Throughout the offseason, little has been said that Spurs will be contenders this season. That’s for good reason, as the team is in the midst of what some would call a rebuilding phase. If you look at the odds, Vegas isn’t even really giving the team a shot at making the playoffs. In years past, this was the type of position Spurs liked to be in: an underdog that was reckoned with. It always seemed to give the whole list a boost and a reason to silence the critics. If they are successful this season, there could be awards for San Antonio. Let’s see what these rewards would be and who is most likely to win them.
Starting with the prize that has the most candidates possible: Most Improved Player. The Spurs are counting on continuous improvement from their young nucleus, mainly from Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker IV. Each of these players will take on the most important role in their careers, so let’s break down why they could win.
Murray’s case begins with the fact that he has already shown himself to be the leader of the young core. Last season he played 2sd violin to DeMar DeRozan and it was pretty good doing it. The list of players who have averaged at least 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game consists of 10 other members, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and MIP Julius Randle from last season. . In addition to these figures, Dejounte was 11 years olde in the league with 1.5 steals per game. Now everything seems geared up for him to take on the lead role, with DeMar’s place in the list being given to a better ground spacer. With a heavier offensive load to bear, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dejounte averaging over 20 points per game, while offering at least the same level of rebounds and assists.
For Derrick, everything revolves around his health. He’s the first to admit it’s been a disappointing 2020-21 season with all the time missed due to injuries and COVID. His 15.4 points per game were good for 3rd in the team, behind the aforementioned Dejounte Murray and DeMar DeRozan. That number was also an improvement of 4.1 from the previous season. Much like Dejounte, Derrick’s role will increase with DeMar’s absence. Derrick’s overall numbers are likely to improve just based on whether he’ll be in that side playmaker role, and if he can build on better assist numbers and play a full season. , he will be there to win the MIP.
Or should I say Olympic gold medalist Keldon Johnson. Entering sound 3rd season, Keldon is in the position where most of the MIP winners lie: the player gets his first real chance to show that he can be the leader of a team. While Dejounte will likely be the main ball player, we have seen that Keldon’s game is suitable for everyone. Known as the Big Body, Keldon has an innate ability to step into the paint while battling defenders and being able to score on the edge. Continuous improvement with his jumpshot, and maybe a few more fouls when attacking the basket, and Keldon is eyeing a significant jump in the score. Not to mention the fact that he will likely see a slight increase in a matter of minutes from the 28.5 he averaged last season, which should give him more chances to leave his mark in the squad and the league. .
Lonnie Walker IV:
For Lonnie, it’s easy. Enter the 6e human role and shine. Last season was the first time Lonnie played a bigger role with Spurs. As expected, it came with its ups and downs. When DeMar or Derrick were out of the lineup, Lonnie entered the starting unit, starting a total of 38 games. When they played he walked off the bench with Patty and Rudy. Whichever way you slice him up, Lonnie’s season stats don’t seem impressive, but you can tell there’s something there when you watch him play. With a more consistent role, Lonnie should be the bench’s top scorer. That score combined with his ability as a playmaker will be essential for Spurs’ bench unit to be their usual autonomy.
The next award with the most Spurs nominees is Defensive Player of the Year. Two players in particular: Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl. I’d love to include Devin Vassell, or even Luka Samanic, having seen flashes of his defensive potential, but neither will likely have a role big enough to make an award-winning impact.
Jakob finally regained the central starting position midway through last season, having fully earned it. With another year under his belt and not much support, Jakob should see another increase in minutes this season. He was already 6 years olde in blocks per game at 1.8 and was 2sd on the team in the defensive victory actions at 2.5, only behind Dejounte’s 2.6. The story is on Jakob’s side, because DPOY is an award won mainly by the greats. If he can increase those blocks per game and his bounce numbers, his stats will look worthy enough to win the prize. It will depend on the exact position of Spurs defensively in the league. Here is the ranking of the teams with the last 10 winners in terms of Defensive Rating: 4e – 1st – 2sd – T1st – 2sd – 1st – 2sd – 2sd – 2sd – 5e. This means that for a Spur to win it, he will have to jump 13 places next season, and Jakob will be a main reason for him to do so.
Rarely does a winger win DPOY, let alone a guard. The last goalie to win the award was Gary Payton in 1995-96. And since then Kawhi Leonard and Metta World Peace (who was still Ron Artest at the time) have been the only wingers to win the award, unless you consider Draymond Green and Giannis as one. That being said, Dejounte is the team’s best defender, as well as the only one to have received defensive accolades in his career. As mentioned above, Dejounte led the team in defensive winning actions and was 6e in the league in interceptions. If Spurs have any chance of being near the top of the defense, Dejounte will likely have something to do with it, as he will take on the task of keeping the other team’s best keeper on most nights.
The last award I’ve seen winning a Spur, if all goes well, is the sixth man of the year. There’s really only one candidate for Spurs here, and that’s LWIV. Almost every year, this award is given to someone who plays the essential role of being the top scorer off the bench for their team. Last season it was Jordan Clarkson for the Utah Jazz. The year before ? Montrezl Harrell. Then you have the years when Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford won the award. For the most part, the only thing voters are looking for in this award is who is a non-runner who can score points in clusters. As I noted when talking about Lonnie’s MIP chances, he’ll likely be tasked with being exactly the kind of player these voters are looking for. If he can play as a pseudo-starter, at a minimum, Lonnie is likely to be a finalist for this award.
I would be remiss if I did not recognize that last thing. If any of the players mentioned above were to be a finalist for an award, Spurs probably would have had a better year than anyone imagined. Typically, when something like this happens, their coach is awarded by being a finalist for Coach of the Year. After winning gold in Tokyo, Pop is looking to continue his momentum this NBA season. He noted how much he enjoyed coaching youngsters over the past two seasons, and if they are able to take it to the next level, Pop could watch his resistance piece – come away with a 4.e CoY and break the tie with Don Nelson and Pat Riley for the most part all time.
In the end, none of these awards will be won if Spurs don’t go above and beyond. And who knows? Maybe Devin Vassell will end up playing a bigger role than expected, or another unlisted Spur will surprise everyone. But those listed above are by far the most likely to receive accolades this season. Only their game will determine if they do.