Forward spots have been hard to come by for Spurs in recent years. After mostly giving up two big men’s units, San Antonio has been trying to find the right pairings that can deliver the benefits of smaller rosters without giving up a big advantage on the boards and defense. The balance was difficult to find.
This coming season could be the one in which Spurs finally find something that works. Over the past few months, the franchise has acquired several players who should allow them to play different styles and give the Silver and Black a versatile and intriguing forward corps. Let’s take a look.
SF: Keldon Johnson – Josh Richardson – Romeo Langford – (Joe Wieskamp)
PF: Doug McDermott – Jeremy Sochan – Isaiah Roby – (Keita Bates-Diop)
At this point, it seems safe to assume Doug McDermott will start since he only lost his spot last season to injury, and Jeremy Sochan might need time to adjust to the NBA game. . Who is actually the small forward and who is the power forward doesn’t really matter when he shares the pitch with Keldon Johnson, who will surely fill one of the starting striker positions because the shot-stopper elite veteran is often hidden in defense at least- dangerous encounter.
Once the bench players check in, the difference between the two positions should become clearer. If Richardson or Langford are in, they’ll be on the wing and Spurs will give up some size. Sochan and Roby, on the other hand, should be viewed as traditional power forwards who will help create bigger lineups. There are many possible setups that Gregg Popovich can use, so hopefully he’ll be experimental often.
For now, we will mostly ignore the impact that Joe Wieskamp, who is still a restricted free agent, and Keita Bates-Diop, who is under a non-guaranteed contract until the start of the season, could have in the rotation. .
Weaknesses: Bouncing and defensive versatility
The Johnson-McDermott duo’s two biggest issues last season were rebounding and defensive versatility. Although he’s 6’8”, McDermott bounces like a guard and can’t really defend most forwards. Johnson is better in both areas, but far from outstanding in either. The bench doesn’t offer great solutions either. Josh Richardson is a tough defender, but he’s just not long enough to deal with power forwards. The same applies to Langford, and they both bounce back like guards. Isaiah Roby and Keita Bates-Diop are passable rebounders and have solid mobility that allows them to handle switches relatively well, but they’re not going to change the team’s ceiling on the defensive end. Most setups that include two of the aforementioned players range from bad to average on their end.
The responsibility for solving both potential problems on the boards and in defense could actually fall to 19-year-old Jeremy Sochan, which is both exciting and scary. Sochan was a good rebounder in college and he has the size, length and athleticism to stay good at the next level. His defensive versatility is the main reason he was chosen in the lottery and could make him special at professional level. His lack of range would likely make it difficult for him to share the floor with Jakob Poeltl for long stretches – although Spurs should definitely give him a try – but he could possibly be there every minute Poeltl rests as Zach Collins and Gorgui Dieng can shoot. . Will a rookie have a big enough impact to turn an obvious weakness into a strength? Probably not immediately, but hopefully it helps.
Strengths: Shooting and complementary offensive skills
While everyone but Sochan can be considered an average rebounder and defender at best, the rookie is the only questionable shooter in the group. Johnson’s gigantic leap as a sniper is well documented. McDermott is a specialist who can log on barefoot or on the go. Richardson probably won’t average 44% from the outside again as a Spur, but he should at the very least be a league average volume shooter. Roby and Langford aren’t proven marksmen but have improved in recent years and aren’t afraid to let it fly. Last season, that contingent combined to shoot 41% from beyond the arc on more than 1,000 attempts. There might not be a ton of shot creation in the front group, but most setups will likely feature good spacing.
Having shooters is great, but playing too many specialists can cap a team’s offensive cap. Luckily, the group not only includes two elite finishers among the likely starters, but also plenty of players who can do more than one thing and can provide the kind of connection skills the unfeatured options must have on offense. Richardson and Langford are good enough ball handlers to execute pick and rolls when necessary or keep defenses spinning by attacking the hold. Roby is comfortable acting as a sifter and can be both a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop option. Sochan does most things that don’t involve scoring at a high level. Even Johnson and McDermott can do more than just shoot. The attackers have a lot of complementary skills that should keep the offense flowing.
Spurs have the personnel to succeed with the kind of small pairings they normally like, with Johnson and a second perimeter player. Richardson and McDermott are reliable veterans who know their role. Langford and potentially Wieskamp, if he returns, are young but have a few NBA seasons under their belt. Add Devin Vassell to the mix when the team is playing two smaller guards together, and that’s a lot of versatility for big one-man units.
The most interesting dynamic will be to see how the coaching staff incorporates the top forwards into the mix. The only power forward on the roster last season was Bates-Diop, but now there are also two other guys who can fill the role in Roby and Sochan. If Popovich can successfully use Johnson as a small forward at least once in a while alongside a bigger player who can help with rebounding and defense, Spurs will have the kind of roster flexibility they’ve lacked in recent years.
With so much uncertainty at guard positions, it will be tempting to play familiar small units up front, but the rebuilding years should be all about experimentation. Throwing Roby and especially Sochan into the mix as often as possible alongside Johnson could have the kind of gain that is worth all the growing pains.