Now that everyone is aware the San Antonio Spurs could have re-stocked the war chest with draft picks in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, and Gregg Popovich’s ego is the reason they only got DeMar DeRozan and one late 1st-round pick, let’s examine how this team could miss the playoffs.
Should we start with the locker room? After 17 years in San Antonio, Tony Parker chased one final payday (and some more minutes) in Charlotte. The Kawhi situation is mercifully over, but what will 40-year old Manu Ginobili decide to do? It will be a transition year in San Antonio, and keep in mind Gregg Popovich is 69 years old.
In a league that is 3-point heavy, the Spurs will start a backcourt of Dejounte Murray and DeRozan who made a combined 98 three-pointers last season. The best team in the NBA features two guards who could surpass that total in a month. Murray is very talented, but he made just 9 three-pointers last season, shooting 26 percent. DeRozan made just 89 in Toronto – a career best! – but shot just 31 percent.
Rudy Gay is still very talented, but injuries have hampered his career, and he played just 57 games last year. So does he start at small forward or does Marco Belinelli? The only positions I feel confident about are LaMarcus Aldridge (21.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg at 32 years old last season) and backup point guard (Patty Mills). It’s unclear how much they’ll get from promising rookie Lonnie Walker or 7-footer Jakob Poeltl, whom they got in the DeRozan deal.
Finally, my real reason for thinking the Spurs will miss the playoffs: LeBron going to the Lakers makes them a playoff team. The Denver Nuggets, 1-8, have more talent than the Spurs. I’d take their backcourt (Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Isaiah Thomas) over San Antonio’s. They’ll pass the Spurs in the West this year. Someone’s got to fall out of the Top 8.
And as a quick reminder: The Spurs won 47 games last year – yes, Kawhi only played nine – and barely snuck into the playoffs over Denver (46 wins).
My prediction is the Spurs win 43 games and miss the playoffs in the loaded West.