The Spurs Continue to Add Talent
*Photo via USA Today
The San Antonio Spurs, notorious for their identity and under the radar transactions, have strung together an offseason that has quietly revitalized the gaping holes in their roster. San Antonio was successful in snagging 2-time NBA champion Pau Gasol in free agency, more than making up for the impending retirement of future hall of famer Tim Duncan. Gasol, unsuccessful in making the playoffs this past season, tested the free agent market, looking to take his talents to a contender that could best assist him in chasing one more ring in this final window of his career.
At 36 years of age, Gasol does little to help the Spurs get younger and build a more youthful nucleus. Contrary to this, what he lacks in vitality, he more than makes up for with his experience, unique skillset, and veteran leadership. The 6-time all-star is no stranger to winning and success. Gasol has made a name for himself as one of the premier bigs in the NBA for the past decade. With career averages of 18.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, and 1.7 bpg, Gasol serves as a swiss army knife, to put it metaphorically. He can do it all, from scoring, to defending, to passing. This is what makes him such a great fit for the San Antonio Spurs.
Gasol's style of play is picture perfect for the Gregg Popovich regime. A system predicated around poetry-in-motion-esque ball movement, passing bigs, and 3 point shooting, Pau simply fits the bill. The Spurs also have mirrored a more European style of play, capitalizing on the aforementioned, while straying away from the ground and pound bigs, and large explosive guards, while utilizing nifty wings and defensive forces. Gasol joins a lineup alongside all-star power forward Lamarcus Aldridge, superstar small forward and 2-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, record setting sharpshooter Danny Green, and shifty future hall of famer Tony Parker. The window of opportunity for the recurring cast, and its newest star is closing, and that's why the Spurs were intelligent enough to haul in more talent.
*Photo via San Antonio Express
Aside from the free agent market, the Spurs also part took in the 2016 NBA Draft. Typically picking at the end of the first round as a direct correlation to their regular season success, the Spurs were awarded the 29th pick in the draft just 3 weeks ago. And with the 29th pick, they selected Washington University point guard Dejounte Murray. Murray, an oversized 6'5 explosive point guard, could potentially be the steal of the draft. The young prospect averaged 16.1 points, 6 boards, and 4.4 assists, impressively mustering 1.8 steals a game as well. While his efficiency (42% from the field) was average at best, Murray's dynamic cutting and driving ability stood out to the Spurs, in need of a backup point guard who can step in once Tony Parker's game goes over the hill. What better an understudy than Dejounte, who can learn in such a great team system and improve every facet of his game.
As marvelous as it may seem on the surface, no free agency period is complete without players... leaving. The Spurs, while keeping their most vital players, lost major cogs off of their bench. Forward Boris Diaw, a poor man's Draymond Green who revived his career in San Antonio with his ball handling prowess, post game fundamentals, and 3-point shooting capabilities. Diaw made a name for himself with his stellar play on both ends against LebBron James in the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. The veteran backup, perfect for the system, was traded to the Utah Jazz. Many will hear the name Boris Diaw and think little of it. Hey, we kept Kawhi and Lamarcus so why are we worried? Well, we should be. Boris Diaw made the second unit go. He brought patience, balance, and spacing to the lineup, and intangibles that are irreplaceable. His chemistry was perfect and it will be hard replacing him. To add fuel to the fire, backup F/C David West "admirably" skipped town to go chase rings in Golden State with his new super team. West, offering his services for 1 solid year, gave the Spurs toughness and grit in the paint, and was that spark-plug that could provide emotion and experience.
But the concluding point always ends with the man who started it all, Tim Duncan. Duncan is nearing retirement. While he picked up his player contract, in a move many speculate to be because of his loathing for paperwork, Duncan has expressed that he is leaning more heavily towards retirement than not. With 2 of the Spurs' best bigs off the bench gone, Duncan could still offer a serviceable 18-20 minutes off the bench.
Much is needed to be seen, but if we have learned one thing from the San Antonio Spurs, it's to never count out their process. Expect the Spurs to be the only true formidable contenders to potentially combat the newly star studded Golden State Warriors. Until October, all we can do is wait and see... and watch NBA Summer League.