SAN ANTONIO - With the 2020 NBA Draft behind us now and free agency starting on Friday at 5 P.M. Central, the San Antonio Spurs have a few more decisions to make going forward.
While the Spurs drafted wing Devin Vassell and guard Tre Jones with their two draft picks, the Spurs still have some questions at the big position.
Going into free agency, the team has five players entering as free agents with three being restricted. Jakob Poeltl, Drew Eubanks and Quinndary Weatherspoon all enter restricted free agency with the qualifying offer given to them from San Antonio which allows the Spurs to match any offer the players are offered from opposing teams.
While the hot commodity is going to be Poeltl and probably one of the most important decisions for the Spurs this offseason, there is one other player I think is extremely valuable who the Spurs need to retain this offseason - Drew Eubanks.
Eubanks is entering his third season in the NBA after going undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. He signed a two year two-way contract with the Spurs where he worked with the team between the main squad and the Austin Spurs G-League team.
While traveling back-and-forth down I-35 between Austin and San Antonio, Eubanks was learning the game on the bench in San Antonio then applying it to his game in Austin.
And while in Austin, he was highly effective within his role.
While listed at 6’10, 245 pounds, Eubanks is considered undersized for the center position. However, his athleticism is what makes up for his lack of size and allows him to play against bigger centers.
As well, his athleticism allows him to run the floor and be a rim runner as he can finish with power and protect the rim at the other end of the floor. But Eubanks can certainly be considered more than just a rim-runner as he has an interesting post game, including a hook shot, that seems at times just can’t miss.
In his second season with Austin, Eubanks averaged 15.9 points on 62% shooting, 6.2 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 blocks in 23.3 minutes of action per game in 22 games.
While these points per game sound lackluster on the surface, it needs to be noted that Eubanks was not a main option and playing next to other rookies in Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson who got a majority of the touches on the team.
However, taking a deeper look into the advance splits is where Eubanks shines. In a faster paced G-League, Eubanks was able to boast a net rating of 9.2 with Austin, being a defensive powerhouse while on the floor with a defensive rating of 97.
As well, his inside scoring and on-point hook shot allowed him to record an effective field goal percentage of 62.6% and a true shooting percentage of 70.1% (we’ll come back to the advanced stats later).
These numbers along with the positive attitude that Eubanks has is certainly a reason why he earned enough of Gregg Popovich’s trust to start in three games in place of an injured LaMarcus Aldridge in March. The big man from Oregon State was already progressing and exceeding the expectations for him within the organization and that went into the bubble when the Spurs restarted their season in August.
Going into the Orlando bubble, the Spurs were banged up at the forward position with Aldridge out with shoulder surgery and then losing Trey Lyles in the bubble to appendicitis. So down two of their starters, the Spurs looked to Poeltl and Eubanks to lead their backcourt .
This is where Eubanks solidified his value.
In his eight games in Orlando, Eubanks was phenomenal in the role he was asked to play. In 17.7 minutes per game. He was able to average seven points on 56% shooting, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks along with claiming a body during the bubble “pre-season."
While the average numbers might not jump out, it’s his advanced stats with the San Antonio team that show how effective he is on the floor (see, I told you we would come back to them).
Just like in Austin, Eubanks posted a net rating of nine, posting an offensive rating of 120 and a defensive rating of 111 while with the main San Antonio team. In comparison, only Keldon Johnson (131) and Poeltl (125) had higher offensive ratings, and Dejounte Murray (110) and Poeltl (108) being the only other players having better defensive ratings.
Besides ratings, when you look at his numbers per 100 possessions (a much better type of stat to look at when looking at players who played sporadically throughout the season and coming off the bench), Eubanks has numbers that are almost similar to the effective numbers Poeltl has been putting up for nearly three seasons now.
Per 100 possessions, Eubanks recorded 18.8 points, nearly 15 rebounds and three blocks. In comparison, Poeltl recorded 15.2 points, 15.3 rebounds and 3.9 blocks while Aldridge recorded 27.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per 100 possessions this season.
These numbers make Eubanks one of the most effective big man on the roster with his ability to clean the glass with his blocking and rebounding, and a better offensive edge then Poeltl with his post scoring ability.
While Eubanks has some limitations such as three point shot, sources tell Spurs Zone that Eubanks has been working on his range and it’s becoming “consistent." This only shows that he is working to improve his game further.
Besides his on-court talent and ability, Eubanks brings something else that is valuable to the team that isn’t recorded on the stat sheet: Energy. On and off the court, Eubanks is shown to be extremely energetic when it comes to his play and his teammates.
On the court, you can see the energy with his nonstop movement, jumping to block shots and finishing with power at the rim. Off the court, his energy has been clearly shown in his now legendary bench reactions.
In an interview with Eubanks on February, 2020 (after a 29-point and 3-block performance against the Texas Legends) I asked Eubanks what he would say his specialty is.
“I would say bringing energy,” said Eubanks. “There’s a corny saying: ‘You may have all the talent in the world, you may not, but you can always bring energy no matter what’. So that’s what I try doing.”
Along with the energy, I did ask him about his secret behind his bench reactions.
“I mean it’s just all natural,” said Eubanks. “I just like supporting my teammates. When I go in and play, they support me too with bench reactions. Just support your teammates and let it be natural.”
And it’s with this that I think sums up the value to Eubanks: A great teammate.
He plays for his team first before himself, and it shows with his play on the court and the interactions he has with his teammates. Eubanks is able to play into the role asked of him by the team, even if it’s coming off the bench and feeding the ball to a teammate. He’ll go out there and do what is best for his team no matter what’s asked of him.
You can only find so many players nowadays that have his selflessness within professional basketball. It brings up shades of Spurs we’ve loved in the past with Tim Duncan taking pay cuts for the team, Manu Ginobili taking a role that was under his talent for the team. And even more recently with Eubanks’ current teammate Patty Mills, who took a completely minimized role in the bubble to allow his younger teammates to get significant playing time.
He is an undervalued talent on this Spurs team with his skillset on the floor and the energy he brings to the team.
The Spurs did offer him the qualifying offer before free agency which signals he will be a part of the Spurs team going into the December training camp.
I don’t only think that Eubanks should earn his roster spot that he’s been working nonstop for the past two seasons at, but I believe he can be a vital rotation player on this young squad and become a fan favorite (as if he hasn’t already become one with those bench reactions).