San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili announced his retirement from the NBA, which changes the course of the franchise moving forward.
After playing 16 seasons in the league, the former Sixth Man of the Year still earned 20 minutes per game during his final year in the league. The two-time All-Star was a staple for the Spurs during his career. His retirement, along with the departure of both Tony Parker as well as Kawhi Leonard, signals a changing of the guard in San Antonio.
While they signed free agent Marco Belinelli this offseason, his role will likely be most similar to the one previously held by Danny Green – who was included in the trade for DeMar DeRozan. Green started in 60 of his 70 appearances last season and next year, it seems likely that Belinelli could see such a workload in Green’s absence.
No one can bring the experience and veteran leadership provided by Ginobili. But head coach Gregg Popovich will have to re-assign his minutes and the two most likely candidates to see the floor without the four-time champion are guards Derrick White and rookie Lonnie Walker.
Ginobili was used as the ballhandler in a pick-and-roll offense for most of his possessions (35.5 percent) last year. The Spurs often used Ginobili as a spot-up shooter (27.5 percent) as well. White excelled on these play types during his 17 games as a rookie, though in a limited sample size.
Here is how Cole Zwicker recently projected White’s development for next year (via The Stepien):
“White has pick-and-roll vision and execution acumen, winning with poise, pace and timing in conjunction with his strong handle rather than with sheer athleticism and explosion in-and-out of his moves. There is opportunity for White to carve out a legitimate rotation role this season … When you look at San Antonio’s backcourt, White is really the only guard who threatens as a two-way player who can meet a modicum of creation.”
The 24-year-old was most often as a spot-up shooter (39.6 percent) but had experience as the ballhandler in PnR’s (31.3 percent) when he was used for San Antonio. He was dominant in the G League, where he was a primary option, averaging 20.1 points and 5.0 rebounds with 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.
White struggled from the three-point line during summer league but averaged 22.7 points, 5.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds per 36 during his two games. During his sole collegiate seasons, he led the Pac-12 in points scored while finishing Top 10 in assists an blocks.
Walker, meanwhile, is a recent first-round pick with lots of room to grow. He was not able to produce a terrific season for Miami as a freshman but he has shown tremendous flashes of potential. While it would have been helpful to learn from Ginobili, this gives him more opportunity to see the floor during his first year in the pros.
Much like White, Walker was used most often as a spot-up shooter (42.4 percent) as a freshman. He also had lots of experience as the PnR ballhandler (26.3 percent) for Miami.
It’s unlike Popovich to give a lot of playing time to a rookie, unless said first-year player is a sensational talent. But if Walker plays well during whatever service time he has in the G League, expect both him and White to see the floor far more often now that Ginobili is no longer on the Spurs.