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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Pelicans

Mistakes of a young team hurt the Spurs once again.

New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Every rebuilding team goes through it’s growing pains. The San Antonio Spurs have been no stranger to the difficulties of being a young team in the Association. Time and time again they are plagued by sloppy ball security, poor execution and untimely mistakes. That was the story on Friday night in a 114-113 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

It’s hard to win a game when you turn the ball over 18 times. It seemed like every time the Spurs built a lead, they would throw it away with turnovers, or let the Pelicans get to untimely offensive rebounds. Despite that, the Spurs were in a position to win it down the stretch. Their young core stepped up, with huge shot making by Devin Vassell, aggressive play from Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones, and good rim protection from Victor Wembanyama.

Their lack of three-point shooting continues to be a problem on the offensive end. San Antonio shot just 25.6% from the three-point line in the loss. The Spurs are second to last in three-point shooting, and because of that, teams are starting to pack the paint. All night Wembanyama had to work really hard to get looks inside. Some of his makes, like a turnaround and-1 with one-hand while falling out of bounds were some of the toughest shots he’s made this season.

One of the few times the paint opened up was on the last play of the game. Vassell came off the pick and roll with Wembanyama, and had two open options. Yes, Wembanyama was technically open off the roll, but with 2 seconds left, that is a tough pass, catch and dunk to execute. Vassell was shooting the ball well all night, it made sense for him to pull up. It didn’t go down, that’s part of basketball. If they cut down on some of the mistakes they made over the course of the game, they probably aren’t in a position to need a game winner anyways.

Yet, even with all of their blemishes, the Silver and Black are starting to show what they can eventually be. Vassell, while inconsistent, has real three-level scoring chops. Wembanyama is one of the most legit rookies we’ve seen. Sochan looks more and more like the perfect fit that we thought he’d be going into the season, plus he’s adding a jump shot. Jones has been legitimately good as the team’s starting point guard. They have the assets to add talent to a core that already has promise. It’s been a tough season, but the development is starting to shine through.

Takeaways:

  • Vassell was awesome scoring the basketball on Friday. Scoring 28 points on 11-21 shooting (5-10 from three) is the kind of line you want to see from the wing. He was aggressive getting to his shot in the mid-range, attacking closeouts and hitting threes on the move. I am still unsure if Vassell is a number 2, or number 3 guy on a contender, but he absolutely is getting better as the season goes on. Having a floor spacer and shot creator like Vassell next to Wembanyama is going to pay dividends in the future.
  • They should have let Sochan play in the Rising Stars game. It’s kind of a joke that he wasn’t invited back, just looking at the numbers. He’s on a revenge tour now, playing his best basketball and looking determined while doing so. The sophomore had another double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds, adding in two steals. He was everywhere, grabbing big time offensive rebounds and playing physical with the Pelicans bigs. Sochan has a high upside with his motor and developing skills. A lot of people were out on the forward after his tough start to the season, but they may be eating their words very soon.
  • For all of the flack Julian Champagnie has received lately for going under-the-radar offensively, I thought he had a pretty good game on Friday. Despite shooting a high percentage from three on the season, it really is feast or famine with the jump shot. When he’s hot, he’s an excellent floor space, when he’s not, you really feel it. Friday was another in a stretch of bad shooting games. Defensively he’s made leaps and bounds over last season. He guarded Zion Williamson the best for San Antonio. The Spurs are molding him into a super long 3&D wing. He just needs to cut down on the games when he’s ice-cold from deep.
  • If you are looking for ways to improve the Spurs roster, shot makers and shot creators need to be at the top of that list. Right now they lack the shooting to space the floor in an effective way around Wembanyama. In the draft that means looking at guys like Zaccharie Risacher, Reed Sheppard and Ja’Kobe Walter. If they make it to free agency, players like Isaiah Joe, Gary Trent Jr., Lonnie Walker IV and Royce O’Neal could make some sense. Finding players who can knock down shots around Wemby, while still being respectable defenders should be a priority.