It’s been well documented that the Spurs are one of the pleasant surprises through the first ten-plus games of the 2022-23 season. Although they currently sit at 5-6 and on a four-game losing streak (not surprising give the schedule), they have already exceeded most expectations, such as simply being a watchable team that is, more often than not, pleasant on the eyes.
A big reason for that has been the rise of Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell not just as scorers, but as ball-handlers and self-creators as well. They have even caught the attention of Pounding the Rock’s mother page, SB Nation, where CoachSpins has a breakdown of what both players have done to their games to make the leap, complete with video play breakdowns, so be sure to go check it out.
In the half-court, two players have emerged as breakout candidates, auditioning for the long-term role as frontman. Keldon Johnson has increased his scoring load a tad but drastically changed the manner in which he plays, handling pick-and-rolls and serving as a reliable three-point threat. Devin Vassell, a 2020 first-round pick, has become their mid-range maestro while continuing to drill shots from deep and play sensational defense. Both have come out of the gates and hit that respectable 20-point-per-game mark.
Jeremy Sochan has looked nothing like a rookie on defense
It didn’t take long for Spurs rookie Jeremy Sochnan to make a little team history by becoming the first Spurs rookie since Tim Duncan — and just 5th overall — to start the season opener for the franchise. Part of that was out of necessity due to the team’s lack of depth at power forward, but knowing Gregg Popovich, he wouldn’t have just thrown his player into the fire like that if he didn’t believe he could handle it, and Sochan has proven his instincts to be correct.
As Eric Fritts of mysanantonio.com points out, while his offense doesn’t jump off the page, his defense is what is giving him staying power. Most notably, his uncanny ability (for a rookie) to defend all five positions without fouling:
This diverse skill set and athleticism is outstanding, but what makes it all the more special is how much Sochan is fouling. He’s averaging only 2.1 fouls a game, which is exceptional for a rookie, and especially given how defensively active he is. Defending at a high rate without fouling will only help him stay on the floor. It’s something that affects many young players’ minutes, and usually a skill developed with more years in the league.
- Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey has ranked NBA team’s starting lineup, and the Spurs find themselves in a respectable position thanks in no small part to the three players listed above, plus the game management of Tre Jones and solid two-way play of Jakob Poeltl.
- There’s always going to be some interesting trade suggestions out there, but I don’t know about this one. Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley suggests the Warriors send Klay Thompson, James Wiseman, and draft compensation to the Spurs for Poeltl, Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott and Romeo Langford, arguing it would balance out Golden State’s roster and give Steph Curry his best change at another championship. As for the Spurs, it gets all of the veterans out of the way at once, gives them another piece to develop in Wiseman, and a good veteran on a deal that expires in 2024 that they can try and move in the future. This doesn’t seem worth it to me, plus I don’t see the Warriors ever breaking up the Splash Bros, but what do you think?
- Finally, one last link from Bleacher Report, college basketball season is here, so Jonathan Wasserman has you all set up to with The NBA fan’s Ultimate Guide to College Basketball. It’s hard to know where the Spurs will land in the draft at this juncture, but the odds of getting one the top two picks will still be against them no matter where they end up in the standings, so getting to know more prospects than just Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson is probably a good idea.