This past week, the talk of the NBA has been the downfall and total collapse of the Los Angeles Lakers, who began the season as title favorites. The latest blow to Los Angeles has been falling out of the Western Conference Play-In by two games behind the San Antonio Spurs, who had been wallowing in the bottom of the conference until recently. But instead of discussing the failure which is the 2021-22 Los Angeles Lakers, let’s celebrate the recent achievements of the young Spurs, who continue to improve daily and show why they have the ammunition to become a force in the future.
On August 11th, 2021, a trade involving DeMar DeRozen being shipped to Chicago became official. In return, San Antonio received Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a 2022 first round pick and two second round picks. This trade declared two facts to the NBA world; the Bulls are going all-in, and the Spurs are headed into a full rebuild. Heading into the next season, there were little to no expectations for San Antonio. They were expected by many analysts to be a bottom-three team, surrounded by the likes of Oklahoma City and Houston.
Early on, the Spurs were abysmal, going 4-13 to begin the season. Inconsistency has plagued most of their season, as they are still yet to go on a five-game win streak. By the time the NBA trade deadline arrived, San Antonio had unloaded Thaddeus Young to Toronto for Goron Dragic (who would later be bought-out) and a 2022 first round pick. This trade seemed solid to Spurs fans, as Thad Young played a limited amount of minutes per game and they received practically a free first round pick. They then made a trade involving the Boston Celtics, sending fan-favorite Derrick White up to Beantown.
This one hurt Spurs fans because they had witnessed Derrick develop under Gregg Poppovich into a very solid player and a great member of the San Antonio community. In return, the Spurs received veteran forward Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 first, and a 2028 pick-swap. Although it hurt to see Derrick go, the Spurs have benefited greatly from it. They’ve acquired yet another draft pick to add to their rebuild, and seen a resurgence of Josh Richardson. Richardson has averaged 41% three point shooting and putting up 10.7 points per game off the bench and hitting a season high 25 points in a win over Golden State.
But the biggest success San Antonio has seen is the breakout season of Dejounte Murray. Murray is averaging 21 PPG, 8 RPG, and 9 APG, all career highs. He’s also averaging 2.1 steals per game, which leads the entire league. Murray has put up a Spurs regular season record of 13 triple doubles, only trailing MVP hopeful Nikola Jokic. Not only has Dejounte put up phenomenal stats on the court, which landed him in the NBA All-Star Game, but he’s been an incredible team captain who’s led the young squad night in and night out. Dejounte’s ascension into stardom in San Antonio has been inspiring to fans all around the league.
Though inconsistent the entire year, the Spurs may have finally found their groove in the past few weeks, as they’ve won 7 out of their last 10 games and find themselves two games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers for the final play-in seed. The recent success has been in large part to 2019 first round pick Keldon Johnson, who has put up more than twenty points in the last five games as well as plenty of earth-shattering dunks. With additional help from Devin Vassell, Lonnie Walker V, Jakob Poetl, and others, these youngsters are on the rise. Although the team is far from perfect and has yet to clinch a play-in spot, they are well-disciplined and well-coached by the legendary Gregg Poppovich. With the recent success of San Antonio, the rise of Dejounte Murray, and the surplus of future draft picks, the Spurs are a serious threat both in the current and the future.
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