The biggest losers in the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan was clearly the Spurs who lost a top 3 player in the NBA and received 15 cents on the dollar back. Now things look even worse for the Spurs, and their head coach and President Gregg Popovich is to blame for sacrificing the team’s future for a very bleak present.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe believes the Spurs could have received a large ticket to the future from the Celtics instead:
“As all the reporting from this sort of trickled in, I think the Celtics offered most of their best draft picks. I don’t think the Celtics just offered, “You could have a bunch of our picks.” I think some of the picks they own – at least two of the picks, if not all of them – that they own from other teams, including the Kings, Grizzlies and Clippers, I think those were all in the deal.”
Translation: Popovich chose his ego over the best interests of the Spurs and their fans.
Popovich did not want to add his first losing season to his sterling coaching resume (in 96-97 he did not start the season as head coach). That’s what would have happened if they took the Celtics’ offer.
Instead of taking the risk that could have resulted into something special resembling what the Celtics have built now, Popovich, who may be retiring soon, has put the Spurs in the middle of no man’s land. Given the track record of his coaching and the Spurs’ organization, they would have gotten the most out of the eventual young pieces.
DeRozan is an above average player that has left no doubt that he cannot be a focal point of a team going anywhere. DeRozan could not get it done with a more talented team in the East. In the West, with the roster surrounding him in San Antonio, a first-round playoff exit may be out of reach.
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This has to be infuriating for the Spurs and their fans. Once it was clear Leonard was not coming back, it was simultaneously clear their championship window had closed.
They then had two options they had not experienced in two decades to select from: build for the future or be average. The former unequivocally would have been more beneficial to everyone but Popovich. Adding DeRozan makes them just good enough where their chances at high draft picks are beyond reachable.
Rebuilding is never easy, but there is a reason it takes place. It gives hope, potential, and reason when the only another alternative that exists is irrelevance. An alternative the Spurs must now live with for years to come orchestrated by Gregg Popovich.