Well, that’s it, folks. The season’s officially over. So, how do you all feel?
Whether or not you wanted the Spurs to make the play-in tournament, I’m sure we were all rooting for them to make a run once they officially got in. I personally thought that the Pelicans were probably going to win (I know, I’m a bad fan), and unfortunately it came to fruition.
And even though I was bummed out that the good guys lost, there was also a strange sense of relief and hope when the game ended. I can’t really explain why, but perhaps it’s because this season has been so fun and rewarding even though the team ended with a losing record?
Ultimately, I think it all comes down to expectations. Most fans just wanted to see the young players grow, and boy did they ever. Compare that to teams like the Jazz and Nets and it’s night and day; although those clubs had a much better record, most of their fans probably didn’t have as good a time due to the drama surrounding their respective teams.
So, let’s recap what happened over the past few days and look forward to the playoffs.
Tough night for Dejounte. Let’s not forget he had an incredible season.— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 14, 2022
— 21.1 PPG
— 8.3 RPG (2nd among guards)
— 9.2 APG (4th in NBA)
— 2.0 SPG (1st in NBA)
— Spurs triple-double record
He joined MJ as the only players ever to average 20/8/8/2s in a season. pic.twitter.com/vIzcAMh3bl
Dejounte definitely didn’t have his best game last night — and there was a good reason for that, which we’ll get to a bit later.
But if we step back and review his season as a whole, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say that he didn’t exceed their expectations. Just a year ago, he was an above-average starter who flashed potential as a sub-All-Star level player, and he’s now an actual All-Star who got even better afterwards.
I was admittedly skeptical of his All-Star case prior to the game and still think that there’s an argument to be made for some other players making it over him, but in his 16 games since then, Dejounte has averaged 25.1 points, 8.8 assists, and 8.2 rebounds on 46.9/34.5/84.7 shooting splits.
The scoring number is probably unsustainable, but if he can maintain everything else and keep up that level of efficiency, then DJ will have a very good case of becoming a two-time All-Star next year.
More importantly, his recent play has been on the level of a legitimate All-Star level player instead of the fringe All-Star he was for the first three-quarters of the season. That might sound counterintuitive, but making the team doesn’t necessarily make that player All-Star calibre, and vice versa. Case in point: Jrue Holiday not making it this year and D'Angelo Russell making it in 2019.
So even if he doesn’t make it next year for whatever reason, the most important thing is Dejounte keeping up his current level of play, which gives the Spurs a legitimate star to build around.
Not the ending many Spurs fans would have wanted but a ton to look forward to in the coming months:— Zach (@zachcolwellPtR) April 14, 2022
- Draft Lottery (20% of getting a Top 4 pick)
- Draft (1 pick in the top 10, 2 picks in the top 20, 3 picks in the top 30 & 4 picks in the top 40)
- Free Agency (30mil+ cap space)
Remember the sense of hope I felt following the loss? Well, our very own Zach Colwell (be sure to check out his fantastic work) summed up why there are lots to look forward to in the coming months.
The biggest thing on the agenda is probably the draft, which is the easiest path for a small-market team like San Antonio to acquire good players. And even though I just waxed poetic about Dejounte, he’s more suited to being a contending team’s second or third option, so the Spurs still need to find that bonafide superstar who can lead them back to being one of the best teams in the league.
I’m not sure if any of those guys exist in this draft, but hey, who would complain about landing a prospect like Chet, Paolo, or Jabari Smith Jr.?
Most relatable shot
Sums up every Spurs fan last night.
RAPTOR ON RAPTOR CRIME!!
Well, former Raptors.
Jokes aside, Poeltl has definitely been the Spurs’ second MVP this year and probably their second most impactful player too. He’s solidified himself as a legitimate above-average centre and has continued to be one of the best rim-protector in the league, all while improving offensively too.
Like Dejounte, Poeltl’s young enough to be part of San Antonio’s next great team, and he’d also be worth quite a lot in a trade if the Spurs decide to part ways with him. I do have questions as to how effective Poeltl can be in the playoffs due to his offensive limitations, but that’s a good problem to have since it implies that the Spurs have become a consistent postseason team again.
Youngest postseason starters during the Gregg Popovich era:— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) April 14, 2022
Josh Primo - 19.110 (TONIGHT)
Tony Parker - 19.340
Dejounte Murray - 20.228
Kawhi Leonard - 20.305
Keldon Johnson 21.226
Tim Duncan - 21.363
In case you weren’t aware, this team is YOUNG.
