consideration). As is made clear by Lopez, they are expecting a bigger role for Murray this season, so if he can make the most of it and be the Spurs’ senior leader that he now is, he could expect a bump next season. (Not going to lie: Murray now being the Spurs’ longest tenured player is a little wild. He still seems so young.)
Of course, someone who fairly or not is missing from this ranking is Derrick White, who had previously made ESPN’s Top 100 each of the last two seasons (93rd in 2020, 100th in 2019). When healthy and on his game, there is little doubt White is a top 100 player, arguably even better than Murray. The problem is he rarely was healthy last season, only appearing in 36 of 72 games.
After missing the first four games recovering from a foot injury he had suffered in the Bubble, he immediately suffer another injury foot injury in his first game back and missed the next 15 games. He barely got going again before missing five games with COVID, and after finally getting in a groove for the next 28 games, he went down again with an unlucky ankle injury after landing on Jakob Poeltl’s foot. It was no coincidence that the team’s late season slide began the instant he went down, as they went 2-10 over the final 12 games, falling out of playoff range and into the play-in, where they lost in Game 1.
Of course, there is always the other possibility that he’s missing from the 100-51 list because he will show up in 50-1 (which as of this writing has yet to be released), but consider that about 99.999.....% impossible. As much as a I love White’s game, that would be even more egregious. However, there is one place where he is not forgotten:
93. Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs
(Previous rank: NR)
White can do a little bit of everything and is dependable across the board, but drawing charges is the only skill he really excels at. Still, floor-raising production is always welcome, especially when it comes off a season when the subject’s three-point rate more than doubled from what it was two years ago. For now, White can make San Antonio’s rebuild less bumpy than it’d otherwise be, though his all-around trustworthy play could be even better used in a more competitive situation. — Michael Pina
73. Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
(Previous rank: 100)
Murray’s first full season running Gregg Popovich’s offense was a modest success, full of enough subtle steps in the right direction that make it O.K. to be cautiously optimistic about his three-point shot—which has yet to tick up quite like his long twos and free throws have. Even without ideal range on his jumper, there still aren’t very many floor generals in the entire league who impact every aspect of the game quite like Murray does. — Michael Pina
While it’s nice to see White get some recognition, it’s even better to see someone recognize the improvement Murray showed last season. Yes, he still has some work to do, and maybe SI’s rankings is based more on projection while ESPN is looking at the here-and-now, but the bottom line is it’s not a bad thing when a team’s two best players still have room to improve while knowing they have the ability to do it. Both players’ ceilings may merely be borderline All-Stars, but that’s not bad foundation to build upon, especially for a couple of former 29th overall picks.
What do you think of these rankings, Pounders? Are they too high, too low, just right? Was anyone snubbed, or is there potentially someone who could break through by next summer? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.