Only a few names-of-note are left on the free agency table. Former DPOY Joakim Noah is without a team. Jeremy Lin recently opened up about how difficult he’s found this free agency period. Joe Johnson? Carmelo Anthony? This isn’t 2010.
There aren’t any game-changers left. Noah and Lin might be good for 20 minutes per night, injury permitting. These and a few others are all that are left, though. The big fish have been landed, and the upheaval of the NBA landscape has left it mostly unrecognisable.
Two things are certain: any remaining names are unlikely to make headlines in free agency, and neither are the San Antonio Spurs.
Only two “exciting” things happened by the river walk in the offseason: Tim Duncan joined Pop’s coaching team and Marcus Morris Sr. left them at the altar. That’s about it. Not much to write about, is it?
This has been the trend for the Spurs forever, though. They don’t make big free agent signings (it’s the one situation in which LaMarcus Aldridge is a unicorn), make blockbuster trades (unless it’s to send Kawhi and a championship to Toronto) or make the usual NBA waves. And yet the Spurs are a very interesting team for next season.
They’ll win 45-50 games; they always do. Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Rudy Gay and newly added DeMarre Carroll possess enough talent in a Spurs system to ensure that. And despite not making a lottery pick since -- I kid you not, Tim Duncan -- they’re a surprisingly young and deep team, with young thoroughbreds chomping at the bit to take over the franchise.
The league is very interested to see what kind of player starting PG DeJounte Murray really is. Murray, who tore his right ACL in the preseason last year, looked on the verge of a breakout, coming off an all-defensive selection. If he’s shaken off the rust, he has fringe all-star potential as a BIG (6’5) version of Rajon Rondo.
Derrick White had a “breakout” season in the Spurs tradition. A second-round pick that hadn’t played much, White had been developed behind the scenes and when thrust into the spotlight, performed. He tripled his per-game averages over his rookie year, and showed his capabilities on the biggest stage when he single-handedly took down the Nuggets in Game 3 of the opening round of the West playoffs, when he dropped a career-high 36 on them. A backcourt of White and Murray going forward should be exciting.
As should the play of Lonnie Walker VI, who still has good upside. A super athlete with a high motor, last year’s first-round pick is only 20, and will factor into the Spurs’ future three-guard line-ups with lethal speed and defensive abilities. Add Jakob Poeltl and Bryn Forbes to the mix, and there’s a few reasons to be interested in the Spurs’ future.
But where will they all play? Balancing the veteran core with the youth movement will be Pop’s greatest challenge this year. Simply put, there’s too much veteran talent to go with a complete youth development movement, hence Duncan, who will probably be locked away in the gym with Poeltl to develop him. But there’s also too much promising youth to just contentedly lock into 45-50 wins and a Game 7 on the road in the first round.
The youth movement train is coming down the tracks in San Antonio and the sooner the Spurs get on board, the sooner they can become a serious contender again. The plan should be to move DeRozan this year for young players or assets. How about a trade back to Toronto for OG Anunoby? Would Charlotte consider parting with Miles Bridge or Malik Monk? The Spurs would be extremely wise to see players like DeRozan, Gay and Mills as assets to bring in young athletic wings. What’s the plan for Justise Winslow now with Jimmy Butler in Miami? A Butler-Dragic-DeRozan backcourt could make serious noise in the East.
These are questions that must be answered THIS season for San Antonio. Wait any longer and the Spurs risk some dissatisfaction in the locker room. Young players want minutes; veterans want money or the chance to play for something.
Every season seems to be the season where the Spurs will finally fall short, but let’s take a minute to appreciate a team’s ability to be seemingly stuck in no-man’s land and STILL be able to win 50 games. You know what they say; death, taxes and Pop...