San Antonio Spurs: Still a contender in the West?
In a frenzied summer, the Spurs stood still while other teams added weapons to survive in the cutthroat Western Conference.
Every summer feels like the NBA offseason is wilder than the last, but this summer? It was one of the most dramatic and entertaining offseasons the league has had in recent memory.
Unfortunately, the San Antonio Spurs were largely spectators like the rest of us when it came to adding marquee talent.
This aging squad faced the timeless question every NBA front office deals with: do you keep your bench in hopes of the depth paying off in the postseason, or do you have minimal depth in order to land a game-changer, someone who will take your squad to the NBA Finals solely through their talent level?
Re-signing players who get you back to the playoffs
The Spurs’ chances in the Chris Paul sweepstakes lasted all of 2.4 seconds. There was never any real talk about bringing in the nine-time All-Star to Texas, and with the point guard position needing to be filled, Patty Mills was re-signed to a multi-year contract. It certainly wasn’t the most glamorous signing, but it made the most sense with Tony Parker coming back from a quad injury.
Mills stepped up at the one position in a handful of games in the regular and postseason. With the way in which coach Gregg Popovich rewards loyalty and a buy-in into his style of play, it seems unlikely that Mills loses the starting spot to sophomore Dejounte Murray. Plus, not to beat a dead horse here, but the Australian knows the system and the team chemistry is mostly solidified amongst the starters.
While it made sense to re-sign Mills, it seems odd to have done the same with Pau Gasol, who inked a new three-year contract. Gasol can certainly lend his experience and leadership to his teammates, but with the departure of Jonathan Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon, the only youngsters who need guidance are point guards Murray and Derrick White. Parker and Manu Ginobili will provide plenty of guidance at that spot, so the veteran is the epitome of a signing that will likely not hurt the Spurs, but won’t do much to help either.
Rudy Gay will likely be the guy who could improve this season or make it worse. He’s unpredictable in production and is also coming back from an injury. He has the ability to score at will, but also can do immeasurable harm to an offense. Popovich will have his hands full with Gay.
Did the Spurs regress this summer?
Predicting how a team will do each season is tough even if it is the shining example of consistency that is the San Antonio Spurs. The coaching squad is solid, Kawhi Leonard is getting better and better every year, and this aging core can likely still produce what they did last season. If the goal was to catch Golden State, that mark was sorely missed. If it was to fend off the surging Rockets (who added Paul via trade), they also failed.
The good news? When it comes to these top three teams out West, the only thing that changed for the regular season is that the Spurs and Rockets likely switched spots at the two and three positions. A 55-win season for the Spurs is quite likely, just like a 60-win season for the Rockets is also on the cards.
The playoffs will show us if the Spurs need to move an expensive piece or two (*cough* Aldridge, *cough*), or if Popovich found the right lineup combinations and use of minutes to beat the odds yet again in what has been his calling card in his impressive career.
Have the Spurs done enough to stay in the thick of this year’s playoff picture, or will playing it safe cost them a place in the postseason? Who do you think they should have signed or released? Share your thoughts with us below!