Now that the San Antonio Spurs have to fill the gap in their frontcourt rotation, two-way center Drew Eubanks has a chance to showcase his skills.
As the San Antonio Spurs prepare for their return to the hardwood to chase a potential 23rd straight playoff berth, we have to digest the tough news of LaMarcus Aldridge missing the rest of the 2019-20 season. The announcement was a major gut punch as facilities re-open to prepare for the Orlando tournament, given that the on-court leader will be out.
While getting his health correct is a good thing to do and no one is suggesting he should have waited, questions now arise as to who will be the replacement. The NBA is allowing the 22 teams to add players from G-League Two-Way contracts, the eight rosters not participating and free agents to fill up to 17 players on the rosters.
Many names will float around as to who the Spurs should add. I will contest that Aldridge’s ‘replacement’ is on the roster: second-year two-way big man Drew Eubanks.
As any Spurs fan knows, In Pop We Trust. With the track record that the San Antonio Spurs have, so much equity has been built up with fan base and if there is any head coach to believe in going to Orlando after the halt to the season it would be Popovich. Pop will have his Spurs ready for next-man-up. After getting game starts due to injuries suffered by his teammates prior to the season shutting down, Eubanks will be a smart piece to move into the starting four-spot.
Drew has been a strong staple for the G-League Austin Spurs since he joined the organization as an undrafted free agent after the 2018 draft. During the 2019-20 season, he averaged 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks on 62.6 percent shooting in Austin while only averaging 3.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.4 assists on 75 percent shooting in San Antonio. With the way he plays and works, he could pop in the eight games and potential playoffs like one Jonathon Simmons did for the team in 2016-17.
Simmons averaged 6.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals on 42% shooting during the regular season for the Spurs in 2016-17, but his impact popped during the playoffs in 2017. He improved to 10.5 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists on 45.6 percent shooting.
While he wasn’t the MVP of the playoffs, opposing teams felt Simmons’ presence and had to account for him. He flowed well with LaMarcus and Kawhi Leonard prior to Kawhi’s injury when the Western Conference Championship fell to pieces.
While Drew is younger, he doesn’t need to completely replicate all of LaMarcus’ 18.9 points per game. If he comes close to the 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game that Aldridge had, the Spurs would be in good shape on the big man front.
While I’m not proclaiming Eubanks as the next LMA or Tim Duncan, maybe an extended role in the upcoming eight games will help his growth and show that he can be a key contributor to the San Antonio Spurs for years to come. The playoffs are where you see the best of the best shine or see new blood take flight into the next level of their game. They trusted Drew to fill in when Jakob Poeltl went down in the season, they should look to trust in him more.
The NBA has given the Spurs a chance to make the playoffs for a 23rd straight season. They must squeeze the most out of every player and every minute to reach the playoffs.