40 games into the NBA season the San Antonio Spurs have the second best record in the NBA with a 31-9 record, the second best defense in the NBA and what is going unnoticed more than anything is the quiet youth movement going in at the Riverwalk.
For years, all we’ve heard is this is it for the Spurs, they will slide back into rebuilding mode but through the genius of General Manager R.C. Buford and Team President Gregg Popovich they are getting younger while beating most teams on a nightly basis. Young guns like Jonathan Simmons, Davis Bertans, Dewayne Dedmon and Dejounte Murray are earning their time on the floor and developing into future role players.
Last season the average age of the Spurs was 31.6 the oldest team in the NBA, a lot of which had to do with the fact that future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan was playing his last season at age 39 skewed the data. During the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder the Spurs’ age began to show and the younger upstarts were bouncier and quicker that led to them being dispatched in the second round.
This season the average age for the team has dropped to 28.8 despite them still having 39 year old Manu Ginobili, 34 year old Tony Parker and their free agent acquisition of the 36 year old Pau Gasol on the roster.
The Spurs brought in Simmons last year from their D-League affiliate and have increased his role this year. In the plays below he hits a three from fellow young gun Bertans and then uses his athleticism to spin around the defender and finish with a layup. Simmons is the type of bouncy (yes, that’s a technical term) wing player the Spurs were missing last year.
Bertans was acquired in the same trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs. He signed a two-year deal this summer as a stretch four similar to the recently retired Matt Bonner role. As of now he’s logging about 10 minutes a game and shooting 39.7% on two three point attempts a game. In the Spurs loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Bertans did a great job of constantly finding the open spaces around the three point line. In the first play he drove and kicked the ball out, then relocated to the corner to knock down a three, then Parker found him for a three to bring them within in a point of the Bucks and his game winner was half down before it popped out. Coach Pop stayed with him late in the game and was nearly rewarded with a game winner from the young fella.
The Spurs also worked their magic in last year’s draft by using the 29th pick on Dejounte Murray a 6-5 point guard from the University of Washington. He has not had a lot of opportunities to play behind Parker and free agent to be Patty Mills. He has shown flashes thought like against the Portland Trail Blazers when he came off a Dedmon high pick and roll and finished with a nice floater. He does have to make improvements in his three point shooting because he’s currently shooting 10.8% from deep in the D-League but the Spurs have a history of developing shooters.
Dedmon has been a great pick up this past offseason from the Magic, he’s been able to come in off the bench and provide rim protection and rebounding for the Spurs. In 15 minutes a game he’s averaging nearly 6 rebounds and a block a game while shooting 58.6% from the field. (Dewayne Dedmon is just what the Spurs Need)
The hardest thing in sports is for a team to think both short term and long term, it’s usually one or the other situation. The Spurs are the model franchise that has been able to do both. In the offseason signings of Gasol and David Lee, while resigning Ginobili were all moves to keep the team competitive in the short term. Bringing in these young guns are signs the Spurs are also thinking the long game. Simmons, Bertans, Murray, and Dedmon are a great group of young role players for the Spurs to continue to develop and build around their stars in Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
- 76ers rising? – The Sixers have been playing great as of late winners of five of their last seven games including a buzzer beater to the New York Knicks and a solid win against the Charlotte Hornets. Joel Embiid has been great and pairing him with Nerlens Noel is yielding better results than the Jahlil Okafor pairing. I wonder if there will be a shift in trying to move Okafor instead of Noel.
- Race for 8 – the 8th seed in the West is heating up as Portland is currently holding onto a half a game lead over the Sacramento Kings, while the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans are lurking. Every game matters for all four of those teams and from here on it it’ll be a Race for 8.
- Photo Credit – Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images