Herbert Jones' defense was sensational tonight. He gave Dejounte Murray consistent problems, altered numerous shots and navigated screens with ease.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) April 14, 2022
He was utterly dominant on defense: pic.twitter.com/Nhy50uvu1I
Why did Dejounte have a bad game?
Two words: Herb. Jones.
Hey, I know this is a Spurs page, but we have to give respect where it’s due. Casual fans might not be too familiar with Herb, but he’s become an absolute darling to die-hard NBA followers and analytics nerds.
He’s probably the best rookie/sophomore wing defender since, well, Dejounte himself. I’m well aware that Herb is a bit older than most rookies at 23, but to be potentially named on an All-Defense team during a player’s first year in the league is impressive no matter how you slice it.
So, well played, Herb. Best of luck to you and the Pelicans against the Clippers!
Popovich, 73, who just completed his 26th season as Spurs coach, clearly was not prepared to entertain any discussion tonight about his plans for next season.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 14, 2022
Some in Spurs circles believe he'll coach for one more season but they ALL say only one person -- Pop -- knows for sure. https://t.co/u4OBMlG0XM
I don’t blame Pop for not wanting to discuss his future, but are we sure that he’s even certain about his plans? If I were in his shoes, I definitely wouldn’t know what to do, but I’m also the most indecisive person on the planet so take that with a grain of salt.
If I was a betting man, I’d lean towards Pop returning. It just seems like he’s been rejuvenated by this young team and it’s been a while since I’ve seen him have so much fun coaching, so I legitimately think he’ll stick around until he physically can’t.
Plus, who's going to scream at refs if he leaves?
Inside The NBA played WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS over the Timberwolves Play-in celebration pic.twitter.com/CjTs1BhBsD— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 13, 2022
Alright, it’s time to have some fun. I legitimately can’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did while watching the end of the Clippers-Wolves game.
And to top it off with this montage of We are the Champions playing in the background? Whoever did that needs to get a raise.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually making fun of the Wolves. This team hasn’t had anything to cheer about for arguably two decades and their fans absolutely deserve to celebrate, so who am I to judge?
That doesn’t mean I can’t playfully tease them, though. I was absolutely laughing my butt off at the antics Pat Bev pulled throughout the game, and especially at the end. Jumping on the scorer's table like they just won the championship? Come on, don’t tell me you didn’t laugh too.
Again, I’m just playfully teasing and I’m really happy for Wolves fans. Hopefully they can put up a good fight against the Grizzlies, who might be the only team in the league that talks more trash than them.
Most accurate description
Best (or worst...) predictions
It’s finally that time of year! The time to make predictions and embarrass yourself when every pick turns out to be wrong.
Here’s what I have for the first round matchups and finals picks:
Suns vs eighth seed: Suns in 4 if they play the Pelicans, and Suns in 5 if they play the Clippers.
Grizzlies vs Wolves: Grizzlies in 6.
Warriors vs Nuggets: Warriors in 6.
Mavericks vs Jazz: Jazz in 7.
Heat vs eighth seed: Heat in 5 if they play the Cavs, and Heat in 7 if they play the Hawks.
Celtics vs Nets: Celtics in 6.
Bucks vs Bulls: Bucks in 5.
76ers vs Raptors: Raptors in 7.
The Mavs/Jazz series was definitely the hardest for me to pick due to Luka’s injury, and he’s already expected to miss game one. If he was fully healthy, I’d definitely pick the Mavs in 6.
Outside of that, the Philly/Toronto series was tough too. Doc Rivers doesn’t have the best postseason record but they have Embiid and Harden (at times), but the Raptors have also quietly been one of the best teams in the league recently with one of the most innovative coaches in Nick Nurse, so I ultimately went with Toronto.
Boston/Brooklyn is a total wildcard too due to the potential returns of Simmons and Rob Williams, but I still expect the Celtics to win since the Nets are probably going to run KD and Kyrie into the ground.
As for the final play-in games, I’m leaning towards the Hawks and Clippers making it.
Last but not least, I think the finals will be a rematch of last year’s, with Phoenix winning in six a la San Antonio in 2014.
Oh, and one last thing: promise me you’ll forget all of my predictions in two months to spare me some embarrassment. Calling KAT not just the greatest big man shooter ever, but one of the best shooters ever regardless of position is humiliating enough, and I regretted it as soon as that article was published.
So please go easy on me. After all, I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.
This week, make sure to check out Marilyn’s article on why the Spurs never considered tanking! Spoiler alert: that mentality probably helped them become the most successful team over the past two decades.
Thanks as always for reading and see you all next week!