Will somebody please tell the Spurs that the offseason has begun?
In: rookies Nando De Colo, Marcus Denmon
Out: James Anderson
PG Tony Parker Gary Neal, Patty Mills, Cory Joseph
SG Manu Ginobili Danny Green, Nando De Colo (r), Marcus Denmon
SF Kawhi Leonard Stephen Jackson
PF Boris Diaw Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair
C Tim Duncan Tiago Splitter
Offseason Recap: Coach Gregg Popovich said recently about small forward Kawhi Leonard: “I think he’s going to be a star…and as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs.” This obviously explains the lack of additions to the roster this offseason. Obviously ‘Pop’ thinks Kawhi by himself is enough. Look, as much as I luv the former Aztec’s game, Leonard isn’t a franchise player…..not even in the Spurs system. Okay so they made sure Tim Duncan would retire a Spur while also bringing back Boris Diaw and Danny Green…..but is that really improvement? Duncan re-signing may have been a big move ten years ago, but not in 2012. Green, meanwhile, didn’t even play in the team’s final playoff game (coach’s decision). The Spurs failed to even move Coach Pop’s doghouse resident DeJuan Blair this offseason, as obvious move as there is. The team wasn’t even able to bring over Erazem Lorbek from Europe, who he opted to sign a three-year deal with Barcelona. His rights came to the team from Indiana in the George Hill trade. Just after the season, Gregg said “(we) reached our limit” vs OKC. In other words, the team overachieved in just getting to the conference finals. So how does not making any changes in the offseason jive with that reality? it doesn’t. This team is going backwards and another injury away from falling off of the map altogether.
Strengths: Coach Popovich and his system could probably get me, my roommate and his sister to the NBA playoffs…playing 3-on-5. Last season he adapted his game plan to take advantage of every single aspect of his roster while also taking the pressure off of the aging Tim Duncan. Pop saw that Timmy could no longer carry a team down low so he stopped asking him to. Instead, it was all about getting downcourt quickly and taking the first good look. Coach relied on the perimeter talents of Parker, Ginobili, et al by also devising a gameplan that would get them great looks in the halfcourt offense. Duncan still sets some of the best screens in the entire league. Defensively, of course, it was a masterful job as always by Gregg and his staff.
Weaknesses: This team is regular season great, but not playoff great…in fact they’re mediocre when the stakes get high. Unlike the rest of the nation, I was unmoved by their winning streak heading into the postseason. Why? because they don’t have another gear to go to like the Thunder or Lakers do for example. Sure that engine can backfire sometimes, but the NBA in the end has always been about star power. San Antonio just doesn’t have much game-changing ability. They don’t force many turnovers and hardly block any shots. It’s their system and their discipline that allows them to beat undisciplined teams handily during an 82-game docket (filled w/ back-to-backs and long road trips). But when the playoffs start and every team gets to prepare equally for their opponent this group in black n’ silver becomes very predictable. It was seeding that got them all the way to the western finals last season as the Jazz were inept and the Clippers just weren’t ready to take that step. We all saw what Memphis did to basically the same Spurs roster in 2011. They would’ve beat them again had they not lost to L.A. SAS will be lucky to even have that much success next season.
Prediction: This team will miss the playoffs in 2012-13.
Now that you’ve had a moment to digest that statment, let me explain. The San Antonio Spurs have been finding ways to be successful the past few years despite no longer having an unstoppable Tim Duncan down low nor even having Parker and Ginobili healthy for long stretches. This season, that all comes crashing to a halt. They’ll struggle out of the blocks to keep up with a much improved Western Conference this year. Sure, Pop is bound to get kooky like starting Blair/Bonner over Diaw and maybe even Gary Neal at SG…but it won’t be enough. Also, this team avoided multiple injuries the past two seasons (minus Ginobili’s elbow). This season the ‘yin and yang’ of the league will catch up to them. Then, after missing the postseason, Spurs management will be forced to actually make a move or two in the offseason.