After an extensive and fruitful streak of postseason berths that spanned over the course of two decades, it’s still an odd feeling to look at the NBA playoff bracket and not see the San Antonio Spurs on it. While the upcoming draft lottery provides some excitement for fans of the Silver and Black, it’s hard not to miss the thrills of playoff basketball.
Not all is lost, though. There are many former Spurs still playing who are worthy of backing from San Antonio supporters. From a former All-Star to championship veterans, here is the Spurs fan’s guide to playoff fandom.
Derrick White (Boston Celtics)
The Celtics are in the upper echelon of contenders, and Derrick White is a significant reason why. After being an integral part of their Finals run in 2022, White is enjoying a career campaign in his first full season in Beantown. His numbers don’t stand out compared to years past, but he’s become a more complete player. He has been one of the league’s top defensive guards for a while, but he’s now grown into a real threat from behind the arc. He made good on a career-high 38.1% of his deep-range tries through all 82 contests for Boston and showed the ability to knock shots down off the catch or the bounce. Adding a consistent three-ball to his arsenal is the equivalent of Thanos collecting the final infinity stone for Derrick, and he’s cemented himself as a top-shelf role player.
Why root for Derrick?
He’s the epitome of a winner who gave 110% of his effort every second he spent in a Spurs jersey. Whether it was chasing down opponents on a fast break for a sweet block, sliding in from the help side to take a charge, or dancing through every screen to stay glued to his man, he did all of the little things needed to achieve victory. He’s doing the same for the Celtics and deserves the backing of Spurs fans as he and his team gun for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Dejounte Murray (Atlanta Hawks)
Atlanta’s regular season was the definition of middle-of-the-road. They finished exactly .500 on the year with a record of 41-41, landing them in the play-in. This result was insufficient for a squad hoping to compete at a much higher level after acquiring star guard Dejounte Murray in the off-season. Part of the blame for their disappointment can be placed on the misuse of Murray. Both he and Trae Young are naturally point guards, and because Young is the franchise cornerstone, Murray was forced to take a backseat and spend most of his time at the two. Despite playing in a less-than-ideal role, the former Spur still managed to post career-highs in FG%, 2P%, and FT% while averaging over 20 points per game. He was key in Atlanta’s play-in win over the Miami Heat, dropping 18 points and adding six assists and five rebounds.
Why root for Dejounte?
Even if online beef with fans and distasteful comments on podcasts made his departure from the Alamo City less than graceful, what he accomplished during his tenure cannot be forgotten. Murray earned an All-Star appearance in 2022 and received an All-Defensive nomination in his sophomore year (becoming the youngest player ever to be given the honor). He also became the second player in history to put up averages of 20+ points, 8+ rebounds, 8+ assists, and 2+ steals (the other being Michael Jordan in 1989). His ascension warrants nothing but respect. Plus, his team is facing off against Derrick White’s Celtics. Boston is the overwhelming favorite and has started the series off hot, and who doesn’t love an underdog story?
Danny Green (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Once one of basketball’s best 3&D wings, Danny Green is now in the twilight of his career. The three-time champ has bounced around contenders since being sent to Toronto as part of the blockbuster Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan swap, making stops with the Raptors, Lakers, 76ers, and Grizzlies. He’s now a part of arguably the most promising young roster in hoops, the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen at the helm, the Cavs are poised to make noise in the East for the better half of the next decade. Their one weakness has been inconsistent production from their small forward room. Green was added from the buy-out market not only to bring veteran experience but also to fill in when Isaac Okoro, Caris LeVert, and Cedi Osman struggle. Through eight outings for the Wine and Gold, he posted 6.5 points per game on 50% from the field and 45% from three and he will likely see the court in important games for them in the postseason.
Why root for Danny?
After being an ultra-reliable contributor to San Antonio’s success for so long, he’s still chugging along, and seeing him win one last title would be the perfect conclusion to his NBA story.
Patty Mills (Brooklyn Nets)
A long-time fan-favorite for the Silver and Black, Patty Mills is now in his second season with the Brooklyn Nets. The jersey he wears might be different than the one we’re used to, but he’s still doing what he does best: heating up in a hurry and knocking down flurries of triples (although his explosions were more exciting when they were to the tune of “G’day, mate” calls from Bill Land). His role has diminished this year, but he remains a true professional and stays ready for when his number is called.
Why root for Patty?
This one is self-explanatory considering everything he did on and off the court for San Antonio over his 10 years in the city. His Nets are facing a tough matchup in the Joel Embiid-lead Philadelphia 76ers, so their appearance may be brief, but every Spurs fan should always be pulling for him.
Trey Lyles (Sacramento Kings)
The Kings were the biggest shock of this past regular season. Behind unanimous Coach of the Year Mike Brown and the All-Star duo of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, the Beam Team torched nets all year long on their way to claiming the three seed in the ultra-competitive West, snapping their dreadful playoff drought. A quietly important cog of this squad is one-time Spur Trey Lyles. His stats are modest, but his impact is significant. He does a little bit of everything, from spacing the floor to crashing the glass, and is as steady as they come off the pine.
Why root for Trey?
The Kings as a whole are must-see TV with their break-neck pace and electric shot making and they employ two former Spurs in Trey and Chimezie Metu. If you’re looking for a team to get behind, look no further than the Beam Team.
Other familiar faces competing in the playoffs include Kyle Anderson of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Lonnie Walker IV of the Lakers, and, of course, Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers.
While the Spurs may not be a part of this year’s postseason, bygone players are littered everywhere across the playoff field, so you can still enjoy the experience of postseason fandom. Enjoy the big dance!