It’s been a fun season so far. Very much to taste. I like seeing underdogs win. And I like seeing the top dogs lose. Small-market franchises like the Spurs and the Jazz traded away their very best players, but, unexpectedly, they’re winning twice as many basketball games as they lose. Then there are the two-and-half superstar teams in Brooklyn and Los Angeles – and they have one win between them out of ten games. Far as I’m concerned, it could just go on like that.
Yes, the Spurs probably should have one-and-a-half eyes on the upcoming draft. But for now, I’m content enjoying a Spurs team stacked with fun rookies and guys who are taking yet another step in their development, in part thanks to Dejounte not swallowing a league-leading number of touches. Most of all, I enjoy seeing the Spurs sharing the ball. At times, the 2022/23 Spurs are looking like they’re falling in love with each other. So many smiles on the court and on the bench. Even Pop looks gentle and lovely.
Last night, involuntary former Spur DeMar DeRozan returned to the AT&T Center, looking sharp and scoring a game-best 33 points. But the star of the show was the team that is the San Antonio Spurs.
- Can you name 10 NBA centers who are legitimately better than Jakob Poeltl? Or is Jakob Poeltl a top 10 center in the NBA? The Spurs fell apart defensively when he went to sit in the first quarter. That’s to be expected. The entire league knows by now he’s an excellent defender. But the Spurs also look much better on offense with him than without him: the dribble hand-offs, the passing, the way he uses his length in the paint — he’s basically in lay-up reach 7 feet away from the basket. One thing’s for sure: the Spurs will lose a lot more games without him than with him. So if they’re looking to get the number one pick in the upcoming draft, there’s no safer way than to trade Jakob sooner rather than later. However, Jakob’s so freakin’ good by now that I wouldn’t blame the Spurs if they tried to re-sign him instead.
- I was afraid Keldon Johnson’s hot shooting from last season might turn out to have been only a phase — that worry has gone for good. Keldon shoots the ball with extreme confidence, and he appears completely unfazed by closeouts and challenges, he even seems to relish it. Per basketball-reference.com, he’s attempting 8.7 threes per game this season, making them at 42% clip. That’s the profile of a guy who’s being invited to the three-point shooting contest. Didn’t see that coming. Just didn’t.
- Tre Jones is the kind of player that makes it incredibly easy for me to love him. You look at the guy, you think he’s too short, you expect him to be consistently overmatched, but he flat-out refuses to. Yup, he had five turnovers last night, but the guy has seen his minutes balloon from just short of 17 to more than 30 per game. I’m amazed at how he’s living up to the challenge. And since he’s only in the early stages of the process of transitioning from bit-part player to starting point guard, there’s every reason to expect he’ll cut down on his mistakes, diligent as he is anyway.
- Since Derrick White was traded to the Boston Celtics, I’ve been on the lookout for a new favorite Spur. I think I’ve found one, and his name is Jeremy Sochan. Looking past the dyed hair and the length of his shorts, I can see where the comparisons to Dennis Rodman and also Draymond Green are coming from: Sochan can defend out on the perimeter, and he can also cover the big guys in the paint. But, honestly, Sochan has more potential than the two guys mentioned. He’s a serious lob threat, and he’s blowing by guys out on the perimeter with the ball in his hands! I’m truly, truly fascinated. Sure, his release is slow. But he’s only 19. Six games into the season, I’m inclined to say the Spurs have nailed their first pick in the 2022 draft.
- Another pleasant surprise in last night’s game was the Spurs’ third pick in the most recent draft. I’ll admit that I had heard and read more about Blake Wesley than I’d seen. I expected a bit of calamity, but he looked reasonably disciplined to me out there. Two made threes, four assists and plenty of burst in 15 minutes — a nice debut.
- Interestingly, the Spurs’ best two players right now are products of the Kawhi Leonard / Danny Green trade — Jakob Pöltl and Keldon Johnson. Though the Raptors will never feel like they lost the trade, and rightfully so, I think it’s time for us Pounders to once and for all look on the bright side: with Keldon under control for another four years, with the future picks to come from the DeMar DeRozan deal, and with whatever will happen with Jakob: The Leonard / Green trade is a gift that keeps on giving!