San Antonio’s attempt to maintain its winning ways in the post-Kawhi Leonard era suffered another setback Monday.
Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season, according to Stadium NBA Insider Shams Charania. Murray was expected to continue his progression as the starting point guard this season. The Spurs let longtime floor general Tony Parker walk in free agency due to Murray’s rise.
Murray emerged as a defensive stud last season, helping the Spurs achieve the third-best defensive rating in the league. San Antonio was tied for the top spot in points allowed due in large part to Murray’s abilities. At six feet five inches, Murray was able to readily switch onto wing players and maintain his ground. His progression on the defensive end will be something to look out for once he recovers from the injury.
On the offensive side of the ball, Murray was showing promise, but still had significant work to do. He didn’t move the ball as well as Parker in San Antonio’s system and posted 2.9 assists per game despite having plenty of scorers around him.
Even though Murray’s drive-and-kick style would theoretically mesh perfectly with San Antonio’s roster, he assisted on just 20.2 percent of the team’s made shots. Parker’s assist percentage was 28.2 and Pau Gasol turned in a 20.1 percent rate. This was expected to be the year Murray would develop his ball movement skills. Murray’s three-point shooting ability remains unknown, but the early results aren’t promising.
With Parker and Ginobili gone, the Spurs were already thin on ball handlers. Murray’s injury further hampers the backcourt, which will likely be led by Patty Mills. Bryn Forbes will also get more opportunities with Murray out. Both Mills and Forbes possess the shooting ability to allow San Antonio to adequately space the floor, but neither guard has Murray’s defensive skills. Without Leonard and Murray, the Spurs might see significant defensive slippage.
With Lonnie Walker IV out 6-8 weeks and Murray done for the year, the Spurs will not get an early look at their two best young players. The Spurs are not trying to rebuild, but Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford will explore trade options of LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay if the team loses ground in a loaded Western Conference.
San Antonio could also go the other way and attempt to acquire a point guard. It’s hard to imagine Popovich sacrificing future draft picks in a trade for a guard, meaning the Spurs will likely stay put with what they have.
For more than 20 years, the Spurs have been considered the model franchise. Murray’s injury not only sets back his development as a player; it will also force the Spurs to confront the reality that a full-scale reset is on the way. Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are all gone. Leonard forced his way out. Popovich is the last man standing from San Antonio’s glory days.
Even with Murray healthy, the Spurs weren’t a lock to make the playoffs. Now, they’re forced with a decision that impacts the present and future of the franchise.