May 21, 2021
The San Antonio Spurs have a lot on their plate following their 100-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in the 9 vs. 10 play-in matchup on Thursday. This year is one of the transition years for the team which started with the buyout of Lamarcus Aldridge. More playing time for the young guys led to great and unexpected play from guys like Keldon Johnson. Demar DeRozan had a sensational year continuing his years of averaging 20ppg and becoming a great playmaker. The Spurs are in that weird position where they have the talent to be able to make it into the tournament, however they don't have the talent to beat the 9th and then the 7th/8th seed next year. The Spurs are also in a position where all of their veteran players are free agents and will be looking for better opportunities. They have many issues looming around them and they will need to make many decisions this offseason.
Letting DeRozan and Other Veterans Walk
Since Demar has joined the team, they have had minimal success, either than losing to
the 2nd seed Nuggets in 7. Both parties would benefit of a departure with Demar having the opportunity to go to a big market such as New York to contend. Despite Demar's built connection as the mentor to the young core and taking the mantle as franchise star, it would be a shame if he was wasting the end of his great years on a non-contender team. His presence will be missed but with development of the young core and an additional lottery pick they should be able to adjust to him not being there. In addition key contributors such as Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are also free agents and both of them are very talented vets who I can see being key bench contributors on a contender.
Giving the Keys to the Young Core
The Spurs are lucky to have a very mature and balanced young core who provide scoring, shooting, playmaking and defending. Starting from the top, Dejounte Murray is proving to be an up and coming star player in this league with his All-NBA caliber defense, knowledge of when to make the right pass, excellent rebounding for a PG and an improving scorer at 15.7 PPG. With an absence of some of the veterans I can see him making a leap to a potential 20 PPG and will always be there for the guard position on All-Defensive team. What I see is a season similar to Devin Harris's 2008-09 season where he made the leap from 15.4 PPG to 21.3 while having 6 assists and a steal. Derrick White has shown spots during the season where he can be an elite scorer, however efficiency is something he will have to improve on. He is currently averaging 15.4 PPG on 41.1% fg and 34.6% from three. If he can stay healthy I can see his offensive role stepping up. Keldon Johnson's role expanded heavily this year with more opportunity, as he was a year long starter. He has shown his ability to be a great role player in this league with great rebounding capabilities including 20 rebound games this year. Players like Jacob Poeltl and Lonnie Walker are good in their roles at the moment, but will need to step up next year to replace the void of DeRozan and the other vets. With another year for Devin Vassell and a lottery pick the Spurs should have a solid young core heading into next year.
Popovich. Retire? Run it Back?
Greg Popovich has left an enormous impact on the basketball community and he has put himself into this franchise and is a big reason for the success over the last 25 years. However, will Popovich stay another year with this team? Despite the loss last night and bad play from some of his core members Pop said "“No matter what the mistakes, no matter what the circumstances are, they really fight, That’s a good base. So, I’m really proud of the way they conducted themselves and played to win.” He also was reported saying that he's never been more proud of a team that doesn't quit. Pop creates a bond and connection for his places, present and previous and as long as he is the coach of this team they will never not compete.
The Spurs have an interesting offseason ahead of them. We will have to wait and see what they do with their veteran player and Popovich's future as coach. Thank you for reading. Make sure to check out other blog posts and share!