NBA Future Power Rankings: 7. San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan went out in classic Tim Duncan style. No big retirement tour, no ceremony, no commercials, no big press conference. Duncan had the Spurs issue a modest press release on a Monday morning in the middle of the summer. Father Time was starting to finally catch up to the Big Fundamental, but he was still an important part of an elite Spurs team, especially on the defensive end. Duncan left San Antonio in great hands, but Duncan’s departure marks the end of an incredible era. Coach Pop will be working with a very different frontcourt rotation after the departures of Duncan, Boris Diaw, David West, and Boban Marjanovic. The only returning big man from last season is All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. Alongside Aldridge, the Spurs signed Pau Gasol (2-years $30+ Million), Dewayne Dedmon (2-years $6 Million), and David Lee (2-years $3.2 Million with a player option for year 2). Gasol may already be 36 years old, but he is still playing elite basketball. After all, he did make the All-Star team last season with averages of 16.5 PPG, 11 RPG (6th in the NBA), 4.1 APG, and 2 BPG (5th in the NBA). It’s hard not to wonder how much longer Gasol can play at such a high level, but those numbers certainly don’t look like those of a declining player. At this point of their careers, Gasol is a huge upgrade from Duncan on offense, but the swap should cause a noticeable drop-off defensively. Gasol should fit the Spurs team first culture perfectly. Gasol is arguably the best passing big man of his generation and will add to the long list of foreign players to play under coach Pop. Dedmon is a lesser-known player around the league, but he has been a solid reserve big man for Orlando the past couple of seasons. Dedmon provides some much needed size, rim-protection and athleticism up front for the Spurs. Lee is still a very good finisher, passer, and rebounder, but he is such a net minus on the defensive end that it is hard to play him many minutes. The only two additions are foreign import Davis Bertans and the 29th pick of this years draft Dejounte Murray. With the lack of big men on the roster, Bertans, along with Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Anderson, may see some time on the floor as small ball power forwards. Unless there is an injury to either Tony Parker or Patty Mills, I don’t expect to see Murray get many minutes. Don’t be surprised if he spends time developing in the D-League. Unlike fellow Spurs legend Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili decided to come back for at least one more season in the Alamo city. Ginobili is nowhere near the player he was in his prime, but he is still a very good wing off the bench. Ginobili still may be the best non-point guard passer in the NBA. Along with Aldridge, the two main pieces for the Spurs in the present and future are wings Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Green is known for his 3pt-shooting after hitting at least 41.5% of his threes each season from 2011-12 to 2014-15. For some unknown reason Green struggled with his shooting last season hitting just 37.6% from the field and 33.2% from downtown. I expect last season’s subpar shooting to be a fluke and for Green to return to his elite level. Green provides much more than just shooting for San Antonio. Green is an underrated athlete who runs the floor well and is a very good offensive player in transition. In addition Green is one of the best wing defenders in the game. The Spurs already have Leonard to guard the team's top perimeter threat, but Green often guards the opposing teams point guard as Tony Parker has become even more of a defensive liability as he ages. Kawhi Leonard is the main reason for the Spurs high ranking. Since entering the league Leonard has been an elite defender. Many would argue Leonard is the best defender in the game, an argument hard to argue after back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards. Leonard has now solidified his spot as a top-10 player (maybe even a top-5 player) in the NBA with his development into a true number one option offensively. Leonard is now the complete package and is still only 25 years old. The Spurs are lucky to have last seasons MVP runner under contract for 3 more seasons leading the way in the post Tim Duncan era.