More than in any recent seasons, in 2021/22 the Spurs were counting on a lot of individual performances coming together to create team synergy instead of relying on familiarity and continuity. There were several new faces around and the holdovers had different roles.
It made for a fun if chaotic season in which a lot of players got rotation minutes and evolving responsibilities. Now that it’s over, it’s interesting to look at how everyone on the roster performed.
We are not going to talk about players who did not finish the season in San Antonio or the ones who simply didn’t play enough for us to draw any conclusions. We’ll go through all the others by minutes per game played from lowest to highest. First up is Jock Landale.
Jock Landale traits, role and stats
Landale is a 6’11 center who joined the team as a 26-year-old rookie after winning the MVP award in the Australian league.
His expected role was to provide center depth and give the team an option that could control the boards and help stretch the floor with his outside shot.
In 54 games Landale averaged 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10.9 minutes a game.
Landale season review
Landale had an unfortunate start of the season which probably hurt his chances of becoming a real contributor. He arrived in San Antonio with a real shot at getting the backup center spot, since the coaching staff was not interested in playing Thaddeus Young and the other option for the role was not an established veteran. Unfortunately for the Aussie, he suffered a foot injury in training camp that put him behind schedule and then he entered the health and safety protocols early in the season. Starting from behind at a position in which Gregg Popovich had alternatives meant barely seeing the court in the first 30 games of the season.
Eventually Landale got his shot, and for a while it seemed like he had made the most of it. During a 15-game stretched the spanned between mid December and mid January, the big man took over the backup center spot from Drew Eubanks and averaged seven points and four rebounds while shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc. He was occasionally showing some reticence to pull the trigger from outside, but his work on the offensive glass made him an interesting offensive option even when he played closer to the rim. The problem was on the other end.
Landale struggled with defense at the NBA level, which was made more obvious by playing in a team with a very leaky perimeter. He mostly went through the normal issues most players who are not used to the speed of the game at the highest level experience, but his lack of elite athleticism and shot blocking instincts were also a problem. With his limitations on defense, he needed to remain a consistent plus on offense, which simply didn’t happen. Once he started missing shots or passing them up, he went back to sharing the minutes with Eubanks and eventually being relegated to mop up duty.
Season grade: C
The trajectory of Landale’s first year with the Spurs isn’t really surprising. Even after the team moved Eubanks and Young, Landale probably knew that as soon as Zach Collins returned, the reclamation project was going to be given every chance to earn the minutes behind Poeltl, since the team made a substantial investment on him. The rookie needed to secure his spot before that, but he was always trying to catch up after his slow start, and despite a good stretch that showed his potential, he couldn’t find the consistency needed to make it hard to bench him.
Landale has a non-guaranteed contract next season, and the decision to keep him or let him go will probably rank low in the list of offseason priorities for the Spurs. If they need some extra cap space, he’ll be gone. If they don’t, and they don’t add another center, they might keep him.
Similarly, Landale could decide that the NBA just isn’t for him and ask out, a request the front office would surely accommodate. Landale had an opportunity to sign a training camp deal with several teams when he went undrafted, but preferred to go to Europe instead, so getting minutes and having job security seem to matter to him.
Whether keeping him proves smart or not will depend on the draft and free agency, but there were enough good moments on his rookie year to make a return seem possible. He’s a tough player who can contribute on offense when his shot is falling and there were some interesting flashes of a potentially good two-big unit featuring him and Collins, since they can both theoretically score inside and out and the Spurs play zone a fair bit.
Landale had a solid first season in the NBA, considering his salary and the role he was supposed to fill. Despite having limited defensive impact, his offensive versatility helped the team at one point and he seemed to fit right in with the rest of the roster. Whether he has a future on San Antonio remains to be seen, but bringing him over from Australia was a good gamble, even if the payoff wasn’t as impressive as expected.